Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AHMED, by JAMES BERRY BENSEL

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AHMED, by            
First Line: With wrath-flushed cheeks, and eyelids red
Last Line: Ahmed was dead, and justice done.

WITH wrath-flushed cheeks, and eyelids red
Where anger's fiercest sign was spread,
And hands whose clenched nails left their print
In the brown palm's deep, sun-warmed tint,
The chieftains sate in circle wide,
And in the centre, on his side,
Thrown like a dog, a thieving brute,
Lay Ahmed, frowning, bound and mute.

"The man who takes an offered bribe
From chieftain of an alien tribe
Shall die." So ran the Arab law,
Read by a scribe; and Ahmed saw
In every eye that scanned his face
Burn the hot fury of his race.
His fate was told. All men must die
Some time: what cared he how or why?

They loosed his tight-swathed arms and feet,
Unwound the cashmere turban, sweet
With spice and attar, stripped the vest
Of gold and crimson from his breast,
And laid his broad, brown bosom bare
To scimeter and desert air.
He stood as moulded statues stand,
With sightless eye and nerveless hand:

As moulded statues stand, but through
The dark skin, at each breath he drew,
The wild heart's wilder beating showed.
Then on the sand he kneeled, and bowed
His head to meet the ready stroke;
The headsman threw aside his cloak,
The curved steel circled in the sun --
Ahmed was dead, and justice done.

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