The Garden of Bright Waters Translated by Edward Powys MathersOne Hundred and Twenty Asiatic Love Poems

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Susan Woodring, Tom Allen and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. The Garden Of Bright Waters One Hundred And Twenty Asiatic Love Poems Translated by Edward Powys Mathers 1920 Dedication: To My Wife INTRODUCTION Head in hand, I look at the paper leaf; It is still white. I look at the ink
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1920
FREE Audible 30 days

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Susan Woodring, Tom Allen and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

The Garden Of Bright Waters

One Hundred And Twenty Asiatic Love Poems

Translated by Edward Powys Mathers


Dedication: To My Wife


Head in hand, I look at the paper leaf; It is still white.

I look at the ink
Dry on the end of my brush.

My soul sleeps.
Will it ever wake?

I walk a little in the pouring of the sun And pass my hands over the higher flowers.

There is the soft green forest,
There are the sweet lines of the mountains Carved with snow, red in the sunlight.

I see the slow march of the clouds,
I hear the crows jeering, and I come back

To sit and look at the paper leaf,
Which is still white
Under my brush.

_From the Chinese of Chang-Chi (770-850)._




The Princess of Qulzum
Come, my Beloved!
Ballade of Muhammad Khan
Ghazal of Tavakkul
Ghazal of Sayyid Kamal
Ghazal of Sayyid Ahmad
Ghazal of Pir Muhammad
Ballade of Nurshali
Ghazal of Muhammad Din Tilai
Ballade of Muhammad Din Tilai
Ghazal of Mira
Ghazal of Majid Shah
Ghazal of Mira
Ballade of Ajam the Washerman
Ghazal of Isa Akhun Zada


The Bamboo Garden
Stranger Things have Happened
The Gao Flower
The Girl of Ke-Mo
The Little Woman of Clear River
Waiting to Marry a Student
A Song for Two


Two Similes
The Lost Lady
Love Brown and Bitter
Lying Down Alone
Old Greek Lovers
Night and Morning
In a Yellow Frame
Because the Good are Never Fair
White and Green and Black Tears
A Conceit
What Love Is
The Dancing Heart
The Great Offence
An Escape
Three Queens
Her Nails
Perturbation at Dawn
The Resurrection of the Tattooed Girl Moallaka of Antar
Moallaka of Amr Ebn Kultum




A Canker in the Heart




The Flight


We were Two Green Rushes
Song Writer Paid with Air
The Bad Road
The Western Window
In Lukewarm Weather
Written on White Frost
A Flute of Marvel
The Willow-Leaf
A Poet Looks at the Moon
We Two in a Park at Night
The Jade Staircase
The Morning Shower
A Virtuous Wife
Written on a Wall in Spring
A Poet Thinks
In the Cold Night


Winter Comes


Part of a Ghazal


A Poem


Grief and the Sleeve
Drink Song
A Boat Comes In
The Opinion of Men
Old Scent of the Plum-tree
An Orange Sleeve
The Clocks of Death
Green Food for a Queen
The Cushion
A Single Night
At a Dance of Girls
Alone One Night


Walking up a Hill at Dawn
Proposal of Marriage


You do not Want Me, Zohrah


The Dream




The Holy Swan


Fire and Love
Hearts of Women


To His Love instead of a Promised Picture Book Too Short a Night
The Roses
I Asked my Love
A Request
See You Have Dancers


The Sighing Heart


Handing over the Gun




The Love of the Archer Prince


Things Seen in Battle
Hunter’s Song


The Bath
A Proverb






I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight; I have seen the daughter of the King of Qulzum passing from grace to grace.
Yesterday she threw her bed on the floor of her double house And laughed with a thousand graces.
She has a little pearl and coral cap And rides in a palanquin with servants about her And claps her hands, being too proud to call. I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight.

“My palanquin is truly green and blue; I fill the world with pomp and take my pleasure; I make men run up and down before me,
And am not as young a girl as you pretend. I am of Iran, of a powerful house, I am pure steel. I hear that I am spoken of in Lahore.”
I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight.

I also hear that they speak of you in Lahore, You walk with a joyous step,
Your nails are red and the palms of your hands are rosy. A pear-tree with a fresh stem is in your palace gardens, I would not that your mother should give my pear-tree To twine with an evil spice-tree or fool banana. I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight.

“The coins that my father gave me for my forehead Throw rays and light the hearts of far men; The ray of light from my red ring is sharper than a diamond. I go about and about in pride as of hemp wine And my words are chosen.
But I give you my honey cheeks, dear, I trust them to you.” I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight.

The words of my mouth are coloured and shining things; And two great saints are my perpetual guards. There is never a song of _Nur Uddin_ but has in it a great achievement And is as brilliant as a young hyacinth; I pour a ray of honey on my disciples,
There is as it were a fire in my ballades. I have seen a small proud face brimming with sunlight.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


Come, my beloved! And I say again: Come, my beloved! The doves are moaning and calling and will not cease. Come, my beloved!

“The fairies have made me queen, and my heart is love. Sweeter than the green cane is my red mouth.” Come, my beloved!

The jacinth has spilled odour on your hair, The balance of your neck is like a jacinth; You have set a star of green between your brows. Come, my beloved!

Like lemon-trees among the rocks of grey hills Are the soft colours of the airy veil
To your rose knee from your curved almond waist. Come, my beloved!

Your light breast veil is tawny brown with stags, Stags with eyes of emerald, hunted by red kings. Come, my beloved!

_Muhammad Din_ is wandering; he is drunken and mad; For a year he has been dying. Send for the doctor! Come, my beloved!

_From the Pus’hto of Muhammad Din Tilai (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


She has put on her green robe, she has put on her double veil, my idol;
My idol has come to me.
She has put on her green robe, my love is a laughing flower; Gently, gently she comes, she is a young rose, she has come out of the garden.

Gently she has shown her face, parting her veil, my idol; My idol has come to me.
She has put on her green robe, my love is a young rose for me to break.
Her chin has the smooth colour of peaches and she guards it well; She is the daughter of a Moghol house and well they guard her.

She put on her red jewels when she came with a noise of rings, my idol;
My idol has come to me.
She has put on her green robe, my love is the stem of a rose; She breaks not, she is strong.
She has a throne, but comes into the woods for love.

I was well and she troubled me when she came to me in the evening, my idol;
My idol has come to me.
She has put on her green robe, her wrist is a sword. The villages speak of her; the child is as fair as Badri. She has red lips and six hundred and fifty beads upon her light blue scarf.
Give your garland to _Muhammad Khan_, my idol; My idol has come to me.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


To-day I saw Laila’s breasts, the hills of a fair city From which my heart might leap to heaven.

Her breasts are a garden of white roses Having two drifted hills of fallen rose-leaves.

Her breasts are a garden where doves are singing And doves are moaning with arrows because of her.

All her body is a flower and her face is Shalibagh; She has fruits of beautiful colours and the doves abide there.

Over the garden of her breasts she combs the gold rain of her hair…. You have killed _Tavakkul_, the faithful pupil of Abdel Qadir Gilani.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


I am burning, I am crumbled into powder, I stand to the lips in a tossing sea of tears.

Like a stone falling in Hamun lake I vanish; I return no more, I am counted among the dead.

I am consumed like yellow straw on red flames; You have drawn a poisoned sword along my throat to-day.

People have come to see me from far towns, Great and small, arriving with bare heads, For I have become one of the great historical lovers.

In the desire of your red lips
My heart has become a red kiln, like a terrace of roses. It is because she does not trouble about the bee on the rose That my heart is taken.

“I have blackened my eyes to kill you, _Sayyid Kamal_. I kill you with my eyelids; I am Natarsa, the Panjabie, the pitiless.”

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


My heart is torn by the tyranny of women very quietly; Day and night my tears are wearing away my cheeks very quietly.

Life is a red thing like the sun setting very quietly; Setting quickly and heavily and very quietly.

If you are to buy heaven by a good deed, to-day the market is open; To-morrow is a day when no man buys,
And the caravan is broken up very quietly.

The kings are laughing and the slaves are laughing; but for your sake _Sayyid Ahmad_ is walking and mourning very quietly.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


The season of parting has come up with the wind; My girl has hollowed my heart with the hot iron of separation.

Keep away, doctor, your roots and your knives are useless. None ever cured the ills of the ill of separation.

There is no one near me noble enough to be told; I tear my collar in the “Alas! Alas!” of separation.

She was a branch of santal; she closed her eyes and left me. Autumn has come and she has gone, broken to pieces in the wind of separation.

I am _Pir Muhammad_ and I am stumbling away to die; She stamped on my eyes with the foot of separation.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


Come in haste this dusk, dear child. I will be on the water path When your girl friends go laughing by the road. “Come in haste this dusk; I have become your nightingale, And the young girls leave me alone because of you. I give you the poppy of my mouth and my fallen hair.” Come in haste this dusk, dear child.

“I have dishevelled and spread out my hair for you; Take my wrist, for there is no shame
And my father has gone out.
Sit near me on this red bed quietly.” Come in haste this dusk, dear child.

“Sit near me on this red bed, I lift the poppy to your lips; Your hand is strong upon my breast;
My beauty is a garden and you the bird in the flowering tree.” Come in haste this dusk, dear child.

“My beauty is a garden with crimson flowers.” But I cannot reach over the thicket of your hair. This is _Nurshali_ sighing for the garden; Come in haste this dusk, dear child.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans)._


The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

The world is fainting
And falling into a swoon.

The world is turning and changing;
The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

Look at the love of Farhad, who pierced a mountain And pierced a brass hill for the love of Shirin. The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

Qutab Khan of the Ranizais was in love And death became the hostess of his lady. The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

Adam loved Durkho, and they were separated. You know the story;
There is no lasting love.
The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

_Muhammad Din_ is ill for the matter of a little honey; This is a moment to be generous.
The world is fainting,
And you will weep at last.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


When you lie with me and love me,
You give me a second life of young gold; And when you lie with me and love me not, I am as one who puts out hands in the dark And touches cold wet death.

_From the Pus’hto of Mirza Rahchan Kayil (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


A twist of fresh flowers on your dark hair, And your hair is a panther’s shadow.
On your white cheeks the down of a thousand roses, They speak about your beauty in Lahore.
You have your mother’s lips;
Your ring is frosted with rubies,
And your hair is a panther’s shadow.

Your ring is frosted with rubies;
I was unhappy and you looked over the wall, I saw your face among the crimson lilies; There is no armour that a lover can buy, And your hair is a panther’s shadow.

“The cool fingers of the mistress burn her lovers And they go away.
I have fatigued the wise of many lands, And my hair is a tangle of serpents.
What is the profit of these shawls without you? And my hair is a panther’s shadow.”

“A squadron of my father’s men are about me, And I have woven a collar of yellow flowers. My eyes are veiled because I drink cups of bhang, Being a daughter of the daughter of queens. You cannot touch me because of my palaces, And my hair is a panther’s shadow.”

I will touch you, though your beauty be as fair as song; For I am a disciple of Abdel Qadir Gilani, And my songs are as beautiful as women and as strong as love; And your hair is a panther’s shadow.

Your ring is frosted with rubies….
_Muhammad Din_ awaits the parting of your scarves; _Tilai_ is standing here, young and magnificent like a tree; And your hair is a panther’s shadow.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


The lover to his lass: I have fallen before your door. I came to ask for alms and have lost my all, I had a copper-shod quarter-staff but the dogs attacked me, And not a strand of her hair came the way of my lips. The lover to his lass: I have fallen before your door.

The lamp burns and I must play the green moth. I have stolen her scented rope of flowers, But the women caught me and built a little gaol About my heart with your old playthings. The lover to his lass: I have fallen before your door.

_Mira_ is a mountain goat that climbs to die Upon the top peak in the rocks of grief; It is the hour; make haste.
The lover to his lass: I have fallen before your door.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


Grief is hard upon me, Master, for she has left me; The black dust has covered my pretty one.

My heart is black, for the tomb has taken my friend; How pleasantly would go the days if my friend were here.

I can only dream of the stature of my friend; The flowers are dying in my heart, my breast is a fading garden.

Her breast is a sweet garden now, and her garments are gold flowers; I am an orchard at night, for my friend has gone a journey.

I am _Majid Shah_, a slave that ministers to the dead; Abdel Qadir Gilani, even the Master, shall not save me.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


The world passes, nothing lasts, and the creation of men Is buried alive under the vault of Time.

Autumn comes pillaging gardens;
The bulbuls laugh to see the flowers falling.

Wars start up wherever your eye glances, And the young men moan marching on to the batteries.

_Mira_ is the unkempt old man you see on the road; He has taken his death-wound in battle.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._


Come to me to-day wearing your green collar, Make your two orange sleeves float in the air, and come to me. Touch your hair with essence and colour your clothes yellow; The deer of reason has fled from the hill of my heart; Come to me.

The deer of reason has fled from the hill of my heart Because I have seen your gold rings and your amber rings; Your eyes have lighted a small fire below my heart, Put on your gold rings and your amber rings, and come to me.

Put on your gold rings and your amber rings, and you will be more beautiful
Than the brown girls of poets and the milk-white wives of kings. The coil of your hair is like a hangman’s rope; But press me to your green collar between your orange sleeves.

Press me to your green collar between your orange sleeves, And give yourself once to _Ajam_. Slip away weeping, Slip weeping away from the house of the wicked, and come to me. Come to me to-day wearing your green collar, Make your two orange sleeves float in the air and come to me.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans)._


Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me; Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me; Beauty with the flame shawl, let me say a little thing, Lend your small ears to my quick sighing. Breathing idol, I have come to the walls of death; And there are coloured cures behind the crystal of your eyes. Life is a tale ill constructed without love. Beauty of the flame shawl, do not repulse me; I am at your door wasted and white and dying. Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me; Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me.

This is the salaam that slaves make, and after the salaam Listen to these quick sighings and their wisdom. All the world has spied on us and seen our love, And in four days or five days will be whispering evil. Knot your robes in a turban, escape and be mine for ever; Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me. After that we will both of us go to prison. Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me; Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me.

My quick sighings carry a tender promise; I will have time to remember in the battle, Though all the world is a thousand whistling swords against me. The iron is still in the rock that shall forge my death-sword, Though I have foes more than the stars
Of a thousand valley starlights.
Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me; Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me.

I am as strong as Sikander, I am as strong as death; You will hear me come with guns brooding behind me, And laughing bloody battalions following after. _Isa Gal_ is stronger than God;
Do not whip me, do not whip me,
Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me; Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me. Breathing idol of rose ivory, look at me; Beauty with the flame shawl, do not repulse me.

_From the Pus’hto (Afghans, nineteenth century)._



Old bamboos are about my house,
And the floor of my house is untidy with old books. It is sweet to rest in the shade of it
And read the poems of the masters.

But I remember a delightful fisherman Who played on the five-stringed dan in the evening. In the day he allowed his reed canoe to float Over the lakes and rivers,
Watching his nets and singing.

A sweet boy promised to marry me,
But he went away and left
Like a reed canoe that rolls adrift In the middle of a river.

_Song of Annam._


Do not believe that ink is always black, Or lime white, or lemon sour;
You cannot ring one bell from two pagodas, You cannot have two governors for the city of Lang Son. I found you binding an orange spray
Of flowers with white flowers;
I never noticed the flower gathering Of other village ladies.
Would you like me to go and see your father and mother?

_Song of Annam._


It is late at night
And the North Star is shining.
The mist covers the rice-fields
And the bamboos
Are whispering full of crickets.
The watch beats on the iron-wood gong, And priests are ringing the pagoda bells. We hear the far-away games of peasants
And distant singing in the cottages.

It is late at night.
As we talk gently,
Sitting by one another,
Life is as beautiful as night.
The red moon is rising
On the mountain side
Like a fire started among the trees. There is the North Star
Shining like a paper lantern.
The light air brings dew to our faces And the sound of tamtams beaten far away. Let us sit like this all night.

_Song of Annam._


I am the Gao flower high in a tree,
You are the grass Long Mai on the path-side. When heat comes down after the dews of morning The flower grows pale and tumbles on the grass, The grass Long Mai that keeps the fallen Gao.

Folk who let their daughters grow
Without achieving a husband
Might easily forget to fence their garden, Or let their radishes grow flower and rank When they could eat them ripe and tender.

Come to me, you that I see walk
Every night in a red turban;
Young man with the white turban, come to me. We will plant marrows together in a garden, And there may be little marrows for your children.

I will dye your turban blue and red and yellow, You with the white turban.
You that are passing with a load of water, I call you
And you do not even turn your head.

_Song of Annam._


I’m a girl of Ke-Mo village
Selling my rice wine on the road.
Mine is the strongest rice wine in the land, Though my bottle is so patched and dirty. These silly rags are not my body,
The parts you cannot see are counted pleasant; But you are just too drunk to drink my wine, And just too plain to lie down on my mat. He who would drink the wine of the girl of Ke-Mo Needs a beautiful body and a lofty wit.

_Song of Annam._


Clear River twists nine times about
Clear River; but so deep
That none can see the green sand.
You hear the birds about Clear River: Dik, dik, dik, dik, Diu dik.

A little woman with jade eyes
Leans on the wall of a pavilion.
She has the moonrise in her heart
And the singing of love songs
Comes to her up the river.

She stands and dreams for me
Outside the house by the bamboo door. In a minute
I will leave my shadow
And talk to her of poetry and love.

_Song of Annam._


I still walk slowly on the river bank Where I came singing,
And where I saw your boat pass up beyond the sun Setting red in the river.
I want Autumn,
I want the leaves to begin falling at once, So that the cold time may bring us close again Like K’ien Niü and Chik Nü, the two stars.

Each year when Autumn comes
The crows make a black bridge across the milky sea, And then these two poor stars
Can run together in gold and be at peace. Darling, for my sake work hard
And be received with honour at the Examinations.

Since I saw your boat pass up beyond the sun I have forgotten how to sing
And how to paddle the canoe across the lake. I know how to sit down and how to be sad, And I know how to say nothing;
But every other art has slipped away.

_Song of Annam._


I have lacquered my teeth to find a husband.

And I have need of a wife.
Give me a kiss and they will marry us At Mo-Lao, my village.

I will marry you if you will wait for me, Wait till the banana puts forth branches, And fruit hangs heavy on the Sung-tree,
And the onion flowers;
Wait till the dove goes down in the pool to lay her eggs, And the eel climbs into a tree to make her nest.

_Song of Annam._



The sand is like acres of wet milk
Poured out under the moonlight;
It crawls up about your brown feet
Like wine trodden from white stars.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


You have taken away my cloak,
My cloak of weariness;
Take my coat also,
My many-coloured coat of life….

On this great nursery floor
I had three toys,
A bright and varnished vow,
A Speckled Monster, best of boys,
True friend to me, and more
Beloved and a thing of cost,
My doll painted like life; and now
One is broken and two are lost.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


I have been at this shooting-gallery too long. It is monotonous how the little coloured balls Make up and down on their silvery water thread; It would be pleasant to have money and go instead To watch your greasy audience in the threepenny stalls Of the World-famous Caravan of Dance and Song.

And I want to go out beyond the turf fires there, After I’ve looked at your just smiling face, To that untented silent dark blue nighted place; And wait such time as you will wish the noise all dumb And drop your fairings and leave the funny man, and come … You have the most understanding face in all the fair.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


You are the drowned,
Star that I found
Washed on the rim of the sea
Before the morning.
You are the little dying light
That stopped me in the night.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


You know so well how to stay me with vapours Distilled expertly to that unworthy end; You know the poses of your body I love best And that I am cheerful with your head on my breast, You know you please me by disliking one friend; You read up what amuses me in the papers.

Who knows me knows I am not of those fools That gets tired of a woman who is kind to them, Yet you know not how stifled you render me By learning me so well, how I long to see An unpractised girl under your clever phlegm, A soul not so letter-perfect in the rules.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


A mole shows black
Between her mouth and cheek.

As if a negro,
Coming into a garden,
Wavered between a purple rose
And a scarlet camomile.

_From the Arabic._


I shall never see your tired sleep
In the bed that you make beautiful, Nor hardly ever be a dream
That plays by your dark hair;
Yet I think I know your turning sigh And your trusting arm’s abandonment,
For they are the picture of my night, My night that does not end.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


They put wild olive and acanthus up
With tufts of yellow wool above the door When a man died in Greece and in Greek Islands, Grey stone by the blue sea,
Or sage-green trees down to the water’s edge. How many clanging years ago
I, also withering into death, sat with him, Old man of so white hair who only,
Only looked past me into the red fire. At last his words were all a jumble of plum-trees And white boys smelling of the sea’s green wine And practice of his lyre. Suddenly
The bleak resurgent mind
Called wonderfully clear: “What mark have I left?” Crying girls with wine and linen
Washed the straight old body and wrapped up, And set the doorward feet.
Later for me also under Greek sun
The pendant leaves in green and bitter flakes Blew out to join the wastage of the world, And wool, I take it, in the nests of birds.

_From the Arabic of John Duncan._


The great brightness of the burning of the stars, Little frightened love,
Is like your eyes,
When in the heavy dusk
You question the dark blue shadows, Fearing an evil.

Below the night
The one clear line of dawn;
As it were your head
Where there is one golden hair
Though your hair is very brown.

_From the Arabic (School of Ebn-el-Moattaz) (ninth century)._


Her hand tinted to gold with henna
Gave me a cup of wine like gold water, And I said: The moon rise, the sun rise.

_From the Arabic of Hefny-bey-Nassif (contemporary)._


When she appears the daylight envies her garment, The wanton daylight envies her garment
To show it to the jealous sun.

And when she walks,
All women tall and tiny
Want her figure and start crying.

Because of your mouth,
Long life to the Agata valley,
Long life to pearls.

Watchers have discovered paradise in your cheeks, But I am undecided,
For there is a hint of the tops of flames In their purple shining.

_From the Arabic of Ahmed Bey Chawky (contemporary)._


Why are your tears so white?
Dear, I have wept so long
That my old tears grow white like my old hair.

Why are your tears so green?
Dear, the waters are wept away
And the green gall is flowing.

Why are your tears so black?
Dear, the weeping is over
And the black flash you loved is breaking.

_From the Arabic (School of Ebn-el-Farid) (thirteenth century)._


I hide my love,
I will not say her name.
And yet since I confess
I love, her name is told.
You know that if I love
It must be … Whom?

_From the Arabic of Ebn Kalakis Abu El Fath Nasrallah (eleventh century)._


Since there is excitement
In suffering for a woman,
Let him burn on.
The dust in a wolf’s eyes
Is balm of flowers to the wolf
When a flock of sheep has raised it.

_From the Arabic._


Love starts with a little throb in the heart, And in the end one dies
Like an ill-treated toy.
Love is born in a look or in four words, The little spark that burnt the whole house. Love is at first a look,
And then a smile,
And then a word,
And then a promise,
And then a meeting of two among flowers.

_From the Arabic._


When she came she said:
You know that your love is granted, Why is your heart trembling?

And I:
You are bringing joy for my heart
And so my heart is dancing.

_From the Arabic of Urak El Hutail._


She seemed so bored,
I wanted to embrace her by surprise; But then the scalding waters
Fell from her eyes and burnt her roses.

I offered her a cup….

And came to paradise….

Ah, sorrow,
When she rose from the waves of wine I thought she would have killed me
With the swords of her desolation….

Especially as I had tied her girdle
With the wrong bow.

_From the Arabic of Abu Nuas (eighth century)._


She was beautiful that evening and so gay….

In little games
My hand had slipped her mantle,
I am not sure
About her skirts.

Then in the night’s curtain of shadows, Heavy and discreet,
I asked and she replied:

Next day I came
Saying, Remember.

Words of a night, she said, to bring the day.

_From the Arabic of Abu Nuas (eighth century)._


Three sweet drivers hold the reins,
And hold the places of my heart.
A great people obeys me,
But these three obey me not.
Am I then a lesser king than love?

_From the Arabic of Haroun El Raschid (eighth century)._


She is as wise as Hippocrates,
As beautiful as Joseph,
As sweet-voiced as David,
As pure as Mary.

I am as sad as Jacob,
As lonely as Jonah,
As patient as Job,
As unfortunate as Adam.

When I met her again
And saw her nails
Prettily purpled,
I reproached her for making up
When I was not there.

She told me gently
That she was no coquette,
But had wept tears of blood
Because I was not there,
And maybe she had dried her eyes
With her little hands.

I would like to have wept before she wept; But she wept first
And has the better love.
Her eyes are long eyes,
And her brows are the bows of subtle strong men.

_From the Arabic of Yazid Ebn Moauia (seventh century)._


Day comes….

And when she sees the withering of the violet garden And the saffron garden flowering,
The stars escaping on their black horse And dawn on her white horse arriving,
She is afraid.

Against the sighing of her frightened breasts She puts her hand;
I see what I have never seen,
Five perfect lines on a crystal leaf Written with coral pens.

_From the Arabic of Ebn Maatuk (seventeenth century)._


Her hands are filled with what I lack, And on her arms are pictures,
Looking like files of ants forsaking the battalions, Or hail inlaid by broken clouds on green lawns.

She fears the arrows of her proper eyes And has her hands in armour.

She has stretched her hands in a cup to me, Begging for my heart.
She has circled me with the black magic of her brows And shot small arrows at me.

The black curl that lies upon her temple Is a scorpion pointing his needle at the stars.

Her eyes seem tight, tight shut;
But I believe she is awake.

_From the Arabic of Yazid Ebn Moauia (seventh century)._


The poets have muddied all the little fountains.

Yet do not my strong eyes know you, far house?

O dwelling of Abla in the valley of Gawa, Speak to me, for my camel and I salute you.

My camel is as tall as a tower, and I make him stand And give my aching heart to the wind of the desert.

O erstwhile dwelling of Abla in the valley of Gawa; And my tribe in the valleys of Hazn and Samna And in the valley of Motethalem!

Salute to the old ruins, the lonely ruins Since Oum El Aythan gathered and went away.

Now is the dwelling of Abla
In a valley of men who roar like lions. It will be hard to come to you, O daughter of Makhram.

* * * * *

Abla is a green rush
That feeds beside the water.

But they have taken her to Oneiza
And my tribe feeds in lazy Ghailam valley.

They fixed the going, and the camels
Waked in the night and evilly prepared.

I was afraid when I saw the camels
Standing ready among the tents
And eating grain to make them swift.

I counted forty-two milk camels,
Black as the wings of a black crow.

White and purple are the lilies of the valley, But Abla is a branch of flowers.

Who will guide me to the dwelling of Abla?

_From the Arabic of Antar (late sixth and early seventh centuries)._


Rise and hold up the curved glass,
And pour us wine of the morning, of El Andar.

Pour wine for us, whose golden colour Is like a water stream kissing flowers of saffron.

Pour us wine to make us generous
And carelessly happy in the old way.

Pour us wine that gives the miser
A sumptuous generosity and disregard.

O Oum-Amr, you have prevented me from the cup When it should have been moving to the right; And yet the one of us three that you would not serve Is not the least worthy.

How many cups have I not emptied at Balbek, And emptied at Damas and emptied at Cacerin!

More cups! more cups! for death will have his day; His are we and he ours.

* * * * *

By herself she is fearless
And gives her arms to the air,
The limbs of a long camel that has not borne.

She gives the air her breasts,
Unfingered ivory.

She gives the air her long self and her curved self, And hips so round and heavy that they are tired.

All these noble abundances of girlhood Make the doors divinely narrow and myself insane.

Columns of marble and ivory in the old way, And anklets chinking in gold and musical bracelets.

Without her I am a she-camel that has lost, And howls in the sand at night.

Without her I am as sad as an old mother Hearing of the death of her many sons.

_From the Arabic of Amr Ebn Kultum (seventh century)._



Touch my hands with your fingers, yellow wallflower. Did God use a bluer paint
Painting the sky for the gold sun
Or making the sea about your two black stars?

Treasure the touches of my fingers.
God did not spread his bluest paint On a hollow sky or a girl’s eye,
But on a topaz chain, from you to me.

Touch my temples with your fingers, scarlet rose. Did God use a stronger light
When He fashioned and dropped the sun into the sky Or dropped your black stars into their blue sea?

Treasure the touches of my fingers.
God did not spend His strongest light On a sun above or a look of love,
But on a round gold ring, from you to me.

Touch my cheeks with your fingers, blue hyacinth. Did God use a whiter silk
Weaving the veil for your fevered roses, Or spinning the moon that lies across your face?

Treasure the touches of my fingers.
God did not waste His whitest web
On veils of silk or moons of milk,
But on a marriage cap, from you to me.

_Popular Song of Baluchistan._



I made a bitter song
When I was a boy,
About a girl
With hot earth-coloured hair,
Who lived with me
And left me.

I made a sour song
On her marriage-day,
That ever his kisses
Would be ghosts of mine,
And ever the measure
Of his halting love
Flow to my music.

It was a silly song,
Dear wife with cool black hair,
And yet when I recall
(At night with you asleep)
That once you gave yourself
Before we met,
I do not quite well know
What song to make.

_From the Burmese (nineteenth century) (¿ by Asmapur)._



Brother, my thought of you
In this letter on a palm-leaf
Goes up about you
As her own scent
Goes up about the rose.

The bracelets on my arms
Have grown too large
Because you went away.

I think the sun of love
Melted the snow of parting,
For the white river of tears has overflowed.

But though I am sad
I am still beautiful,
The girl that you desired
In April.

Brother, my love for you
In this letter on a palm-leaf
Brightens about you
As her own rays
Brighten about the moon.

_Love Poem of Cambodia._



Aischa was mine,
My tender cousin,
My blond lover;
And you knew our love,
Uncle without bowels,
Foul old man.

For a few weights of gold
You sold her to the blacks,
And they will drive a stinking trade At the dark market;
Your slender daughter,
The free child of our hills.

She will go to serve the bed
Of a fat man with no God,
A guts that cannot walk,
A belly hiding his own feet,
A rolling paunch
Between itself and love.

She was slim and quick
Like the antelope of our hills
When he comes down in the summer-time To bathe in the pools of Tereck,
Her stainless flesh
Was all moonlight.

Her long silk hair
Was of so fine a gold
And of so honey-like a brown
That bees flew there,
And her red lips
Were flowers in sunlight.

She was fair, alas, she was fair,
So that her beauty goes
To a garden of dying flowers,
Made one with the girls that mourn
And wither for light and love
Behind the harem bars.

And you have dirty dreams
That she will be Sultane,
And you will drink and boast
And roll about,
The grinning ancestor
Of little kings.

Hugging your very wicked gold
Within a greasy belt,
You paddle exulting like a bald ape That glories to defile,
Unmindful of two hot young streams
Of tears.

You stole this dirty gold,
For this gold means
Your daughter’s freedom
And your nephew’s love,
Two fresh and lovely things
Groaning within your belt.

The sunny playing of our childhood
At the green foot of Elbours,
The starry playing of our youth
Beyond the flowery fences,
These sigh their lost delights
Within your belt.

Give me the gold;
Damn you, give me the gold….
You kill my mercy
When you kill my love….
Hold up your trembling sword;
For this is death.

* * * * *

I take the belt from the dead loins
That put away my love,
And turn my sweet white horse
After the caravan….
With dirty gold and clean steel
I’ll set Aischa free.

_Ballad of the Caucasus._


Softly into the saddle
Of my black horse with white feet;
Your brothers are frowning
And grasping swords in sleep.
My rifle is as clean as moonlight,
My flints are new;
My long grey sword is sighing
In his blue sheath.
Fatima gave me my grey sword
Of Temrouk steel,
Damascened in red gold
To cut a pathway for the feet of love.

My eye is dark and keen,
My hand has never trembled on the sword. If your brothers rise and follow
On their stormy horses,
If they stretch their hot hands
To catch you from my breast,
My rifle shall not sing to them,
My steel shall spare.
My rifle’s song is for my yellow girl, My eye is dark and keen,
I’ll send my bullet to the fairest heart That ever lady loved with in the world.

My hand upon the sword
Shall be so strong,
He’ll find the little laughing place Where you dance in my breast;
And we’ll have no more of the silly world Where our lips must lie apart.
We’ll let death pour our souls
Into one cup,
And mount like joyous birds to God
With hearts on fire,
And God will mingle us into one shape In an eternal garden of gold stars.

_Love Ballad of the Caucasus._



We were two green rushes by opposing banks, And the small stream ran between.
Not till the water beat us down
Could we be brought together,
Not till the winter came
Could we be mingled in a frosty sleep, Locked down and close.

_From the Chinese of J. Wing (nineteenth century)._


I sit on a white wood box
Smeared with the black name
Of a seller of white sugar.
The little brown table is so dirty
That if I had food
I do not think I could eat.

How can I promise violets drunken in wine For your amusement,
How can I powder your blue cotton dress With splinters of emerald,
How can I sing you songs of the amber pear, Or pour for the finger-tips of your white fingers Mingled scents in a rose agate bowl?

_From the Chinese of J. Wing (nineteenth century)._


I have seen a pathway shaded by green great trees, A road bordered by thickets light with flowers.

My eyes have entered in under the green shadow, And made a cool journey far along the road.

But I shall not take the road,
Because it does not lead to her house.

When she was born
They shut her little feet in iron boxes, So that my beloved never walks the roads.

When she was born
They shut her heart in a box of iron, So that my beloved shall never love me.

_From the Chinese._


At the head of a thousand roaring warriors, With the sound of gongs,
My husband has departed
Following glory.

At first I was overjoyed
To have a young girl’s liberty.

Now I look at the yellowing willow-leaves; They were green the day he left.

I wonder if he also was glad?

_From the Chinese of Wang Ch’ang Ling (eighth century)._


The women who were girls a long time ago Are sitting between the flower bushes
And speaking softly together:

“They pretend that we are old and have white hair; They say also that our faces
Are not like the spring moons.

“Perhaps it is a lie;
We cannot see ourselves.

“Who will tell us for certain
That winter is not at the other side of the mirror, Obscuring our delights
And covering our hair with frost?”

_From the Chinese of Wang Ch’ang Ling (eighth century)._


The white frost covers all the arbute-trees, Like powder on the faces of women.

Looking from window consider
That a man without women is like a flower Naked without its leaves.

To drive away my bitterness

I write this thought with my narrowed breath On the white frost.

_From the Chinese of Wang Chi (sixth and seventh centuries)._


Under the leaves and cool flowers
The wind brought me the sound of a flute From far away.

I cut a branch of willow
And answered with a lazy song.

Even at night, when all slept,
The birds were listening to a conversation In their own language.

_From the Chinese of Li Po (705-763)._


I am in love with a child dreaming at the window.

Not for her elaborate house
On the banks of Yellow River;

But for a willow-leaf she has let fall Into the water.

I am in love with the east breeze.

Not that he brings the scent of the flowering of peaches White on Eastern Hill;

But that he has drifted the willow-leaf Against my boat.

I am in love with the willow-leaf.

Not that he speaks of green spring
Coming to us again;

But that the dreaming girl
Pricked there a name with her embroidery needle, And the name is mine.

_From the Chinese of Chang Chiu Ling (675-740)._


I hear a woman singing in my garden,
But I look at the moon in spite of her.

I have no thought of trying to find the singer Singing in my garden;
I am looking at the moon.

And I think the moon is honouring me
With a long silver look.

I blink
As bats fly black across the ray;
But when I raise my head the silver look Is still upon me.

The moon delights to make eyes of poets her mirror, And poets are many as dragon scales
On the moonlit sea.

_From the Chinese of Chang Jo Hsu._


We have walked over the high grass under the wet trees To the gravel path beside the lake, we two. A noise of light-stepping shadows follows now From the dark green mist in which we waded.

Six geese drop one by one into the shivering lake; They say “Peeng” and then after a long time, “Peeng,” Swimming out softly to the moon.

Three of the balancing dancing geese are dim and black, And three are white and clear because of the moon; In what explanatory dawn will our souls
Be seen to be the same?

_From the Chinese of J. Wing (nineteenth century)._


The jade staircase is bright with dew.

Slowly, this long night, the queen climbs, Letting her gauze stockings and her elaborate robe Drag in the shining water.

Dazed with the light,
She lowers the crystal blind
Before the door of the pavilion.

It leaps down like a waterfall in sunlight.

While the tiny clashing dies down,
Sad and long dreaming,
She watches between the fragments of jade light The shining of the autumn moon.

_From the Chinese of Li Po (705-762)._


The young lady shows like a thing of light In the shadowy deeps of a fair window
Grown round with flowers.

She is naked and leans forward, and her flesh like frost Gathers the light beyond the stone brim.

Only the hair made ready for the day
Suggests the charm of modern clothing.

Her blond eyebrows are the shape of very young moons.

The shower’s bright water overflows
In a pure rain.

She lifts one arm into an urgent line, Cooling her rose fingers
On the grey metal of the spray.

If I could choose my service, I would be the shower Dashing over her in the sunlight.

_From the Chinese of J.S. Ling (1901)._


One moment I place your two bright pearls against my robe, And the red silk mirrors a rose in each.

Why did I not meet you before I married?