A poem by Edward Powys Mathers

Aischa was mine,
My tender cousin,
My blond lover;
And you knew our love,
Uncle without bowels,
Foul old man.

For a few weights of gold
You sold her to the blacks,
And they will drive a stinking trade
At the dark market;
Your slender daughter,
The free child of our hills.

She will go to serve the bed
Of a fat man with no God,
A guts that cannot walk,
A belly hiding his own feet,
A rolling paunch
Between itself and love.

She was slim and quick
Like the antelope of our hills
When he comes down in the summer-time
To bathe in the pools of Tereck,
Her stainless flesh
Was all moonlight.

Her long silk hair
Was of so fine a gold
And of so honey-like a brown
That bees flew there,
And her red lips
Were flowers in sunlight.

She was fair, alas, she was fair,
So that her beauty goes
To a garden of dying flowers,
Made one with the girls that mourn
And wither for light and love
Behind the harem bars.

And you have dirty dreams
That she will be Sultane,
And you will drink and boast
And roll about,
The grinning ancestor
Of little kings.

Hugging your very wicked gold
Within a greasy belt,
You paddle exulting like a bald ape
That glories to defile,
Unmindful of two hot young streams
Of tears.

You stole this dirty gold,
For this gold means
Your daughter's freedom
And your nephew's love,
Two fresh and lovely things
Groaning within your belt.

The sunny playing of our childhood
At the green foot of Elbours,
The starry playing of our youth
Beyond the flowery fences,
These sigh their lost delights
Within your belt.

Give me the gold;
Damn you, give me the gold....
You kill my mercy
When you kill my love....
Hold up your trembling sword;
For this is death.

* * * * *

I take the belt from the dead loins
That put away my love,
And turn my sweet white horse
After the caravan....
With dirty gold and clean steel
I'll set Aischa free.

Ballad of the Caucasus.

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