Arabia by John Meade Falkner

Hogarth’s Penetration of Arabia

Who are these from the strange, ineffable places,
From the Topaze Mountain and Desert of Doubt,
With the glow of the Yemen full on their faces,
And a breath from the spices of Hadramaut?

Travel-apprentices, travel-indenturers,
Young men, old men, black hair, white,
Names to conjure with, wild adventurers,
From the noonday furnace and purple night.

Burckhardt, Halévy, Niebuhr, Slater,
Seventeenth, eighteenth-century bays,
Seetzen, Sadleir, Struys, and later
Down to the long Victorian days.

A thousand miles at the back of Aden,
There they had time to think of things;
In the outer silence and burnt air laden
With the shadow of death and a vulture’s wings.

There they remembered the last house in Samna,
Last of the plane-trees, last shepherd and flock,
Prayed for the heavens to rain down manna,
Prayed for a Moses to strike the rock.

Famine and fever flagged their forces
Till they died in a dream of ice and fruit,
In the long-forgotten watercourses
By the edge of Queen Zobeide’s route.

They have left the hope of the green oases,
The fear of the bleaching bones and the pest,
They have found the more ineffable places—
Allah has given them rest.

From: Larkin, Philip (ed.), The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse, 1973, Clarendon Press: Oxford, pp. 43-44.

Date: 1925

By: John Meade Falkner (1858-1932)

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