Song of the Parao (Camping-ground)

A poem by Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson)

Heart, my heart, thou hast found thy home!
From gloom and sorrow thou hast come forth,
Thou who wast foolish, and sought to roam
'Neath the cruel stars of the frozen North.

Thou hast returned to thy dear delights;
The golden glow of the quivering days,
The silver silence of tropical nights,
No more to wander in alien ways.

Here, each star is a well-loved friend;
To me and my heart at the journey's end.

These are my people, and this my land,
I hear the pulse of her secret soul.
This is the life that I understand,
Savage and simple and sane and whole.

Washed in the light of a clear fierce sun, -
Heart, my heart, the journey is done.

See! the painted piece of the skies,
Where the rose-hued opal of sunset lies.
Hear the passionate Koel calling
From coral trees, where the dusk is falling.

See my people, slight limbed and tall.
The maiden's bosom they scorn to cover:
The breasts that shall call and enthral her lover,
Things of beauty, are free to all.

Free to the eyes, that think no shame
That a girl should bloom like a forest flower.
Who hold that Love is a sacred flame, -
Outward beauty a God-like dower.

Who further regard it as no disgrace
If loveliness lessen to serve the race,
Nor point the finger of jesting scorn
At her who carries the child unborn.

Ah, my heart, but we wandered far
From the light of the slanting fourfold Star!

Oh, palm-leaf thatch, where the melon thrives
Beneath the shade of the tamarind tree,
Thou coverest tranquil, graceful lives,
That want so little, that knew no haste,
Nor the bitter goad of a too-full hour;
Whose soft-eyed women are lithe and tall,
And wear no garment below the knee,
Nor veil or raiment above the waist,
But the beautiful hair, that dowers them all,
And falls to the ground in a scented shower.

The youths return from their swift-flowing bath,
With the swinging grace that their height allows,
Lightly climbing the river-side path,
Their soft hair knotted above their brows.

Elephants wade the darkening river,
Their bells, which tinkle in minor thirds,
Faintly sweet, like passionate birds
Whose warbling wakens a sense of pain, -
Thrill through the nerves and make them quiver, -
Heart, my heart, art thou happy again?

Here is beauty to feast thine eyes.
Here is the land of thy long desire.
See how the delicate spirals rise
Azure and faint from the wood-fed fire.

Where the cartmen wearily share their food,
Ere they, by their bullocks, lie down to rest.
Heart of mine, dost thou find it good
This wide red road by the winds caressed?

This lone Parao, where the fireflies light?
These tom-toms, fretting the peace of night?

Heart, thou hast wandered and suffered much,
Death has robbed thee, and Life betrayed,
But there is ever a solace for such
In that they are not lightly afraid.

The strength that found them the fire to love
Finds them also the force to forget.
Thy joy in thy dreaming lives to prove
Thou art not mortally wounded yet.

Here, 'neath the arch of the vast, clear sky,
Where range upon range the remote grey hills
Far in the distance recede and die,
There is no space for thy trivial ills.

On the low horizon towards the sea,
Faint yet vivid, the lightnings play,
The lucid air is kind as a kiss,
The falling twilight is cool and grey.
What has sorrow to do with thee ?
Love was cruel? thou now art free.
Life unkind? it has given thee this!

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