The Moorish Prince

by Ferdinand Freiligrath


His host surged through the palmy land.
He wound his locks with a purple band;
He hung on his shoulders a lionskin;
The cymbals crashed with a warlike din.

Like termites traveled the savage swarm.
With gold-encircled, ebony arm
Around his darling, he said, well pleased,
Adorn thyself for the victory feast!

Behold the glistening pearls I bear!
They'll braid through thy black and kinky hair -
Where Persia's tide over corals swished,
There have our dripping wet divers fished.

Behold, ostrich feathers! Wear them with grace,
Let them gleam white o'er the dark of thy face!
Fix up the tent! Make ready to sup!
Fill up and garland the victory cup!

Out of shimmering white tent door
Did step the armored and princely Moor;
So, where the shimmering clouds do soar,
Comes a darkened eclipse of the moon to the fore.

They greet him, shouting, the crowd approves,
They greet him, stamping, the horses' hooves,
It boils for him, the negroes' blood,
And the Niger's mysterious flood.

"So lead us to victory, lead us to fight!"
They battled from morning 'til deep in the night.
From an elephant's hollowed tusk doth blare
A battle cry for the men fighting there.

The lion takes flight, away slithers the snake
From the rattling drum with the skulls that shake.
High waves the flag, announcing the dead:
The hue of the desert turns to red. -

So rages the fight in the palmy vale!
But she is at home, preparing the meal;
With nectar of palms she fills the carafe,
And garlands with flowers the tent-pole staff.

From Persia's tide, the pearls so rare
She braids in her black and kinky hair,
With dangling feathers she spangles her brow,
And her neck and her arm with bright mussels now.

She sits down before the Belovéd's tent,
And hearkens how far the war-bugle went.
The mid-day burns and the sun doth sting:
The wreath, it wilts, but she sees not a thing.

The sun sinks down, and then triumphs the night;
Comes dew, and the lightning bug's in flight.
In the tepid stream blinks the crocodile,
Like he wants to enjoy the cool awhile.

The lion is aroused with a predator's roar,
And elephants rummage the jungle floor.
Giraffes seek a peaceful shelter tonight,
Eyelids and flowers are closed up tight.

Her bosom rises and heaves with fear;
A bloodied and fugitive Moor draws near.
"Lost is the battle! Our hopes are oppressed!
Thy lover is captured, and brought to the west!

To the sea! He was sold to the White Ones there!"
Then she tumbles to earth and dishevels her hair,
She crushes the pearls with a trembling hand,
And her burning cheeks buries in burning sand.


There at the fair, they are coming in hordes,
A circus, on land that the fairground affords.
The trumpets are blaring, the cymbals are crashing,
A drumroll is thudding, clowns leaping and dashing.

Come in, come in! - they clamor and bray,
The riders are flying; they speed 'round the way,
The Turkish black stallion, the British fox streaks,
The women display their alluring physiques.

At the hippodrome's veiled and shrouded door
Stands gravely a kinky-dreadlocked Moor;
He beats on a Turk-drum, making a din,
And the drum is draped with a lionskin.

He sees not the riders' graceful sweeps,
He sees not the steeds' adventurous leaps.
With rigid, dry eyes the Moor will begin
To stare at the ragged lionskin.

He thinks of the distant, distant Niger
And that he had hunted the lion, the tiger;
And that, in the battle, his sword had burned,
And that he had never to camp returned.

And that she flowers for him had picked,
And that she her hair with the pearls had tricked -
His eye became moist; with thudding stroke
He beat on the drum, 'til it rattled and broke.

 Posted by permission of the translator ~ © 2005

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