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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832–1914)

The Bedouin-Child

[Among the Bedouins, a father in enumerating his children never counts his daughters, for a daughter is considered a disgrace.]

ILYÀS the prophet, lingering ’neath the moon,

Heard from a tent a child’s heart-withering wail,

Mixt with the message of the nightingale,

And entering, found, sunk in mysterious swoon,

A little maiden dreaming there alone.

She babbled of her father sitting pale

’Neath wings of Death—’mid sights of sorrow and bale,

And pleaded for his life in piteous tone.

“Poor child, plead on,” the succoring prophet saith,

While she, with eager lips, like one who tries

To kiss a dream, stretches her arms and cries

To heaven for help,—“Plead on: such pure love-breath

Reaching the Throne, might stay the wings of Death,

That in the desert fan thy father’s eyes.”

The drouth-slain camels lie on every hand;

Seven sons await the morning vultures’ claws;

’Mid empty water-skins and camel-maws

The father sits, the last of all the band.

He mutters, drowsing o’er the moonlit sand,

“Sleep fans my brow; Sleep makes us all pashas:

Or if the wings are Death’s, why, Azreel draws

A childless father from an empty land.”

“Nay,” saith a Voice, “the wind of Azreel’s wings

A child’s sweet breath hath stilled; so God decrees;”—

A camel’s bell comes tinkling on the breeze,

Filling the Bedouin’s brain with bubble of springs

And scent of flowers and shadow of wavering trees,

Where, from a tent, a little maiden sings.