Enslaved

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Enslaved
written by John Masefield
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All early in the April, when daylight comes at five,
I went into the garden most glad to be alive.
The thrushes and the blackbirds were singing in the thorn.
The April flowers were singing for joy of being born.

I smelt the dewy morning come blowing through the woods
Where all the wilding cherries do toss their snowy snoods;
I thought of the running water where sweet white violets grow.
I said: "I’ll pick them for her, because she loves them so."

So in the dewy morning I turned to climb the hill,
Beside the running water whose tongue is never still.
Oh, delicate green and dewy were all the budding trees;
The blue dog-violets grew there, and many primroses.

Out of the wood I wandered, but paused upon the heath
To watch, beyond the tree-tops, the wrinkled sea beneath;
Its blueness and its stillness were trembling as it lay
In the old un-autumned beauty that never goes away.

And the beauty of the water brought my love into my mind,
Because all sweet love is beauty, and the loved thing turns to kind;
And I thought, "It is a beauty spread for setting of your grace,
O white violet of a woman with the April in your face."

So I gathered the white violets where young men pick them still,
And I turned to cross the woodland to her house beneath the hill.
And I thought of her delight in the flowers that I brought her,
Bright like sunlight, sweet like singing, cool like running of the water.

Now I noticed, as I crossed the wood towards my lady's house.
That wisps of smoke were blowing blue in the young green of the boughs:
But I thought, "They're burning weeds," and I felt the green and blue
To be lovely, so, together, while the green was in its dew.

Then I smelt the smell of burning; but I thought: "The bonfire takes,
And the tongues of flame are licking up below the lifting flakes."
Though, I thought, "The fire must be big, to raise a smoke so thick."
And I wondered for a moment if the fire were a rick.

But the love that sang within me made me put the thought away,
What do young men care for trouble if they see their love to-day?
And my thought kept running forward till it knelt before my sweet.
Laying thought and joy and service in a love-gift at her feet.

And I thought of life beside her, and of all our days together,
Stormy days, perhaps, of courage, with our faces to the weather.
Never any days but happy, so I thought, if passed with her.
Then the smoke came blowing thickly till it made the wood a blur.

Still, I did not think of evil, for one could not, living there.
But I said, "The rooks are startled," for their crying filled the air
And I wondered, in the meadow, why the cows were not at grass—
Only smoke, down-blowing, bitter, that the birds were loath to pass.

So I quickened through the meadow to the close that hid the home,
And the smoke drove down in volleys, lifted up, and wreathed, and clomb.
And I could not see because of it, and what one cannot see
Holds the fear that lives in darkness, so that fear began in me.

And the place was like a death-house save for cawings overhead,
All the cocks and hens were silent and the dogs were like the dead:
Nothing but the smoke seemed living, thick, and hiding whence it came,
Bitter with the change of burning, hot upon the cheek from flame.

Then my fear became a terror, and I knew that ill had fallen
From the fate that comes unthought-of when the unheard word is callen.
So I flung the little gate astray and burst the bushes through;
Little red-white blossoms flecked me, and my face was dashed with dew.

Then I saw what ill had fallen, for the house had burned to death,
Though it gleamed with running fire when a falling gave a breath;
All the roof was sky, the lead dripped, all the empty windows wide
Spouted smoke, and all was silent, save the volleying rooks that cried.

This I saw. I rocked with anguish at the flicking heap that glowed.
She was dead among the ashes that the lead drops did corrode;
She was dead, that gave a meaning to the beauty of the spring,
Yet the daffodils still nodded and the blackbirds still did sing.

When the stunning passed, I stumbled to the house's westward side,
Thinking there to find some neighbour that could tell me how she died;
Fearing, too, lest Death the devil who had dealt such murder there
Should be hiding there behind me for to clutch me unaware.

There was no one there alive, but my leaping heart was stilled
By the sight of bodies lying in the grass where they were killed;
Drooped into the grass they lay there, pressing close into the ground
As the dead do, in the grasses; all my world went spinning round.

Then I saw that, with the bodies, all the ground was heaped and strown
With the litter of a house that had been gutted to the bone;
Split and hingeless coffers yawning, linen drooped like people dead,
Trinkets broken for their jewels, barrels staved, and crusts of bread.

Then a mess of feathers blowing, then the cattle's heads; and then.
Stunned at all this wreck, I hurried to the bodies of the men.
Five were workers of the household, lying dead in her defence:
Roused from sleep, perhaps, in darkness so that death might dash them thence.

But the other three were strangers, swarthy, bearded, hook-nosed, lean.
Wearing white (for night surprisal) over seamen's coats of green;
Moorish-coloured men, still greedy for the prize they died to snatch;
Clutching broken knives, or grass-blades, or some tatters of their catch.

Then I moaned aloud, for then I knew the truth, that these
Were the Moorish pirate raiders who had come there from the seas,
Come upon my love defenceless, by surprise, and I not there:
Come to burn or kill her beauty, or to drag her to their lair.

“Dragged away to be a slave," I thought; I saw what she had seen.
All the good friends lying slaughtered in the young grass dewy-green;
All the cattle killed for provant and the gutted homestead burning,
And the skinny Moors to drag her to the death of no returning.

Minutes passed, yet still I stood there, when I heard one call my name.
Amys, once my darling's woman, from her hiding-corner came.
“Oh," she cried, "they came upon us when the light was growing grey,
And they sacked and burned and slaughtered, and they've carried her away.

“I was sleeping in the cottage when I heard the noise of men,
And the shots; and I could see them, for the house was blazing then.
They were like to devils, killing; so I hid, and then I heard
Rollo moaning in the bushes with a face as white as curd.

"He was dying from a bullet, but he said 'Saffee! Saffee
Pirates, Amys! They were burning, and they shot and murdered me.
Amys, look where I was murdered! look, they blew away my side;
And they burnt the cows in stable.' Then he moaned until he died.

“It was terrible to hear them kill the beasts and pack their prey.
Then they shouldered up their plunder, and they sang and marched away;
And they took my lady with them as a slave-girl to be sold.
I saw them kill Paloma—they said that she was old.

“Then they went on board their cruiser, and she sailed away at once.
Look there, beyond the beaches, you see her where she runs—

* * * * *

I saw a peaked sail pointing, and feathering oars that flasht
In the blueness of the water that was whitened where they gasht.

* * * * *

There they carried my beloved in a pirate-ship at sea
To be sold like meat for killing in the markets of Saffee.
Some fire-shrivelled oak-leaves blew lightly past my face,
A beam fell in the ruins, the fire roared apace.

I walked down to the water; my heart was torn in two
For the anguish of her future and the nothing I could do.
The ship had leaned a little as she snouted to the spray;
The feathering oars flashed steadily at taking her away.

I took a fisher's boat there was and dragged her down the sand,
I set her sail and took an oar and thrust her from the land,
I headed for the pirate, and the brown weed waved beneath.
And the boat trod down the bubbles of the bone between her teeth.

I brought them down the land-wind, so from the first I gained.
I set a tiny topsail that bowed her till she strained.
My mind was with my darling aboard that ship of fear,
In cabin close with curtains, where Moormen watched my dear.

Now when they saw me coming they wondered what it meant,
This young man in a fish-boat who followed where they went,
They judged that I was coming to buy the woman free;
So suddenly the oars stopped, they waited on the sea.

I dropped my sail close to them and ranged to easy hail;
Her plunges shivered wrinklings along her spilling sail,
The water running by her had made her shine like gold,
The oar-blades poised in order kissed water when she rolled.

A hundred naked rowers stared down their oars at me
With all the bitter hatred the slave has for the free.
The boatswain walked above them; he mocked me, so did they.
The sun had burnt their bodies, and yet their look was grey.

So there we rocked together, while she, at every roll,
Moaned from her guns with creakings that shook her to the soul.
I did not see my darling; she lay in ward below,
Down in the green-hung cabin she first joined hands with woe.

The galley plowtered, troubling; the mockings of the slaves
Passed from bench to bench, like bird's cries; her bow-beak slapt the waves,
Then her captain came on deck, quick and hard, with snapping force,
And a kind of cringe of terror stiffened down those banks of oars.

The captain walked the deck; he eyed me for a moment,
He called some Turkish words with a muttered added comment;
Then he called, "Well. What d'ye want?" in the lingua of the sea.
The boatswain leaned and spoke, then they sneered and looked at me.

So I stood upon the thwart, and I called, "I want to come
To be comrade to the woman whom you’ve dragged away from home.
Since I cannot set her free, I want only to be near her."
“Ah," he said, "men buy love dear, but by God! you buy it dearer.

“Well, you shall;" he spoke in Moorish, and a seaman tossed a cord.
So I hove myself alongside, scrambled up and climbed aboard.
All were silent, but they watched me; all those eyes above the oars
Stared, and all their bitter tushes gnashed beneath them like a boar's.

At an order, all the oars clanked aft, and checked, and sliced the sea,
The rowers' lips twitched upward, the sheets tugged to be free,
The wrinklings in the sail ran up as it rounded to a breast,
The ship bowed to a billow and snouted through the crest.

My boat was tossed behind us, she bowed and swung away.
The captain stood and mocked me: "Well, since you would, you may.
You shall be near your lady, until we fetch to port."
They chained me to the oar-loom upon the after-thwart.

All day, until the twilight, I swung upon the oar;
Above the dropping taffrail I sometimes saw the shore.
Behind me swung the rowers: again and yet again
A gasp, a clank of rollocks, and then a cry of pain.

The boatswain walked above us to lash us if we slackened;
With blood of many beatings the rowers' backs were blackened:
Again and yet again came the lash, and then the cry.
Then a mutter for revenge would run round the ship and die.

But twilight with her planet that brings quiet to the tired,
Bringing dusk upon the water, brought the gift that I desired;
For they brought my well-beloved to the deck to breathe the air,
Not a half an oar's length from me, so we spoke together there.

“You," she said. "Yes, I, beloved, to be near you over-sea.
I have come to be beside you and to help to set you free.
Keep your courage, and be certain that the God who took will give.
God will dawn, and we shall prosper, for the living soul will live."

Then they bade me stop my talking and to use my breath to row.
Darkness came upon the water, and they took my love below.
Fire in the oar-stirred water swirled in streaks that raced away;
Toppling up and down, the taffrail touched the red sky and the grey.

Then the wind began to freshen till the shrouds were twanging sharp,
Thrilling an unchanging honing like a madman with a harp.
Thrilling on a rising water that was hissing as it rose
To be foamed asunder by us as we struck it down with blows.

Soon we could not row, but rested with our oar blades triced above;
Then my soul went from my body to give comfort to my love,
Though, indeed, the only comfort that my mind could find to say
Was, that God, who makes to-morrow, makes it better than to-day.

So I yearned towards my darling while I drooped upon my bench.
All the galley's length was shaken when the mainsail gave a wrench;
Always when I roused, the taffrail toppled up to touch the stars.
And the roaring seas ran hissing, and the planks whined, and the spars.

Day by day I rowed the galley, night by night I saw the Pole
Sinking lower in the northward, to the sorrow of my soul;
Yet at night I saw my darling when she came on deck to walk.
And our thoughts passt to each other though they would not let us talk.

Till early on a morning, before the dawn had come,
Some foreign birds came crying with strong wings wagging home.
Then on the wind a warmness, a sweetness as of cloves.
Blew faintly in the darkness from spice and orange groves.

Then, as they set us rowing, the sun rose over land
That seemed a mist of forest above a gleam of sand.
White houses glittered on it; the pirates cheered to see.
By noon we reached the haven, we anchored in Saffee.

They cloaked my well-beloved and carried her ashore;
She slipped a paper to me while brushing past my oar.
I took it, muttering, "Courage!" I read it when I dared:
"They mean me for the Khalif. I have to be prepared."

They led her up the jetty, she passed out of my sight.
Then they knocked away our irons, and worked us till the night
Unbending sails, unstepping masts, clean-scraping banks, unshipping oars,
Rousing casks and loot and cables from the orlop into stores.

When all the gear was warehoused, they marched us up the street—
All sand it was, where dogs lay that sprang and snapped our feet.
Then lancers came at gallop, they knocked us to the side.
They struck us with their lance-staves to make them room to ride.

Then, as we cleared the roadway, with clatter, riding hard,
With foam flung from the bit-cups, there came the bodyguard;
Then splendid in his scarlet the Khalif's self went by,
A grand young bird of rapine with a hawk-look in his eye.

A slave said: "There's the Khalif. He's riding north to-night,
To Marrakesh, the vineyard, his garden of delight.
That means a night of quiet to us poor dogs who row;
The guards will take their pleasure, and we shall rest below."

Then, in the dusk, they marched us to the quarries of the slaves,
 vVhich were dripping shafts in limestone giving passage into caves.
There they left us with our rations to the night that prisoners know,
Longing after what was happy far away and long ago.

* * * * *

Now often, as I rowed upon the bench.
In tugging back the oar-loom in the stroke,
A rower opposite, whose face was French,
Had signalled to me, with a cheer or joke.
Grinning askant, and tossing back his hair
To show his white, keen features debonair.

And now that I was sitting on the stone,
He came to where I sat, and sat beside.
“So," he exclaimed, “you eat your heart alone.
I did, at first; but prison kills the pride.
It kills the heart, and all it has to give
Is hatred, daunted by the will to live.

“I was a courtier in the French King's court
Three years ago; you would not think it now,
To see me rower in a pirate port
Rusting my chain with sweatings from my brow.
But I was once Duhamel, over-sea.
And should be still, if they would ransom me.

“I honour you for coming as you did
To save your lady. It was nobly done.
They took her for the Khalif; she is hid
There in the woman's palace; but, my son,
You will not look upon her face again.
Best face the fact, whatever be the pain.

“No, do not speak, for she is lost forever.
Hidden in that dark palace of the King.
Not all the loving in the world would ever
Bring word to her, or help, or anything.
She will be pasture to the King's desires.
Then sold, or given in barter, when he tires.

“A woman in the Khalifs house is dead
To all the world forever; that is truth.
And you (most gallantly) have put your head
Into the trap. Till you have done with youth
You will be slave, in prison or at sea.
Sickness or death alone will set you free."

“Surely," I said, “since people have escaped
From worser hells than this, I, too, might try.
Fate, that is given to all men partly shaped.
Is man's, to alter daily till he die.
I mean to try to save her. Things which men
Mean with their might, succeed, as this will then."

I saw him look about him with alarm.
“Oh, not so loud," he said, “for there are spies."
His look of tension passed, he caught my arm.
“I think none heard," he said, '^but oh! be wise.
Slaves have been ganched upon the hooks for less.
This place has devilries men cannot guess.

 “But no man ever has escaped from here.
To talk of it is death; your friend and you
Are slaves for life, and after many a year
(At best), when you are both too old to do
The work of slaves, you may be flung abroad.
To beg for broken victuals in the road."

I saw that what he said was certainty.
I knew it even then, but answered: “Well,
I will at least be near her till I die.
And Life is change, and no man can foretell.
Even if thirty years hence we may meet
It is worth while, and prison shall be sweet."

He looked at me with pleasure; then he sighed
And said: “Well, you deserve her." Then he stared
Across the quarry, trying to decide
If I were fit to see his spirit bared.
Quick glances of suspicion and distrust
Searched at my face, and then he said: "I must!

“I must not doubt you, lad, so listen now.
I have a plan, myself, for leaving this.
I meant to try to-night; I'll show you how
To save your lady. And to-night there is
Hope, for the Khalif sleeps at Marrakesh.
When knots are loosened fish can burst the mesh."

So eagerly I plighted faith to try
That very night to help him. "If we fail,"
He said, “it will be Fate, who flings the die
Against which nothing mortal can avail.
But we are desperate men whose throws succeed,
Being one with Fate, or Change from Passionate Need."

So we agreed that, when the cave was still,
We would attempt, and having broken prison,
Would raid the women's palace on the hill,
And save my lady ere the sun was risen;
Then put to sea towards some hiding-place
North, in the shoals, where galleys could not chase.

Even as we made an end, another slave
(They called him English Gerard) joined us there.
Often, upon the toppling of a wave,
I'd seen him rowing and had heard him swear.
Forceful he was, with promise in his eye
Of rough capacity and liberty.

“Still talking of escape, I’ll bet a crown,"
He said to me. "But you are young, my friend.
We oldsters know we cannot leave the town.
We shall be here until the bitter end.
Give up the hope, lad; better let it be;
No slave has ever broken from Saffee.

 “Inland there's desert, westward there's the sea,
Northward the Moorish towns, and in the south
Swamps and the forest to eternity.
The young colt jibs at iron in his mouth
But has to take it, and the fact for us
Is, that we're slaves, and have to linger thus."

"Just what I told him," said Duhamel, "just
My very words. It's bitter but the truth.
We shall be slaves until we turn to dust:
Your lady, too, until she loses youth.
Put hope aside, and make what life you can
Being a slave, for slave you are, young man.”

"Perhaps," said Gerard, "you were told what comes
Of trying to escape, for men have tried.
They only added to their martyrdoms.
Two got away at Christmas, but they died.
The one they skinned and stuffed; the other hangs
Still, near the gate, upon the ganches' fangs.

"How were they caught?" I asked. "They were betrayed,”
Said Gerard. "How? By whom? I cannot tell.
They trusted someone with the plans they made.
And he betrayed them, like a fiend from hell.
How do I know it? Well, they left no trace.
And yet the lancers knew their hiding-place.

They went straight to it, straight, and caught them there
As soon as daylight came, when they had gone
(As you'll be taken if you don't beware).
They keep great hooks to hang the bodies on
Of those who run away, or try, for none
Succeeds, nor can, so you be warned, my son."

He nodded to me, gripped my arm, and went
Back to his place, the other side the cave.
"That was a spy," Duhamel whispered, "sent
To test your spirit as a new-come slave.
I know the man, and if report speaks true
He helped in that betrayal of the two.

“Now seem to sleep, and when the cave is quiet
We two will try; they say God helps the mad.
To be a slave to Moors is bitter diet
That poisons men; two bitter years I've had.
But before dawn we two will end it, lad.
Now seem to sleep."
I cuddled to the stone;
Yet Gerard's voice seemed calling to my bone.

And opening my eyes, I saw him there
Looking intently at me, and he shook
His head at me, as though to say, “Beware!"
And frowned a passionate warning in a look.
A wind-flaw, blowing through the window, took
The flame within the lantern, that it shed
Bright light on him. Again he shook his head.

* * * * *

The wind blowing in from the sea made the flame like a plume;
The slaves, huddled close, cursed in whispers, with chattering teeth
The wolves of their spirits came stealthy to snarl in the gloom
Over bones of their pleasures long-perished; the sea moaned beneath.

And my heart glowed with joy that that night I might rescue my love
Glowed with joy in Duhamel, whose cunning would conquer the guards
The wind blew in fresher; a sentry went shuffling above
Some gamblers crouched tense, while a lean hand flickered the cards.

* * * * *

Then one by one the gamblers left their game,
The shadows shaken by the blowing flame
Winked on the wall until the lamp blew out.
Wrapping his ankle-irons in a clout
(To save his skin), each branded slave prepared
To take his sleep, his only comfort spared.

* * * * *

A kind of clearness blowing from the night
Made sleepers' faces bonelike with its light.
A sleeper, moaning, twisted with his shoulder
Close to the limestone as the wind grew colder.
Trickles of water glistened down and splashed
Pools on the limestone into rings that flashed.
Often a stirring sleeper struck the bell
Of chain-links upon stones. Deep breathing fell
Like sighing, out of all that misery
Of vermined men who dreamed of being free.
Heavily on the beaches fell the sea.

* * * * *

Then, as the tide came in, the water seething
Under the quarries, mingled with the breathing,
Until the prison in the rock y-hewen
Seemed like a ship that trod the water's ruin,
Trampling the toppling sea, while water creeping
Splashed from the seams in darkness on men sleeping.
Far in the city all the dogs were howling
At that white bird the moon in heaven owling.
Out in the guard-house soldiers made a dither
About the wiry titter of a zither,
Their long-drawn songs were timed with clapping hands.

* * * * *

The water hissed its life out on the sands.
The wheel of heaven with all her glittering turned,
The city window-lights no longer burned.
Then one by one the soldiers left their clatter;
The moon arose and walked upon the water,
The sleepers turned to screen her from their eyes.
A fishing-boat sailed past; the fishers' cries
Rang in the darkness of the bay without.
Her sail flapped as she creaked and stood about,
Then eased, then leaned, then strained and stood away.
Deep silence followed, save where breathers lay.

* * * * *

So, lying there, with all my being tense,
Prepared to strike, to take my lady thence,
A prompting bade me not to trust too far
This man Duhamel as a guiding star.
Some little thing in him had jarred on me;
A touch (the flesh being raw) hurts cruelly.
And something in his speech or in his bearing
Made me mistrust his steadiness in daring,
Or his endurance, or his faith to us.
Some smile or word made me distrustful thus.

* * * * *

Who knows the hidden things within our being
That prompt our brain to safety without seeing?
Hear the unheard, and save us without sense?
What fingers touch our strings when we are tense?

* * * * *

Even at that point Duhamel crept to me,
And whispered, "Come, by morning we'll be free.
Creep down the passage there towards the entry;
See what the guards do while I time the sentry.
I think that all the guards are sleeping sound,
But—there's his foot, one sentry goes his round.
And I must time him till I know his beat."
Loitering upon the rampart came the feet
Of some loose-slippered soldier. I could hear
Him halt, humming a tune, grounding his spear.

* * * * *

I listened, while Duhamel urged me on.
Hurry," he said, “the night will soon be gone;
Watch from the passage what the guards are doing:
I'll time the sentry. There'll be no pursuing
If we can pass the guards with him away.
Beyond the bend he cannot see the bay."

* * * * *

"No," I replied, "yet even if the guard
Be all asleep, it cannot but be hard
For us to pick the lock of that steel grille
Without their waking. We cannot be still
Crouched in the puddle, scraping at the lock.
The guards will wake and kill us at a knock."

* * * * *

"Hush!" said Duhamel. Let me whisper close.
I did not dare before for fear of those
(The rowers and the spies). I have a key
That will unlock the grating silently,
Making no noise at all in catch or ward.
Now creep along and spy upon the guard."

* * * * *

"A key?" said I. My first suspicions died.
"Yes," said the man, “I slipped it from his side
While he was checking us this afternoon.
Courage, my son, she'll be in safety soon."
He showed a key, and urged me to be gone
Down the gaunt gashway carven in the stone,
A darkness in the else half-glimmering lime,
Where drops, each minute splashing, told the time.
There, in the darkness somewhere, lay the gate
Where courage and the moment might make Fate.

* * * * *

I rose, half-doubting, upon hands and knees;
The blood within my temples sang like bees;
I heard my heart. I saw Duhamel's face.
Dark eyes in focus in a whitish space,
Watching me close. I doubted, even then.
Then, with the impulse which transfigures men,
Doubt, hesitation, terror passed. I crawled
Into the dripping tunnel limestone-walled.

* * * * *

A cold drop spattered on my neck; the wet
Struck chilly where my hands and knees were set,
I crawled into a darkness like a vault,
Glimmering and sweating like a rock of salt.

* * * * *

I crept most thief-like till the passage turned.
There, in a barrèd greyness, I discerned
The world without shut from me by the grille.
I stopped most thief-like, listening.

* * * * *

All was still;
The quarry I had left was still as stone.
The melancholy water-drip alone
Broke silence near me, and ahead the night
Was silent in the beauty of its light,
Across which fell the black of prison bars.

* * * * *

I crawled ten paces more, and saw the stars
Above the guard-hut in the quarry pit:
The hut was still, it had no lantern lit.
I crawled again with every nerve intent.

* * * * *

The cleanly sea-wind bringing pleasant scent
Blew through the grille with little specks of sand.
Each second I expected the word "Stand!"
That, or a shot; but still no challenge came.
The twilight of the moon's unearthly flame
Burned steadily; the palm-leaves on the hut
Rustled in gusts, the crazy door was shut.
The guards were either sleeping or not there.

* * * * *

I peered out through the grille, and drank the air
For any scent that might betray a guard
Hidden in ambush near me keeping ward;
But no scent, save the cleanness of the sea,
Blew on the night wind blowing in on me.
There was no trace of man.

* * * * *

I watched and listened;
The water dropped, the trickling passage glistened;
The coldness of the iron pressed my brow.

* * * * *

Then, as I listened (I can hear it now),
A strangled cry such as a dreamer cries
When the dream binds him that he cannot rise,
Gurgled behind me in the sleepers' cave.
A failing hand that struggled with the grave
Beat on the floor, then fluttered, then relaxed,
Limp as an altar ox a priest has axed.
No need to say that someone had been killed
That was no dream.

* * * * *

Yet all the cave was stilled.
Nobody spoke, or called, or ran to aid.
The fingers of the palm-leaves ticked and played
On the hut-roof, but yet no guard appeared.

* * * * *

I started to crawl back, because I feared.
I knew that someone must have heard that calling
Of the killed blood upon the midnight falling.
“I shall be judged the killer," so I thought.

* * * * *

So crawling swiftly back like one distraught,
I groped that tunnel where the blackness made
Me feel each inch before my hand was laid.
There was no gleam, save wetness on the wall,
No noise but heart-beat or the dropping's fall.
Blackness and silence tense with murder done,
Tense with a soul that had not yet begun
To know the world without the help of clay.
I was in terror in that inky way.

* * * * *

Then suddenly, while stretching out my hand,
The terror brought my heart's blood to a stand.
I touched a man.

* * * * *

His face was turned to me.
He whispered: “To the grille! I have the key."
So, without speech, I turned; he followed after.
I trembled at the droppings from the rafter.
Each noise without seemed footsteps in pursuit.
The palm-leaves fluttered like a running foot.
The moonlight held her lantern to betray us;
A stricken stone was as a sword to slay us.
Then at the grille we paused, that I could see
That it was not Duhamel there with me,
But English Gerard.

* * * * *

Do not speak," he said;
“Don't think about Duhamel; he is dead.
This key, that should unlock, is sticking: try."
With shaking hands I took the clicket, I.
A lean cogged bolt of iron jangled bright
By shaking in the key-ring, day and night:
It stuck in the knobbed latch and would not lift.

* * * * *

All kinds of terror urged me to be swift—
Fear of the guards, and of the darkness dying,
And of Duhamel's body mutely crying
The thin red cry of murdered blood and bone,
Piping in darkness to make murder known.
But there the clicket jammed the iron socket,
Nor could my hand withdraw it or unlock it.
“Let me," said Gerard; then with guile and skill
He coaxed the knobbèd iron from the grille.
“It does not fit," he muttered, "after all."

* * * * *

Outside, within his roost, a cock did call
His warning to the ghosts, and slept again;
The stars that glittered in the sky like grain
Seemed paler; and the ticking time sped on
To the guard's waking and the darkness gone
With nothing done.

* * * * *

Then Gerard turned to me.
“Though this is wrong, Duhamel had the key,
And has it still about him, as I guess,
Tied to his flesh or hidden in his dress.
Wait here, while I go rummage through his clothes.

* * * * *

A sleeper, tossing, jabbered broken oaths.
Then slept, while Gerard crawled.
I was alone.
Afraid no more but anxious to the bone.

* * * * *

And looking out, I saw a sentry come
Slowly towards the grille. I cowered numb
Back into blackness, pressed against the wall.
I heard the measure of his footsteps fall
Along the quarry to me. I could see
The tenseness of his eyes turned full on me:
I felt that he must see me and give speech.

* * * * *

His hand, that shook the grille, was in my reach.
He peered within to see if all were well.
Wept as though spat, a drop of water fell.
He peered into the blackness where I stood;
Then, having tried the lock, he tossed his hood,
Crouched at the grille and struck a light, and lit
Tinder, and blew the glowing end of it
Till all his face was fierce in the strong glow;
He sucked the rank tobacco lighted so.
And stood a moment blowing bitter smoke.
I hardly dared to breathe lest I should choke.
I longed to move, but dared not. Had I stirred
Even a finger's breadth, he must have heard.
He must have touched me had he thrust his hand
Within the grille to touch the wall he scanned.

* * * * *

Then, slowly, muttering to himself, he took
Three steps away, then turned for one more look
Straight at the grille and me. I counted ten.
Something within the passage moved him then.
Because he leaned and peered as though unsure.
Then, stepping to the grille-work's embrasure,
He thrust his face against the iron grid,
And stared into the blackness where I hid,
And softly breathed, “Duhamel."

* * * * *

As he spoke
A passing cloud put dimness as of smoke
Over the moon's face. No one answered him,
A drip-drop spat its wetness in the dim.
He paused to call again, then turned away.
He wandered slowly up the quarry way.
But at the bend he stopped to rest his bones;

* * * * *

He sat upon the bank and juggled stones
For long, long minutes. Gerard joined me there;
We watched the sentry tossing stones in air
To catch them on his hand's back as they fell.
We wished him in the bottom pit of hell.
At last he rose and sauntered round the bend.
The falling of his footsteps had an end
At last, and Gerard spoke: “I have the key."

* * * * *

The cogs caught in the locket clickily.
The catch fell back, the heavy iron gave.
We pushed the grille and stept out of the grave
Into the moonlight where the wind was blowing.
"Hurry!" I whispered, for the cocks were crowing
In unseen roosts, the morning being near.
We climbed the bank.
“This way," said Gerard, “here.
Now, down the slope—we dodge the sentry so.
Now through the water where the withies grow.
Now we are out of sight; now we can talk."
We changed our crouching running to a walk.

* * * * *

He led me up a slope where rats carousing
Squealed or showed teeth among the tumbled housing,
Half-ruined wooden huts, or lime-washed clay.
We turned from this into a trodden way
Pale in the moonlight, where the dogs that prowled
Snarled as we passed, then eyed the moon and howled.

* * * * *

Below us, to our right, the harbour gleamed;
In front, pale with the moon, the city dreamed,
Roof upon roof, with pointing fingers white,
The minaret frost-fretted with the light,
With many a bubbled dome-top like a shell
Covering the hillside to the citadel.

* * * * *
 
“There, to the left," said Gerard, “where the trees are,
That whiteness is the palace of the Caesar,
His gardens and his fishpools. That long building
Flanked by the domes that glitter so with gilding
Is where the women are. She will be there.
But courage, comrade! never yield to care;
We'll set her free, before the morning breaks.
But oh! my son, no more of your mistakes.
What made you trust Duhamel as you did?
Well, he is dead. The world is better rid
Of men like him. He tempted and betrayed
Those two poor souls last year.
Ah, when he bade
You go to watch the guard, I studied him.
He was a bitter viper, supple-slim.
When he had judged that you had reached the entry,
He stole towards the grate and called the sentry,
“Hussein, Hussein!"—but Hussein never heard.
He called him twice, but never called the third:
I stopped his calling, luckily for you."

* * * * *

"Yes, but" (I said) "what did he mean to do,
Calling the sentry? What could that have done?"
“Caught you in trying to escape, my son:
The thing they love to do from time to time.
They reckon that examples stop the crime.
One caught and skinned makes many fear to try.
They would have flayed your skin off cruelly
In face of all these slaves, to daunt them down.
Then you'd have hung a-dying in the town
Nailed to some post, two days, perhaps, or three,
With thirst and flies.
But let Duhamel be;
Bad though he was, misfortune tempts a soul
Worse than we think, and few men can control
Their virtue, being slave; and he had been
A Knight of France, a courtier to the Queen.
He must have suffered to have fallen so,
A slave, a spy on slaves; we cannot know,
Thank God! what power of sinking lies in us.
God keep us all."

* * * * *

So talking to me thus,
He turned me leftward from the citadel
Uphill. He said: “I know this city well;
There is the Khalif’s palace straight ahead.
How many days I’ve staggered, nearly dead
From thirst, and from the sun, and from the load,
Up to the palace-gates along this road,
Bearing the plunder of the cruise to store,
After a month of tugging at the oar!
But now, please God, I shall not come again."

* * * * *

Our talking stopped; we turned into a lane.
High, white-washed walls rose up on either side,
The narrow gash between was four feet wide,
And there at sprawl within the narrow way,
With head in hood, a sleeping beggar lay.
We stepped across his body heedfully;
Deep in his dream he muttered drowsily.

* * * * *

We tip-toed on. The wall-tops, high above.
White in the quiet moonlight, hid my love.
We crept like worms in darkness yard by yard,
Still as the dead, but that our hearts beat hard.
And, spite of self, my teeth clickt from the flood
Of quick excitement running in my blood.
We were so near her, and the peril came
Close, with the moment that would prove the same.

* * * * *

The lane turned sharply twice. In shadow dark,
With shiverings of singing like a lark,
A fountain sprang, relented, sprinkled, bubbled,
In some cool garden that the moonlight troubled,
Unseen by us, although a smell of roses
Warm on the wind, stole to us from its closes.
Then came a wood-smoke smell, and mixed therewith
Gums from the heart's blood of the sinnam's pith.
And Gerard touched me. We had reached the place.
The woman's palace-wall was there in face,
The garden-wall merged with it, moonlight-topped;
Just where the two together merged, we stopped.

* * * * *

Then, as we stood there, breathing, we could hear.
Beyond the wall, some footsteps loitering near.
Some garden sentry slowly paced his watch
Crooning a love-song; I could smell his match
That smouldered in the linstock at his hand.

* * * * *

His footsteps passed away upon the sand
Slowly, with pauses, for he stopped to eat
The green buds of the staric on his beat.
When he had gone, a cock crowed in the lane.
“It will be morning when he crows again,"
Was in our thoughts: we had full little time.

* * * * *

Some joist-holes gave us foothold, we could climb
Without much trouble to the wall's flat top;
There we lay still, to let the plaster drop,
And see what dangers lay below us there.

* * * * *

The garden of the palace breathed sweet air
Under our perch, the fountain's leaping glitter
Shone; a bird started with a frightened twitter.
Alleys of blossomed fruit-trees girt a cool
White marble screen about a bathing-pool,
The palace rose beyond among its trees,
Splay-fronded figs and dates and cypresses.

* * * * *

Close to our left hands was the Woman's House.
We crept along our wall-top perilous
Till we could touch the roof that hid my love.
A teaken joist-end jutted out above.
We swung ourselves upon the roof thereby.

* * * * *

The dewy wet, flat house-top faced the sky.
We crouched together there.
Sweet smoke was wreathing
Out of a trap-door near us; heavy breathing
Came from a woman sleeping near the trap.
I crept to her, not knowing what might hap.
She was an old Moor woman with primmed lips,
And foul white hair, and hennaed finger-tips
That clutched a dark hair blanket to her chin.

* * * * *

I crept to the trap-door and peered within.
A ladder led within. A lantern burning
Showed us a passage leading to a turning,
But open to the garden at one end.

* * * * *

Even as we peered, a man came round the bend,
Walked slowly down that lamp-lit corridor,
And stood to watch the garden at the door.
We saw his back within that moonlit square.
He had a curving sword which glittered bare.
He stood three minutes still, watching the night;
Each beating second made the east more light.
He cracked and relished nuts or melon-seeds.

* * * * *

The hoof- sparks of the morning's running steeds
Made a pale dust now in the distant east,
But still the man stood cracking at his feast,
Nut after nut; then flinging broken shell
Into the rose-walk, clicking as it fell,
He turned towards us up the passage dim.
There at the trap we crouched right over him,
And as he passed beneath, his fingers tried
A door below us in the passage-side.
Then, slowly loitering on, he reached and passed
The passage turning; he was gone at last,
His footsteps died away; they struck on stone
In some far cloister; we were left alone.

* * * * *

Then, while our leaping hearts beat like to drums,
We took the gambler's way, that takes what comes:
We slid into the trap and down the stair,
Steep, like a loft's; eleven rungs there were.
We stood within the passage at the door
Tried by the guard that little while before.

* * * * *

Within, there was a rustling and a chinking
(Like the glass dangles that the wind sets clinking),
And something tense there was within; the throbbing
Of hearts in a despair too deep for sobbing:
We felt it there before we pressed the latch.

* * * * *

The teaken bar rose stiffly from its catch.
We slipt within and closed the door again.
We were within the dwelling-place of pain,
Among the women whom the Moors had taken.
The broken-hearts, despairing and forsaken,
The desolate that cried where no man heard.

* * * * *

Nobody challenged, but some women stirred.
It was so dark at first, after the moon.
A smoking censer, swinging, creaked a croon;
There was a hanging lamp of beaten brass
That gave dim light through scraps of coloured glass.
I saw a long low room with many a heap
Dark, on the floor, where women lay asleep
On silken cushions. Round the wall there ran
(Dark, too, with cushioned women) a divan.
And women stirred and little chains were shaken.

* * * * *

What horror 'tis, to prisoners, to waken
Out of the dreams of home back to the chain,
Back to the iron and the mill again,
In some far land among one's enemies!
I knew that then; those women made me wise.

* * * * *

We stared into the twilight till our eyes
Could see more clearly; no one challenged us.
But standing back against the doorway thus
I saw the warden of the room, asleep,
Close to me, on the cushions, breathing deep,
Her hard face made like iron by the gloom.
An old grim Moor that warden of the room,
A human iron fettered on the poor.
Far down the room a fetter touched the floor.

* * * * *

Even in the gloom I knew that she was there,
My April of a woman with bright hair;
She sat upright against the wall alone,
By burning meditation turned to stone,
Staring ahead, and when I touched her shoulder
Her body (stiffened like a corpse and colder)
Seemed not herself, her mind seemed far away.

* * * * *

There was no need to talk, but to essay
The light steel chain that linked her to the wall.
We gripped it, heaving, till its links were gall
Biting across our hands, but still we drave,
She, I, and Gerard, heaving till it gave.
The leaded staple snapped across the shank.

* * * * *

The loosed chain struck the flooring with a clank.
We all lay still, my arm about my own.
“Who's moving there? Be silent!" snapped the crone.

* * * * *

Cross with the slave who had awakened her,
She stared towards us. We could hear her stir,
Craning towards us; but she could not see
More than the cushions tumbled there with me.
She thought, perhaps: "That fair one shook her chain."
She growled: “I'll beat you if you stir again.
A Moorish whip upon your Christian skin."

* * * * *

I saw her clutch her blanket to her chin,
Turn to her side, and settle to her rest.
The dawn, that brings the skylark from her nest,
Was flying with bright feet that ever hasted.
Each moment there meant happy chances wasted,
Yet still we had to stay until she slept.

* * * * *

When she had fallen to a doze we crept
Stealthily to the door on hands and knees.
All of those women came from over-seas.
We could not waken them to share our chance.
Not Peru's silver nor the fields of France
Could buy a place in our society.
One tender feeling might have made us die
All three, and been no kindness to the fourth:
Compassions perish when the wind is north.

* * * * *

Close to the door a woman leaned and caught
My darling's hand, and kissed it swift as thought.
And whispered, "Oh, good luck!" and then was still.
She had no luck, but oh! she had goodwill.
We blest her in our hearts.
The warder stirred.
Growling, but dozing lightly; then we heard
Outside the door, within three feet of us,
The footsteps of the sentry perilous,
The clinking of his scabbard lightly touching
Some metal button, then his fingers clutching
The teaken catch to try if it were home.

* * * * *

We stood stone-still, expecting him to come.
He did not come, he pushed the door and passed,
Treading this beat exactly like the last,
To loiter at the door to crack and spit.

* * * * *

The time dragged by till he had done with it.
Then back he came, and once again he shook
The catch upon its socket; then he took
His way along the passage out of hearing.

* * * * *

The room 'gan glimmer from the dawning nearing,
The warder struggled with a dream, and cried;
The lamp-flame purred from want of oil, and died.
And she, the woman who had kissed her hand,
Whispered, "Oh, go, for God's sake! do not stand
One moment more, but go! God help you free."

* * * * *

We crept out of the prison silently,
Gerard the last, who closed the door behind us.
The crowing of a cock came to remind us
That it was morning now, with daylight breaking,
The leaves all shivering and birds awaking.
We climbed the ladder.

* * * * *

Its eleven rungs
Called to the Moors of us with all their tongues:

  • 'Wake!" '^Wake!" "They fly!" "The three of them are flying!"

“Oh, broken house!" "Oh, sleepers, thieves are trying
To take the Khalif’s treasure!" "Guards!" "Awake!"
“They rob the women!" "For the prophet's sake,"
“Slaughter these Christians!" Thus the ladder spoke
Three times aloud, yet nobody awoke.
Even the hag upon the roof was still.

* * * * *

Now the red cock of dawning triumphed shrill,
And little ends of landwind shook the leaves;
White through the cypress gleamed the palace eaves.
The dim and dewy beauty of the blossom.
Shy with the daybreak, trembled in its bosom,
Some snowy petals loitered to the ground.
The city houses had a wakening sound.
Some smoke was rising, and we heard the stirs
Made at the gates by country marketers;
Only a moment’s twilight yet remained.

* * * * *

The supple links that held my darling chained
Served as a rope to help her down the wall.
Our hearts stood still to hear the plaster fall,
But down we scrambled safely to the lane.
We heard the hag upon the roof complain:
She called strange names, and listened for reply.
We heard her tread the ladder heavily.
It was her rising-time, perhaps, we thought.

* * * * *

And now the dangers that the daylight brought
Came thick upon us; for our foreign dress
Betrayed us at each step beyond a guess.
Even to be seen was certain death to us.
We hid my darling's face, and hasting thus
Kept up the narrow lane as Gerard bade.
He said: “Beyond, the city wall is laid
Heaped in the ditch, and we can cross it there.
It fell from rottenness and disrepair.
They set no guard there—or they did not set.
They will not notice us, and we can get
Out to the tombs and hide inside a vault."

* * * * *

In overbrimming beauty without fault
The sun brought colour to that dingy hive.
It made the black tree green, the sea alive,
The huts like palaces; but us who fled
Like ghosts at cockcrow hasting to the dead.

* * * * *

The lane had ceased. We reached an open space,
The greenish slope, the horses' baiting place,
Between the city and the palace wall.
The hill dipped sharply in a steepish fall
Down to the houses, and the grass was worn
With hoofs, and littered with the husks of corn.
“Now, slowly," Gerard said, “for Moors go slowly.”

* * * * *

There, trembling in its blueness dim and holy,
Lay the great water bursting on the Mole.
Her tremblings came as thoughts come in a soul.
There was our peace, there was the road to home,
That never-trodden trembling bright with foam.
“There lies the road," said Gerard; now, come on.”

* * * * *

The high leaves in the trees above us shone,
For now the sun had climbed the eastern hill;
The coldness of the dawn was with us still.
We walked along the grass towards an alley
Between high walls beyond a tiny valley.

* * * * *

Fronting this alley's mouth our sloping grass
Dipped down and up, a little gut there was
Down which we slithered and from which we climbed.

* * * * *

And just as we emerged, exactly timed,
Just as we drew my darling to the top,
There came a noise that made our pulses stop.

* * * * *

For, down towards us, blocking all the road.
Their horses striking sparks out as they strode,
Came lancers clattering with their hands held high,
Their knees bent up, and many a sharp, quick cry;
The pennons in their lance-heads flapped like flame.

* * * * *

Three ranks in twos, and then a swordsman came.
Then one who held a scarlet banner; then
One in a scarlet cloak, a King of men.

* * * * *

It was the Khalif’s self, returning home.
His rein had smeared his stallion's crest with foam,
I noticed that. He was not twenty yards
From us. He saw us.

* * * * *

At a sign his guards
Rode round us, bade us stand; there was no hope.

* * * * *

“Our luck!" said Gerard. Then they took a rope
And hitched our wrists together. Then they led
The three of us, downhearted like the dead,
Before the Khalif’s self. The swordsman bared
His right arm to the shoulder and prepared.

* * * * *

The Khalif stared at us, and we at him;
We were defiant at him, he was grim.
A hawk-like fellow, like a bird of prey,
A hawk to strike, a swift to get away.
His clean brown face (with blood beneath the brown)
Puckered, his thin lips tightened in a frown,
He knew without our telling what we were,

* * * * *

The swordsman looked for word to kill us there.

* * * * *

I saw the lancers' glances at their chief.
Death on the instant would have seemed relief
To that not knowing what her fate would be
After the sword had made an end of me.

* * * * *

The Khalif’s face grew grimmer; then he said:
“Bring them with us." The swordsman sheathed his blade.

* * * * *

They took us to a palace, to a chamber
Smelling of bruisèd spice and burning amber.
There slaves were sent to fetch the newly risen
Servants and warders of the woman's prison.
The white of death was on them when they came.

* * * * *

The Khalif lightened on them with quick flame.
Harsh though she was, 1 sorrowed for the crone,
For she was old, a woman, and alone,
And came, in age, upon disgrace through me;
I know not what disgrace, I did not see
Those crones again, I doubt not they were whipt
For letting us escape them while they slept.
Perhaps they killed the sentry. Who can tell?
The devil ever keeps the laws in hell.

* * * * *

They dragged them out to justice one by one.
However bitter was the justice done,
I doubt not they were thankful to be quit
(At cost of some few pangs) the fear of it.
Then our turn came.
The Khalif’s fury raged
Because our eyes had seen those women caged,
Because our Christian presence had defiled
The Women's House, and somehow had beguiled
A woman-slave, his victim, out of it.
Against all Moorish law and Holy Writ.
If we had killed his son it had been less.

* * * * *

He rose up in his place and rent his dress.
“Let them be ganched upon the hooks,” he cried,
“Throughout to-day, but not till they have died.
Then gather all the slaves, and flay these three
Alive, before them, that the slaves may see
What comes to dogs who try to get away.
So, ganch the three."

* * * * *

Then Gerard answered: "Stay.
Before you fling us to the hooks, hear this.
There are two laws, and men may go amiss
Either by breaking or by keeping one.
There is man's law by which man's work is done.
Your galleys rowed, your palace kept in state,
Your victims ganched or headed on the gate,
And accident has bent us to its yoke.

* * * * *

“We break it: death; but it is better broke.

* * * * *

“You know, you Khalif, by what death you reign,
What force of fraud, what cruelty of pain,
What spies and prostitutes support your power,
And help your law to run its little hour:
We, who are but ourselves, defy it all.

* * * * *

 “We were free people till you made us thrall.
I was a sailor whom you took at sea
While sailing home. This woman that you see
You broke upon with murder in the night,
To drag her here to die for your delight.
This young man is her lover.
When he knew
That she was taken by your pirate crew,
He followed her to save her, or at least
Be near her in her grief. Man is a beast,
And women are his pasture by your law.
This young man was in safety, and he saw
His darling taken to the slave-girls' pen
Of weeping in the night and beasts of men.
He gave up everything, risked everything,
Came to your galley, took the iron ring,
Rowed at the bitter oar-loom as a slave.
Only for love of her, for hope to save
Her from one bruise of all the many bruises
That fall upon a woman when she loses
Those whom your gang of bloodhounds made her lose.

* * * * *

“Knowing another law, we could not choose
But stamp your law beneath our feet as dust,
Its bloodshed and its rapine and its lust,
For one clean hour of struggle to be free;
She for her passionate pride of chastity,
He for his love of her, and I because
I'm not too old to glory in the cause
Of generous souls who have harsh measure meted.

* * * * *

“We did the generous thing and are defeated.
Boast, then, to-night, when you have drunken deep,
Between the singing woman's song and sleep,
That you have tortured to the death three slaves
Who spat upon your law and found their graves
Helping each other in the generous thing.
No mighty triumph for a boast, O King."

* * * * *

Then he was silent while the Khalif stared.
Never before had any being dared
To speak thus to him. All the courtiers paled.
We, who had died, expected to be haled
To torture there and then before the crowd.
It was so silent that the wind seemed loud
Clicking a loose slat in the open shutter.
I heard the distant breakers at their mutter
Upon the Mole, I saw my darling's face
Steady and proud; a breathing filled the place.
Men drawing breath until the Khalif spoke.

* * * * *

His torn dress hung upon him like a cloak.
He spoke at last. "You speak of law," he said.
“By climates and by soils the laws are made.
Ours is a hawk-law suited to the land,
This rock of hawks or eyrie among sand;
I am a hawk, the hawk-law pleases me.

* * * * *

“But I am man, and, being man, can be
Moved, sometimes, Christian, by the law which makes
Men who are suffering from man's mistakes
Brothers sometimes.
I had not heard this tale
Of you, the lover, following to jail
The woman whom you loved. You bowed your neck
Into the iron fettered to the deck,
And followed her to prison, all for love?

* * * * *

“Allah, who gives men courage from above,
Has surely blessed you, boy.

* * * * *

“And you, his queen;
Without your love his courage had not been.
Your beauty and your truth prevailed on him.
Allah has blessed you, too.

* * * * *

“And you, the grim
Killer of men at midnight, you who speak
To Kings as peers with colour in your cheek,
Allah made you a man who helps his friends.

* * * * *

“God made you all. I will not thwart his ends.
You shall be free.
Hear all. These folks are free.
You, Emir, fit a xebec for the sea
To let them sail at noon.
Go where you will.
And lest my rovers should molest you still,
Here is my seal that they shall let you pass."

* * * * *

Throughout the room a sudden murmur was,
A gasp of indrawn breath and shifting feet.
So life was given back, the thing so sweet,
The undrunk cup that we were longing for.

* * * * *

My darling spoke: “O Khalif, one gift more.
After this bounty that our hearts shall praise
At all our praying-times by nights and days,
I ask yet more, O raiser from the dead.
There in your woman's prison as we fled
A hopeless woman blessed us. It is said
That blessings from the broken truly bless.
Khalif, we would not leave in hopelessness
One whose great heart could bless us even then,
Even as we left her in the prison pen.
She wished us fortune from a broken heart:
Let her come with us, Khalif, when we start."
“Go, you/' the Khalif said, "and choose her forth.”

* * * * *

At noon the wind was blowing to the north;
A swift felucca with a scarlet sail
Was ready for us, deep with many a bale
Of gold and spice and silk, the great King's gifts.
The banners of the King were on her lifts.
The King and all his court rode down to see
Us four glad souls put seawards from Saffee.

* * * * *

In the last glowing of the sunset's gold
We looked our last upon that pirate hold;
The palace gilding shone awhile like fire,
We were at sea with all our heart's desire,
Beauty and friendship and the dream fulfilled:
The golden answer to the deeply willed,
The purely longed-for, hardly tried-for thing.
Into the dark our sea-boat dipped her wing;
Polaris climbed out of the dark and shone,
Then came the moon, and now Saffee was gone.
With all hell's darkness hidden by the sea.

* * * * *

Oh, beautiful is love, and to be free
Is beautiful, and beautiful are friends.
Love, freedom, comrades, surely make amends
For all these thorns through which we walk to death!
God let us breathe your beauty with our breath.

* * * * *

All early in the Maytime, when daylight comes at four.
We blessed the hawthorn blossom that welcomed us ashore,
Oh, beautiful in this living that passes like the foam.
It is to go with sorrow, yet come with beauty home!

* * * * *


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