Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Arabia: Almachara
The Fair of Almachara
Richard Hengist Horne (1802–1884)
 
I.
  THE INTOLERANT sun sinks down with glaring eye
    Behind the horizontal desert-line,
  And upwards casts his robes to float on high,
    Suffusing all the clouds with his decline;
    Till their intense gold doth incarnadine,        5
And melt in angry hues, which darken as they die.
 
  Slow rose the naked beauty of the moon
    In broad relief against the gloomy vault;
  Each smouldering field in azure melted soon,
    Before the tenderness of that assault;        10
    And the pure image that men’s soul’s exalt,
Stood high aloof from earth, as in some visioned swoon.
 
  But now she seemed, from that clear altitude,
    To gaze below, with a far-sheening smile,
  On Arab tents, gay groups, and gambols rude,        15
    As in maternal sympathy the while;
    And now, like swarming bees, o’er many a mile
Forth rush the swarthy forms o’ the gilded multitude!
 
II.
      Hark to the cymbals singing!
        Hark to their hollow quot!        20
      The gong sonorous swinging
        At each sharp pistol-shot!
      Bells of sweet tone are ringing!
          The Fair begins
          With countless dins,        25
        And many a grave-faced plot!
 
      Trumpets and tympans sound,
      ’Neath the moon’s brilliant round,
          Which doth entrance
          Each passionate dance,        30
          And glows or flashes
          Midst jewelled sashes,
        Cap, turban, and tiara
          In a tossing sea
          Of ecstasy,        35
        At the Fair of Almachara!
 
III.
First came a troop of dervishes,
  Who sang a solemn song,
And at each chorus one leapt forth
  And spun himself so long        40
That silver coins, and much applause,
  Were showered down by the throng.
 
Then passed a long and sad-linked chain
  Of foreign slaves for sale:
Some clasped their hands and wept like rain,        45
  Some with resolve were pale;
By death or fortitude, they vowed,
  Deliverance should not fail.
 
And neighing steeds with bloodshot eyes,
  And tails as black as wind        50
That sweeps the storm-expectant seas,
  Bare-backed careered behind;
Yet, docile to their master’s call,
  Their steep-arched necks inclined.
 
Trumpets and tympans sound        55
’Neath the moon’s brilliant round,
    Which doth entrance
    Each passionate dance,
    And glows or flashes
    Mid cymbal-clashes,        60
    Rich jewelled sashes,
  Cap, turban, and tiara,
      In a tossing sea
        Of ecstasy,
  At the Fair of Almachara!        65
 
IV.
There sit the serpent-charmers,
  Enwound with maze on maze
Of orby folds, which, working fast,
  Puzzle the moonlit gaze.
    Boas and amphisbœnæ gray        70
    Flash like currents in their play,
Hissing and kissing, till the crowd
  Shriek with delight, or pray aloud!
 
Now rose a crook-backed juggler,
  Who clean cut off both legs;        75
Astride on his shoulders set them,
  And danced on wooden pegs:
And presently his head dropped off,
  When another juggler came,
Who gathered his frisky fragments up,        80
  And stuck them in a frame,
From which he issued as at first,
  Continuing thus the game.
 
Trumpets and tympans sound
’Neath the moon’s brilliant round,        85
    Which doth entrance
    Each passionate dance,
    And glows or flashes
    Mid cymbal clashes,
    Rich jewelled sashes,        90
  Cap, turban, and tiara,
    In a tossing sea
    Of ecstasy,
  At the fair of Almachara!
 
V.
There do we see the merchants
        95
  Smoking with grave pretence:
There, too, the humble dealers
  In cassia and frankincense;
And many a Red-Sea mariner,
  Swept from its weedy waves,        100
Who comes to sell his coral rough,
  Torn from its rocks and caves,
With red clay for the potteries,
  Which careful baking craves.
 
There, too, the Bedouin tumblers        105
  Roll round like rapid wheels,
Or tie their bodies into knots,
  Hiding both head and heels:
Now standing on each other’s heads,
  They race about the Fair,        110
Or with strange energies inspired
  Leap high into the air,
And wanton thus above the sand
  In graceful circles rare.
 
There sit the opium-eaters,        115
  Chanting their gorgeous dreams;
While some, with hollow faces,
  Seem lit by ghastly gleams,
Dumb—and with fixed grimaces!
 
There dance the Arab maidens,        120
  With burnished limbs all bare,
Caught by the moon’s keen silver
  Through frantic jets of hair!
O naked moon! O wondrous face!
Eternal sadness, beauty, grace,        125
Smile on the passing human race!
 
Trumpets and tympans sound
’Neath the moon’s brilliant round,
    Which doth entrance
    Each passionate dance,        130
    And glows or flashes
    Mid cymbal clashes,
    Rich jewelled sashes,
  Cap, turban, and tiara,
    In a tossing sea        135
    Of ecstasy,
  At the Fair of Almachara!
 
VI.
There, too, the story-tellers,
  With long beards and bald pates,
Right earnestly romancing        140
  Grave follies of the Fates,
For which their circling auditors
  Throw coins and bags of dates.
Some of the youths and maidens shed
  Sweet tears, or turn quite pale;        145
But silence, and the clouded pipe,
  O’er all the rest prevail.
 
Mark yon Egyptian sorcerer,
  In black and yellow robes,
His ragged raven locks he twines        150
  Around two golden globes!
And now he lashes a brazen gong,
Whirling about with shriek and song;
    Till the globes burst in fire,
    Which, in a violet spire,        155
Shoots o’er the loftiest tent-tops there,
Then fades away in perfume rare;
With music somewhere in the sky,
Whereat the sorcerer seems to die!
 
    Broad cymbals are clashing,        160
    And flying and flashing!
    And spinning and pushing!
    The silver bells ringing!
    All tingling and dinging!
    Gongs booming and swinging!        165
    The Fair ’s at its height
    In the cool brilliant night!
    While streams the moon’s glory
      On javelins and sabres,
    And long beards all hoary,        170
      Midst trumpets and tabors,
    Wild strugglings and trammels
    Of leaders and camels
    And horsemen, in masses,
    Midst droves of wild asses,—        175
    The clear beams entrancing,
    The passionate dancing,
    Glaring fixt, or in flashes,
    From jewels in sashes,
      Cap, turban, tiara;        180
        ’T is a tossing sea
        Of ecstasy,
    At the Fair of Almachara!
 
 
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