Yasmini

A poem by Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson)

At night, when Passion's ebbing tide
Left bare the Sands of Truth,
Yasmini, resting by my side,
Spoke softly of her youth.

"And one" she said "was tall and slim,
Two crimson rose leaves made his mouth,
And I was fain to follow him
Down to his village in the South.

"He was to build a hut hard by
The stream where palms were growing,
We were to live, and love, and lie,
And watch the water flowing.

"Ah, dear, delusive, distant shore,
By dreams of futile fancy gilt!
The riverside we never saw,
The palm leaf hut was never built!

"One had a Tope of Mangoe trees,
Where early morning, noon and late,
The Persian wheels, with patient ease,
Brought up their liquid, silver freight.

"And he was fain to rise and reach
That garden sloping to the sea,
Whose groves along the wave-swept beach
Should shelter him and love and me.

"Doubtless, upon that western shore
With ripe fruit falling to the ground,
There dwells the Peace he hungered for,
The lovely Peace we never found.

"Then there came one with eager eyes
And keen sword, ready for the fray.
He missed the storms of Northern skies,
The reckless raid and skirmish gay!

"He rose from dreams of war's alarms,
To make his daggers keen and bright,
Desiring, in my very arms,
The fiercer rapture of the fight!

"He left me soon; too soon, and sought
The stronger, earlier love again.
News reached me from the Cabul Court,
Afterwards nothing; doubtless slain.

"Doubtless his brilliant, haggard eyes,
Long since took leave of life and light,
And those lithe limbs I used to prize
Feasted the jackal and the kite.

"But the most loved! his sixteen years
Shone in his cheeks' transparent red.
My kisses were his first: my tears
Fell on his face when he was dead.

"He died, he died, I speak the truth,
Though light love leave his memory dim,
He was the Lover of my Youth
And all my youth went down with him.

"For passion ebbs and passion flows,
But under every new caress
The riven heart more keenly knows
Its own inviolate faithfulness.

"Our Gods are kind and still deem fit
As in old days, with those to lie,
Whose silent hearths are yet unlit
By the soft light of infancy.

"Therefore, one strange, mysterious night
Alone within the Temple shade,
Recipient of a God's delight
I lay enraptured, unafraid.

"Also to me the boon was given,
But mourning quickly followed mirth,
My son, whose father stooped from Heaven,
Died in the moment of his birth.

"When from the war beyond the seas
The reckless Lancers home returned,
Their spoils were laid across my knees
About my lips their kisses burned.

"Back from the Comradeship of Death,
Free from the Friendship of the Sword,
With brilliant eyes and famished breath
They came to me for their reward.

"Why do I tell you all these things,
Baring my life to you, unsought?
When Passion folds his wearied wings
Sleep should be follower, never Thought.

"Ay, let us sleep. The window pane
Grows pale against the purple sky.
The dawn is with us once again,
The dawn; which always means good-bye."

Within her little trellised room, beside the palm-fringed sea,
She wakeful in the scented gloom, spoke of her youth to me.

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