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قراءة كتاب Akra the Slave

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‏اللغة: English
Akra the Slave

Akra the Slave

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

rose of the afterglow,

Already in the surge of shadows caught,
As night, beneath us, slowly Westward swept,
Flooding the dreaming plain that lay before us,
Vast, limitless, bewildering,
And strange to mountain-eyes.
As down the slope we went,
And when, at last, we left behind
The hills and singing waters,
A vague, oppressive fear
Of those dim, silent leagues of level land,
Fell on me; and I almost seemed
To bear upon my shoulders
The vaster dome of overwhelming night;
And, trembling like a child,
I looked askance at my two captors,
As they rode on in heedless silence,
Their swarthy faces sharp
Against the lucent sky.
And then, once more,
The old, familiar watchfires of the stars
Brought courage to my bosom;
And the young moon's brilliant horn
Was exalted in the sky:
And soon, the glooming wilderness
Awoke with glittering waters,
As a friendly wind sang unto me
Among the swaying reeds:
While, cloud on cloud,
The snowy flocks of pelican
Before our coming rose;
And, as they swerved to Southward,
The moonlight shivered off their flashing pinions.
So, on we marched, till dawn, across the plain;
And, on and on,
Beneath the waxing moon,
Each night we travelled Westward;
Until, at last, we halted
By the broad dull-gleaming flood
Of mighty, roaring Tigris;
And aroused from midnight slumber
The surly, grumbling ferrymen,
And crossed the swollen waters
Upon the great, skin rafts:
Then on again we fared,
Until the far, dim towers soared in the dawnlight
And we encamped beside a stream,
Beneath dry, rustling palms.
And heavily I slumbered:
And only wakened once, at noon,
When, lifting up my head,
I saw the towers of Babylon, burning blue,
Far off, in the blind heat:
And slept again, till sunset,
When we took our Westward course
Along the low bank of a broad canal,
That glimmered wanly 'neath a moonless sky.
Higher, and higher still,
As we drew slowly nearer,
Arose the vasty walls and serried towers,
That seemed to thrust among the stars,
And on embattled summits bear the night,
Unbowed beneath their burden,
As easily as, with unruffled brows,
And limber, upright bodies,
The village-daughters carry
At eve the brimming pitchers,
Poised upon their heads.
And when, above us, the wide-looming walls
Shut out the Western stars;
Beneath their shade, at midnight, we encamped,
To await till dawn should open
The city gates for us.
That night we did not sleep,
But, crouched upon the ground,
We watched the moon rise over Babylon,
Till, far behind us, o'er the glittering waste,
Was flung the wall's huge shadow,
And the moving shades of sentries,
Who, unseen above our heads,
Paced through the night incessantly.
Thus long we sat, hushed with awed expectation,
And gazing o'er the plain that we had travelled,
As, gradually, the climbing moon,
Escaping from the clustering towers,
Revealed far-gleaming waters,
And the sharp, shrill cry of owls,
Sweeping by on noiseless plumes,
Assailed the vasty silence,
Shivering off like darts
From some impenetrable shield.
And, as we waited,
Sometimes, fearfully,
I gazed up those stupendous, soaring walls
Of that great, slumbering city, wondering
What doom behind the bastioned ramparts slept,
What destiny, beneath the brooding night,
Awaited me beyond the brazen gates.
But, naught the blind, indifferent stars revealed,
Though towards the long night's ending,
Half-dazed with gazing up that aching height,
A drowsiness fell over me,
And in a restless waking-trance I lay,
Dreaming that Life and Death before me stood.
And, as each thrust towards me a shrouded cup,
Implacable silence bade me choose and drink.
But, as I stretched a blind, uncertain hand
To take the cup of death,
I wakened, and dawn trembled,
At last, beyond the Eastern hills,
And, star by star, night failed;
And eagerly the sun leapt up the sky,
And, as his flashing rays
Smote kindling towers and flaming gates of brass,
Across the reedy moat
A clattering