The Sword Dham

A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

"How shall we honor the man who creates?"
Asked the Bedouin chief, the poet Antar; -
"Who unto the truth flings open our gates,
Or fashions new thoughts from the light of a star;
Or forges with craft of his finger and brain
Some marvelous weapon we copy in vain;
Or chants to the winds a wild song that shall wander forever undying?

"See! His reward is in envies and hates;
In lips that deny, or in stabs that may kill."
"Nay," said the smith; "for there's one here who waits
Humbly to serve you with unmeasured skill,
Sure that no utmost devotion can fail,
Offered to you, nor unfriended assail
The heart of the hero and poet Antar, whose fame is undying!"

"Speak," said the chief. Then the smith: "O Antar,
It is I who would serve you! I know, by the soul
Of the poet within you, no envy can bar
The stream of your gratitude, - once let it roll.
Listen. The lightning, your camel that slew,
I caught, and wrought in this sword-blade for you; -
Sword that no foe shall encounter unhurt, or depart from undying."

Burst from the eyes of Antar a swift rain, - Gratitude's
glittering drops, - as he threw
One shining arm round the smith, like a chain.
Closer the man to his bosom he drew;
Thankful, caressing, with "Great is my debt."
"Yea," said the smith, and his eyelids were wet:
"I knew the sword Dham would unite me with you in an honor undying."

"So?" asked the chief, as his thumb-point at will
Silently over the sword's edge played.
- "Ay!" said the smith, "but there's one thing, still:
Who is the smiter, shall smite with this blade?"
Jealous, their eyes met; and fury awoke.
"I am the smiter!" Antar cried. One stroke
Rolled the smith's head from his neck, and gave him remembrance undying.

"Seek now who may, no search will avail:
No man the mate of this weapon shall own!"
Yet, in his triumph, the chieftain made wail:
"Slain is the craftsman, the one friend alone
Able to honor the man who creates.
I slew him - I, who am poet! O fates,
Grant that the envious blade slaying artists shall make them undying!"

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