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The Golden Road to Samarkand

I heard about this poem play today by James Elroy Flecker and was delighted to read this. It strikes a chord with me.


SCENE II
At the Gate of the Moon, Bagdad. Blazing moonlight. MERCHANTS, CAMEL-DRIVERS and their beasts, PILGRIMS, JEWS, WOMEN, all manner of people. By the barred gate stands the WATCHMAN with a great key. Among the pilgrims, HASSAN and ISHAK in the robes of pilgrims.

THE MERCHANTS
(Together)
Away, for we are ready to a man!
Our camels sniff the evening and are glad.
Lead on, O Master of the Caravan,
Lead on the Merchant-Princes of Bagdad.

THE CHIEF DRAPER
Have me not Indian carpets dark as wine,
Turbans and sashes, gowns and bows and veils,
And broideries of intricate design,
And printed hangings in enormous bales?

THE CHIEF GROCER
We have rose-candy, we have spikenard,
Mastic and terebinth and oil and spice,
And such sweet jams meticulously jarred
As God’s Own Prophet eats in Paradise.

THE PRINCIPAL JEWS:
And we have manuscripts in peacock styles
By Ali of Damascus: we have swords
Engraved with storks and apes and crocodiles,
And heavy beaten necklaces for lords.

THE MASTER OF THE CARAVAN
But you are nothing but a lot of Jews

PRINCIPAL JEW
Sir, even dogs have daylight, and we pay.

MASTER OF THE CARAVAN
But who are ye in rags and rotten shoes,
You dirty-bearded, blocking up the way?

ISHAK
We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further; it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,

White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lies a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

THE CHIEF MERCHANTS
We gnaw the nail of hurry. Master, away!

ONE OF THE WOMEN
O turn your eyes to where your children stand.
Is not Bagdad the beautiful? O, stay!

MERCHANTS
(In chorus)
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

AN OLD MAN
Have you not girls and garlands in your homes?
Eunuchs and Syrian boys at your command?
Seek not excess: God hateth him who roams!

MERCHANTS
(In chorus)
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

HASSAN
Sweet to ride forth at evening from the wells
When shadows pass gigantic on the sand,
And softly through the silence beat the bells
Along the Golden Road to Samarkand.

ISHAK
We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known,
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

MASTER OF THE CARAVAN
Open the gate, O watchman of the night!

THE WATCHMAN
Ho, travellers, I open. For what land
Leave you the dim-moon city of delight?

MERCHANTS
(With a shout)
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand!

(The CARAVAN passes through the gate.)

WATCHMAN
(Consoling the women)
What would ye, ladies? It was ever thus.
Men are unwise and curiously planned.

A WOMAN
They have their dreams, and do not think of us.

(The WATCHMAN closes the gate.)

VOICES OF THE CARAVAN
(In the distance singing)
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.
CURTAIN


 

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