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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to Arabia

The Arab to the Palm

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

NEXT to thee, O fair gazelle,

O Beddowee girl, beloved so well;

Next to the fearless Nedjidee,

Whose fleetness shall bear me again to thee;

Next to ye both I love the Palm,

With his leaves of beauty, his fruit of balm;

Next to ye both I love the Tree

Whose fluttering shadow wraps us three

With love, and silence, and mystery!

Our tribe is many, our poets vie

With any under the Arab sky;

Yet none can sing of the Palm but I.

The marble minarets that begem

Cairo’s citadel-diadem

Are not so light as his slender stem.

He lifts his leaves in the sunbeam’s glance

As the Almehs lift their arms in dance,—

A slumberous motion, a passionate sign,

That works in the cells of the blood like wine.

Full of passion and sorrow is he,

Dreaming where the beloved may be.

And when the warm south-winds arise,

He breathes his longing in fervid sighs,—

Quickening odors, kisses of balm,

That drop in the lap of his chosen palm.

The sun may flame and the sands may stir,

But the breath of his passion reaches her.

O Tree of Love, by that love of thine,

Teach me how I shall soften mine!

Give me the secret of the sun,

Whereby the wooed is ever won!

If I were a king, O stately Tree,

A likeness, glorious as might be,

In the court of my palace I ’d build for thee!

With a shaft of silver, burnished bright,

And leaves of beryl and malachite;

With spikes of golden bloom ablaze,

And fruits of topaz and chrysoprase:

And there the poets, in thy praise,

Should night and morning frame new lays,—

New measures sung to tunes divine;

But none, O Palm, should equal mine!