Another delightful Poets' Corner discovery...
(Poem #627) Reverie of Mahomed Akram at the Tamarind Tank
The Desert is parched in the burning sun And the grass is scorched and white. But the sand is passed, and the march is done, We are camping here to-night. I sit in the shade of the Temple walls, While the cadenced water evenly falls, And a peacock out of the Jungle calls To another, on yonder tomb. Above, half seen, in the lofty gloom, Strange works of a long dead people loom, Obscene and savage and half effaced An elephant hunt, a musicians' feast -- And curious matings of man and beast; What did they mean to the men who are long since dust? Whose fingers traced, In this arid waste, These rioting, twisted, figures of love and lust? Strange, weird things that no man may say, Things Humanity hides away; -- Secretly done, -- Catch the light of the living day, Smile in the sun. Cruel things that man may not name, Naked here, without fear or shame, Laughed in the carven stone. Deep in the Temple's innermost Shrine is set, Where the hats and shadows dwell, The worn and ancient Symbol of Life, at rest In its oval shell, By which the men, who, of old, the land possessed, Represented their Great Destroying Power. I cannot forget That, just as my life was touching its fullest flower, Love came and destroyed it all in a single hour, Therefore the dual Mystery suits me well. Sitting alone, The tank's deep water is cool and sweet, Soothing and fresh to the wayworn feet, Dreaming, under the Tamarind shade, One silently thanks the men who made So green a place in this bitter land Of sunburnt sand. The peacocks scream and the grey Doves coo, Little green, talkative Parrots woo, And small grey Squirrels, with fear askance, At alien me, in their furtive glance, Come shyly, with quivering fur, to see The stranger under their Tamarind tree. Daylight dies, The Camp fires redden like angry eyes, The Tents show white, In the glimmering light, Spirals of tremulous smoke arise, to the purple skies, And the hum of the Camp sounds like the sea, Drifting over the sand to me. Afar, in the Desert some wild voice sings To a jangling zither with minor strings, And, under the stars growing keen above, I think of the thing that I love. A beautiful thing, alert, serene, With passionate, dreaming, wistful eyes, Dark and deep as mysterious skies, Seen from, As radiant mornings fade into afternoon. I held what I loved in my arms for many a night, Yet ever the morning lightened the sky too soon. Beyond our tents the sands stretch level and far. Around this little oasis of Tamarind trees. A curious, Eastern fragrance fills the breeze From the ruinous Temple garden where roses are. I dream of the rose-like perfume that fills your hair, Of times when my lips were free of your soft closed eyes, While down in the tank the waters ripple and rise And the flying foxes silently cleave the air. The present is subtly welded into the past, My love of you with the purple Indian dusk, With its clinging scent of sandal incense and musk, And withering jasmin flowers. My eyes grow dim and my senses fail at last, While the lonely hours Follow each other, silently, one by one, Till the night is almost done. Then weary, and drunk with dreams, with my garments damp And heavy with dew, I wander towards the camp. Tired, with a brain in which fancy and fact are blent, I stumble across the ropes till I reach my tent And then to rest. To ensweeten my sleep with lies, To dream I lie in the light of your long lost eyes, My lips set free, To love and linger over your soft loose hair -- To dream I lay your delicate beauty bare To solace my fevered eyes. Ah, -- if my life might end in a night like this -- Drift into death from dreams of your granted kiss!
(Adela Florence Nicolson) One of the most notable things about today's poem is the wonderful extravagance with which it is written. There seems to be something about the East that engenders, in Western poets, an often reckless tendency towards larger-than-life, or, at least, vivider-than-life imagery, the results of which range all the way from beautiful to painful. While 'Reverie' is far from the best example of the genre, it definitely falls in the upper half of the spectrum. The imagery intertwining with the pleasingly irregular rhythm paint a colourful and slightly dreamlike picture of an explicitly exotic scene. What really attracted me to the poem, though, was the aforementioned rhythm. It's a rare poet who can handle a varying metre well, striking just the right balance between evenness and irregularity, and it's always a delight when it works. And Hope has done a beautiful job here - the line lengths, the stress patterns, the verse structure all constantly shifting, and yet doing so with no trace of abruptness, the various patterns flowing smoothly into one another as the poem follows the narrator's reverie.  Saki parodied this deftly in his short story 'The Recessional': "I've got a fine bit of colour painting later on," he [Clovis] added, "where I describe the dawn coming up over the Brahmaputra river: " 'The amber dawn-drenched East with sun-shafts kissed, Stained sanguine apricot and amethyst, O'er the washed emerald of the mango groves Hangs in a mist of opalescent mauves, While painted parrot-flights impinge the haze With scarlet, chalcedon and chrysoprase.' " "I've never seen the dawn come up over the Brahmaputra river," said Bertie, "so I can't say if it's a good description of the event, but it sounds more like an account of an extensive jewel robbery.  By a rather happy coincidence, this is somewhat reminiscent of the last poem I ran, 'The Ice-Cart'. Maybe I should extend the theme with a third dream sequence - pity we already ran Kubla Kahn <g>. Biography: There's a disappointing lack of biographical information online. From the Poets' Corner: Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Nicolson, nee Cory) (1865 - 1904) English Poet living in India Links: Hope reminds me somewhat of the (far better) James Elroy Flecker. See poem #509 poem #518 A net search for Hope revealed two (deservedly) popular fragments that have found their way into a multiplicity of quote files - you can read both at [broken link] http://www.wam.umd.edu/~kghose/Random/thoughts/poetrySnips.txt The complete 'Recessional' is online at http://www.fluxus.freeserve.co.uk/Clovis/TheRecessional.html And my periodic Poets' Corner plug [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/ Hope being found at [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/poem-gh.html -martin