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John Milton Hayes

(1884-1940 / Lancashire, England)

The Dream Ring of the Desert


THE MERCHANT Abu Khan shunned the customs of his race,
And sought the cultured wisdom of the West.
His daughter fair Leola had the desert’s supple grace,
With an English education of the best.
The suitors for her hand were as grains of desert sand
But the merchant bade the Arab swarm begone:
And he swore a mighty oath, she should only make troth
With an Englishman an Englishman or none!

The chieftain Ben Kamir, tho’ rejected, stayed to plead,
But Abu Khan replied, ‘Thy suit is vain.
I cast aside my kinsmen and I scorn the prophet’s creed;
So get thee to thy tents, across the plain.’

‘Enough,’ the Chief replied, ‘Thine eyes are blind with pride,
But Allah hears my prayers and guides my star,
With patience I shall wait till I am called by Fate,
And then I shall return to Akabar.’

The right man came at last in the month of Ramadhan,
An Englishman who learned to love her soon.
His suit was proudly sanctioned by the merchant Abu Khan,
And the wedding was to be at the full moon.

The merchant, in his pride, thought the news too good to hide,
And it circled round the desert near and far:
Circled round and caught the ear of the chieftain Ben Kamir,
And he turned his camel’s head to Akabar.

The chieftain wore his robe of green, an emblem of his rank.
And many bowed in honour of the man.
But heedless of their reverence he beat his camel’s flank,
And rode on to the house of Abu Khan.

The merchant, from his roof, saw the chief, but held aloof
A suitor twice dismissed was one to shun
But Kamir declared his ride was in homage to the bride,
And the merchant’s fears vanished one by one.

‘Leola,’ said the Arab, as she came to greet the guests
‘Thy praises are beyond what I can sing,
But let this little token bring the fortune of the best.’
And he placed upon her hand an opal ring.

‘’Tis more than what it seems, and its spell shall gild thy dreams,
For ’twas carried by Mahomet, Allah’s Priest.’
Then the chieftain said goodbye, and she watched him with a sigh,
As he rode across the desert to the East.

Leola dreamt a dream most strange, and nightly ’twas the same,
And love within her breast began to peep.
A voice from out the burning sandhills called and called her name,
And waking she would long again for sleep.

The wedding eve’s bright moon saw her rise as from a swoon,
With the dream voice ringing still within her ear,
Saw her glide toward the sand, where the stately palmtrees stand,
To the desert, and the arms of Ben Kamir.

The chieftain pointed Eastward to the plains he loved so well,
And told her of his plans for hasty flight.
The dream-ring on her finger held her soul within its spell.
And they rode across the desert thro’ the night.

On the morrow, lined with care, at the Maghrib sunset prayer,
The merchant joined the worshippers unshod.
And he cried with spirit broken, as the Mueddin’s chant was spoken,
‘Mahomet is the prophet, God is God.’

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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