Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
 
In Arabia
By James Berry Bensel (1856–1886)
 
[Born in New York, N. Y., 1856. Died there, 1886. In the King’s Garden, and Other Poems. 1885.]

“CHOOSE thou between!” and to his enemy
  The Arab chief a brawny hand displayed,
Wherein, like moonlight on a sullen sea,
  Gleamed the gray scimitar’s enamelled blade.
 
“Choose thou between death at my hand and thine!        5
  Close in my power, my vengeance I may wreak,
Yet hesitate to strike. A hate like mine
  Is noble still. Thou hast thy choosing,—speak!”
 
And Ackbar stood. About him all the band
  That hailed his captor chieftain, with grave eyes        10
His answer waited, while that heavy hand
  Stretched like a bar between him and the skies.
 
Straight in the face before him Ackbar sent
  A sneer of scorn, and raised his noble head;
“Strike!” and the desert monarch, as content,        15
  Rehung the weapon at his girdle red.
 
Then Ackbar nearer crept and lifted high
  His arms toward the heaven so far and blue
Wherein the sunset rays began to die,
  While o’er the band a deeper silence grew.        20
 
“Strike! I am ready! Didst thou think to see
  A son of Gheva spill upon the dust
His noble blood? Didst hope to have my knee
  Bend at thy feet, and with one mighty thrust
 
“The life thou hatest flee before thee here?        25
  Shame on thee! on thy race! Art thou the one
Who hast so long his vengeance counted dear?
  My hate is greater; I did strike thy son,
 
“Thy one son, Noumid, dead before my face;
  And by the swiftest courser of my stud        30
Sent to thy door his corpse. Aye, one might trace
  Their flight across the desert by his blood.
 
“Strike! for my hate is greater than thy own!”
  But with a frown the Arab moved away,
Walked to a distant palm and stood alone,        35
  With eyes that looked where purple mountains lay.
 
This for an instant: then he turned again
  Towards the place where Ackbar waited still,
Walking as one benumbed with bitter pain,
  Or with a hateful mission to fulfil.        40
 
“Strike, for I hate thee!” Ackbar cried once more.
  “Nay, but my hate I cannot find!” said now
His enemy. “Thy freedom I restore.
  Live! life were worse than death to such as thou.”
 
So with his gift of life the Bedouin slept        45
  That night untroubled; but when dawn broke through
The purple East, and o’er his eyelids crept
  The long, thin fingers of the light, he drew
 
A heavy breath and woke: Above him shone
  A lifted dagger—“Yea, he gave thee life,        50
But I give death!” came in fierce undertone.
  And Ackbar died. It was dead Noumid’s wife.
 
 
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