Canto 2

CANTO II

'Tis but a little cause that oft doth bring
To pass thrice great events. It oft doth seem
That darkness doth its frightful shadows fling
Upon our heads, when Heaven sends a gleam
To light our path with thrice celestial beam,
And realized before our dazzled eyes
We then behold the ideal of our dream,
The radiant peerless form of Paradise,
That seraph-form that oft, in dream, hath waked our sighs!

I

The youthful Prince, in plenty, thrived,
And unto manhood's years arrived.
One morn he and his followers true—
He had a gallant retinue—
Set forth to joy a sportive chase
Of timid deer in woodland place.
The mighty sun's refulgent eye
Shone in the dreamy-clouded sky,
And gilded every tree and bough,
And danced on rills of crystal flow
Upon whose banks the violets blue,
Their fragrant hearts yet wet with dew,
Did from their lowly bowers peep
Like lovely maidens waked from sleep,
And, kissed by Phœbus' golden light,
Turned to the Eastern portals bright.
The roses fair beside the streams,
Rejoicing in the sun-lit beams,
In blushing sweetness raised their heads
Like virgins pure from velvet beds.
The stately date with creamy flowers
That crown her lovely head that towers
'Bove all th' rest, like a Princess proud
That gazes on th' heads low bow'd
To her high grandeur, rose in grace
To welcome Sol with smiling face.
And gladness reigned thro' woods and bow'rs
As flew morn's fairy-footed hours.

II

Such was the scene that met his eyes
Rejoicing 'neath the summer skies—
And fairer than my pen can trace
Was, in the woodland, Nature's face,
As Mehir Muneer with gallant band
Did ride, that morn, thro' th' wooded land.
With joyous mien and happy hearts,
Their golden quivers filled with darts—
As bounding on their steeds thro' shade
They cantered, or thro' sunny glade,
Each looked around with eager face
For deer to 'gin the nimble chase.
Long did they gaze with strained sight
To 'gin the chase in earnest might.

III

'Fore long there bounded by the streams
Where danced the lovely golden beams,
A beauteous fawn so wondrous fair,
A young gazelle of beauty rare,
Whose timid glance from matchless eye
If human, had waked poet's sigh.
Around its slender neck, of gold
A well-wrought collar, did behold
The hunters who on it did gaze
With admiration all ablaze.
So spake the Prince: “My men to me
Now hark. This fawn so wild and free
Surround and catch—if living then
So much the better gallant men.
But if the fawn escape with leap—
Now followers my command must keep—
He o'er whose head she bounding fleets
And shelter seeks in wild retreats,
Must spur his steed and swiftly ride,
And seek the place where it doth hide,
And seize the young gazelle and hie
Soon to our band, nor let it fly.
My men, this fawn is passing fair,
Its matchless eyes of lustre rare;
So gentle be your touch, and light—
O, hurt it not, that gaz'lle so bright.”
So spake the Prince to his brave men,
And then began the chase—O then!

IV

With hasty move they did surround
The young gazelle which gazed around
In tim'rous wonder and surprise;
Then brightly flashed its beauteous eyes,
And desperation courage lent,
And with its nimbleness well blent,
In sheer despair it looked around.
And lo! on every side the ground
By pawing steads and eager glance
Surrounded was; and every lance
Was pointed to the young gazelle—
To mercy and to ruth farewell!
No longer did she linger there
But bounded to the silent air
With agile leap—each horse did rear—
Leapt o'er the head of Mehir Muneer!

V

“O! what is this?”—his courtiers cry
In voices distressed, with many a sigh—
“O! what is this? Why this, by Fate,
Was writ that he, Prince of our State,
Should headlong fall in peril's way?
And should we lose him? Summer's day
Is not more fair than he! O Heaven!
Guard him, guard him! to him be given
To find the fawn, his fancy's whim,
And keep him safe e'en him, e'en him!”
“Adieu my men,” he gaily cried
As gallantly forth he did ride
To track th' refuge of th' deer,
His bright eye glancing without fear.
Most anxiously his form did watch
His courtiers, till they did catch
The latest glimpses hid between
Tall, giant trees of ancient mien.
To follow him their wish, but word
Of firm command of him, their lord,
Forbade their breaking plighted troth
E'en tho' he rode in peril's path.

VI

Prince Mehir Muneer did wend his way,
Alone that dreamy summer's day,
Thro' woodland paths, and sunny glades,
'Mong deepest beds, 'mid friendly shades.
In ev'ry depth, in each retreat
He searched for th' fawn so agile, fleet.
Thus unattended and alone,
Heir to the king of Iran's throne,
He wandered seeking for a deer—
The poet Prince, our Mehir Muneer!

VII

The day was spent in fruitless chase,
And Mehir Muneer with downcast face
All wearied, did his good steed rest,
And fondly stroked his Kaukab's crest.
“Good steed, forgive,” he murmured low,
“To thee thrice cruel proved I now.
I rest thee Kaukab. Vain the chase,
Nor the refuge of th' fawn could trace.
Alone I wander thro' the wood,
Since morn not tasted any food,
Since morn have ridden like a fool.
But drink thee Kaukab at this pool.”

VIII

The sun did kiss a bright farewell
To tree and flow'r, o'er hill and dell.
The heav'ns were all transformed to gold
And crimson as, with pow'r untold,
Did Sol in glory sink to rest
Upon the mountain's glowing breast.
Each bird did seek its leafy nest
Each beast to its night's shelter prest.
And twilight veiled the peaceful earth,
And twinkling stars then had their birth,
And gleamed from their pavilions blue;
While softly fell the evening dew
O'er fairy dells and flow'r-starred trees,
And balmy blew the evening breeze
O'er wreaths of rosy lotus blooming,
And th' blossoms sweet perfuming,
With fragrant breath, far rare and sweet,
The woodland place, that dear retreat.

IX

Soon did the shades of night dispel
The twilight charms bade “farewell.”
And darker, darker grew the place,
And o'er its fragrance-breathing face
Did Darkness frightful shadows throw:
O! where is now the sunset glow?
“Mad fool!”—cried Mehir Muneer distresst,
And closer round his form he prest
His mantle. “Fool! this young gazelle
Did fire my thoughts and robbed as well
My senses, for its bright, black eye
I love—for such I oft did sigh.
All day I've roved alone, alone,
To find th' fawn's wild shelt'ring throne;
'Tis night, too late to turn to home,
Still thro' the forest I must roam
Alone. Heir to my father's crown
And kingdom of bright, pure renown,
I am o'er-ta'en by shades of Night
With ne'er a spark my path to light.
Where shall I lay my wearied head?
Must dewy grass be my low bed?
My curtains darkest folds of Night?
My roof the heav'ns of gloomy light?
But let that pass. Shall my good horse
Here stand by morn to turn a corpse—
My Kaukab, matchless star of steeds,
O Heav'n! for shelter, earnest pleads
This heart perplexed. O! guide my feet
To some roofed cavern, some retreat.
Oh Allah! in thy name I go,
Preserve thou me from ev'ry woe!”

X

And thro' the darkness groped his way
Perplexed and troubled. At last a ray
He sees across his vision gleam—
It shines 'fore him with heav'nly beam.
“My prayer is answered, God”—he cried
As that sweet lustre he espied.
His limbs were freshed with vigour new
And his quick breath he quickly drew;
In its direction did proceed
Prince Mehir Muneer with his good steed.
At length he reached a dwelling place,
And joy did light his noble face
As knocked he at its ancient gate
With hope and gladness all elate.

XI

Opened were the portals by a sage
In mien, bent low his head with age.
“O! holy man,”—the Prince began
As him the ancient sage did scan—
“Benighted am I, shelter me;
And God will bless O! hermit, thee.”
“Thrice welcome son,”—the hermit said—
“In my cell shall all things be made
To suit thee and thy wearied steed.
Now to my cell let us proceed.”
The holy sage looked on his face;
And by his gracious Allah's grace
'Twas given to know unto th' seer,
That this young man was Mehir Muneer—
Who to his blessing owed his birth,
The heir of glorious Iran's earth,
In silence gan he to prepare
A lowly bed, a frugal fare,
For his young guest; and his proud steed
With plenteous grain and hay did feed;
And feigning ignorance the seer
Asked questions of Prince Mehir Muneer—
Asked who he was and what his name,
And what disaster to him came
To make him seek this poor abode
Of this old hermit, man of God.

XII

The unsuspecting Prince replied
To queries all without e'er pride—
Related his parentage, birth,
Dwelt on the holy sage of worth,
To whom his birth the prince, he owed,
And gratefully his bosom glowed
While of that sage he spoke with praise
Unconscious that his eyes did raise
He unto that same sage's face—
He knew not that his host was he,
The mighty prophet, old and free.
And spoke he of the beauteous fawn
That met his eyes at break of dawn,
That robbed him of his wits so well
With its bright eye, that young gazelle.

XIII

But sudden did a marvellous light
Flash dazzlingly across his sight;
And softly did a blazing seat
Of diamonds fall before his feet;
And decked in richest cloths of gold
Half hid by gems of price untold,
He saw four fairy queens of rare
And splendid beauty, wondrous fair,
Alight from, 'bove their jewelled throne,
And 'fore the holy man bow down
In low obeisance, deep, profound,
And sate themselves upon the ground
In presence of that man of God—
Four fairy queens in that abode!

XIV

“Why come ye all to-night? Why here?
Not this your day”—remarked the seer.
“Nay, holy saint,”—the fairies said,
And many low salutes they made—
“We're on our way to see that rare
And beauteous maiden, passing fair,
The lovely, sweet Badar Muneer.
Our road lies this way, holy seer,
And O! within our minds we thought
To seek thy blessing; and we sought
Thy presence our respects to pay
Tho' this is not our happy day.”

XV

“Well,” said the sage, “ye fairies bright!
Ye children of a land of light!
Unto your princess him, too, bear,
And be he judge if far more fair
Be she, or ladies of his halls
Shut in between the harem walls—
Those maidens with the gazelle eye
As cloudless as the summer sky.
Depart to bless prince Mehir Muneer!”
So kindly spake the ancient seer.

XVI

The fairies sate him on their throne;
And in a moment they had flown
With him into the outer air.
Now shone the moon with lustre rare;
And th' heavens, a space since full of gloom,
As black as is a raven's plume,
Now smiled in splendour, studded bright
With myriad torches, filled with light.
But Mehir Muneer, he little saw—
His soul was filled with joyful awe.
As sat he by these fairy queens,
Of graceful forms and lovely miens,
Borne far away into the skies—
Now past the stars, those heaven's eyes—
O! wither, wither do him bear?
O! higher, higher in the air!
And faster faster than my rhymes,
Did fly that throne to fairy climes.
O! hearken to those tinkling chimes!

XVII

At length they reached her fragrant bower
Where music of enchanting power
Did float upon the perfumed breeze,
And lingered o'er the flow'r-gemmed trees.
And wilder beat Mehir Muneer's heart
To hear those glorious strains impart
Such melting tenderness that he
Said to himself: “What she must be
Who thus the guitar's strings inspires
With notes that breathe in living fires!”
The gentle wind the throne did waft
With perfumed breath, so sweet and soft,
Thro' the oped casement of her bower
Rich with the sigh of many a flower.

XVIII

Why stood Mehir Muneer transfix'd,
His face with joy and wonder mix'd?
Why rooted thus? Why doth he seem
As tho' he saw a heav'nly dream?
Lo! on a glitt'ring, golden throne
With sparkling gems and priceless gown,
Reclined, a form, a form more fair,
A face of beauty far more rare
Than seraphs e'en by Allah's seat;
In highest heaven, that loved retreat!
Zuhura's dewy lustre bright.
The young fawn's eye of tender light—
O! what were they before her glance
Whose ev'ry gleam was pure romance?
The wreaths of starry river-buds
That tumble o'er the wavy floods,
Lost their bright colour washed with dew
Before her passing brilliant hue.
The Gul-i-susan, snowy white,
Was not more fair, more dazzling bright
Than hands of her—so rosy painted
Were their fingertips untainted;
More exquisite and more blooming
Than a lovely rose perfuming
The ev'ning air, her fragrant mouth;
As glowing as the sunny south;
And not more sweet the bow of heaven
Than her brows, all pencilled even;
More resplendent and more fair
Her dream-sweet brow than Dian's rare;
Her breath like flowers whose gentle fan
Is balmy breeze of Peristan;
Her tresses flowed in seraph curls;
Hid 'tween rose-buds, were matchless pearls.
Who could describe such radiant grace,
Transcending fairness, mien and face?
For realized 'fore him did beam
The pure ideal of his dream—
There, 'fore him, there without peer
Did she recline, Badar Muneer!

XIX

And she, the matchless Beauty-Queen—
And in her glance, O! what was seen?
Love-lit became those dream-bright eyes,
And softly trembled balmy sighs
Upon those rosy lips—'twas bliss
To press on them one glowing kiss!
High beat her heart beneath its vest,
Close unto it her hand she prest;
And brighter, brighter grew her gaze
With wondering surprise all 'blaze—
Ne'er had she seen so fair a face,
So passing grand, in which could trace
High royal birth; whose ev'ry glance
Did virgin spirits quite entrance
Thrice radiant was her smile and sweet
With which the poet-prince did meet,
For Cupid with his feath'ry dart
Had shot his fire into her heart!

XX

She softly rose from her gemm'd seat,
And her fair stranger-guest did greet.
“Welcome!”—so tremulous she breathed
And ev'ry word his heart, it wreathed—
“Welcome O! stranger to my bower,
And blissful be this self-same hour!”
He knelt before Badar Muneer,
That lovely form without e'er peer.
And prest upon her glowing hand
A kiss—he, heir of Iran's land,
Felt low and mean before this fay
More radiant than a summer's day.
“Badar Muneer!”—he cried so soft
'Twas music that the breeze did waft
To her loved ear—“me thought that
Could be so fair; but there is one;
And thou art she who now dost beam
Far fairer than the poet's theme—
Ideal of my wildest dream!”

XXI

She set him on her Masnad grand,
Him heir t'the throne of Iran's land;
And unseen hands hid by rich screens,—
Her handmaid's hands of gorgeous miens—
Did string the harp and the guitar;
And music pealed sweet as from far.
O! far, beyond the azure seas
The strains were wafted by the breeze
Enliv'ning thus the banquet hour
At midnight, in that lovely bower,
While moon and stars did brightly gleam,
Sent thro' the lattice their soft beam;
The myrtle shed its snowy bloom
Upon the fruits of ripe perfume;
Th' pomegranate shining bright;
The orange glowed with golden light;
Blossoming limes their fragrance sent,
And to the rest their power lent
To bind the senses, charm the eye
With mellow odours, various dye;
And sherbets cooled with purest snow
In jewelled vases bright did glow
And sparkled in their crystal flow.

XXII

The banquet o'er, Badar Muneer
Placed rosy wreaths with hands so dear
Upon her lover's brow and neck,
His form with garlands sweet did deck;
And taking up her lute, did blend
Her glorious strains with its, did lend
Such melting tenderness and power,
As rose the notes within her bower,
As bore him to th' enchanted Isles
Where summer beauty ever smiles,
Whose queen was fair Badar Muneer,
His beauteous love without e'er peer,
And he the slave of her so dear!

XXIII

In rapture hearked he to the lay—
So wild and varied sang this fay—
As o'er her lute her fingers flew,
And these the strains that 'neath them grew:—

(i)

What is your language, lovely flow'rs
 In blushing sweetness bloom,
And load the fairy-footed hours
 With breathing of perfume?

(ii)

What is your language, roses fair,
 With fiery hearts of gold
That fill the ere's ambrosial air
 With scent of pow'r untold?

(iii)

Why doth my bosom brightly glow
 As on you fall mine eyes,
And softly, softly ye do blow
 Beneath the dreamy skies?

(iv)

What language is the one ye breathe
 Unto me as my glance
Doth rest on you, and ye do wreathe
 My soil with bright romance?

(v)

Yes roses, why to ye I sing
 These wild and varied notes,
And on the gentle Zephyr fling
 My lay in fragrance floats?

(vi)

O whisper flow'rs, ye rosy flow'rs,
 What language do you own,
As ye do blush in ev'ning hours
 Upon your em'rald throne?

(vii)

So spake the flow'rs as from above
 The silver stars did shine:
Our language sweet, O maid, is Lore—
 'Tis Love, that flame divine.

(viii)

“When softly fell the ev'ning dew
 Within our fragrant breasts,
We blushed in joy, the self-same hue
 Upon our face yet rests!”

(ix)

“Our hearts are gold, for in that hour
 They glowed with fire from 'bove,
And gave to us this charmer's pow'r—
 Our language sweet, is Lore!”

XXIV

Three watches of the night did fleet
In harmony and music sweet
And soul-inspiring melody
The breezes wafted to the sky;
Each moment stronger grew their love
And burnt with fire from above;
They gazed at one another—this
To them was tasting cup of bliss;
And rapt'rous joy their breasts did light,
And brighter shone their glance, more bright:
And softer, tend'rer grew their tone,
And glorious love was all their own.

XXV

“'Tis waxing late,” the fairies said,
“Prince Mehir Muneer, 'tis time for bed;
Now let us hie back to the cell
Where he, the holy man doth dwell.
Come Mehir Muneer we're homeward bound,
For mortals 'tis time to sleep sound.”
“Go, if you will,” the prince, he cried.
“And on your homeward journey ride.
But I will stay with her I love.
Badar Muneer, and gaily rove
By murm'ring rills and dancing streams
Send forth the music, as in dreams
And with my lute in fragrant bowers
Beguile the tranquil, ev'ning hours.
And when sweet Cynthia lights the skies—
Soft, beauteous lamp of Paradise!”—
With many a charming tale will I
Fill with bright Rapture's light her eye
And—I for ever will abide
Near her, my own, loved, peerless bride.

XXVI

“What shall we do?” the fairies thought,
And they each other's counsel sought.
“If we but bear him from her bower
Rich with the sigh of many a flower,
Offended will she be, nay grief
Will pierce her soul, and no relief—
Could it be giv'n; to her most dear
Has grown this handsome Mehir Muneer!
But if we leave him here and fly
How shall we meet the hermit's eye?
What shall we do? Ah! wait, but wait,
Too long they have thus joyful sate.
Let Morpheus spread his gentle hand
And bind them with his rosy band.”

XXVII

They waited all, and before long
Charmed into sleep by fairy song,
Both fell to nodding; and the fays
The form of Mehir Muneer did raise
With gentle touch from his bright throne,
And softly placed him on their own.
The sleeping prince unconscious lay;
And at the lovely break of day
The fairy queens away did fly
And to the hermit's cell did hie,
And gave unto the holy seer
The slumb'ring form of Mehir Muneer.
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