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The Stag-Eyed Lady: A Moorish Tale
by [?]


Scheherazade immediately began the following story.

I.

Ali Ben Ali (did you never read
His wond’rous acts that chronicles relate,–
How there was one in pity might exceed
The Sack of Troy?) Magnificent he sate
Upon the throne of greatness–great indeed!
For those that he had under him were great–
The horse he rode on, shod with silver nails,
Was a Bashaw–Bashaws have horses’ tails.

II.

Ali was cruel–a most cruel one!
‘Tis rumored he had strangled his own mother–
Howbeit such deeds of darkness he had done,
‘Tis thought he would have slain his elder brother
And sister too–but happily that none
Did live within harm’s length of one another,
Else he had sent the Sun in all its blaze
To endless night, and shorten’d the Moon’s days.

III.

Despotic power, that mars a weak man’s wit,
And makes a bad man–absolutely bad,
Made Ali wicked–to a fault:–’tis fit
Monarchs should have some check-strings; but he had
No curb upon his will–no, not a bit
Wherefore he did not reign well–and full glad
His slaves had been to hang him–but they falter’d
And let him live unhang’d–and still unalter’d,

IV.

Until he got a sage-bush of a beard,
Wherein an Attic owl might roost–a trail
Of bristly hair–that, honor’d and unshear’d,
Grew downward like old women and cow’s tail;
Being a sign of age–some gray appear’d,
Mingling with duskier brown its warnings pale;
But yet, not so poetic as when Time
Comes like Jack Frost, and whitens it in rime.

V.

Ben Ali took the hint, and much did vex
His royal bosom that he had no son,
No living child of the more noble sex,
To stand in his Morocco shoes–not one
To make a negro-pollard–or tread necks
When he was gone–doom’d, when his days were done,
To leave the very city of his fame
Without an Ali to keep up his name.

VI.

Therefore he chose a lady for his love,
Singling from out the herd one stag-eyed dear;
So call’d, because her lustrous eyes, above
All eyes, were dark, and timorous, and clear;
Then, through his Muftis piously he strove,
And drumm’d with proxy-prayers Mohammed’s ear:
Knowing a boy for certain must come of it,
Or else he was not praying to his Profit.

VII.

Beer will grow mothery, and ladies fair
Will grow like beer; so did that stag-eyed dame:
Ben Ali, hoping for a son and heir,
Boy’d up his hopes, and even chose a name
Of mighty hero that his child should bear;
He made so certain ere his chicken came:–
But oh! all worldly wit is little worth,
Nor knoweth what to-morrow will bring forth!

VIII.

To-morrow came, and with to-morrow’s sun
A little daughter to this world of sins,–
Miss-fortunes never come alone–so one
Brought on another, like a pair of twins:
Twins! female twins!–it was enough to stun
Their little wits and scare them from their skins
To hear their father stamp, and curse, and swear,
Pulling his beard because he had no heir.

IX.

Then strove their stag-eyed mother to calm down
This his paternal rage, and thus addrest;
“Oh! Most Serene! why dost thou stamp and frown,
And box the compass of the royal chest?”
“Ah! thou wilt mar that portly trunk, I own
I love to gaze on!–Pr’ythee, thou hadst best
Pocket thy fists. Nay, love, if you so thin
Your beard, you’ll want a wig upon your chin!”

X.

But not her words, nor e’en her tears, could slack
The quicklime of his rage, that hotter grew:
He call’d his slave to bring an ample sack
Wherein a woman might be poked–a few
Dark grimly men felt pity and look’d black
At this sad order; but their slaveships knew
When any dared demur, his sword so bending
Cut off the “head and front of their offending.”