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Muleykeh
by [?]


If a stranger passed the tent of Hoseyn, he cried, “A churl’s!”
Or haply, “God help the man who has neither salt nor bread!”
–“Nay,” would a friend exclaim, “he needs nor pity nor scorn
More than who spends small thought on the shore-sand, picking pearls,
–Holds but in light esteem the seed-sort, bears instead
On his breast a moon-like prize, some orb which of night makes morn.

“What if no flocks and herds enrich the son of Sinan?
They went when his tribe was mulct, ten thousand camels the due,
Blood-value paid perforce for a murder done of old.
‘God gave them, let them go! But never since time began,
Muleykeh, peerless mare, owned master the match of you,
And you are my prize, my Pearl; I laugh at men’s land and gold!’

“So in the pride of his soul laughs Hoseyn–and right, I say.
Do the ten steeds run a race of glory? Outstripping all,
Ever Muleykeh stands first steed at the victor’s staff.
Who started, the owner’s hope, gets shamed and named, that day.
‘Silence,’ or, last but one, is ‘The Cuffed,’ as we use to call
Whom the paddock’s lord thrusts forth. Right, Hoseyn, I say, to laugh!”

“Boasts he Muleykeh the Pearl?” the stranger replies: “Be sure
On him I waste nor scorn nor pity, but lavish both
On Duhl the son of Sheyban, who withers away in heart
For envy of Hoseyn’s luck. Such sickness admits no cure.
A certain poet has sung, and sealed the same with an oath,
‘For the vulgar–flocks and herds! The Pearl is a prize apart.'”

Lo, Duhl the son of Sheyban comes riding to Hoseyn’s tent,
And he casts his saddle down, and enters and “Peace!” bids he.
“You are poor, I know the cause: my plenty shall mend the wrong.
‘Tis said of your Pearl–the price of a hundred camels spent
In her purchase were scarce ill paid; such prudence is far from me
Who proffer a thousand. Speak! Long parley may last too long.”

Said Hoseyn, “You feed young beasts a many, of famous breed,
Slit-eared, unblemished, fat, true offspring of Muzennem:
There stumbles no weak-eyed she in the line as it climbs the hill.
But I love Muleykeh’s face; her forefront whitens indeed
Like a yellowish wave’s cream-crest. Your camels–go gaze on them!
Her fetlock is foam-splashed too. Myself am the richer still.”

A year goes by; lo, back to the tent again rides Duhl.
“You are open-hearted, aye–moist-handed, a very prince.
Why should I speak of sale? Be the mare your simple gift!
My son is pined to death for her beauty; my wife prompts, ‘Fool,
Beg for his sake the Pearl! Be God the rewarder, since
God pays debts seven for one; who squanders on Him shows thrift.'”

Said Hoseyn, “God gives each man one life, like a lamp, then gives
That lamp due measure of oil; lamp lighted–hold high, wave wide
Its comfort for others to share! once quench it, what help is left?
The oil of your lamp is your son, I shine while Muleykeh lives.
Would I beg your son to cheer my dark if Muleykeh died?
It is life against life–what good avails to the life-bereft?”

Another year, and–hist! What craft is it Duhl designs?
He alights not at the door of the tent as he did last time,
But, creeping behind, he gropes his stealthy way by the trench
Half-round till he finds the flap in the folding, for night combines
With the robber–and such is he: Duhl, covetous up to crime,
Must wring from Hoseyn’s grasp the Pearl, by whatever the wrench.

“He was hunger-bitten, I heard; I tempted with half my store,
And a gibe was all my thanks. Is he generous like Spring dew?
Account the fault to me who chaffered with such an one!
He has killed, to feast chance comers, the creature he rode; nay, more–
For a couple of singing-girls his robe has he torn in two–
I will beg! Yet I nowise gained by the tale of my wife and son.