Poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

English poet (B:1840-08-17 - D:1922-09-10)

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The Stealing Of The Mare - I

In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate! He who narrateth this tale is Abu Obeyd, and he saith:
When I took note and perceived that the souls of men were in pleasure to hear good stories, and that their ears were comforted and that they made good cheer in the listening, then called I to mind the tale of the Agheyli Jaber and his mare, and of all that befell him and his people. For this is a story of wonderful adventure and marvellous stratagems, and a tale which when one heareth he desireth to have it evermore in remembrance as a delight tasted once by him and not forgotten.
And the telling of it is this:
The Emir Abu Zeyd the Helali Salameh was sitting one morning in his tent with the Arabs of the Beni Helal and the Lords of the tribe. And lo, there appeared before them in the desert the figure of one wandering to and fro alone. And this was Ghanimeh. And the Emir Abu Zeyd said to his slave Abul Komsan, ``Go forth thou, and read me the errand of this fair Lady and bring me word again.'' And Abul Komsan went forth as he was bidden, and presently returned to them with a smiling countenance, and he said, ``O my Lord, there is the best of news for thee, for this is one that hath come a guest to thee, and she desireth something of thee, for fate hath oppressed her and troubles sore are on her head. And she hath told me all her story and the reason of her coming, and that it is from her great sorrow of mind; for she had once an husband, and his name was Dagher abul Jud, a great one of the Arabs. And to them was born a son named Amer ibn el Keram, and the boy's uncle's name was En Naaman. And when the father died, then the uncle possessed himself of all the inheritance, and he drove forth the widow from the tribe; and he hath kept the boy as a herder of his camels; and this for seven years. And Ghanimeh all that time was in longing for her son. But at the end of the seventh year she returned to seek the boy. Then Naaman struck her and drove her forth. And Amer, too, the boy, his nephew, is in trouble, for Naaman will not now yield to the boy that he should marry his daughter, though she was promised to him, and he hath betrothed her to another. And when Amer begged him for the girl (for the great ones of the tribe pitied the boy, and there had interceded for him fifty--and--five of the princes), he answered, `Nay, that may not be, not though in denying it I should taste of the cup of evil things. But, if he be truly desirous of the girl and would share all things with me in my good fortune, then let him bring me the mare of the Agheyli Jaber,--and the warriors be witness of my word thereto.' But when the men of the tribe heard this talk, they said to one another: `There is none able to do this thing but only Abu Zeyd.' And thus hath this lady come to thee. And I entreat thee, my lord, look into her business and do for her what is needful.''
And when Abu Zeyd heard this word of his slave Abul Komsan he rejoiced exceedingly, and his heart waxed big within him, and he threw his cloak as a gift to Abul Komsan, and he bade him go to the Lady Ghanimeh and treat her with all honour, for, ``I needs,'' said he, ``must see to her affairs and quiet her mind.'' So Abul Komsan returned to her, and he built for her a tent, and did all that was needed. And Abu Zeyd bade him attend upon her and bring her dresses of honour and all things meet for her service.
Then began the Narrator to sing:

Saith the hero Abu Zeyd the Helali Salameh:
(Woe is me, my heart is a fire, a fire that burneth!)
On a Friday morning once, I sat with three companions,
I in my tent, the fourth of four, with the sons of Amer.
Sudden I raised my eyes and gazed at the breadth of the desert,
Searching the void afar, the empty hills and the valleys;
Lo, in the midmost waste a form, where the rainways sundered,
Wandering uncertain round in doubt, with steps of a stranger.
Turned I to Abul Komsan, my slave, and straightway I bade him,
``Ho, thou master of signs, expound to us this new comer.''
Abul Komsan arose and went, and anon returning,
``Fortune fair,'' said he, ``I bring and a noble token.
O my Lord Abu Zeyd,'' he cried, and his lips were smiling,
``Here is a guest of renown for thee, a stranger, a lady,
One for the wounding of hearts, a dame of illustrious lineage,
One whose heart is on fire with grief, and sorely afflicted.''
The dark one threw off his cloak to Abul Komsan in guerdon,
Even I, Abu Zeyd Salameh, the while my companions
Rose with me all as I rose in my place, we four rejoicing,
Hassan and Abu Kheyl Diab, and the Kadi Faà¯d.
And first of them Hassan spake and said, ``Is my name not Hassan?
Sultan and chief and lord am I of the lords of the Bedu.
Shall not my tent stand free to all, to each guest that cometh?
So God send her to me, be they hers, two thousand camels.''
And Abu Kheyl uprose, and with him the Kadi Faà¯d.
``And I,'' said he, ``no less will give to this dame two thousand.''
Nor was the Kadi slow to speak: ``Though this pen and paper
All my poor fortune be,'' said he, ``I will name her thirty.''
But I, Salameh, said, ``By my faith, these gifts were little;
Mine be a larger vow.'' And I swore an oath and I promised
All that she would to bring, nay, all her soul demanded,
Even a service of fear, a thing from the land of danger.
And thus they sat in discourse till the hour of noon was upon them,
And the caller called to prayer, and the great ones prayed assembled;
And these too in their place, and they stood in prayer together.
And when they had made an end of praises and prostrations,
Back to the tent came they, and still behold the lady
Wandering in doubt uncertain there with steps of a stranger.
Then to the desert went I forth, and I called and I shouted,
``Marhaba, welcome to thee,'' I cried, ``thou illustrious lady,
Welcomes as many be to thee as the leagues thou hast wandered.''
And she, ``I seek the hero, the Knight of Helal ibn Amer,
Bring me to him, the renowned of might, the hero of Amer.''
And I, ``I hear and obey, though I am not of the great ones.
Raise thy eyes and behold him here, the Sultan Hassan,
And with him Abu Musa Diab, the light of Zoghbat,
Best of the swordsmen he, and our learned Kadi Faà¯d,
The reader of the word, the learnedest of the learned,
And with them Aziz ed Din and El Hajin and Amer,
Fifty and five of the best, Fulano and Fulano.
These be men of their word; asking thou shalt obtain it:
Ask thou all that thou wilt, even all thy soul desireth.''
But she, ``Nay, thou dost mock, thou slave and idle talker,
Not of these would I hear nor of other than Salameh,
Salameh Abu Zeyd, Chief of Helal ibn Amer.
Why art thou mute of him for whom my soul is kindled?''
And I, ``Myself am he, the Helali Salameh,
Welcome to thee, and welcome as wide as thou hast wandered.''
And she prayed, ``O Abu Zeyd, behold me here thy stranger.
A boon I ask, O dark one, a mighty deed of daring.
Thy suppliant am I, thou son of Risk Salameh,
From the distress of time behold my tears are flowing.
For this one boon behold me pleading here before thee.
I have tasted Fortune's change. I plead by the day of judgment.''
And I, ``What is thy want, O Lady, that I grant it?
All, to the cord, I give, so thy tears cease from flowing.''
And she, ``O man admired! A great one was my husband,
A knight, a prince of lineage, Abul Jud Dagher,
A man of mighty wealth, stored up in many houses,
Wealth whose sole catalogue were a library of volumes.
He dying left behind with me our one son Amer,
To me and to the hate of an ill--minded uncle.
For when that Abul Jud was gathered to his fathers,
And sent from his loved home to death's unjoyful dwellings,
Behold this Naaman, this man he called his brother,
In arms against our house, he with his evil--doers,
Raiding all our wealth and making Amer captive.
Thus weeping did I flee, and seven long years an exile
Bore I his heart with me like a bird ever flying.



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