El Zorab

El Zorab

by George Coșbuc

translation by Leon Leviţchi

An Arab to pasha draws near,
His eyesight dim and his voice sere.
„From Bedouins, pasha, I descend,
From Bab-el-Mandeb – I intend
To sell El-Zorab here.

 

All Arabs leave their tents to see
The way I walk my sorrel free,
Or give him rein, or let him trot!
I love him dearly and would not
Give him, whate‘er may be!

 

Of hunger my three children die!
The palates of their mouths are dry,
And with continual suffering
A mother‘s blessed milky spring
My wife has lost for aye!

 

My dear ones are too cruelly hit;
O, save them, for you can do it!
Gold for my horse! I am so poor!
Gold! If you fancy him for sure,
Give just as you think fit!”

 

He walks the horse all around the place
At hasty trot or easy pace;
The pasha bulgy eyes burn bright,
He strokes his grey beard with delight,
Though dumb his soul and face.

 

―A thousand sequins – you agree?”
―How generous, pasha, you can be!
More than I dreamt! May God the Lord
Grant you the measure of reward
By which you have paid me!”

 

The Arab takes, with radiant eyes,
The money that before him lies –
Henceforth theirs is a happy lot,
Henceforth they are rich and will not
Ask alms in any wise.

 

Nor live in the tent‘s smoke again,
Their kinds won‘t beg on road or lane,
He and his wife, restored, will give
A friendly coin to those who live
In poverty and pain! –

 

Once more the sequins he does pluck,
Then leaves, drunk with his piece of luck,
And runs off as in duty bound,
Yet of a sudden he turns round
And stops like thunderstruck,

 

Stares at the money with spent force
And staggers like a wave-tossed corpse,
Then looks the sorrel in the eye;
With measured steps and brow reared high

He draws near his dear horse.

 

He weeps and does his neck enfold,
And buries his face, pale and cold,
Into his mane: ―My lion brave,
You should sigh sadly. I‘m a knave –

You know you have been sold!

 

My children will not play again
With leaves and garlands in your mane.
To springs they will not take you, and
No more will feed they by the hand
A horse with fig or grain!

No more will peep they out with glee,

Reach forth their hands and summon me
To sit them on your back; no more
Will Indian files come to the fore
And laugh with laughter free!

 

What, lie to children and not choke?

And tell my wife what kind of joke
When she asks of my friend, the best?
Poor Ben-Ardun will be the jest
Of all the Arab folk!

 

Raira, my wife dear and true,

Our horse you shall not see anew,
He‘ll no more follow you behind,
Not hear your voice so mild and kind
And kneel in front of you!

 

Your dear Ardun, your Ben-Ardun

Shall no more weep like a simoon
After a falcon flying fleet
And shoot it; neither will you greet
And tell us, ‒See you soon!‒

 

You shall no more seen my burnoose
In the soft breezes flutter loose,
No more put to the ground your ear
And making sure that we are near
To cry at the good news.

 

My horse! I‘ll no more have the right
To watch your eyes, ever so bright,
Your nostrils turned towards the ground,
You tail by the simoon unwound.
Your run – a swallow‘s flight!

 

You chewed the white foam on the rein
And shook your streaming golden mane
And galloping with ringing hoof
On the dry earth, looked like a sheaf
Of lightnings on the plain!

 

The desert dreaded us; the blue
Grew pale when heavenwards we flew –
From now on who will be your mate?
From winds and rains and ill-starred fate
Whoever will shield you?

 

They‘ll talk to you in language rude
And swear at you in vicious mood
And beat you savagely, horse brave,
And you shall toil and moil and slave
And go without your food!

 

And they will take you to the wars,
You, never trained in warfare laws!
Here is the money I have sought!
I‘m poor, but without him I‘m nought;
Bashaw, give back my horse!”

 

The pasha frowns: ―He‘s mad! Beware!
The jenissaries, in a trice,
Will set the dogs on you, I swear!
It is my horse, so don‘t wait there
For me to tell it twice!”

 

„He – yours? With love unmeasured, who
Has reared him? Is it I or you?
Whose hand obeys he? whose makes him
A lamb out of a lion grim?
Yours? No, that is not true!

 

He is all mine! I would defy,
For him, the very God on high!
Do have a heart! Whene‘er you need,
You may take hold of the best steed;
But I, dread pasha, I?

 

Give me your greatest mercy, pray!
Allah is just and He, I say,
Will judge what is between us, He
Knows you‘re a thief who will leave me
Stark poor, for dogs a prey.

 

The world will bitterly curse you,
For a curst thing is what you do!
I‘ll go and beg – though I‘m undone,
Of your great mercy I want none;
We know you through and through!”

 

The pasha beckons. „Undress him –
Let rods give him a proper trim!”
The eunuchs spring, leave him no chance,
And he returns as in a trance,
His eyes frozen and dim.

 

He drew the dagger, struck the head
Of El-Zorab, a spirt of red,
Of crimson-red, warm blood gushed out,
Spilt on the neck and mane, throughout,
And El-Zorab fell dead.

 

The pasha stares, a speechless wrack;
The petrified spahees step back;
The Arab, kneeling Eastern-wise,
Kisses upon the lifeless eyes
The clotted blood turned black.

 

He turns then round with savage scowls,
Throws down the deadly steel and howls:
„My children shall avenge you soon!
Now, pasha, rack and cast Ardun
To dogs and preying fowls!”

© 2019 Humidor Pipes.