Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DERVIS AND HIS ENEMIES; A TURKISH LEGEND, by JOHN GODFREY SAXE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DERVIS AND HIS ENEMIES; A TURKISH LEGEND, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Near babylon, in ancient times
Last Line: Despite the robber and the devil!
Subject(s): Legends, Turkish


NEAR Babylon, in ancient times,
There dwelt a humble, pious Dervis,
Who lived on alms, and spent his days
In exhortation, prayer, and praise, --
Devoted to the Prophet's service.


To him, one day, a neighbor sent
A gift extremely rare and pleasant, --
A fatted ox of goodly size;
Whereat the grateful Dervis cries,
"Allah be praised for this fine present!"


So large a gift were hard to hide;
Nor was he careful to conceal it;
Indeed, a thief had chanced to spy
The ox as he was passing by,
And so resolved to go and steal it.


Now while he sought, with this intent,
The owner's humble habitation,
He met a stranger near the place,
Who seemed, to judge him by his face,
A person of his own vocation.


And so the thief, as one who knew
What to a brother-rogue was owing,
Politely bade the man "Good day,"
And asked him, in a friendly way,
His name, and whither he was going.


The stranger bowed, and gruffly said:
"My name is Satan, at your service!
And I am going, Sir, to kill
A man who lives near yonder hill, --
A fellow called the 'Holy Dervis.'


"I hate him as a mortal foe;
For, spite of me and Nature's bias,
There's scarce a knave in all these parts
But this vile Dervis, by his arts,
Has made him honest, chaste, and pious!"


"Sir, I am yours!" the thief replied;
"I scorn to live by honest labor;
And even now I m on my way
To steal an ox received to-day
By this same Dervis from a neighbor."


"I'm glad to see you," said the fiend,
"You seem, indeed, a younger brother;
And, faith! in such a case as this,
It certainly were much amiss
If we should fail to aid each other!"


While thus discoursing, sooth to say,
Each knave had formed the resolution
(Lest aught occur to mar his plan)
To be himself the foremost man
To put his scheme in execution.


"For," said the thief unto himself,
"Before his work is half completed,
The Dervis, murdered where he lies,
Will rouse the neighbors with his cries,
And so my plan will be defeated!"


"If he goes first," the other thought,
"His cursed ox may chance to bellow;
Or else, in breaking through the door,
He'll wake the Dervis with the roar,
And I shall fail to kill the fellow!"


So when they reached the hermit's house,
The devil whispered, quite demurely,
"While I go in, you stand without;
My job dispatched, we'll go about
The other business more securely."


"Nay," said the robber, "I protest
I don't at all approve the measure;
This seems to me the better plan:
Just wait till I have robbed the man,
Then you may kill him at your leisure."


Now when, at last, they both refused
To yield the point in controversy,
To such a height the quarrel rose,
From words and threats they came to blows,
And beat each other without mercy!


Perceiving that the devil's strokes
Surpassed his own in weight and number,
The thief, before he took to flight,
Cried, "Murder! help!" with all his might,
And roused the Dervis from his slumber.


"Thieves! thieves!" cried Satan, going off
(To figure at some tavern-revel).
And so by this fraternal strife
The Dervis saved his ox and life,
Despite the robber and the devil!

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