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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Khan’s Devil

THE KHAN came from Bokhara town

To Hamza, santon of renown.

“My head is sick, my hands are weak;

Thy help, O holy man, I seek.”

In silence marking for a space

The Khan’s red eyes and purple face,

Thick voice, and loose, uncertain tread,

“Thou hast a devil!” Hamza said.

“Allah forbid!” exclaimed the Khan.

“Rid me of him at once, O man!”

“Nay,” Hamza said, “no spell of mine

Can slay that cursed thing of thine.

“Leave feast and wine, go forth and drink

Water of healing on the brink

“Where clear and cold from mountain snows,

The Nahr el Zeben downward flows.

“Six moons remain, then come to me;

May Allah’s pity go with thee!”

Awestruck, from feast and wine the Khan

Went forth where Nahr el Zeben ran.

Roots were his food, the desert dust

His bed, the water quenched his thirst;

And when the sixth moon’s scimetar

Curved sharp above the evening star,

He sought again the santon’s door,

Not weak and trembling as before,

But strong of limb and clear of brain;

“Behold,” he said, “the fiend is slain.”

“Nay,” Hamza answered, “starved and drowned,

The curst one lies in death-like swound.

“But evil breaks the strongest gyves,

And jins like him have charmëd lives.

“One beaker of the juice of grape

May call him up in living shape.

“When the red wine of Badakshan

Sparkles for thee, beware, O Khan!

“With water quench the fire within,

And drown each day thy devilkin!”

Thenceforth the great Khan shunned the cup

As Shitan’s own, though offered up,

With laughing eyes and jewelled hands,

By Yarkand’s maids and Samarcand’s.

And, in the lofty vestibule

Of the medress of Kaush Kodul,

The students of the holy law

A golden-lettered tablet saw,

With these words, by a cunning hand,

Graved on it at the Khan’s command:

“In Allah’s name, to him who hath

A devil, Khan el Hamed saith,

“Wisely our Prophet cursed the vine:

The fiend that loves the breath of wine

“No prayer can slay, no marabout

Nor Meccan dervis can drive out.

“I, Khan el Hamed, know the charm

That robs him of his power to harm.

“Drown him, O Islam’s child! the spell

To save thee lies in tank and well!”