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The Sick King In Bokhara
by [?]


O most just Vizier, send away
The cloth-merchants, and let them be,
Them and their dues, this day! the King
Is ill at ease, and calls for thee.

The Vizier

O merchants, tarry yet a day
Here in Bokhara! but at noon,
To-morrow, come, and ye shall pay
Each fortieth web of cloth to me,
As the law is, and go your way.
O Hussein, lead me to the King!
Thou teller of sweet tales, thine own,
Ferdousi’s, and the others’, lead!
How is it with my lord?


Ever since prayer-time, he doth wait,
O Vizier! without lying down,
In the great window of the gate,
Looking into the Registan,
Where through the sellers’ booths the slaves
Are this way bringing the dead man.–
O Vizier, here is the King’s door!

The King

O Vizier, I may bury him?

The Vizier

O King, thou know’st, I have been sick
These many days, and heard no thing
(For Allah shut my ears and mind),
Not even what thou dost, O King!
Wherefore, that I may counsel thee,
Let Hussein, if thou wilt, make haste
To speak in order what hath chanced.

The King

O Vizier, be it as thou say’st!


Three days since, at the time of prayer
A certain Moollah, with his robe
All rent, and dust upon his hair,
Watch’d my lord’s coming forth, and push’d
The golden mace-bearers aside,
And fell at the King’s feet, and cried:

“Justice, O King, and on myself!
On this great sinner, who did break
The law, and by the law must die!
Vengeance, O King!”

But the King spake:
“What fool is this, that hurts our ears
With folly? or what drunken slave?
My guards, what, prick him with your spears!
Prick me the fellow from the path!”
As the King said, so it was done,
And to the mosque my lord pass’d on.

But on the morrow, when the King
Went forth again, the holy book
Carried before him, as is right,
And through the square his way he took;
My man comes running, fleck’d with blood
From yesterday, and falling down
Cries out most earnestly: “O King,
My lord, O King, do right, I pray!

“How canst thou, ere thou hear, discern
If I speak folly? but a king,
Whether a thing be great or small,
Like Allah, hears and judges all.

“Wherefore hear thou! Thou know’st, how fierce
In these last days the sun hath burn’d;
That the green water in the tanks
Is to a putrid puddle turn’d;
And the canal, which from the stream
Of Samarcand is brought this way,
Wastes, and runs thinner every day.

“Now I at nightfall had gone forth
Alone, and in a darksome place
Under some mulberry-trees I found
A little pool; and in short space,
With all the water that was there
I fill’d my pitcher, and stole home
Unseen; and having drink to spare,
I hid the can behind the door,
And went up on the roof to sleep.

“But in the night, which was with wind
And burning dust, again I creep
Down, having fever, for a drink.

“Now meanwhile had my brethren found
The water-pitcher, where it stood
Behind the door upon the ground,
And call’d my mother; and they all,
As they were thirsty, and the night
Most sultry, drain’d the pitcher there;
That they sate with it, in my sight,
Their lips still wet, when I came down.

“Now mark! I, being fever’d, sick
(Most unblest also), at that sight
Brake forth, and cursed them–dost thou hear?–
One was my mother—-Now, do right!”