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Arab Songs

Padraic Colum 1881 (County Longford) – 1972 (Enfield)

MY Afghan poet-friend
With this made his message end,
'The scroll around my wall shows two the poets have known
The parrot and falcon they
The parrot hangs on his spray,
And silent the falcon sits with brooding and baleful eyes.

Men come to me : one says
'We have given your verses praise,
And we will keep your name abreast of the newer names;
But you must make what accords
With poems that are household words
Your own: write familiar things; to your hundred add a score.'

My friend, they would bestow
Fame for a shadow-show,
And they would pay with praise for things dead as last year's leaves.
But I look where the parrot, stilled,
Hangs a head with rumours filled,
And I watch where my falcon turns her brooding and baleful eyes!

Come to my shoulder! Sit!
To the bone be your talons knit!
I have sworn my friends shall have no parrot-speech from me;
Who reads the verse I write
Shall know the falcon's flight,
The vision single and sure, the conquest of air and sun!
Is there aught else worthy to weave within your banners' folds?
Is there aught else worthy to grave on the blades of your naked swords?'

Saadi, the Poet, stood up and he put forth his living words;
His songs were the hurtling of spears, and his figures the flashing of swords'
With hearts dilated the tribe saw the creature of Saadi's mind:
It was like to the horse of a king a creature of fire and of wind!

Umimah, my loved one, was by me; without love did these eyes see my fawn,
And if fire there were in her being, for me its splendour was gone:
When the sun storms up on the tent it makes waste the fire of the grass:
It was thus with my loved one's beauty the splendour of song made it pass!

The desert, the march, and the onset these, and these only avail;
Hands hard with the handling of spear-shafts, brows white with the press of the mail'
And as for the kisses of women these are honey, the poet sings,
But the honey of kisses, beloved it is lime for the spirit's wings!

Ye know not why God hath joined the horse-fly unto the horse,
Nor why the generous steed should be yoked with the poisonous fly:
Lest the steed should sink into ease and lose his fervour of limb,
God hath bestowed on him this a lustful and venomous bride!

Never supine lie they, the steeds of our folk, to the sting,
Praying for deadness of nerve with wounds the shame of the sun:
They strive, but they strive for this the fullness of passionate nerve;
They pant, but they pant for this the speed that outstrips the pain!

Sons of the Dust, ye have stung there is darkness upon my soul!
Sons of the Dust, ye have stung yea, stung to the roots of my heart!
But I have said in my breast the birth succeeds to the pang,
And, Sons of the Dust, behold your malice becomes my song!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:41 min read

Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. more…

All Padraic Colum poems | Padraic Colum Books

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