The Mameluke

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


She was a queen. 'Midst mutes and slaves,
A mameluke, he loved her. - - Waves
Dashed not more hopelessly the paves
Of her high marble palace-stair
Than lashed his love his heart's despair. -
As souls in Hell dream Paradise,
He suffered yet forgot it there
Beneath Rommaneh's houri eyes.


With passion eating at his heart
He served her beauty, but dared dart
No amorous glance, nor word impart. -
Taïfi leather's perfumed tan
Beneath her, on a low divan
She lay 'mid cushions stuffed with down:
A slave-girl with an ostrich fan
Sat by her in a golden gown.


She bade him sing. Fair lutanist,
She loved his voice. With one white wrist,
Hooped with a blaze of amethyst,
She raised her ruby-crusted lute:
Gold-welted stuff, like some rich fruit,
Her raiment, diamond-showered, rolled
Folds pigeon-purple, whence one foot
Drooped in an anklet-twist of gold.


He stood and sang with all the fire
That boiled within his blood's desire,
That made him all her slave yet higher:
And at the end his passion durst
Quench with one burning kiss its thirst. -
O eunuchs, did her face show scorn
When through his heart your daggers burst?
And dare ye say he died forlorn?

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