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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Sir Edwin Arnold 1832–1904

The Musmee


THE MUSMEE has brown velvet eyes

Curtain’d with satin, sleepily;

You wonder if those lids would rise

The newest, strangest sight to see;

But when she chatters, laughs, or plays

Kôto, biwa, or samisen,

No jewel gleams with brighter rays

Than flash from those dark lashes then.

The Musmee has a small brown face,

“Musk-melon seed” its perfect shape:

Jetty arch’d eyebrows; nose to grace

The rosy mouth beneath; a nape,

And neck, and chin, and smooth, soft cheeks

Carv’d out of sunburn’d ivory,

With teeth, which, when she smiles or speaks,

Pearl merchants might come leagues to see!

The Musmee’s hair could teach the night

How to grow dark, the raven’s wing

How to seem ebon! Grand the sight

When, in rich masses, towering,

She builds each high black-marble coil,

And binds the gold and scarlet in;

And thrusts, triumphant, through the toil

The Kanzâshi, her jewell’d pin.

The Musmee has wee, faultless feet,

With snow-white tabi trimly deck’d,

Which patter down the city street

In short steps, slow and circumspect;

A velvet string between her toes

Holds to its place th’ unwilling shoe:

Pretty and pigeonlike she goes,

And on her head a hood of blue.

The Musmee wears a wondrous dress—

Kimono, obi, imoji

A rosebush in Spring loveliness

Is not more color-glad to see!

Her girdle holds her silver pipe,

And heavy swing her long silk sleeves

With cakes, love-letters, mikan ripe,

Small change, musk-bag, and writing-leaves.

The Musmee’s heart is slow to grief,

And quick to pleasure, dance, and song;

The Musmee’s pocket-handkerchief

A square of paper! All day long

Gentle, and sweet, and debonair

Is, rich or poor, this Asian lass:

Heaven have her in its tender care,

O medetó gozarimas!