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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Central and Southern Africa: Guinea

The King of Congo and His Hundred Wives

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

Translated by J. C. Mangan

FILL up with bright palm-wine, unto the rim fill up

The cloven ostrich-eggshell cup,

And don your shells and cowries, ye sultanas!

O, choose your gayest, gorgeousest array,

As on the brilliant Beiram holiday

That opes the doors of your Zenaunas!

Come! never sit a-trembling on your silk deewaums!

What fear ye? To your feet, ye timid fawns!

See here your zones embossed with gems and amber!

See here the firebright beads of coral for your necks!

In such a festal time each young sultana decks

Herself as for the nuptial-chamber.

Rejoice!—your lord, your king, comes home again!

His enemies lie slaughtered on the desert-plain.

Rejoice!—it cost you tears of blood to sever

From one you loved so well,—but now your griefs are o’er:

Sing! dance! He leaves his land, his house, no more,—

Henceforward he is yours forever!

Triumphant he returns: naught seeks he now; his hand

No more need hurl the javelin: sea and sand and land

Are his, far as the Zaire’s blue billows wander;

Henceforth he bids farewell to spear and battle-horse,

And calls you to his couch,—a cold one, for his corse

Lies on the copper buckler yonder!

Nay, fill not thus the harem with your shrieks!

’T is he! Behold his cloak, striped, quagga-like, with bloody streaks!

’T is he! albeit his eyes lie glazed forever under

Their lids, albeit his blood no more shall dance along

In rapture to the music of the tomtom-gong,

Or headlong war-steed’s hoof of thunder!

Yes! the Great Buffalo sleeps! His mightiest victory was his last.

His warriors howl in vain,—his necromancers gaze aghast,—

Fetish, nor magic wand, nor amulet of darnel,

Can charm back life to the clay-cold heart and limb.

He sleeps, and you, his women, sleep with him!

You share the dark pomps of his charnel!

Even now the headsman whets his axe to slay you at the funeral-feast.

Courage! a glorious fate is yours! Through Afric and the East

Your fame shall be immortal! Kordofán and Yemen

With stories of your lord’s exploits and your devotedness shall ring,

And future ages rear skull-obelisks to the King

Of Congo and his Hundred Women!