by Laurence Hope
The Desert is parched in the burning sun
And the grass is scorched and white.
But the sand is passed, and the march is done,
We are camping here to-night.
I sit in the shade of the Temple walls,
While the cadenced water evenly falls,
And a peacock out of the Jungle calls
To another, on yonder tomb.
Above, half seen, in the lofty gloom,
Strange works of a long dead people loom,
Obscene and savage and half effaced
An elephant hunt, a musicians' feast --
And curious matings of man and beast;
What did they mean to the men who are long since dust?
Whose fingers traced,
In this arid waste,
These rioting, twisted, figures of love and lust?
Strange, weird things that no man may say,
Things Humanity hides away; --
Secretly done, --
Catch the light of the living day,
Smile in the sun.
Cruel things that man may not name,
Naked here, without fear or shame,
Laughed in the carven stone.
Deep in the Temple's innermost Shrine is set,
Where the hats and shadows dwell,
The worn and ancient Symbol of Life, at rest
In its oval shell,
By which the men, who, of old, the land possessed,
Represented their Great Destroying Power.
I cannot forget
That, just as my life was touching its fullest flower,
Love came and destroyed it all in a single hour,
Therefore the dual Mystery suits me well.
The tank's deep water is cool and sweet,
Soothing and fresh to the wayworn feet,
Dreaming, under the Tamarind shade,
One silently thanks the men who made
So green a place in this bitter land
Of sunburnt sand.
The peacocks scream and the grey Doves coo,
Little green, talkative Parrots woo,
And small grey Squirrels, with fear askance,
At alien me, in their furtive glance,
Come shyly, with quivering fur, to see
The stranger under their Tamarind tree.
The Camp fires redden like angry eyes,
The Tents show white,
In the glimmering light,
Spirals of tremulous smoke arise, to the purple skies,
And the hum of the Camp sounds like the sea,
Drifting over the sand to me.
Afar, in the Desert some wild voice sings
To a jangling zither with minor strings,
And, under the stars growing keen above,
I think of the thing that I love.
A beautiful thing, alert, serene,
With passionate, dreaming, wistful eyes,
Dark and deep as mysterious skies,
As radiant mornings fade into afternoon.
I held what I loved in my arms for many a night,
Yet ever the morning lightened the sky too soon.
Beyond our tents the sands stretch level and far.
Around this little oasis of Tamarind trees.
A curious, Eastern fragrance fills the breeze
From the ruinous Temple garden where roses are.
I dream of the rose-like perfume that fills your hair,
Of times when my lips were free of your soft closed eyes,
While down in the tank the waters ripple and rise
And the flying foxes silently cleave the air.
The present is subtly welded into the past,
My love of you with the purple Indian dusk,
With its clinging scent of sandal incense and musk,
And withering jasmin flowers.
My eyes grow dim and my senses fail at last,
While the lonely hours
Follow each other, silently, one by one,
Till the night is almost done.
Then weary, and drunk with dreams, with my garments damp
And heavy with dew, I wander towards the camp.
Tired, with a brain in which fancy and fact are blent,
I stumble across the ropes till I reach my tent
And then to rest. To ensweeten my sleep with lies,
To dream I lie in the light of your long lost eyes,
My lips set free,
To love and linger over your soft loose hair --
To dream I lay your delicate beauty bare
To solace my fevered eyes.
Ah, -- if my life might end in a night like this --
Drift into death from dreams of your granted kiss!
Last updated January 14, 2019