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Reverie of Mahomed Akram at the Tamarind Tank -- Laurence Hope

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!
-- Laurence Hope
         (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[1], 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

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[2].

[1] 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.

[2] 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>.


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


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]

The complete 'Recessional' is online at

And my periodic Poets' Corner plug
[broken link]

Hope being found at
[broken link]


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