Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
442. Ahab Mohammed
By James Matthew Legaré
A PEASANT stood before a king and said,
“My children starve, I come to thee for bread.”
On cushions soft and silken sat enthroned
The king, and looked on him that prayed and moaned,
Who cried again,—“For bread I come to thee.”        5
For grief, like wine, the tongue will render free.
Then said the prince with simple truth “Behold
I sit on cushions silken-soft, of gold
And wrought with skill the vessels which they bring
To fitly grace the banquet of a king.        10
But at my gate the Mede triumphant beats,
And die for food my people in the streets.
Yet no good father hears his child complain
And gives him stones for bread, for alms disdain.
Come, thou and I will sup together—come.”        15
The wondering courtiers saw—saw and were dumb:
Then followed with their eyes where Ahab led
With grace the humble guest, amazed, to share his bread.
Him half abashed the royal host withdrew
Into a room, the curtained doorway through.        20
Silent behind the folds of purple closed,
In marble life the statues stood disposed;
From the high ceiling, perfume breathing, hung
Lamps rich, pomegranate-shaped, and golden-swung.
Gorgeous the board with massive metal shone,        25
Gorgeous with gems arose in front a throne:
These through the Orient lattice saw the sun.
If gold there was, of meat and bread was none
Save one small loaf; this stretched his hand and took
Ahab Mohammed, prayed to God, and broke:        30
One half his yearning nature bid him crave,
The other gladly to his guest he gave.
“I have no more to give,” he cheerily said:
“With thee I share my only loaf of bread.”
Humbly the stranger took the offered crumb        35
Yet ate not of it, standing meek and dumb;
Then lifts his eyes,—the wondering Ahab saw
His rags fall from him as the snow in thaw.
Resplendent, blue, those orbs upon him turned;
All Ahab’s soul within him throbbed and burned.        40
“Ahab Mohammed,” spoke the vision then,
“From this thou shalt be blessed among men.
Go forth—thy gates the Mede bewildered flees,
And Allah thank thy people on their knees.
He who gives thy does a worthy deed,        45
Of him the recording angel shall take heed.
But he that halves all that his house doth hold,
His deeds are more to God, yea more than finest gold.”


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