Behold, what clouds of dust emerge
From the lone desert's distant verge!
And, high in dusky eddies driven,
Obscure the azure hue of heaven:
And now the tramp of steeds is heard,
And now the leader's angry word—
Now nearer, more distinct they grow—
Who is that leader?—friend or foe?
Alas! 'tis Lailî's vanquish'd sire,
Returning home, his heart on fire;
For, though he has survived the blow,
Still burns the disgrace of his overthrow.
His tale is told: some Diw or Ghoul*
Had palsied his intrepid soul,
And held his arm by magic foul,
Or potion from the enchanter's bowl;
Else had he driven, with easy hand,
The miscreant Noufal from the land;
For when did ever braggart lord
Fail, but when magic held his sword?
Now, shielded by the harem screen,
The sweet Narcissus sad is seen:
Listening she hears, disconsolate,
Her father's words, which seal her fate;
And what has Lailî now to bear,
But loneliness, reproach, despair,
With no congenial spirit to impart
One single solace to her bursting heart!
Meanwhile, the spicy gale on every side
Wafts the high vaunting of her beauty's pride
Through all the neighbouring tribes, and more remote
Her name is whisper'd and favor sought.
Suitors with various claims appear—the great,
The rich, the powerful—all impatient wait
To know for whom the father keeps that rare
But fragile crystal with such watchful care.
Her charms eclipse all others of her sex,
Given to be loved, but rival hearts to vex;
For, when the lamp of joy illumes her cheeks,
The lover smiles, and yet his heart it breaks:
The full-blown rose thus sheds its fragrance round;
But there are thorns, not given to charms, but wound.
Among the rest that stripling came,
Who had before avow'd his flame;
His cheerful aspect seem'd to say,
For him was fix'd the nuptial-day.
His offerings are magnificent;
Garments embroider'd every fold,
And rarest gems, to win consent,
And carpets work'd with silk and gold:
Amber, and pearls, and rubies bright,
And bags of musk, attract the sight;
And camels of unequall'd speed,
And ambling nags of purest breed;—
These (resting for a while) he sends
Before him, and instructs his friends,
With all the eloquence and power,
Persuasion brings in favoring hour,
To magnify his worth, and prove
That he alone deserves her love.—
“A youth of royal presence, Yemen's boast,
Fierce as a lion, powerful as a host;
Of boundless wealth, and valor's self, he wields
His conquering sword amid embattled fields.
Call ye for blood? 'tis shed by his own hand.
Call ye for gold? he scatters it like sand.”
And when the flowers of speech their scent had shed,
Diffusing honors round the suitor's head;
Exalting him to more than mortal worth,
In person manly, noble in his birth;
The sire of Lailî seem'd oppress'd with thought,
As if with some repulsive feeling fraught;
Yet promptly was the answer given—he soon
Decreed the fate of Yemen's splendid moon;
Saddled the steed of his desire, in sooth,
Flung his own offspring in the dragon's mouth.
Forthwith the nuptial pomp, the nuptial rites,
Engage the chieftain's household—every square
Rings with the rattling drums—whose noise excites
More deafening clamour through the wide bazár.
The pipe and cymbal, shrill and loud,
Delight the gay assembled crowd;
And all is mirth and jollity,
With song, and dance and revelry.
But Lailî, mournful, sits apart,
The shaft of misery through her heart;
And black portentous clouds are seen
Darkening her soft expressive mien:
Her bosom swells with heavy sighs,
Tears gush from those heart-winning eyes,
Where Love's triumphant witchery lies.
In blooming spring a wither'd leaf,
She droops in agony of grief;
Loving her own—her only one—
Loving Majnûn, and him alone;
All else from her affections gone;
And to be join'd, in a moment's breath,
To another!—Death, and worse than death!
Soon as the sparkling stars of night
Had disappear'd, and floods of light
Shed from the morn's refulgent beam
Empurpled Dijla's* rolling stream,
The bridegroom, joyous, rose to see
The bride equipp'd as bride should be:
The litter, and the golden throne,
Prepared for her to rest upon:
But what avails the tenderest care,
The fondest love, when dark despair
And utter hatred fill the breast
Of her to whom that fondness is address'd?
Quickly her sharp disdain the bridegroom feels,
And from her scornful presence shrinks and reels:*
A solemn oath she takes, and cries,
With frenzy flashing from her eyes,—
“Hop'st thou I ever shall be thine?
It is my father's will, not mine!
Rather than be that thing abhorr'd,
My life-blood shall distain thy sword.
Away! nor longer seek to gain
A heart foredoom'd to endless pain;
A heart, no power of thine can move;
A bleeding heart, which scorns thy love!”
When Ibn Salám her frenzied look beheld,
And heard her vows, his cherish'd hopes were quell'd.
He soon perceived what art had been employ'd,—
All his bright visions faded and destroy'd;—
And found, when love has turn'd a maiden's brain,
Father and mother urge their power in vain.