John Payne.

Hamid the Luckless, and other tales in verse online

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1. The Masque of Shadows and other Poems . . 1870.

2. Intaglios: Sonnets 1871,

3. Songs of Life and Death 1872.

4. Lautrec: a Poem 1878.

5. New Poems 1880,

(N.B. The above are out of print; but their
contents are included in N°. 6).

6. Collected Poems (1862 — 1902). 2 Vols. . . . 1902.

7. Vigil and Vision. New Sonnets 1903-

8. Songs of Consolation. New Lyrics 1904.

9. Hamid the Luckless and other Tales in Verse. 1904.

10. Poems of Youth. (1862 — 1867). In the Press.

11. Dream- Voices. New Poems, (In preparation).


1. The Poems of Francois Villon 1878.

2. The Book of the Thousand Nights and one

Night. Nine Vols 1882—4.

3. Tales from the Arabic. Three Vols 1884.

4. Alaeddin and Zein ul Asnam ...... 1885.

5. The Decameron of Boccaccio. Three Vols. . 1886.

6. The Novels of Matteo Bandello. Six Vols. . . 1890.

7. The Quatrains of Omar Kheyyam 1898.

8. The Poems of Hafiz. Three Vols 1901.

9. A Gallic Garland; Metrical Translations from

the French, old and new. (In preparation).

Prospectuses and particulars of the Villon Society's issues
can be obtained of the Hon. Secretary, Alfred Forman, Esq.,
49 Comeragh Road, West Kensington, W., to whom all
communications should be addressed.





I. Hamid the Luckless i

II. The Apples of Paradise 21

III. The Blacksmith who could handle fire without hurt . 35

IV. The Golden Cup 43

V. By the Token of the Bean 51

VI. The Two Cakes of Bread 59

VII. The Hermit's Heritage 65

VIII. The Mad Lover 71


JAAFER, whose mci/wry, 'mid the sea of slaughters \

Of Orient story, 'gainst the bloodstained sky I

Upstanding stainless, as a lily high , \

And radiant, rises from, the turbid ivaters \
Of times with evil filled and evil-fautors, — ' I

Thou, to be numbered with their names, that die \

Not ever, but the tooth of Time defy, \

Most worth that art of Syria's sons and daughters, — \

Memorial, these of right to thee belong; '\

Thy name upon their front for greater grace ,

/ grave, that didst nor saidest aught of base, ,
TJmie, whose fair life a thousand years erewhen

Failed at the tyrant's mandate, yet in song '

Undyitig dures and in the minds of mefi. i



ONCE, in a city of Mazenderan,
There lived and throve a passing wealthy man,
Whose lands and houses, chattels and array,
One scarce might tell in half a summer's day.
One child he had, a son of tender age,
Hamid by name; and when upon Life's page
The term its stern sign-manual had scored
For him, unto the mercy of his Lord
Departing, in the prime of manlihood,
He to his heir left all his gear and good.
The youth, thus orphaned of a father's care,
Betook himself to spending without spare,
Feasting and banqueting both night and day
And hearkening to song and ghittern-play.
Whilst over him the golden-sandalled hours
Fled ever fleetlier, wreathed with floating flowers
And measured by the feet of dancing girls;
For nothing upon earth past ebon curls
And ruby lips and breasts of living snow.
Past flashing teeth, like camomiles arow.
And lamping eyes, with love and wine agleam.
He prized; nor yet in heaven, him did seem.
Was any greater good or more divine
Than, to the pulse of pipe and viol, wine
To quaff and toy with lovelings at his ease.
Beneath the blossoming pomegranate-trees.
Nor did he leave to lavish on this wise.
Till all the gold and good and merchandise,

Which from his father he had heired, were spent

And nought but emptiness, for all content,

Abode in chest and coffer, hall and store.

Yet not withal his wastry he gave o'er,

But sold his slaves, his houses and his lands

And whatsoever else unto his hands

Had come, and cast the price to every wind,

As if in haste him quit thereof to find.

So, in short season, all he did possess

He spent in chambering and wantonness

And being thus reduced to beggary,

With his sad body, for a penny fee.

In heat and cold, in rain and sun and dust,

For all who chose to hire him labour must.

On this wise for a year long shift he made
To live, until, as Fate and Fortune bade.
One day, what while beneath a wall, await
For who should hire him for a wage, he sate,
There came to him a man of reverend
And comely mien and vesture, who with "Friend,
"Peace be on thee !" accosted him. Whereto,
His greeting rendered him with answer due,
"O uncle, hast thou known me," asked the youth,
"In days bygone?" And he, "Not so; forsooth,
"I know thee not at all, my son," replied;
"But in thine aspect, not to be denied,
"Despite thy present plight, the trace I see
"Of gentle breeding." "O my lord," quoth he,
"Needs must the canon of fore-ordered Fate
"Accomplished be, and thereanent debate
"Nought skilleth. But, o uncle, bright of face,
"Need or occasion hast thou aught, percase,
"Wherein thou wouldst employ me?" "Ay have I,
"And in a matter eath to satisfy,"

The old man answered him. "What may that be?"

Asked Hamid; and the stranger, "Know, with me

"Ten eJders in one house I have who dwell;

"But we have none to serve us, ill or well.

"Wherefore, if thou wilt service with us take,

"Thou shalt have store, for thy good tendance sake,

"Of food and wede and wage thy heart's content,

"And it may be that God omnipotent

"Thy fortune at our hands shall thee restore."

"With all my heart," quoth Hamid. "One word more,"

The old man said; "by token I on thee

"Have a condition to impose." Quoth he,

"And what is that?" "It is," the sire replied,

"That, o my son, at every time and tide,

"Of what thou seest us do thou straitly keep

"Our secret and that, when thou seest us weep

"And groan and beat our breasts and brows and sigh

"And wail, thou question us on no wise why

"Nor of the cause enquire of our lament."

"'Tis well, my lord; withal I am content,"

The young man made him answer. Whereanent

The other bade him, "Come, my son, with me

"And God Most High His blessing be with thee!"

And Hamid, in his steps, accordingly.

Unto the bath ensuing, was made free

From all the grime of poortith and a new

Fair linen garment after must indue.

Which for his use the stranger sire let bring.

Thereafterward, his new lord following.
Him to a spacious dwellinghouse he brought.
High builded, all with roofs of cedar wrought
And ceiled with gold and lapis-lazuli,
In figures carven wonder-sweet to see,
And walled with alabaster, graven and gilt;

Wherein were sitting-chambers fairly built,

Each unto each opposed, and saloons.

With fountains fresh, that through the heavy noons

Cool music made, and birds that still the praise

Piped of the Maker of the nights and days.

Nor, in the midward of the place, for shade,

Fair gardens did there fail, with colonnade

On colonnade of palms and orange-trees,

In whose lush leafy tops the balmy breeze

Unto the chirp of fountains made refrain.

That in the stillness rose and fell again.

There wood-doves warbled in the mossy dells

And nightingales made moan and wild gazelles

Drank of the runnels whispering through the green.

There was no sound in all that deep serene,

Save the soft plaint of cushats nesting there,

With the low harpings of the scented air

Accordant, from Elburz the abode to cool

That came, and plash of waters in the pool;

But there sweet scents and colours wrought a charm,

The pleasance of the place to hold from harm

And churlish clamour of the world without.

Moreover, all the garden round about.

Arcades of cedar, gold and ivory wrought,

There ran, that to the house its pleasance brought,

Filling each nook and corner of the place

With scent and coolth and song for greater grace.

Thence to a sitting-chamber, sweet to see,

Paved all with jasper and chalcedony

And lined with marbles rare of many a hue.

Whereof the ceiling aped the sheer sky's blue.

With golden starlets fretted all around,

The old man Hamid brought; and there he found

Other ten elders, clad in mourning weeds.

On silken carpets, flowered like the meads

In middle summer, seated face to face,

Five against five, anent their sorry case

That wept and wailed and them bemoaned and beat

Their breasts and on the marble at their feet

Bowed down their brows, as do the sorrowing.

Sore wondered was the young man at the thing
And was in act to ask the cause of it,
When the condition he recalled, to wit.
That he of aught he saw should not enquire.
And held his peace. Then he that did him hire
A heavy coffer thither brought and laid
Open to him with gold galore and said,
"Take, o my son, this coffer, which in hold
"Hath thirty thousand dinars of right gold,
"And for our entertainment and thine own
"Expend thereof, as to the occasion grown
"Shall e'en befit: and look thou faithful be
"Nor that forget concerning secrecy
"Whereof I charged thee". "On my head and eyes".
The young man answered; "be it on this wise".
Then he took up the coffer and as best
He knew himself to serve the folk addrest.
Ordering their state and household as was due
And dealing faithfully with them and true.

So he abode and served them days and nights
And months and years, till one of the ten wights.
Of those, to wit, themselves that mortified
With weeping and lament, fell sick and died;
Whereat his fellows rose to him and laid
Him out and washed and shrouded him and prayed
O'er him and in a hortyard, that behind
The mansion was, him to the earth consigned.
Nor did death leave to take them, one by one,


Till of them all remained no mother's son,
Save only him who did the young man hire.

Thereafter Hamid with that reverend sire
Year after year abode; nor, far and nigh,
Was there a third with them save God Most High;
But there alone they dwelt, until, at last,
Whenas twelve full-told years were come and past.
The elder sickened even unto death;
And when himself he felt to his last breath
Draw nigh, he called the youth to him and said,
"Know, o my son, my comrades all are dead
"And to His mercy have returned again
"To whom both might and majesty pertain:
"And now I also in my turn must die."
Thereat the salt tears sprang in Hamid's eye;
But, mastering himself, with broken speech
And words, uneath that followed each on each,
"O uncle," said he, "these twelve years and more
"Have I thy household ordered and thy store;
"Nor have I failed a moment of my faith,
"But with my whole endeavour harm and scaith
"Still have I fended off from yours and you:
"And now, in recompence for service due,
"Fain would I have thee tell me, ere thou die,
"The reason of thy miscontent and why
"Thou and thy comrades dead your lives did spend
"In tears and lamentation without end."

"My son," the old man answered, "sooth to tell,
"Thou hast our counsel kept and served us well;
"But this whereof thou ask'st concerns thee not:
"So prithee importune me not of what
"I may not do; for I to God most High
"Have vowed that unto none alive would I
"Discover this our case, lest there befall

"Him what befell me and my comrades all;

"Yet, if," continued he, "thou have a mind,

"Reason and prudence casting to the wind, \

"To know the secret of our misery I

"And suffer that which we have suffered, we, |

"Open the door, which in yon nook doth stand," - ,.

And pointed thither with his trembling hand, '

"And thou the cause of that shalt come to wit i

"Thou sawst us do; but, when thou knowest it,

"Thou wilt repent of that which thou hast wrought, I

"Whenas repentance shall avail thee nought.

"So, if thou wilt be ruled by me, give o'er :

"The emprise thou wilt and open not the door." ^

Then was his sickness passing sore on him J

And waxed and worsened, till his eyes grew dim; ]

And so, his term being come to its extent, i

Unto the presence of his Lord he went. j

And Hamid washed and shrouded him and made

A grave behind the house and therein laid

The dead to rest beside his comrades ten,

Sore for him mourning and lamenting; then, i

In that great mansion he abode alone i

And all that was therein had for his own.

Now, of a truth, content should Hamid be, <
For that in plenty and felicity

He sate and had in mast'ry wealth and store, i

Past that which he had squandered theretofore. j

Yet was he troubled and uneasy still, \

The old man's case concerning, and until i

He had his wish thereof, for wandesire, 1

The curious thought burned in him like a fire; i

And still (and most anights upon his bed) |
He pondered that which his dead lord had said
And how he had enjoined him from the door


Forbear; and wish waxed in him more and more
To prove his fortune, hap thereof what might.
At last, as he sat pondering one night,
Himself to seek the door out he bethought
And note at least its fashion. So he sought
Where the dead man had signed and in a nook,
Where none for dark and dust was like to look,
A postern-door he found, deep set in stone,
Barred with four locks of steel and thick o'ergrown
With spiders' webs; but, calling to his mind
The old man's rede and fearful eke to find
Some gruesome thing, himself withal restrained
And went away. Moreover, he refrained
Some seven days' space therefrom and still apart
Held from the door, which all the while his heart
Would have him open and his reason not.

At last, desire the better of him got.
On the eighth day, and "Come what will," said he,
"Needs must I open yonder door and see
"What shall betide me. Nothing can awry
"That which foreordered is of God Most High,
"Neither can anything, for good or ill,
"Accomplished be, excepting of His will."
So saying, he arose nor faltered more.
But broke the locks, and opening the door.
In a strait passage found himself, that wound
Afar into the distance underground;
Nor anywise affcared was, but the way
In darkness followed, unillumed by ray
Of sun or stars, till, after three hours' space,
At last it brought him to an open place,
Whereby, ascending to the daylight, he
Came out upon the shores of a vast sea.
That spread out far and wide beyond eye-reach.

II ;

Then he fared on awhile along the beach,

Unknowing where, in wonder ever new *

At that great water, nought whereof he knew, ,j

And turning evermore from side to side,

Though nought but sky and ocean still he spied.

Till on him, of a sudden, from on high.

There swooped a mighty eagle, that well nigh i

Great as a castle was, and with its claws

Seizing him, as a lion in its paws

Bears off a lamb, soared up into the blue ]

And betwixt earth and heaven with him flew,

Till, to an island coming in mid-sea, i

Where nought but air and water was to see, i

Thereon it cast him down and went its way, j

Leaving him dazed nor knowing what to say I

Or do. However, in a little space.

As he sat pondering his sorry case, .

Well nigh for woe distracted and amaze.

Chancing upon the sea to cast his gaze,

A vessel in mid-ocean he espied.

As 'twere a single star in heaven wide, ;

And his heart clave to it, so happily ,

Deliverance therein for him should be.

Nor did he leave to follow with his eye j

The coming ship till it at last drew nigh; . I

When that it was a galley, builded high '^

Of ebony and ivory, inlaid

With glittering gold, he saw, with masts arrayed

Of sandal wood and aloes, ropes of silk

And sails of taffetas as white as milk. ||

Therefrom, as in due season to the shore '

It came, there landed damsels half-a-score, *

High-bosomed maids, as moons to look upon, '•]

That in midsummer heav'ns unclouded shone; \,

Who, when they saw him, straight toward him made

And kissed his liands and him fair welcome bade,

Saying, "Thou art the bridegroom and the king!

"Our homage all unto thy feet we bring."

Then unto him there came another maid.

As she the sun were, shining without shade.

Bearing a silken cloth, a crown in which

Of gold there was, with pearls and rubies rich,

And eke a royal robe of precious stuff.

No king on earth there is but rich enough

It for his raiment were. The robe she let

Over him fall and on his head she set

The crown; wherewith the other half-a-score,

Taking him up, unto the galley bore

And on a couch in the mid-poop him laid.

Spread all with silken carpets and arrayed

With tapestry of gules and gold and blue

And many another bright and goodly hue.

This done, they spread the silken sails again

And launched forthright into the middle main.

As 'twere a dove, that oared with silver wings

The sky; whilst Hamid, pondering these things,

Him seemed that in a maze of dreams he went;

Nor aught he knew, for sheer astoniment.

Of what they did with him or whitherward

They carried him that goodly bark aboard.

Meanwhile, the galley ceased not from its flight
Across the blue, until they came in sight
Of a fair land, with green and golden shores.
Jasmine and musk outbreathing from its stores
Of mid wood sweets; and as unto the strand
Swiftly they drew, he saw the silver sand
With horsemen and with footmen filled, in mail
Of steel complete arrayed, whereof the tale


There's none save God (exalted be His name

And blest!) can tell. And when the galley came

Overagainst the landing-place and fast

Made thereunto, there was a gangway cast

Of sandalwood from it unto the shore;

Whereoverward the damsels Hamid bore

And set him reverently upon the land.

Then came there grooms with horses five in hand,

Past all conceiving gracious to behold.

Highbred and housed and saddled all with gold,

With pearls and precious stones of every kind

Inlaid, and prayed him that which to his mind

Was most to mount. Whereat he chose out one,

Such as no king possesseth 'neath the sun.

And it bestrode, whilst they the others led

Before him. Therewithal, above his head

The banners and the standards hoisted they,

Whilst all the troops in orderly array

Ranged themselves right and left, and forth they set,

With drums and cymbals sounding without let

And trumpets thundering a point of war,

And rode with Hamid inland evermore,

What while he knew not if on wake or sleep

He was, but through the mazes dim and deep

Of tangling dreams as one that fares did go.

Misdoubting if the thing were true or no;

Till to a green champaign anigh they drew.

Of palaces fulfilled, in leafage new

Embow'red and gardens brimmed with blooming trees

And flowering shrubs and blossoms, where the breeze

With sound and scent made carol to the birds.

That with their dulcet pipes, than mortal words

More meet, the praises sang of God the One,

Victorious, Orderer of Moon and Sun:

14 t

And these beyond, a city wonder-white 1

There was, that lifted up to heaven's height I

Its domes and pinnacles of blue and gold. ',

As they drew near, from every forest-fold {

And garden-gate, there poured an army out, ■

As 'twere a freshet, when the Spring to rout '■

The Winter puts and from the labouring hills
The snow sun-melted pours and all the rills,
Foreflushed and flooded of the vernal rains, '

To torrents swells, — and overflowed the plains. «

A space apart from Hamid halted they ^

And from the middleward of their array, '

A crowned king rode forth, with stately tread, !

By officers afoot foreheralded.

Who, drawing near, to honour him, alit |

Down from his horse; and Hamid, seeing it.
Dismounted too and hastened him to meet; j

Wherewith the twain the other each did greet
On goodly wise. Then, "O my lord, come now
"With us", began the stranger king; "for thou
"My guest art". So they both took horse again
And in great state fared on across the plain,
Discoursing, as they went, without abate,
Of matters of the Faith and things of weight
And gravity, until the city-port
They reached and passing through with their escort,
Came to a lordly palace, builded high
With pinnacles upmounting to the sky.

Alighting here, into a vasty hall.
With aisles of fretted cedar rounded all
And deep-groined roofs, wherein the sweet sky's hue
Coerulean shone the golden tracery through,
Hamid they brought and on a royal throne
Of right red gold, with many a cushion strown


15 ;

Of cramozin and purple, high and wide,

Enforced him, wondering, sit; whilst by his side

His host the king on like wise took his place.

Then he undid the chin-band from his face.

And lo ! the king a lady young and fair

Was as the sunshine in the April air.

Perfect in amorous grace and languishment ;

There is no man beneath the firmament

Might look upon her beauty but in twain

His heart were rent for love and longing pain.

And unto Hamid, speechless for amaze

At all the wealth and wonder, that his gaze

Met wheresoe'er he turned it, and no less

At that high lady's grace and loveliness

Than at the affluence and fertility

Of that fair land, "Know, o my lord," quoth she,

"That I of all this country am the queen,

"And all the troops and armies thou hast seen,

"Both horse and foot, are women like to me.

"For men in this our land for menials be,

"Peasants and husbandmen, who till the soil

"And hew and delve and sow and reap and toil

"And in the like mechanic crafts and arts

"Themselves employ and traffic in the marts;

"Whilst women fill the offices of state

"And reign and rule the realm and wear the weight

"Of arms and use the chase with horse and hound."

At this discourse he marvelled without bound;
And as they were in talk of this and that,
There came up to the dais where they sat
A tall old woman of majestic air
And venerable mien, with ash-gray hair.
That o'er her shoulders fell, in many a tress.
This, it was told him, was the Vizieress,

i6 i

Whom the queen, seeing her, commanded bring \

Cadi and witnesses; and she this thing ,

Went forth to do; what while the queen, again j

Turning to Hamid with soft speech, was fain |

With him on friendly fashion to converse, '.

And strove with lovesome dealing to disperse j

His shamefastness and set him at his ease ;

And blandishments more dulcet than the breeze ■

That in the Spring the roses' royal scent I
Far and wide beareth. Then, "Art thou content,"

Quoth she, "to wife to take me?" Whereanent j

Forthright he rose and fain the earth would kiss ^
Before her feet; but she forbade him this;
And "O my lady, on my head and eye,

"The least," he answered, "of thy slaves am I." j

Then, "Seest thou these servants all," she said, |

"And troops and wealth and treasure here arrayed?" '.

"Ay," answered he; and she thereto, "These all ,

"Are," said, "at thy commandment and thy call. !

"Dispose thereof and give them and bestow, ;

"As to thee fitting seemeth, ay or no. I
"Nay," and she pointed to a closed-up door,

"All things are at thy mercy, all my store, [

"Save but yon door, the which, if thou have wit, ;

"Thou wilt forbear; for, if thou open it, j

"Thereof thou wilt repent thee, without fail, j

"Whenas repentance nothing shall avail." »

Scarce had she spoken, when the Vizieress j

Entered, the Cadi and the witnesses '

Ensuing in her footsteps, women all i

Of old and reverend aspect, grave and tall, i

Their shoulders mantled with their tresses gray; i

Whereat the queen commanded them straightway !

The marriage-contract draw herself between j

17 , .1

And Hamid. So the stranger to the queen I

They wedded and she made a marriage-feast,

Whereunto, from the greatest to the least, |

The troops she bade; and when they one and all i

Eaten and drunken had in the great hall,

In to his bride he went and a clean maid

Found her and faultless. Then, as Fate-foresaid i

To them it was, together he and she |

Seven years abode in all felicity !

And all content of life, until, one night,

When warm with wine he was, of Fate's despite, 1

The thought of the forbidden door there sped j

Across his mind and in himself he said, '

"Excepting treasures therewithin there were, ,i

"Richer and more than any to my share ;

"That yet have fallen, she had certes not

"Forbidden me therefrom." Now wine had got

The mast'ry of his wit and idle thought -■

Prompted him do a thing he knew for naught; ;

So, being overcome of vain desire, \

(No evil is there greater and more dire,

Alack! than idle curiosity.) i

He rose and setting hand unto the key, I

Opened the door, but therewithin found nought ;

Save that same monstrous fowl, which him had brought j

Unto the island in the middle main ]

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Online LibraryJohn PayneHamid the Luckless, and other tales in verse → online text (page 1 of 4)