Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MERCHANTS FROM CATHAY, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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MERCHANTS FROM CATHAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Their heels slapped their bumping mules; their fat chaps
Last Line: Lest once more those mad merchants come chanting from cathay!
Subject(s): China


How that Their heels slapped their bumping mules; their fat chaps glowed.
They came. Glory unto Mary, each seemed to wear a crown!
Like sunset their robes were on the wide, white road:
So we saw those mad merchants come dusting into town!

Of their Two paunchy beasts they rode on and two they drove before.
Beasts, May the Saints all help us, the tiger-stripes they had!
And the panniers upon them swelled full of stuffs and ore!
The square buzzed and jostled at a sight so mad.

And their They bawled in their beards, and their turbans they wried.
Boast, They stopped by the stalls with curvetting and clatter.
As bronze as the bracken their necks and faces dyed --
And a stave they sat singing, to tell us of the matter.

With its "For your silks, to Sugarmago! For your dyes, to Isfahan!
Burthen Weird fruits from the Isle o' Lamaree!
But for magic merchandise,
For treasure-trove and spice,
Here's a catch and a carol to the great, grand Chan,
The King of all the Kings across the sea!

And "Here's a catch and a carol to the great, grand Chan;
Chorus. For we won through the deserts to his sunset barbican;
And the mountains of his palace no Titan's reach may span
Where he wields his seignorie!

A first "Red-as-blood skins of Panthers, so bright against the sun
Stave On the walls of the halls where his pillared state is set
Fearsome, They daze with a blaze no man may look upon!
And with conduits of beverage those floors run wet!

And a second "His wives stiff with riches, they sit before him there.
Right hard Bird and beast at his feast make song and clapping cheer.
To stomach And jugglers and enchanters, all walking on the air,
Make fall eclipse and thunder -- make moons and suns appear!

And a third, "Once the Chan, by his enemies sore-prest, and sorely spent,
Which is a Lay, so they say, in a thicket 'neath a tree
Laughable Where the howl of an owl vexed his foes from their intent:
Thing. Then that fowl for a holy bird of reverence made he!

Of the Chan's "And when he will a-hunting go, four elephants of white
Hunting. Draw his wheeling dais of lignum aloes made;
And marquises and admirals and barons of delight
All courier his chariot, in orfrayes arrayed!

We gape to "A catch and a carol to the great, grand Chan!
Hear them end, Pastmasters of disasters, our desert caravan
Won through all peril to his sunset barbican,
Where he wields his seignorie!
And crowns he gave us! We end where we began:
A catch and a carol to the great, grand Chan,
The King of all the Kings across the sea!"

And are in Those mad, antic Merchants! . . . Their striped beasts did beat
Terror, The market-square suddenly with hooves of beaten gold!
The ground yawned gaping and flamed beneath our feet!
They plunged to Pits Abysmal with their wealth untold!

And dread And some say the Chan himself in anger dealt the stroke --
it is For sharing of his secrets with silly, common folk:
Devil's Work! But Holy, Blessed Mary, preserve us as you may
Lest once more those mad Merchants come chanting from Cathay!





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