Story By Lalla-Ji, The Priest Poem by Laurence Hope

Story By Lalla-Ji, The Priest

He loved the Plant with a keen delight,
A passionate fervour, strange to see,
Tended it ardently, day and night,
Yet never a flower lit up the tree.

The leaves were succulent, thick, and green,
And, sessile, out of the snakelike stem
Rose spine-like fingers, alert and keen,
To catch at aught that molested them.

But though they nurtured it day and night,
With love and labour, the child and he
Were never granted the longed-for sight
Of a flower crowning the twisted tree.

Until one evening a wayworn Priest
Stopped for the night in the Temple shade
And shared the fare of their simple feast
Under the vines and the jasmin laid.

He, later, wandering round the flowers
Paused awhile by the blossomless tree.
The man said, 'May it be fault of ours,
That never its buds my eyes may see?

'Aslip it came from the further East
Many a sunlit summer ago.'
'It grows in our Jungles,' said the Priest,
'Men see it rarely; but this I know,

'The Jungle people worship it; say
They bury a child around its roots--
Bury it living:--the only way
To crimson glory of flowers and fruits.'

He spoke in whispers; his furtive glance
Probing the depths of the garden shade.
The man came closer, with eyes askance,
The child beside them shivered, afraid.

A cold wind drifted about the three,
Jarring the spines with a hungry sound,
The spines that grew on the snakelike tree
And guarded its roots beneath the ground.

. . . . . .

After the fall of the summer rain
The plant was glorious, redly gay,
Blood-red with blossom. Never again
Men saw the child in the Temple play.

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