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ON READING OMAR KHAYYAM


[During an anti-saloon campaign, in central Illinois.]

IN the midst of the battle I turned,
(For the thunders could flourish without me)
And hid by a rose-hung wall,
Forgetting the murder about me;
And wrote, from my wound, on the stone,
In mirth, half prayer, half play:—
"Send me a picture book,
Send me a song, to-day."

I saw him there by the wall
When I scarce had written the line,
In the enemy's colors dressed
And the serpent-standard of wine
Writhing its withered length
From his ghostly hand o'er the ground,
And there by his shadowy breast
The glorious poem I found.

This was his world-old cry:
Thus read the famous prayer:

"Wine, wine, wine, and flowers
And cup-bearers always fair!"
'Twas a book of the snares of earth
Bordered in gold and blue,
And I read each line to the wind
And read to the roses too:
And they nodded their womanly heads
And told to the wall just why
For wine of the earth men bleed,
Kingdoms and empires die.
I envied the grape stained sage:
(The roses were praising him.)
The ways of the world seemed good
And the glory of heaven dim.
I envied the endless kings
Who found great pearls in the mire,
Who bought with the nation's life
The cup of delicious fire.

But the wine of God came down,
And I drank it out of the air.
(Fair is the serpent-cup,
But the cup of God more fair.)
The wine of God came down
That makes no drinker to weep.
And I went back to battle again
Leaving the singer asleep.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1931, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.