Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Narrative Poems: V. The Orient
Mahmoud
Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)
 
THERE came a man, making his hasty moan
Before the Sultan Mahmoud on his throne,
And crying out, “My sorrow is my right,
And I will see the Sultan, and to-night.”
“Sorrow,” said Mahmoud, “is a reverend thing:        5
I recognize its right, as king with king;
Speak on.” “A fiend has got into my house,”
Exclaimed the staring man, “and tortures us,—
One of thine officers; he comes, the abhorred,
And takes possession of my house, my board,        10
My bed;—I have two daughters and a wife,
And the wild villain comes and makes me mad with life.”
“Is he there now?” said Mahmoud. “No; he left
The house when I did, of my wits bereft,
And laughed me down the street, because I vowed        15
I ’d bring the prince himself to lay him in his shroud.
I ’m mad with want, I ’m mad with misery,
And, O thou Sultan Mahmoud, God cries out for thee!”
 
The Sultan comforted the man, and said,
“Go home, and I will send thee wine and bread”        20
(For he was poor) “and other comforts. Go;
And should the wretch return, let Sultan Mahmoud know.”
 
In three days’ time, with haggard eyes and beard,
And shaken voice, the suitor reappeared,
And said, “He’s come.” Mahmoud said not a word,        25
But rose and took four slaves, each with a sword,
And went with the vexed man. They reach the place,
And hear a voice, and see a woman’s face,
That to the window fluttered in affright:
“Go in,” said Mahmoud, “and put out the light;        30
But tell the females first to leave the room;
And when the drunkard follows them, we come.”
 
The man went in. There was a cry, and hark!
A table falls, the window is struck dark:
Forth rush the breathless women, and behind        35
With curses comes the fiend in desperate mind.
In vain: the sabres soon cut short the strife,
And chop the shrieking wretch, and drink his bloody life.
 
“Now light the light,” the Sultan cried aloud:
’T was done: he took it in his hand and bowed        40
Over the corpse, and looked upon the face;
Then turned and knelt, and to the throne of grace
Put up a prayer, and from his lips there crept
Some gentle words of pleasure, and he wept.
In reverent silence the beholders wait,        45
Then bring him at his call both wine and meat;
And when he had refreshed his noble heart,
He bade his host be blest, and rose up to depart.
 
The man amazed, all mildness now and tears,
Fell at the Sultan’s feet with many prayers,        50
And begged him to vouchsafe to tell his slave
The reason first of that command he gave
About the light; then, when he saw the face,
Why he knelt down; and lastly, how it was
That fare so poor as his detained him in the place.        55
 
The Sultan said, with a benignant eye,
“Since first I saw thee come, and heard thy cry,
I could not rid me of a dread, that one
By whom such daring villanies were done,
Must be some lord of mine,—ay, e’en perhaps a son.        60
For this I had the light put out: but when
I saw the face, and found a stranger slain,
I knelt and thanked the sovereign Arbiter,
Whose work I had performed through pain and fear;
And then I rose and was refreshed with food,        65
The first time since thy voice had marred my solitude.”
 
 
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