ZIRA: IN CAPTIVITY
translated into English by: Laurence Hope (1865-1904)
- OVE me a little, Lord, or let me go,
- I am so weary walking to and fro
- Through all your lonely halls that were so sweet
- Did they but echo to your coming feet.
- When by the flowered scrolls of lace-like stone
- Our women's windows -- I am left alone,
- Across the yellow Desert, looking forth,
- I see the purple hills towards the north.
- Behind those jagged Mountains' lilac crest
- Once lay the captive bird's small rifled nest.
- There was my brother slain, my sister bound;
- His blood, her tears, drunk by the thirsty ground.
- Then, while the burning village smoked on high,
- And desecrated all the peaceful sky,
- They took us captive, us, born frank and free,
- On fleet, strong camels through the sandy sea.
- Yet, when we rested, night-times, on the sand
- By the rare waters of this weary land,
- Our captors, ere the camp was wrapped in sleep,
- Talked, and I listened, and forgot to weep.
- "Is he not brave and fair?" they asked, "our King,
- Slender as one tall palm-tree by a spring;
- Erect, serene, with gravely brilliant eyes,
- As deeply dark as are those desert skies.
- "Truly no bitter fate," they said, and smiled,
- "Awaits the beauty of this captured child!"
- Then something in my heart began to sing,
- And secretly I longed to see the King.
- Sometimes the other maidens sat in tears,
- Sometimes, consoled, they jested at their fears,
- Musing what lovers Time to them would bring;
- But I was silent, thinking of the King.
- Till, when the weary endless sands were passed,
- When, far to south, the city rose at last,
- All speech forsook me and my eyelids fell,
- Since I already loved my Lord so well.
- Then the division: some were sent away
- To merchants in the city; some, they say,
- To summer palaces, beyond the walls.
- But me they took straight to the Sultan's halls.
- Every morning I would wake and say
- "Ah, sisters, shall I see our Lord to-day?"
- The women robed me, perfumed me, and smiled;
- "When were his feet unfleet to pleasure, child?"
- And tales they told me of his deeds in war,
- Of how his name was reverenced afar;
- And, crouching closer in the lamp's faint glow,
- They told me of his beauty, speaking low.
- What need, what need? the women wasted art;
- I loved you with every fibre of my heart
- Already. My God! when did I not love you,
- In life, in death, when shall I not love you?
- You never seek me. All day long I lie
- Watching the changes of the far-off sky
- Behind the lattice-work of carven stone.
- And all night long, alas! I lie alone.
- But you come never. Ah, my Lord the King,
- How can you find it well to do this thing?
- Come once, come only: sometimes, as I lie,
- I doubt if I shall see you first, or die.
- Ah, could I hear your footsteps at the door
- Hallow the lintel and caress the floor,
- Then I might drink your beauty, satisfied,
- Die of delight, ere you could reach my side.
- Alas, you come not, Lord: life's flame burns low,
- Faint for a loveliness it may not know,
- Faint for your face, Oh, come -- come soon to me --
- Lest, though you should not, Death should, set me free!
POEMS BY LAURENCE HOPE
|"Zira: in Captivity" is reprinted from India's Love Lyrics. Trans. Laurence Hope. New York: John Lane Co., 1906.