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An Eastern Tale

From The Sun, August 30, 1914. By Alice Stone Blackwell.

Mahmoud the Great on a journey went;
His thoughts were on war and conquest bent,
Kasajas followed him, musing too;
But what his thoughts were no man knew.
The Sultan spoke, “My wise Vizier,
Marvellous things of thee I hear.
Say, is it true, as men declare,
That thou knowest the speech of the birds of the air?”
Kasajas answered, “Sire, ’tis truth,
A dervish taught me the art in youth.
Whatever by birds is chirped or sung
I comprehend like my mother tongue.”
Two screech owls perched on a plane tree bare;
With notes discordant they filled the air.
The Sultan pointed. “Tell me, pray,
What is it those birds of evil say?”
Kasajas listened. “O sire, I fear
To tell thee plainly the thing I hear.
Those hateful screech owls talk of thee!”
“Verily! What can they say of me?
Tell me the truth and have no fear.
The truth is best for a monarch’s ear.”
“Thy servant, sire, obeys thy words.
This is the talk of those evil birds:
‘I am content,’ said the elder one,
‘Unto thy daughter to wed my son
If twenty villages, ruined all,
To her for her dowry portion fall.’
‘Three times twenty such instead
Shall be her portion,’ the other said.
‘Long may Allah, the wise and good,
Preserve the life of the great Mahmoud!
Wherever he rides there will be no lack
Of ruined villages in his track!’”
The Sultan’s dreams were dark that night.
When came the dawn the morning light
He rose from a couch where he found no ease
And sent an embassage of peace.

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