The Sultan's Palace - Poem by Alan Seeger
My spirit only lived to look on Beauty's face,
As only when they clasp the arms seem served aright;
As in their flesh inheres the impulse to embrace,
To gaze on Loveliness was my soul's appetite.
I have roamed far in search; white road and plunging bow
Were keys in the blue doors where my desire was set;
Obedient to their lure, my lips and laughing brow
The hill-showers and the spray of many seas have wet.
Hot are enamored hands, the fragrant zone unbound,
To leave no dear delight unfelt, unfondled o'er,
The will possessed my heart to girdle Earth around
With their insatiate need to wonder and adore.
The flowers in the fields, the surf upon the sands,
The sunset and the clouds it turned to blood and wine,
Were shreds of the thin veil behind whose beaded strands
A radiant visage rose, serene, august, divine.
A noise of summer wind astir in starlit trees,
A song where sensual love's delirium rose and fell,
Were rites that moved my soul more than the devotee's
When from the blazing choir rings out the altar bell.
I woke amid the pomp of a proud palace; writ
In tinted arabesque on walls that gems o'erlay,
The names of caliphs were who once held court in it,
Their baths and bowers were mine to dwell in for a day.
Their robes and rings were mine to draw from shimmering trays---
Brocades and broidered silks, topaz and tourmaline--
Their turban-cloths to wind in proud capricious ways,
And fasten plumes and pearls and pendent sapphires in.
I rose; far music drew my steps in fond pursuit
Down tessellated floors and towering peristyles:
Through groves of colonnades fair lamps were blushing fruit,
On seas of green mosaic soft rugs were flowery isles.
And there were verdurous courts that scalloped arches wreathed,
Where fountains plashed in bowls of lapis lazuli.
Through enigmatic doors voluptuous accents breathed,
And having Youth I had their Open Sesame.
I paused where shadowy walls were hung with cloths of gold,
And tinted twilight streamed through storied panes above.
In lamplit alcoves deep as flowers when they unfold
Soft cushions called to rest and fragrant fumes to love.
I hungered; at my hand delicious dainties teemed---
Fair pyramids of fruit; pastry in sugared piles.
I thirsted; in cool cups inviting vintage beamed---
Sweet syrups from the South; brown muscat from the isles.
I yearned for passionate Love; faint gauzes fell away.
Pillowed in rosy light I found my heart's desire.
Over the silks and down her florid beauty lay,
As over orient clouds the sunset's coral fire.
Joys that had smiled afar, a visionary form,
Behind the ranges hid, remote and rainbow-dyed,
Drew near unto my heart, a wonder soft and warm,
To touch, to stroke, to clasp, to sleep and wake beside.
Joy, that where summer seas and hot horizons shone
Had been the outspread arms I gave my youth to seek,
Drew near; awhile its pulse strove sweetly with my own,
Awhile I felt its breath astir upon my cheek.
I was so happy there; so fleeting was my stay,
What wonder if, assailed with vistas so divine,
I only lived to search and sample them the day
When between dawn and dusk the sultan's courts were mine !
Speak not of other worlds of happiness to be,
As though in any fond imaginary sphere
Lay more to tempt man's soul to immortality
Than ripens for his bliss abundant now and here!
Flowerlike I hope to die as flowerlike was my birth.
Rooted in Nature's just benignant law like them,
I want no better joys than those that from green Earth
My spirit's blossom drew through the sweet body's stem.
I see no dread in death, no horror to abhor.
I never thought it else than but to cease to dwell
Spectator, and resolve most naturally once more
Into the dearly loved eternal spectacle.
Unto the fields and flowers this flesh I found so fair
I yield; do you, dear friend, over your rose-crowned wine,
Murmur my name some day as though my lips were there,
And frame your mouth as though its blushing kiss were mine.
Yea, where the banquet-hall is brilliant with young men,
You whose bright youth it might have thrilled my breast to know,
Drink . . . and perhaps my lips, insatiate even then
Of lips to hang upon, may find their loved ones so.
Unto the flush of dawn and evening I commend
This immaterial self and flamelike part of me,---
Unto the azure haze that hangs at the world's end,
The sunshine on the hills, the starlight on the sea,---
Unto angelic Earth, whereof the lives of those
Who love and dream great dreams and deeply feel may be
The elemental cells and nervules that compose
Its divine consciousness and joy and harmony.
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