Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 67. AS-SAMAD, by EDWIN ARNOLD



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PEARLS OF THE FAITH: 67. AS-SAMAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Of heaven's prodigious years man wotteth nought
Last Line: Thy times are good: thy will be done.
Variant Title(s): Ozair The Jew
Subject(s): God; Islam; Jews; Judaism


As-Samad! the eternal! by this name
Laud Him who will be, was, and is the same.

Of Heaven's prodigious years man wotteth nought:
The "Everlasting!"—hast thou strained thy thought
Searching that depth, which numbs the seeking mind
As too much light the eager gaze doth blind?
The years of men are measured by the sun,
And were not, until he his course begun;
And will not be, when his gold dial dies:
But God lived while no sun shone in the skies;
And shall be living when all worlds are dead:
Yet hereof, though ye see the truth is said,
Ye take no more the meaning than one takes
Measure of ocean by the cup that slakes
His thirst from rillet running to the sea

Behind—before ye, shines Eternity,
Visible as the vault's fathomless blue,
Which is so deep the glance goes never through,
Though nothing stays save depth; so is it seen
That Allah must be ever, and hath been;
Seen, but not comprehended—for man's wit
Knows this, yet knows—not understanding it.

Mete ye not Allah's times by man's: life gives
No measure of the Life Divine which lives
Unending, uncommenced, having no stay
Of yesterday, to-morrow, or to-day;
Being forever one unbroken Now
Where past and future come not.
Heard'st thou how,
What time fair Zion was given to sword and flame,
Ozair the Jew upon his camel came
Over those hills which ring the sea of Lot,
So that one footstep and—ye see her not,
And then another—and the city comes
Full upon view with all her milk-white domes.
But the Chaldean now had spoiled the place,
And desolate and waste was Zion's face,
Her proud abodes unpeopled, and her ways
Heaped with charred beams and lintels. Ozair says,
"Oh Lord! who promised to Jerusalem
Comfort and peace; and for her sons, to them
A glad return, how shall Thy word be kept
When fire and steel over these roofs have swept,
And she, that was a queen, lies dead and black,
A smoking ruin, where the jackals pack?
A hundred years were not enough to give
Life back to Zion! Can she ever live?"

But while he spake, the Angel of the Lord
Laid on his doubting front a fiery sword,
And Ozair in that lonely desert spot
Fell prone, and lay—breathing and moving not—
One hundred years, while the great world rolled on,
And Zion rose, and mighty deeds were done.
And when the hundred years were flown, God said,
"Awake, Ozair! how long hast tarried,
Thinkest thou, here?" Ozair replied, "A day,
Perchance, or half." The awful Voice said, "Nay!
But look upon thy camel." Of that beast
Nought save white bones was left: no sign, the least,
Of flesh, or hair, or hide: the desert grass
Was matted o'er its shanks, and roots did pass
From a gnarled fig-tree through the eye-pits twain,
And in and out its ribs grew the vervain,
But 'mid the molderings of its saddle-bags
And crimson carpet, withered into rags,
A basket, full of new-picked dates, stood there
Beside a cruse of water, standing where
He set them fresh, twice fifty years ago;
And all the dates were golden with the glow
Of yestreen's sunset, and the cruse's rim
Sparkled with water to the very brim.
"Ozair!" the awful Voice spake, "look on these!
He maketh and unmaketh what shall please;
Saves or destroys, restores or casts away;
And centuries to Him are us a day;
And cities all as easy to revive
As this thy camel here, which now shall live."

Thereon the skull and bones together crept
From tangled weed and sand where they had slept;
The hide and hair came, and the flesh filled in,
The eyes returned their hollow pits within,
The saddle-bags upon its haunches hung,
The carpet on the saddle-horns was flung,
The nose-rope from the muzzle fell. The beast
Rose from its knees, and would have made to feast
On the green herbage where its bones had lain,
But that it heard bells of a caravan
Coming from Kedron, and with glad cry roared.
Then Ozair looked, and saw—newly restored—
Zion's fair walls and temples, and a crowd
Of citizens; and traffic rich and loud
In her white streets; and knew time should not be
Reckoned' gainst Him who hath eternity.

As-Samad! Everlasting One!
Thy times are good: Thy will be done.





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