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The Sheik Of Sinai In 1830

William Edmondstoune Aytoun 1813 (Edinburgh) – 1865 (Lhanbryde)



I.

'Lift me without the tent, I say,-
Me and my ottoman,-
I'll see the messenger myself!
It is the caravan
From Africa, thou sayest,
And they bring us news of war?
Draw me without the tent, and quick!
As at the desert well
The freshness of the purling brook
Delights the tired gazelle,
So pant I for the voice of him
That cometh from afar!'

II.

The Scheik was lifted from his tent,
And thus outspake the Moor:-
'I saw, old Chief, the Tricolor
On Algiers' topmost tower-
Upon its battlements the silks
Of Lyons flutter free.
Each morning, in the market-place,
The muster-drum is beat,
And to the war-hymn of Marseilles
The squadrons pace the street.
The armament from Toulon sailed:
The Franks have crossed the sea.'

III.

'Towards the south, the columns marched
Beneath a cloudless sky:
Their weapons glittered in the blaze
Of the sun of Barbary;
And with the dusty desert sand
Their horses' manes were white.
The wild marauding tribes dispersed
In terror of their lives;
They fled unto the mountains
With their children and their wives,
And urged the clumsy dromedary
Up the Atlas' height.'

IV.

'The Moors have ta'en their vantage-ground,
The volleys thunder fast-
The dark defile is blazing
Like a heated oven-blast;
The lion hears the strange turmoil,
And leaves his mangled prey-
No place was that for him to feed;
And thick and loud the cries,
Feu!-Allah! Allah!-En avant!
In mingled discord rise;
The Franks have reached the summit-
They have won the victory!'

V.

'With bristling steel, upon the top
The victors take their stand:
Beneath their feet, with all its towns,
They see the promised land-
From Tunis, even unto Fez,
From Atlas to the seas.
The cavaliers alight to gaze,
And gaze full well they may,
Where countless minarets stand up
So solemnly and gray,
Amidst the dark-green masses
Of the flowering myrtle-trees.'

VI.

'The almond blossoms in the vale;
The aloe from the rock
Throws out its long and prickly leaves,
Nor dreads the tempest's shock:
A blessed land, I ween, is that,
Though luckless is its Bey.
There lies the sea-beyond lies France!
Her banners in the air
Float proudly and triumphantly-
A salvo! come, prepare!
And loud and long the mountains rang
With that glad artillery.'

VII.

''Tis they!' exclaimed the aged Scheik.
'I've battled by their side-
I fought beneath the Pyramids!
That day of deathless pride-
Red as thy turban, Moor, that eve,
Was every creek in Nile!
But tell me-' and he griped his hand-
'Their Sultaun. Stranger, say-
His form-his face-his posture, man?
Thou saw'st him in the fray?
His eye-what wore he?' But the Moor
Sought in his vest awhile.

VIII.

'Their Sultaun, Scheik, remains at home
Within his palace walls:
He sends a Pasha in his stead
To brave the bolts and balls.
He was not there. An Aga burst
For him through Atlas' hold.
Yet I can show thee somewhat too.
A Frankish Cavalier
Told me his effigy was stamped
Upon this medal here-
He gave me with others
For an Arab steed I sold.'

IX.

The old man took the golden coin:
Gazed steadfastly awhile,
If that could be the Sultaun
Whom from the banks of Nile
He guided o'er the desert path-
Then sighed and thus spake he-
''Tis not
his
eye-'tis not
his
brow-
Another face is there:
I never saw this man before-
His head is like a pear!
Take back thy medal, Moor-'tis not
That which I hoped to see.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Edmondstoune Aytoun

William Edmondstoune Aytoun FRSE was a Scottish lawyer and poet center more…

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