Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ALLAH IS WITH THE PATIENT, by AMELIA JOSEPHINE BURR

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First Line: Allah is with the patient. Long ago
Last Line: And give me of thy patience, while I wait.
Subject(s): Patience

ALLAH is with the patient. Long ago
I sat with eyes and thoughts that wandered far
And heard as in a dream my father's voice
Speaking to me as now I speak to thee,
Who heedest little as I heeded him.
What place had patience in a young man's heart?
The sky was languid with the sunset glow,
The sweet air swooned with purple mysteries, --
Was it an hour for aught but eagerness
As women passed on slender tinkling feet,
Flashing like jewelled beetles from the dusk,
And vanishing again, yet leaving clear
A trail of perfume on the evening air
That drew a man to follow? Who was I
To squat with gray-beards by the waning fire?
Well I remember how the challenge came
Of jasmine scent from wayward garments blown
And how I leapt to meet it! As I went,
I heard my father sighing in his beard,
"Allah is with the patient." But there comes
An end to eagerness. I had not thought
I could grow weary of enkindling eyes,
Slight luring limbs, and fingers trained to beat
The song of passion on the hearts of men
As on a darabukkeh. But there came
A night when I grew sick of jasmine scent
As of the scent of fever, and the sight
Of smiling lips moist-parted left me cold --
A night when walls closed like a trap on me,
And like a grave-stone lay upon my head
The shadow of the roof. So I went out
Under the calm illimitable sky,
Under the quiet scrutiny of stars
That stood apart like spirits, and looked on,
And as I felt the sweep of desert wind
Upon my face, I raised my voice and sang.
"Wise with much seeing are the eyes of night.
"What can amaze, what sicken, what delight
"The passionless cold vigil of the stars?
"Too much has been for any more to be
"That can dismay their far tranquillity. . . ."

I DID not sing the ending of the song,
"Thine eyes are like the stars, O heart of me --
"Like the unmoved omniscience of the stars. . . ."
I could not sing those words; the eyes I knew
Smouldered like perfumed braziers near to earth,
Or like the homely embers that make warm
The cooking-pot. "Perchance in Paradise,"
I thought, "the houris that are Allah's glance
"Of favour on the faithful, have those eyes
"Of wise and starry calm. I will await
"The gaze of them." And as there came to me
A sudden memory of my father's words,
I flung them like a challenge to the stars --
"Allah is with the patient!" I was young. . . .

THE hand of power on our village closed,
For there was war; and many of the youths
Went full of heaviness, with backward eyes.
It was not so with me; gladly I strode
As to a feast, and bright upon me shone
The lifted brows of peril -- but I found
Small glory in that war; of hunger much,
And much of weariness and aching limbs,
Much of the lurking death we could not see
That trod our shadows, striking from behind --
The sudden bullet singing from the waste
Was our mean death-chant, not the generous cry
Of clanging steel; it seemed we never ceased
Panting across interminable sands
Down into troughs that, sneering, the mirage
Painted with blue like sky-reflecting pools,
Up over ridges where the sand slid back,
Drowning the print the lifted foot had left,
Sweating we laboured; always as it seemed
We came too late for glory. Other swords
In hostile blood found easing of their thirst,
And other eyes with pride of battle burned, --
Not ours, that strained too often toward the blue
That mocked us in the hollows of the sand
Looked dull upon a pool that was no lie,
As when we knew that we were free to seek
Our homes again, and that the war was done
And victory was ours, that "victory"
Left us but listless, for its sound was flat
Like a cracked cymbal. Once again I said
"Allah is with the patient!" and a man
Who heard it, laughed. His laugh was ill to hear,
But lo, his eyes gave back my face to me,
And my own smile was bitterer than his.
But softly spoke another, "Dost thou laugh,
"Brother? It is no jest -- the word is true --
"Allah is with the patient. Blessed be
"His name to all the ages." "It is well
"For thee to speak, perchance," the laugher said.
"Thou goest gladly to a waiting home;
"What dost thou care for glory? But for me
"A woman waits who will but spit on me
"Since I have won no fame to honour her."
"And I," then cried myself, "for me there waits
"No woman anywhere; my only hope
"Was glory for the glory's sake, and now,
"Cheated of that, I am a dupe indeed."
"Nay," said our comrade gently, and I saw
A little pulse that quivered in his cheek,
"For me there waits no woman. She is dead,
"And on her breast the babe I never saw
"Is also dead. I had no will to go --
"The soldiers took me. Blessed be the name
"Of Allah --" "And you still can say," I cried,
"That he is with the patient?" Then he turned
The slow majestic sadness of his look
Full upon me. "Were it not so," he said,
"Would they not be more lonely than the stars?"
He went away, and left us there afraid --
And yet he was a little man, and weak.
Humbler I turned me homeward, for I knew
There was a thing I had not understood.
When to the village I came back at last,
There were no songs for me. I looked for none.
Only my father met me at the door
And peered into my face, for he was old
And saw but little -- yet he saw enough
To make him smile. "It is my son," he said,
"He has come back to me a man at last --
"Allah is with the patient."
So I stayed
Quiet among my people, and I ploughed
My father's feddans, and the days went by.
I wedded and was faithful -- if at times
Dreams drew me forth alone beneath the stars,
She found me no less kindly for the dreams.
Then thou wert born, and when I looked on thee
As full of pride she laid thee in my arms,
I saw in thee those wise and starry eyes
Of lonely glory -- and my heart was glad,
Finding my dream come true. But with the years
The heavenly wonder died, and in its place
The old earth-wonder came. And then I thought
"Would he but learn of me --" Ah! he is gone. . . .
Each for himself must turn the page of life
And read its wisdom through a blur of tears,
And yet -- might I have made it clear to him,
My son! May Allah, blessed be his name,
Allah, whose heart has yearned the ages through
To every generation, as my heart
Yearns to my son, -- may Allah give him light.
Thou who art with the patient, lead him home
And give me of thy patience, while I wait.

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