Canto 1

CANTO I

What power, ah! what power often lies
In th' magic e'en of a fakir's crude word!
As upward he doth turn his holy eyes,
Or gently bends them on the grassy sod
In low tones breathing th' name of God,
What wonders he performs with that great pow'r!
Can raise a palace on the open sward,
Can change a desert to a fairy bow'r,
Or on unequalled grief bright peerless joys can show'r.

I

In Persia's land long, long ago,
In that fair land where roses blow
In dewy fragrance, hung in bow'rs,
Perfuming aye the tranquil hours;
And where the bulbul pours her lay
At lovely close of glowing day—
In that fair land where flows the wine
Of which did sing that bard divine,
That guardian spirit on whose tomb
Perennial garlands ever bloom,
And where the incense ever burns,
And ev'ry eye in rev'rence turns—
In that bright land, choice throne of Spring,
There lived in splendour great, a king.

II

A monarch he, renowned and great,
Of mighty pow'r and grand estate,
Of boundless wealth; upon his head
Rare Fortune, brightest smiles, had shed;
And God did show'r with lib'ral hand,
Upon this king of Iran's land,—
Full many a blessing, many a friend,
And countless favours Heav'n did send.
His courtiers loved him as they ought;
And sages wise his presence sought;
And took this monarch endless pains
To wisely rule his vast domains—
Oft times did send relief to Need,
The bare did clothe, the hungry feed—
In all a perfect model he
Of what a monarch ought to be.

III

But on his gen'rous heart a grief
Did rest to which no, no relief
Could be administered; and he
Did guard it with great secrecy.
Ah! who could tell! ah! who could know
How it did eat him sure tho' slow!
That mighty man, that monarch great
On whom th' world's rev'rence sate,
To whom each vassal king did bow,
Who wore upon his noble brow
The victor's wreath of myrtle flow'rs
By fair hands wove in virgin bow'rs—
What grief was his—his, who did own
Pure, choicest bliss! He had no son!

IV

Ah! this the secret that did bide
Within his breast. It did he hide—
From friend and slave, from sage and bard,
This secret sorrow, he did guard.
Ah! this upon him darkly sate
And ev'ry pleasure made him hate;
And in his chambers watch would keep,
And this high monarch sad would weep.
Ah! what is grief till man's proud head
Is bow'd, and man, sad tears, doth shed!
Ah! who can talk of grief till when
He sees the tears of gallant men!

V

But God is good and He is Love,
And Sorrow's bitter tears him move
His listens to the mournful cry
The breezes waft beyond the sky;
And He who made his creatures all
Doth gracious hearken to the call,
And sendeth joy like evening dew
That bathes the fragrant violets blue,
And cools their thirsty, panting hearts
When glare with heat from daylight parts.
And He did send to him, like balm,
A joy to heal his heart, and calm
The throbbing of his breaking breast.
And give to him sweet, tranquil rest.

VI

It chanced one day, at break of morn,
While the bright heavens, did adorn
The rosy cloudlets streaked with gold
That Phœbus' coming reign foretold—
And myriad birds from leafy bow'rs
Did pour, upon the summer hours,
Their joyous notes in tuneful lays
To welcome forth the genial rays—
The sorrowing king all brooding stood
Where sunlight streamed in golden flood.
Thro' the gemmed casement passing grand,
Pride of the king of Iran's land,
It chanced that he a form did spy
As he did gaze with a strained eye;
And faster in his royal breast
Did throb his manly heart opprest
And why? A still, small peaceful voice
To him, it whispered: “O, rejoice!
For Heav'n to thee sends yonder sage,
The mighty prophet of his age.
Speak, speak to him of this, thy grief,
His counsel shall bring sweet relief.
And what advice to thee doth give
Receive, and human heart! still live.”

VII

He hearkened to that still small voice
That bid his grief-fill'd heart rejoice:
And with quick footsteps he did wend
His way to meet the sage, did blend
With veneration, kingly grace
In which the eye could plainly trace
That though in rev'rence bow'd to man
Forget himself he never can.
His sorrow deep he did confide;
And in his halls extending wide,
Did beg the holy man to share
The kingly rooms, the regal fare,
And pray among you flow'ry vales
Lives with the lays of nightingales.

VIII

A venerable man the sage,
His flowing beard grown white with age;
And Time with gentle hand did show'r
Upon his head a snowy dow'r.
His dark eyes filled with holy fire
Seemed as tho' God did them inspire
To punish wrong, to stop a sigh,
To grant a pray'r, to soothe a cry.
His flowing robes, his solemn mien,
His hoary locks—in them were seen
A saint, a prophet, man of God
As slow upon the plain he trod
With eyes bent on the fragrant sod.
And when the monarch to him brake
His mournful tale, 'twas thus he spake:
“O! King, I a fakhir, to pray,
It is my duty night and day:
Last night God unto me long spoke
To me thy grief-fill'd tale he broke
And hither did I bend my way,
O! King, to give relief this day.
Conduct me to thy palace fair,
Bring 'fore mine eyes thy wife of rare
And passing loveliness and mien,
Of such a king a worthy queen;
And I o'er thee will read a pray'r,
And thou shalt be free from thy care!”

IX

In trembling haste the king did bear
The sage-fakhir to his high palace fair;
And unto him a slave he hailed
To bid the queen come forth unveiled.
Thrice soon she came unveiled and prest
Her hand against her snowy breast;
And lowly did her king salute
In language eloquent but mute.
But th' sage did fondly to her hie;
And gazed he into her gazelle-like eye
As trembling by him she did stand,
The beauteous queen of Iran's land.
Ah! fairer was she than a dream,
Her beauty, poet's darling theme!
But ah! no poet saw that face,
So lovely, fraught with seraph grace,
No bard had seen that peerless eye
Whose lustre did with di'monds vie,
Those fragrant hyacinthine curls,
Those glitt'ring rows of orient pearls.
None, none had heard that voice divine
So softly sweet, and sweetly fine,
Which, like god Israfili's lyre,
With poetry did the heart inspire.
None but her king did her behold,
But O! to them 'twas bliss untold—
For he adored his consort fair,
And she loved him with love so rare.

X

Then the fakhir from his girdle took
A leaflet from his vellum book,
And, lifting up his eyes to Heav'n,
Prayed that to him the pow'r be giv'n,
And with a reed pen did inscribe—
May Allah e'er increase his tribe!—
A sacred charm in words of fire
With which his God did him inspire,
And gazed upon the royal pair
The noble king, his consort fair,
With hands outstretched a pray'r did breathe,
And round their hands the charm did wreathe
And the dead silence he did brake,
And thus the holy man, he spake:
“In Allah's name and by the pow'r
He grants to me in this same hour.
By Mahomet's, prophet of our creed.
O'er ye this holy pray'r I read.
O! king, take thou this charm and throw
In a rose-liquid of clear flow,
And when the charm's dissolved, thy wife
And thou must quaff the liquid life.
Then thou shalt have a son so fair
And brave and gallant, debonair.
O! give to him to learn each art
And educate him to his heart.
Thou'lt have a son,” so said the seer,
“And let his name be Mehir Muneer.”

XI

The holy man, he strolled away,
Thro' Persia's land, that summer day.
And the glad king did cull the flow'rs
That clust'ring hung, in fragrant bow'rs
Round the gemmed window, passing grand,
Pride of the king of Iran's land—
Press'd their sweet juice to vases bright
That sparkled in the golden light,
And cooled the drink with mountain snow,
And into it the charm did throw;
When 'twas dissolved, and twilight's face
Did smile around in pensive grace,
And stars did gem the heavens blue,
And softly fell the evening dew,
The royal pair, in Allah's name,
Did quaff the draught of widespread fame.
And by God's grace within a year
They had a son—Our Mehir Muneer.

XII

The infant babe to boyhood grew,
His blessings many, sorrows few.
He was his father's life and joy.
He was his mother's darling boy.
And Iran's people him did love.
He, of the beauty from above,
He had his father's kingly mien,
The features of his mother queen—
Strong was his frame, and bright his eye,
As cloudless as the summer sky.
And manly was he, gentle, kind,
And gracious, of a noble mind.
And all did love this princely heir—
The noble, manly Mehir Muneer.

XIII

Each useful science was him taught,
And Art with splendid beauties fraught.
And education full, complete,
To him was given as was meet.
Quick was he e'er to learn, to know,
And with him did this quickness grow.
E'er thirsting after Wisdom, Truth,
With all the fiery zeal of youth.
And Poesy was his chiefest theme.
And weaved he many a bright dream.
He freely took from learning's store
And had a treasure-mine of lore.
And thus did thrive in Wisdom's ways
This worthy theme of minstrel lays.
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