Excerpt from H Rider Haggard – “She”.
Among the ancient Arabians the power of poetic declamation, either in verse or prose, was held in the highest honour and esteem, and he who excelled in it was known as “Khateb,” or Orator. Every year a general assembly was held at which the rival poets repeated their compositions, when those poems which were judged to be the best were, so soon as the knowledge and the art of writing became general, inscribed on silk in letters of gold, and publicly exhibited, being known as “Al Modhahabat,” or golden verses. In the poem given above by Mr. Holly, Ayesha evidently followed the traditional poetic manner of her people, which was to embody their thoughts in a series of somewhat disconnected sentences, each remarkable for its beauty and the grace of its expression.
Then, turning to Leo, and laying her hand upon his shoulder, she went on in a fuller and more triumphant tone, speaking in balanced sentences that gradually grew and swelled from idealised prose into pure and majestic verse: —
Long have I loved thee, oh, my love; yet has my love not lessened.
Long have I waited for thee, and behold my reward is at hand — is here!
Far away I saw thee once, and thou wast taken from me.
Then in a grave sowed I the seed of patience, and shone upon it with the sun of hope, and watered it with tears of repentance, and breathed on it with the breath of my knowledge. And now, lo! it hath sprung up, and borne fruit. Lo! out of the grave hath it sprung. Yea, from among the dry bones and ashes of the dead.
I have waited and my reward is with me.
I have overcome Death, and Death brought back to me him that was dead.
Therefore do I rejoice, for fair is the future.
Green are the paths that we shall tread across the everlasting meadows.
The hour is at hand. Night hath fled away into the valleys.
The dawn kisseth the mountain tops.
Soft shall we live, my love, and easy shall we go.
Crowned shall we be with the diadem of Kings.
Worshipping and wonder struck all peoples of the world, Blinded shall fall before our beauty and might.
From time unto times shall our greatness thunder on, Rolling like a chariot through the dust of endless days.
Laughing shall we speed in our victory and pomp, Laughing like the Daylight as he leaps along the hills.
Onward, still triumphant to a triumph ever new!
Onward, in our power to a power unattained!
Onward, never weary, clad with splendour for a robe!
Till accomplished be our fate, and the night is rushing down.
She paused in her strange and most thrilling allegorical chant, of which I am, unfortunately, only able to give the burden, and that feebly enough, and then said —
“Perchance thou dost not believe my word, Kallikrates — perchance thou thinkest that I do delude thee, and that I have not lived these many years, and that thou hast not been born again to me.
Nay, look not so — put away that pale cast of doubt, for oh be sure herein can error find no foothold! Sooner shall the suns forget their course and the swallow miss her nest, than my soul shall swear a lie and be led astray from thee, Kallikrates.
Blind me, take away mine eyes, and let the darkness utterly fence me in, and still mine ears would catch the tone of thy unforgotten voice, striking more loud against the portals of my sense than can the call of brazen-throated clarions:
— stop up mine hearing also, and let a thousand touch me on the brow, and I would name thee out of all: — yea, rob me of every sense, and see me stand deaf and blind, and dumb, and with nerves that cannot weigh the value of a touch, yet would my spirit leap within me like a quickening child and cry unto my heart, behold Kallikrates! behold, thou watcher, the watches of thy night are ended! behold thou who seekest in the night season, thy morning Star ariseth.”
She paused awhile and then continued, “But stay, if thy heart is yet hardened against the mighty truth and thou dost require a further pledge of that which thou dost find too deep to understand, even now shall it be given to thee, and to thee also, oh my Holly. Bear each one of you a lamp, and follow after me whither I shall lead you.”