I see a little group about my chair,
Lovers of stories all!
First, Saxon Edith, of the corn-silk hair,
Growing so strong and tall!
Then little brother, on whose sturdy face
Soft baby dimples fly,
As fear or pleasure give each other place
When wonders multiply;
Then Gold-locks–summers nine their goldenest
Have showered on her head,
And tinted it, of all the colors best,
Warm robin-red breast red;
Then, close at hand, on lowly haunches set,
With pricked up, tasseled ear,
Is Tony, little cleared-eyed spaniel pet,
Waiting, like them, to hear.
I say I have no story–all are told!
Not to be daunted thus,
They only crowd more confident and bold,
And laugh, incredulous.
And so, remembering how, once on a time,
I, too, loved such delights,
I choose this one and put it into rhyme,
From the “Arabian Nights.”
A poor little lad was Aladdin!
His mother was wretchedly poor;
A widow, who scarce ever had in
Her cupboard enough of a store
To frighten the wolf from the door.
No doubt he was quite a fine fellow
For the country he lived in–but, ah!
His skin was a dull, dusky yellow,
And his hair was as long as ‘twould grow.
(‘Tis the fashion in China, you know.)
But however he looked, or however
He fared, a strange fortune was his.
None of you, dears, though fair-faced and clever,
Can have anything like to this,
So grand and so marvelous it is!
Well, one day–for so runs the tradition–
While idling and lingering about
The low city streets, a Magician
From Africa, swarthy and stout,
With his wise, prying eyes spied him out,
And went up to him very politely,
And asked what his name was and cried:
“My lad, if I judge of you rightly,
You’re the son of my brother who died–
My poor Mustafa!”–and he sighed.
“Ah, yes, Mustafa was my father,”
Aladdin cried back, “and he’s dead!”
“Well, then, both yourself and your mother
I will care for forever,” he said,
“And you never shall lack wine nor bread.”
And thus did the wily old wizard
Deceive with his kindness the two
For a deed of dark peril and hazard
He had for Aladdin to do,
At the risk of his life, too, he knew.
Far down in the earth’s very centre
There burned a strange lamp at a shrine;
Great stones marked the one place to enter;
Down under t’was dark as a mine;
What further–no one could divine!
And that was the treasure Aladdin
Was sent to secure. First he tore
The huge stones away, for he had in
An instant the strength of a score;
Then he stepped through the cavern-like door.
Down, down, through the darkness so chilly!
On, on, through the long galleries!
Coming now upon gardens of lilies,
And now upon fruit-burdened trees,
Filled full of the humming of bees.
But, ah, should one tip of his finger
Touch aught as he passed, it was death!
Not a fruit on the boughs made him linger,
Nor the great heaps of gold underneath.
But on he fled, holding his breath,
Until he espied, brightly burning,
The mystical lamp in its place!
He plucked the hot wick out, and, turning,
With triumph and joy in his face,
Set out his long way to retrace.
At last he saw where daylight shed a
Soft ray through a chink overhead,
Where the crafty Magician was ready
To catch the first sound of his tread.
“Reach the lamp up to me, first!” he said.
Aladdin with luck had grown bolder,
And he cried, “Wait a bit, and we’ll see!”
Then with huge, ugly push of his shoulder,
And with strong, heavy thrust of his knee,
The wizard–so angry was he–
Pried up the great rock, rolled it over
The door with an oath and a stamp;
“Stay there under that little cover,
And die of the mildew and damp,”
He shouted, “or give me the lamp!”
Aladdin saw darkness fall o’er him;
He clutched at the lamp in his hand,
And, happening to rub it, before him
A Genius stood, stately and grand.
Whence he came he could not understand.
“I obey you,” it said, “and whatever
You ask for, or wish, you shall have!
Rub the lamp but the least bit soever,
It calls me, for I am its slave!”
Aladdin said, “Open this cave!”
He was freed from the place in a minute;
And he rubbed once again: “Take me home!”
Home he was. And as blithe as a linnet
Rubbed again for the Genius with: “Come,
I am dying for food; get me some!”
Thus at first he but valued his treasure
Because simple wants it supplied.
Grown older it furnished him pleasure;
And then it brought riches beside;
And, at last, it secured him his bride.
Now the Princess most lovely of any
Was Badroulboudour, (what a name!)
Who, though sought for and sued for by many,
No matter how grandly they came,
Yet merrily laughed them to shame,
Until with his riches and splendor,
Aladdin as lover enrolled!
For the first thing he did was to send her
Some forty great baskets of gold,
And all the fine gems they would hold.
Then he built her a palace, set thickly
With jewels at window and door;
And all was completed so quickly
She saw bannered battlements soar
Where was nothing an hour before.
There millions of servants attended,
Black slaves and white slaves, thick as bees,
Obedient, attentive, and splendid
In purple and gold liveries,
Fine to see, swift to serve, sure to please!
Him she wedded. They lived without trouble
As long as the lamp was their own;
But one day, like the burst of a bubble,
The palace and Princess were gone;
Without wings to fly they had flown!
And Aladdin, dismayed to discover
That the lamp had been stolen away,
Bent all of his strength to recover
The treasure, and day after day,
He journeyed this way and that way;
And at last, after terrible hazard,
After many a peril and strife,
He found that the vengeful old wizard,
Who had made the attempt on his life,
Had stolen lamp, princess and wife.
With a shrewdness which would have done credit
To even a Yankee boy, he
Sought the lamp where the wizard had hid it,
And, turning a mystical key,
Brought it forth, and then, rubbing with glee,
“Back to China!” he cried. In a minute
The marvellous palace uprose,
With the Princess Badroulboudour in it
Unruffled in royal repose,
With her jewels and cloth-of-gold clothes;
And with gay clouds of banners and towers,
With its millions of slaves, white and black.
It was borne by obedient Powers,
As swift as the wind on its track,
And ere one could count ten it was back!
And ever thereafter, Aladdin
Clung close to the lamp of his fate,
Whatever the robe he was clad in,
Or whether he fasted or ate;
And at all hours, early and late!
Right lucky was Lord Aladdin!
(Clara Doty Bates)
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Based on Keywords: pried, tony, spaniel, liveries, wretchedly, daunted, aladdin, tasseled, idling, fair-faced, shrewdness