Lost Delight

A poem by Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson)

After the Hazara War

I lie alone beneath the Almond blossoms,
Where we two lay together in the spring,
And now, as then, the mountain snows are melting,
This year, as last, the water-courses sing.

That was another spring, and other flowers,
Hung, pink and fragile, on the leafless tree,
The land rejoiced in other running water,
And I rejoiced, because you were with me.

You, with your soft eyes, darkly lashed and shaded,
Your red lips like a living, laughing rose,
Your restless, amber limbs so lithe and slender
Now lost to me. Gone whither no man knows.

You lay beside me singing in the sunshine;
The rough, white fur, unloosened at the neck,
Showed the smooth skin, fair as the Almond blossoms,
On which the sun could find no flaw or fleck.

I lie alone, beneath the Almond flowers,
I hated them to touch you as they fell.
And now, who killed you? worse, Ah, worse, who loves you?
(My soul is burning as men burn in Hell.)

How I have sought you in the crowded cities!
I have been mad, they say, for many days.
I know not how I came here, to the valley,
What fate has led me, through what doubtful ways.

Somewhere I see my sword has done good service,
Some one I killed, who, smiling, used your name,
But in what country? Nay, I have forgotten,
All thought is shrivelled in my heart's hot flame.

Where are you now, Delight, and where your beauty,
Your subtle curls, and laughing, changeful face?
Bound, bruised and naked (dear God, grant me patience),
And sold in Cabul in the market-place.

I asked of you of all men. Who could tell me?
Among so many captured, sold, or slain,
What fate was yours? (Ah, dear God, grant me patience,
My heart is burnt, is burnt, with fire and pain.)

Oh, lost Delight! my heart is almost breaking,
My sword is broken and my feet are sore,
The people look at me and say in passing,
"He will not leave the village any more."

For as the evening falls, the fever rises,
With frantic thoughts careering through the brain,
Wild thoughts of you. (Ah, dear God, grant me patience,
My soul is hurt beyond all men call pain.)

I lie alone, beneath the Almond blossoms,
And see the white snow melting on the hills
Till Khorassan is gay with water-courses,
Glad with the tinkling sound of running rills,

And well I know that when the fragile petals
Fall softly, ere the first green leaves appear,
(Ah, for these last few days, God, grant me patience,)
Since Delight is not, I shall not be, here!

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