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BLUE-BEARD, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Fadlallah: good neighbour, be quiet! - my word is a law
Last Line: But 'tis always unlucky to marry thirteen!
Subject(s): Duplicity; Islam; Marriage; Deceit; Weddings; Husbands; Wives

A Court-yard before FADLALLAH'S House.

Fadlallah. Good neighbour, be quiet! -- my word is a law --
I have said that my daughter shall wed the Bashaw!
Selim. But, neighbour, your promise!
Fadlallah. My promise! go to!
With him must I break it to keep it with you?
Selim. You promised me first!
Fadlallah. But I promised him since!
And what saith the Koran? "Speak truth to thy prince!"
Selim. You swore by the Prophet!
Fadlallah. I tell thee, forbear!
In abundance of words is abundance of care!
And again saith the Koran, in Surah the third,
"Confine not thy neighbour too close to his word!"
Selim. Would you yield to this monster your Fatima's life?
Why, he eats every night for his supper a wife!
Fadlallah. Mere libellous nonsense! I tell thee, Selim,
I know nothing less like a monster than him!
Ayesha. Oh, father! but think on his whiskers of blue!
Fadlallah. I tell you, the man is as rich as a Jew!
I wish I could find such a husband for you!
Selim. Allow me, at least, to take leave of the maid!
Fadlallah. You may do as you please -- I shall not be afraid.
No daughter of mine has a spirit so mean,
To prefer her kab-kabs to a gilt palankeen;
To trudge to the baths with no soul in her train,
And wrapp'd in a shawl from the wind and the rain,
When she might, if she pleased, on an elephant ride,
With trumpets before her and troops by her side,
And sweep through the streets like a lady of honour,
Dwarfs, negroes, and eunuchs attendant upon her.
Selim! -- I once loved you. Be but a good boy,
I'll speak to the Bashaw to give you employ.
But my daughter's affianced!
Selim. Says Fatima so?
Fatima. I am but the slave of my father, you know.
I must do as he wills, or with you, my Selim,
A cottage were more than a palace with him!
But, alas, 'tis in vain! and, since love is denied,
I must fold my pale form in the mantle of pride, --
Must loll on my couch with an indolent mien,
Of a heart-chilling harem the heart-broken queen,
And trifle the time while my tyrant reposes,
With diamonds, and arrack, and attar of roses!
Selim. I cannot endure it! The Bashaw I'll meet,
I'll fling myself down in the dust at his feet.
I'll tell him our story.
Fatima. His heart is of steel!
Selim. By Allah! my dagger shall force him to feel!
I'll drag from his horse the oppressor, and then --
Fatima. A peasant! and fight with a leader of men
You can but fall a victim to numbers, and I! --
I never will live to look on, when you die!
Farewell, -- be resign'd -- take this ring for a token;
So long as its stone is unblench'd and unbroken,
You may know that I live -- that I'm well -- that I bear
In peace and in patience the load of despair. --
But if once its smooth surface begins to decay,
And the tint of the ruby to vanish away,
You may learn that my life is in danger, and -- pray!
Selim. Yet, yet there is hope! I have told you before,
My mother's an Arab, and born in Mount Hor:
Her kindred disown'd her for wedding a clown;
But my uncle the Shekh, as he pass'd by our town,
Half-famish'd, half-naked, hard press'd by the foe,
Was pleased for a moment his pride to forego,
To be fed, clothed, and shelter'd, as best we were able;
To be warm'd by our hearth, to be hid in our stable;
And to say, on the morrow, as grimly he smiled,
He would "make me a man if I came to the wild!"
In less than three days I can reach his retreat;
I'll tell him my sorrows, fall down at his feet.
He hates Abou Malek!
Fatima. But what can he do,
Our tyrant so mighty, his people so few?
He may rifle a pilgrim, set fire to a village,
Or threaten the Monks of Mount Sinai with pillage; --
But to cope with a Bashaw!
Selim. No matter, I'll try!
[Martial music at a distance.
Fatima. Good Heaven -- they are here! if you value me, fly!


Fadlallah. In, into the house, silly girl! -- By my beard,
This moment the sound of a trumpet I heard:
Would you stand in the court with no veil on your face,
When his highness, your husband, rides into the place?
In, in -- get the clothes on he sent you this morning!
And, neighbour, kind neighbour, I give you fair warning,
If longer in sight of my door I survey you,
I'll speak to my son-in-law's worship to flay you!
[Exeunt severally FATIMA and SELIM.
Abou Malek (speaking without). Sound, trumpets, a halt! My Albanians may
Drawn up in two lines, from the bridge to the gate!
Let none dare to enter! [Entering.
Well, father-in-law.
Fadlallah. I hope that your highness will pardon the awe --
Unprepared as I am, unaccustom'd to view
The shadow of one so illustrious as you!
Oh, Lud! I'm afraid of those whiskers of blue! [Aside.
I could speak very well if I once made a start,
But 'tis gone from me clean what I'd gotten by heart.
Where was I? -- Oh now -- [Aloud.
Will your highness be pleased --
Abou Malek. Slave, infidel, hound! am I thus to be teased
With your bowing and cringing, and kneeling, and talking,
Detaining me here from night until dawning?
Go, call out your daughter, 'tis her that I seek, --
But you, if I let you, would chatter this week!
Fadlallah (aside). His highness is hasty. -- I dare not complain,
But 'tis hard that my speech should be studied in vain.
Abou Malek. What have I forgot? -- I return to the gate
To give out some orders. -- Your daughter may wait. [Exit.
Fadlallah. He's a Bashaw indeed! -- How I envy his state!
How noble his action! -- "Your daughter may wait!"


Come, Fatima, girl, and give thanks on your knee
For a husband so kind, condescending, and free!
"Good father-in-law," said his highness to me,
"You speak like an angel, good-father-in-law;"
He's the civilest gentleman ever I saw;
And by the same token will make me a Cadi,
So soon as my daughter comes out as his lady! --
What -- weeping, you fool? By the Caaba, I'd tear,
If it were not for rumpling that head-dress, your hair!
I'd make you come out by the head and the shoulder!
You are only too lucky!
Ayesha. And that's what I told her!
I'm sure she has plenty to make her content.
Do look at the things which the Bashaw has sent!
Such silks and such kincobs, such collars of pearl!
She looks like a Peri far more than a girl.
And I, her poor bride-maid, by all am confess'd
As sweetly, though not so expensively dress'd.
Come, keep up your spirits! do, Fatima, do!
I don't think his whiskers so frightfully blue!

Re-enter ABOU MALEK. All kneel.

All hail Lord of Damascus!
Abou Malek. Young woman, I come,
According to promise, to carry you home.
Your sister goes with you. Of course you are ready. --
Black eunuchs without! form a guard for your lady! --
Come, kiss me! I like you!
Fatima. In mercy forbear!
Despise me, and fix your affections elsewhere!
Fadlallah. Perhaps, if your highness my girls would compare,
This other's as handsome.
Abou Malek. But less to my taste. --
Come, Fatima, rise from the ground -- I'm in haste!
The affairs of the East on my leisure attend. --
Fadlallah! farewell! kiss with reverence the end
Of this worshipful finger, which, were the whim in it,
Might beckon your head from your shoulders this minute.
Fatima. O Bashaw! if pity e'er enter'd your breast!
Abou Malek. You have reason, I trow, to be sadly distress'd!
The spouse of a Bashaw, mere maidenish stuff!
I like you -- have bought you -- will keep you, enough! [Exeunt.

SCENE II. -- A large Hall or Staircase with many doors.

Music and dancing heard without.


Abou Malek. I hate all this nonsense! -- these gardens of myrtle,
These long wedding suppers, how vastly absurd!
These verses comparing my spouse to a turtle!
I'm wed to a woman, and not to a bird!
I can gaze with delight on her person and graces,
And hope that the sequel fresh charms will disclose;
But it bores me to hear such bombastical praises, --
No nightingale I to be gull'd with a rose!
Go -- order the minstrels to silence their tabors!
Bid the dancing-girls pack up their rags and be gone!
Ayesha. Lord sir! you'll offend all your kindred and neighbours;
The nach-girls and singers have scarcely begun!
I never can find an excuse that is clever --
They'll needs see your highness before they retire.
Abou Malek. Go tell 'em I'm sick -- have the plague -- have a fever!
Say the sherbet is out! -- say the Harem's on fire!
[Exit AYESHA, lingeringly.
I breathe at my ease now Ayesha is gone!
O born in a cottage, but fit for a throne!
You perchance think my manners are rough and austere:
But why do you tremble? -- my Houri, draw near!
I have secrets of moment to pour in your ear!
Twelve years have I languish'd a partner to meet,
Kind, beautiful, humble, domestic, discreet;
Twelve times have I hoped that my labour was sped;
Twelve times have I fail'd -- for the rest, ask the dead!
Twelve damsels in turn -- but, alas! you have heard
The crime which has call'd down this curse on my beard!
You have heard it?
Fatima. Your highness, I have -- but I know
That slander still follows the mighty.
Abou Malek. 'Tis true!
Now learn the sad cause! -- in my cradle when laid,
My mother gave alms to a soothsaying maid,
A poor crazy wanderer, in ruins that slept,
And her vigils with Gouls in the monument kept,
Till her soul, from the haunts of humanity driven,
Grew skill'd in the visions of Hell and of Heaven,
And her words of wild raving had power to unfold
Whatever the eyes of the Prophet behold: --
She stopt at our cottage, sate down by our door
(I care not who knows it -- my parents were poor,
I rose by the sabre's adventurous law,
First robber, then rebel, and last a Bashaw;)
But she, when relieved by our water and bread,
Took the babe in her arms, prest her lips to his head,
And -- You mark me?
Fatima. Intently!
Abou Malek. She shudder's and, "Thou!
Strange matters are written," she cried, "on thy brow!
High valour, high fortune, untimely o'erthrow!
Yet, warrior, no bowstring shall bring thee thy doom, --
No writ of the Sultan conduct to the tomb;
Live, live, Abou Malek! fear'd, honour'd, carest,
Of the chiefs of the Koran the boldest and best;
Fear no sabres that glisten, no bullets that fly,
Till a bride's curiosity doom thee to die!"
Fatima. Strange doom!
Abou Malek. Dost thou wonder that twelve I have tried?
Dost thou wonder that they who deceived me have died?
Let their fate be thy warning! Last hope of my life,
Be firm! and I make thee my queen and my wife!
Thou shalt rule o'er our heart, shall rule o'er Damascus,
Whatever thou seek'st thou hast only to ask us!
But first, to thy trial! take charge of my keys:
Wherever thou wilt, they admit thee with ease.
Range at will through my castle, -- its wealth is thine own!
But you south turret chamber must yet be unknown!
Do this and be blest! for three days we must part:
Be firm, -- or my dagger must smoke in thy heart!
Farewell for three days!
Fatima. Oh, my Lord, I entreat,
Show grace to my weakness! I sink at your feet;
I will honour you, love you, obey you, adore!
All, all but this trial!
Abou Malek. It must be! no more! [Exit.


Ayesha. Thank Heaven he is off! I have heard your dispute --
He a Bashaw, indeed! A fantastic old brute.
Fatima. You heard it?
Ayesha. I listen'd, my love, at the door --
I never have met such a monster before.
Kill a woman for peeping! why here's a to-do!
I wonder what's in that same chamber -- Don't you?
Fatima. Oh, talk not of prying!
Ayesha. The Prophet forbid!
But -- he never could know it, my dear, if we did.
And now that I look, what a beautiful key!
Do, Fatima, trust it a moment with me. [Snatching the key.
Fatima. What, what are you doing?
[AYESHA tries the key in the lock of the door.
Ayesha. I want to be sure
If this is the key which belongs to the door --
It fits, I declare, like a finger and glove!
Fatima. In mercy, return it!
Ayesha. Return it, my love!
I have not yet turn'd it, -- nor do I intend.
No, child, on my prudence you well may depend!
I would not for the world -- Oh, my stars! it is done!
[The door flies open with a tremendous sound, several Skeletons
seen within.
The chamber is open, as sure as a gun;
And oh! what an object! See, Fatima, see!
Oh, shut-to the door! turn the key, turn the key!
Run! Run for your life -- Oh!
[FATIMA closes the door.
Fatima. Wretched girl! we're undone!
The key is all bloody!
Ayesha. Run, Fatima, run! [Exeunt.

SCENE III. -- A wild rocky Desert, without trees or vegetation. At a small
distance a cluster of low black Tents.

Enter SELIM with a staff, scrip, and bottle for holding water.

Selim. To think that my uncle takes pleasure to dwell
In a country whose heat the best spirit would quell!
'Tis true he's a thief, and of thieves the commander,
But his quarters would puzzle the best salamander.
A plague on these flints that have worn out my feet!
A plague on these rocks half calcined by the heat!
How dreadful these waterless vapours that make,
To torture the pilgrim, the farce of a lake!
Not a tree, not a spring has this wilderness in it.
My pulse beats two hundred and ten in a minute.
My tongue is on fire, and my brain in a muddle;
I would give all the world for a good draught of puddle!
Then, when one least thinks of it, comes the Simoom,
And these sands will supply me a couch and a tomb!
Or, who can be sure but some merciful Shekh,
For the sake of my garments, may twist off my neck? --
Oh dear! I'm afraid! -- I've a mind to turn back,
But I doubt that I never shall hit on the track --
And Fatima! Thou! -- can I leave thee in thrall?
Cheer up! -- a high spirit may scramble through all.
And -- hurrah -- I have found them! dark perch'don the sand
Like a cluster of ravens, the tents are at hand.
And, sure, that's my uncle----

Enter SHEKH.

Shekh. Stand, infidel, stand!
Stand, slave, and deliver!
Selim. 'Tis vastly distressing,
That he won't recollect me! Kind uncle, your blessing!
Shekh. Ha, rascal! who art thou?
Selim. Oh -- look not so grim!
The son of your sister, your nephew Selim!
Destroy not the seed of your father with fear!
Shekh. Selim, by the prophet! -- and what bring thee here?
Hast thou taken my counsel, and is it thy bent
To sojourn with us in the shade of the tent?
To cast in thy lot with thy friends, and to rear,
Dimly seen through the twilight, the long Arab spear?
To mark from some mountain where, patient and slow,
The rich-laden caravan circles below?
Then spring to thy courser, exulting and gay,
And swift as an eagle dart down on the prey!
Oh, blithe are my pastimes on desert and down,
Far, far from the smoke and the noise of the town;
And calm my repose when the carpet is spread,
'Twixt the steed of my bosom, and the wife of my bed,
When camel-bells tinkle, and embers burn bright,
And the tent-curtain flaps in the breezes of night!
Though poor my apparel, though scanty my fare,
A cake on the hearth, and a mantle of hair,
How sweet is that morsel, how light is that vest,
And how rich do I feel of this sabre possest!
Selim. This is charming, I own; in this tranquil retreat
You've the blessings of hunger, of thirst and of heat, --
May you long time enjoy them; for me, when I'm bent
To taste of these pleasures, I'll visit your tent.
But now for protection, dear uncle, I sue --
You know the Bashaw of Damascus?
Shekh. I do.----
Selim. The monster has borne off my beautiful bride.
Shekh. He's perfectly right for himself to provide.
Selim. Is my uncle in earnest?
Shekh. I am, my Selim:
And, thou wilt do right to assassinate him!
Selim. By my beard! I intend it -- but how shall I do it?
Shekh. Oh just as thou wilt, so thou fairly goest through it. --
Thou may'st shoot him, or stab him, or beat out his brain.
Selim. But how to get at him? -- your meaning explain.
Shekh. I have spoken! -- and he who hath purpose to slay,
If he have but the courage, will find out the way!
If thou diest, I'll avenge thee.
Selim. Far rather defend me!
I hoped that the spears of Mount Hor would befriend me!
You have eaten our salt, have been warm'd at our fire,
And there flows in my veins of the blood of your sire.
To a castle in Hauran, if truth is in fame,
Abou Malek has borne my disconsolate dame.
The walls are not strong, and the garrison few.
What say you to singeing those whiskers of blue?
Will you aid my revenge?
Shekh. I don't care if I do.
First come to the tent, share my bread and my water,
And the moon of to-morrow shall light us to slaughter.
Selim. Oh, pause not a moment!
Shekh. And why, my Selim?
Selim. The ring on my finger! its ruby grows dim!
She dies, -- she is bleeding, -- I see by the stone!
Oh, haste, or I fly to her rescue alone!
Shekh. By my head -- a brave youth! I will lend thee a steed,
And I and my people will help at thy need.
And woe to these Turks when the whirlwind of war
Is gather'd in clouds on the summit of Hor!
When the locusts of Maon are dark on the blast,
And the leopards of Arnon --
Selim. Oh, haste! uncle, haste!

SCENE IV. -- An Apartment in BLUE-BEARD'S Castle.


Fatima. In vain you console me, -- too sure is my doom,
And the dews of to-morrow must weep o'er my tomb.
Enough! I forgive you; 'twas Azrael's decree,
That bloody my death and untimely should be.
Poor captives of fate! the entangled gazelle
May break through the snare of the hunter as well,
As we, with our wisdom, our cunning and wit,
Escape from the meshes by destiny knit!
Be at rest, I forgive you!
Ayesha. Yet, yet we have space
To contrive our escape from this horrible place.
Two days have gleam'd sadly o'er dungeon and tower,
Since the Lord of Damascus set forth with his power.
One more must be wash'd from the tables of fate,
Ere the shade of his presence will darken the gate.
And Selim, by this time, must his uncle have met.
And, my dear injured sister! -- I'd lay you a bet
That, or ere our tyrant returns to our door,
His way will be block'd by the bands of Mount Hor.
Fatima. Can Arabs contend with a warrior like him?
Oh, better I die than endanger Selim!
Ayesha. Yet, yet I have something to check your despair --
I have search'd through the south turret chamber, and there --
Fatima. Oh name not the turret -- that desolate room,
Where my wretched forerunners in folly and doom
Lie mouldering and green!
Ayesha. I beheld with afright,
And horrid, most horrid indeed was the sight!
But I still persevered, for there prest on my mind
A suspicion of mystery lurking behind.
And at length I have found it; an aperture small
That leads to a stair in the bulk of the wall;
Beneath it a postern conceal'd, and I hope
That with me you will pack up your things and elope.
Fatima. No packing! no loitering! conduct me this minute!
Ayesha. Law! your train will be bloodied! allow me to pin it:
We have plenty of time. [Looking through the door.
Oh, confusion and sorrow!
The Bashaw has mistaken to-day for to-morrow:
He is now on the staircase. -- Oh, would it might crumble --
I'd break my own neck to ensure him a tumble!
Abou Malek (speaking without). Within there! what, slaves! are ye
sleeping or dead?
If ye sleep till the morning, your couch will be red!
Am I forced like a dog of the desert to wait,
No slaves at my stirrup, no guard at my gate,
And unhonour'd by sign or salute from the wall --
To sneak like a thief to my own castle hall?
Up, up to the ramparts! unlimber the swivels,
You will soon have a visit from Arabs or devils!
They are hard on my track!
Ayesha. Recollect what I told you!
Cheer up! he must not in this anguish behold you;
Put him off for a while if he talks of the keys,
By the help of a kiss you may do it with ease.
But gain a few hours, and, I'll wager my neck,
Some tidings will come of Selim and his Shekh.
[To ABOU MALEK as he enters.
Oh, my lord! my dear brother! such sudden delight!
We never expected you home by to-night!
Abou Malek. So, so, where's your sister!
Ayesha. And as I was saying,
Your highness, we thought, in the city was staying;
So we fasten'd the gate, sent the servants to sleep,
Good hours we were always accustom'd to keep,
And we were just talking --
Abou Malek. My curse on your head.
No doubt you were talking --
Ayeska. Of going to bed.
And --
Abou Malek. Fatima! well may you boast of the charms
That bring back your husband so soon to your arms.
Three days I had promised -- my heart could not wait,
And the second has seen me return to your gate.
Escaped from an ambush that threaten'd my life,
I come with delight to my home and my wife.
My wife and my queen! Yes -- your trial is o'er,
And the Fiend of suspicion shall haunt me no more!
But what? -- All in tears -- in confusion!
Fatima. Great sir,
Your return so unlook'd for, so sudden, -- I fear----
Abou Malek. Fear! what!
Ayesha. That some sudden disaster or sickness
Is the cause, mighty Lord, of your singular quickness.
Then, you seem to be wearied, and I have a notion,
You had better retire with a nightcap and potion.
Then, the ambush you mention'd has thrill'd us with fear.
Who could be your foes?
Abou Malek. From Mount Hor, or Mount Seir,
Some rascally Arabs --
Ayesha. My love, do you hear? (Aside to FATIMA.)
And pray does your highness suppose they are near?
Abou Malek. Oh Prophet! great Prophet! -- if ever I come
To bliss, I entreat let my Houri be dumb!
Give that clapper a holiday once in thy life.
But come thou to my bosom, my friend, and my wife!
Thy silence, thy gentleness, ever must please.
Alas -- I forgot -- you may give me the keys.
Fatima. The keys, my dread Lord? -- give me time to prepare,
I have lost them, mislaid them -- can't tell where they are.
Abou Malek. You have lost them! mislaid them! oh ominous word!
The keys, in an instant!
Fatima (kneeling and covering her face). Receive them, my Lord!
Abou Malek. (After looking at the keys, he drops them.)
And art thou detected, whom least I suspected?
Oh prophetess! prophetess! great was thy skill!
Ayesha (flinging herself at his feet). It all was my doing! -- mine,
mine, be the ruin!
But do not, oh do not your Fatima kill!
Abou Malek (turning away from FATIMA). I dare not behold thee, -- should
my arms once enfold thee,
My purpose, I feel, in a moment would cool.
Ayesha (aside to FATIMA). Yet, yet I would try him -- with compliments
ply him:
A husband, well flatter'd, is always a fool. --
Fatima. Is pity so strange to a conqueror's bosom?
So slight an offence must such vengeance pursue?
Ayesha. Was your father a wolf? -- was your nurse an opossum,
That your heart does not melt her distresses to view?
Fatima. When first from the cot of my father you bore me,
I hoped for protection from peril and scorn.
Abou Malek. Oh horror to see thee thus kneeling before me,
And kneeling in vain! I have sworn! I have sworn!
[A great noise without, fire of musketry, shouts, &c.
By Heaven! are these Arabs so close on my traces?
Have the rascals such courage, such conduct and skill?
For a moment I leave thee, 'twere bliss to reprieve thee,
But hope not, oh hope not to soften my will. [Exit.
Ayesha. Thank our stars! he is gone, and the castle's surrounded!
And -- oh! blessed accident, here are the keys!
I swear he shall keep us no longer impounded,
Make off! -- we can get through the postern with ease.
Oh me! come again.

Re-enter ABOU MALEK, who catches FATIMA.

AYESHA escapes.

Abou Malek. What, ye fiends! are ye flying?
Have ye sold me to fall by the bands of Mount Hor?
Ayesha (without). Oh hasten to rescue a lady from dying!
Oh hasten, Selim, I'm unbolting the door!
Abou Malek. Is it thus? Oh I thank thee for giving me rest;
Thy treason has taken a load from my breast!
I can murther thee now without fear of relenting,
And fall, if my doom is to fall, unrepenting!
But live, while I print a last kiss on thy brow,
The last and the sweetest!
Selim (rushing in with a drawn sabre). Now, murderer, now!
Turn, infidel Giaour!
Abou Malek. Is the lion at bay?
Woe, woe to the hunter who stands in his way! [Fight.
Ha! Peasant! well fought! that last thrust was a raker,
And my business -- will soon be -- with Monkir -- and Hakir.


Abou Malek. Oh prophetess! prophetess! well hast thou said!
And Fatima, fear not! kneel down by my head!
Believers -- bear witness! my sins to atone,
I make her my heiress -- the castle's her own!
Forgive me! farewell -- I had more -- but 'tis past,
The first of my wives whom I loved is -- the last! [Dies.
Shekh. The Bashaw had a right to devise his estate,
But the Shekh of Mount Hor has a hold on his plate!
[The SHEKH and his Attendants are all loaded with booty.
Fatima. Alas, my Lord Shekh! -- you can ne'er be repaid,
For your generous assistance!
Shekh. Pooh! fighting's my trade!
But, Selim, in my mind, ere your union is hurried,
Abou Malek had better be handsomely buried.
Of weddings, poor man! he abundance has seen,
But 'tis always unlucky to marry thirteen!

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