Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
Turkestan: Oxus, the River
The Tartar Camp
Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

AND the first gray of morning filled the east,
And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
But all the Tartar camp along the stream
Was hushed, and still the men were plunged in sleep:
Sohrab alone, he slept not: all night long        5
He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
But when the gray dawn stole into his tent,
He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword,
And took his horseman’s cloak, and left his tent,
And went abroad into the cold wet fog,        10
Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa’s tent.
  Through the black Tartar tents he passed, which stood
Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
Of Oxus, where the summer floods o’erflow
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere:        15
Through the black tents he passed, o’er that low strand,
And to a hillock came, a little back
From the stream’s brink, the spot where first a boat,
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
The men of former times had crowned the top        20
With a clay fort: but that was fallen; and now
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa’s tent,
A dome of laths, and o’er it felts were spread.
*        *        *        *        *
  The sun, by this, had risen, and cleared the fog
From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands:        25
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed
Into the open plain; so Haman bade;
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled
The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
From the black tents, long files of horse, they streamed:        30
As when, some gray November morn, the files,
In marching order spread, of long-necked cranes,
Stream over Casbin, and the southern slopes
Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries,
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound        35
For the warm Persian sea-board: so they streamed.
The Tartars of the Oxus, the King’s guard,
First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears;
Large men, large steeds, who from Bokhara come
And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares.        40
Next the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south,
The Tukas, and the lances of Salore,
And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands;
Light men, and on light steeds, who only drink
The acrid milk of camels, and their wells.        45
And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
From far, and more doubtful service owned;
The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks
Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards
And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes        50
Who roam o’er Kipchak and the northern waste,
Kalmuks and unkemped Kuzzaks, tribes who stray
Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes,
Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere.
These all filed out from camp into the plain.        55
And on the other side the Persians formed:
First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seemed,
The Ilyats of Khorassan: and behind,
The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
Marshalled battalions bright in burnished steel.
*        *        *        *        *
  But the majestic river floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hushed Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon: he flowed        65
Right for the Polar Star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming and bright and large: then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcelled Oxus strains along        70
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles—
Oxus forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain cradle in Pamere,
A foiled circuitous wanderer;—till at last
The longed-for dash of waves is heard, and wide        75
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.

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