The Young Greek Odalisque
’Mid silken cushions, richly wrought, a young Greek girl reclined,
And fairer form the harem’s walls had ne’er before enshrined;
’Mid all the young and lovely ones who round her clustered there,
With glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes, she shone supremely fair.
’Tis true that orbs as dark as hers in melting softness shone,
And lips whose coral hue might vie in brightness with her own;
And forms as light as ever might in Moslem’s heaven be found,
So full of beauty’s witching grace, were lightly hovering round.
Yet, oh, how paled their brilliant charms before that beauteous one
Who, ’mid their gay mirth, silent sat, from all apart—alone,
Outshining all, not by the spells of lovely face or form,
But by the soul that shone through all, her peerless, priceless charm.
But, say, what were the visions sweet that filled that gentle heart?
Surely to Azof, her liege lord, was given the greatest part,—
To him who prized her smiles beyond the power his sceptre gave,
And, mighty sultan though he was, to her was as a slave.
No, not of crowned heads thought she then, of hall or gilded dome,
But of fair Greece, that classic land, her loved, her early home.
She yearns to see again its skies, proud temples, woodland flowers,
Less bright, but dearer far, than those that bloom in harem bowers.
She glanced upon the jewels rich that gemmed her shining hair,
And wreathed her sculptured, snowy arms, her neck and brow so fair.
Their lustre softened not the pangs that filled that lonely hour,
More happy was she when her braids were decked with simple flower.
But, Azof, did not thought of him some passing joy impart;
Did not the memory of his love bring gladness to her heart?
Alas, that long and heavy sigh, the glitt’ring tear that fell
From ’neath her dark and drooping lids, told more than words could tell.
Awhile she weeps, and then a change steals o’er her mournful dream,
Her gloomy thoughts are chased away, and all things brighter seem,
A timid and yet blissful smile lights up her beauteous brow,
Her soft cheek crimsons, but, oh’ not of Azof thinks she now.
Perchance of some gallant Greek she knew in life’s young hour,
Some childish love as guileless as her love for bird or flower,
But which, looked back on through the mist of absence or of time,
Seemed sad and sweet as are the words—of some old childish rhyme.
Could he, her royal lover, now but look into her heart,
And read its depths, how sharp the pang that knowledge would impart,
But no, secure in certain bliss, he deems her all his own,
And prides himself that girlish heart loves him and him alone.
The sadness which might have awaked suspicion or mistrust,
Was of the spells she swayed him by, the dearest and the first,—
He deemed it but the token of a timid gentle heart,
That ever kept from needless show or noisy mirth apart.
He knew not that the voice which now sang but some mournful lay
Breathed once the soul of joyousness, was gayest of the gay,
That the soft laugh whose magic power his very heart strings stirred,
Though now so rare, in girlhood’s home had oftentimes been heard!
Th’ averted head, the timid look the half unwilling ear,
With which she met his vows of love, he deemed but girlish fear,
Nor ever dreamed that she whom all considered as thrice blessed,
Whose life was like a summer day loved, honored and caressed;
Who held, a captive to her charms, a most accomplished knight
And monarch brave that ever yet had bowed to woman’s might
Was but a poor and joyless slave, compelled to wear a smile
And act a part for which she loathed her wretched self the while.
But, like some fair exotic brought unto a foreign strand,
She lost her bloom and pined to see once more her native land,
And only when from earthly scenes death summoned her to part
A blissful smile played round her lips, and peace was in her heart.