‘Twixt ancient Beersheba and Dan
Another such a caravan
Dazed Palestine had never seen
As that which bore Sabea’s queen
Up from the fain and flaming South
To slake her yearning spirit’s drouth
At wisdom’s pools, with Solomon.
With gifts of scented sandalwood,
And labdanum, and cassia-bud,
With spicy spoils of Araby
And camel-loads of ivory
And heavy cloths that glanced and shone
With inwrought pearl and beryl-stone
She came, a bold Sabean girl.
And did she find him grave, or gay?
Perchance his palace breathed that day
With psalters sounding solemnly—
Or cymbals’ merrier minstrelsy—
Perchance the wearied monarch heard
Some loose-tongued prophet’s meddling word;—
None knows, no one—but Solomon!
She looked—with eyne wherein were blent
All ardors of the Orient;
She spake—all magics of the South
Were compassed in the witch’s mouth;—
He thought the scarlet lips of her
More precious than En Gedi’s myrrh,
The lips of that Sabean girl;
By many an amorous sun caressed,
From lifted brow to amber breast
She gleamed in vivid loveliness—
And lithe as any leopardess—
And verily, one blames thee not
If thine own proverbs were forgot,
O Solomon, wise Solomon!
She danced for him, and surely she
Learnt dancing from some moonlit sea
Where elfin vapors swirled and swayed
While the wild pipes of witchcraft played
Such clutching music ’twould impel
A prophet’s self to dance to hell—
So spun the light Sabean girl.
He swore her laughter had the lilt
Of chiming waters that are spilt
In sprays of spurted melody
From founts of carven porphyry,
And in the billowy turbulence
Of her dusk hair drowned soul and sense—
Dark tides and deep, O Solomon!
Perchance unto her day belongs
His poem called the Song of Songs,
Each little lyric interval
Timed to her pulse’s rise and fall;—
Or when he cried out wearily
That all things end in vanity
Did he mean that Sabean girl?
The bright barbaric opulence,
The sun-kist Temple, Kedar’s tents,—
How many a careless caravan
‘Twixt Beersheba and ruined Dan,
Within these forty centuries,
Has flung their dust to many a breeze,
With dust that was King Solomon!
But still the lesson holds as true,
O King, as when she lessoned you:
That very wise men are not wise
Until they read in Folly’s eyes
The wisdom that escapes the schools,
That bids the sage revise his rules
By light of some Sabean girl!