Burns, James Drummond, 1823-1864 : THE PRINCE AND THE WIDOW. [from The Vision of Prophecy (1858)]
1 Do some justice unto Islam, though the prophet you disown,
2 There are truths even in the Koran,---fossils bedded in the stone.
3 In the old Arabian legends there may still be clearly seen
4 Praise of virtue, sense of honour, often delicate and keen.
5 Many a Cadi has unravelled, with a subtile glance of wit,
6 Some entangled skein of falsehood which a perjurer had knit;
7 Often has the Moollah pleaded for the weak against the strong,---
8 The Averter of the evil, or Avenger of the wrong;
9 There has often been true dealing in the Oriental gate,
10 Which some ermined Christian judges might do well to imitate;
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11 There the balance has been steady, there the sword has had an edge.
12 And the Vizier feared the Dervish who sate begging by his hedge.
13 When the Cross in Spain was broken, and the Moors her sceptre swayed,
14 In his royal town a Caliph a fair stately palace made;
15 Pleasant was the wide-arched mansion, with its quaintly-figured walls,
16 And the silver-sprinkling fountains in its marble-paven halls,
17 Arabesques filled every chamber with a wild fantastic grace,
18 And the Koran's golden ciphers made a mystery of the place;
19 Rich the tracery of each lattice, carven sharp with master-craft,
20 And the mouldings wrought like lace-work on each tall and slender shaft.
21 Sudden glimpses of trees waving, with a freshness to the eye,
22 Came through pillared courts all open to the soft blue summer sky;
23 And around it were sweet gardens, sunny clumps of scented bloom,
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24 Dusky umbrage, shadowing alleys with a cool delicious gloom.
25 Near the palace a poor Widow had a small paternal field,
26 Where the Prince a fair pavilion for his pleasure wished to build,---
27 Only this one charm was wanting to complete all to his heart,---
28 But no bribe could tempt the widow with her little plot to part.
29 Wearied with his vain entreaties, he at last put forth his hand,
30 And raised up his dome of pleasure on the violated land.
31 Weak and friendless was the widow,---her oppressor proud and strong,---
32 But she went before the Cadi, and bore witness to the wrong.
33 On a day the Prince was walking in the garden planted there,
34 With a joyous heart beholding his pavilion shining fair,
35 The old Cadi then came kneeling, and implored, in lowly mood,
36 Leave to fill a sack beside him from the soil on which they stood.
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37 It was granted, and he filled it; then the old man, turning round,
38 Asked the Caliph to assist him while he raised it from the ground.
39 Smiled the Prince at the entreaty, thinking all was done in mirth,
40 Raised the sack, but dropped full quickly his strange burden to the earth.
41 "It is heavy," said the Cadi, "and thou canst not bear the weight;
42 Yet, 'tis but a little portion of the widow's whole estate.
43 "Side by side with that poor widow must thou stand, at Allah's bar;
44 "And in that majestic presence, prince and beggar equal are.
45 "And if thou, O Prince! art burdened with a load of earth so small,
46 "What wilt thou then answer Allah, when he charges thee with all?"
47 The sharp arrow reached his conscience, and atoning for his guilt,
48 Like a king, he gave the widow the pavilion he had built.