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Recollections of the Arabian Nights

         
      When the breeze of a joyful dawn blew free
      In the silken sail of infancy,
      The tide of time flow’d back with me,
         The forward-flowing tide of time;
      And many a sheeny summer-morn,
      Adown the Tigris I was borne,
      By Bagdat’s shrines of fretted gold,
      High-walled gardens green and old;
      True Mussulman was I and sworn,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Anight my shallop, rustling thro’
      The low and bloomed foliage, drove
      The fragrant, glistening deeps, and clove
      The citron-shadows in the blue:
      By garden porches on the brim,
      The costly doors flung open wide,
      Gold glittering thro’ lamplight dim,
      And broider’d sofas on each side:
         In sooth it was a goodly time,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Often, where clear-stemm’d platans guard
      The outlet, did I turn away
      The boat-head down a broad canal
      From the main river sluiced, where all
      The sloping of the moon-lit sward
      Was damask-work, and deep inlay
      Of braided blooms unmown, which crept
      Adown to where the water slept.
         A goodly place, a goodly time,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      A motion from the river won
      Ridged the smooth level, bearing on
      My shallop thro’ the star-strown calm,
      Until another night in night
      I enter’d, from the clearer light,
      Imbower’d vaults of pillar’d palm,
      Imprisoning sweets, which, as they clomb
      Heavenward, were stay’d beneath the dome
         Of hollow boughs.–A goodly time,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Still onward; and the clear canal
      Is rounded to as clear a lake.
      From the green rivage many a fall
      Of diamond rillets musical,
      Thro’ little crystal arches low
      Down from the central fountain’s flow
      Fall’n silver-chiming, seemed to shake
      The sparkling flints beneath the prow.
         A goodly place, a goodly time,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Above thro’ many a bowery turn
      A walk with vary-colour’d shells
      Wander’d engrain’d. On either side
      All round about the fragrant marge
      From fluted vase, and brazen urn
      In order, eastern flowers large,
      Some dropping low their crimson bells
      Half-closed, and others studded wide
         With disks and tiars, fed the time
         With odour in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Far off, and where the lemon grove
      In closest coverture upsprung,
      The living airs of middle night
      Died round the bulbul as he sung;
      Not he: but something which possess’d
      The darkness of the world, delight,
      Life, anguish, death, immortal love,
      Ceasing not, mingled, unrepress’d,
         Apart from place, withholding time,
         But flattering the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Black the garden-bowers and grots
      Slumber’d: the solemn palms were ranged
      Above, unwoo’d of summer wind:
      A sudden splendour from behind
      Flush’d all the leaves with rich gold-green,
      And, flowing rapidly between
      Their interspaces, counterchanged
      The level lake with diamond-plots
         Of dark and bright. A lovely time,
         For it was in the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Dark-blue the deep sphere overhead,
      Distinct with vivid stars inlaid,
      Grew darker from that under-flame:
      So, leaping lightly from the boat,
      With silver anchor left afloat,
      In marvel whence that glory came
      Upon me, as in sleep I sank
      In cool soft turf upon the bank,
         Entranced with that place and time,
         So worthy of the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Thence thro’ the garden I was drawn–
      A realm of pleasance, many a mound,
      And many a shadow-chequer’d lawn
      Full of the city’s stilly sound,
      And deep myrrh-thickets blowing round
      The stately cedar, tamarisks,
      Thick rosaries of scented thorn,
      Tall orient shrubs, and obelisks
         Graven with emblems of the time,
         In honour of the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      With dazed vision unawares
      From the long alley’s latticed shade
      Emerged, I came upon the great
      Pavilion of the Caliphat.
      Right to the carven cedarn doors,
      Flung inward over spangled floors,
      Broad-based flights of marble stairs
      Ran up with golden balustrade,
         After the fashion of the time,
         And humour of the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      The fourscore windows all alight
      As with the quintessence of flame,
      A million tapers flaring bright
      From twisted silvers look’d to shame
      The hollow-vaulted dark, and stream’d
      Upon the mooned domes aloof
      In inmost Bagdat, till there seem’d
      Hundreds of crescents on the roof
         Of night new-risen, that marvellous time
         To celebrate the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Then stole I up, and trancedly
      Gazed on the Persian girl alone,
      Serene with argent-lidded eyes
      Amorous, and lashes like to rays
      Of darkness, and a brow of pearl
      Tressed with redolent ebony,
      In many a dark delicious curl,
      Flowing beneath her rose-hued zone;
         The sweetest lady of the time,
         Well worthy of the golden prime
           Of good Haroun Alraschid.

       
      Six columns, three on either side,
      Pure silver, underpropt a rich
      Throne of the massive ore, from which
      Down-droop'd, in many a floating fold,
      Engarlanded and diaper’d
      With inwrought flowers, a cloth of gold.
      Thereon, his deep eye laughter-stirr’d
      With merriment of kingly pride,
         Sole star of all that place and time,
         I saw him–in his golden prime,
           THE GOOD HAROUN ALRASCHID.
       


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