Clinton Scollard

Khamsin

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Oh, the wind from the desert blew in! -- Khamsin

The wind from the desert blew in!
It blew from the heart of the fiery south,
From the fervid sand and the hills of drouth,
And it kissed the land with its scorching mouth;
The wind from the desert blew in!

It blasted the buds on the almond bough,
And shriveled the fruit on the orange tree;
The wizened dervish breathed no vow
So weary and parched was he.
The lean muezzin could not cry;
The dogs ran mad, and bayed at the sky;
The hot sun shone like a copper disk,
And prone in the shade of an obelisk
The water-carrier sank with a sigh,
For limp and dry was his water-skin;
And the wind from the desert blew in.

The camel crouched by the crumbling wall,
And, oh, the pitiful moan it made!
The minarets, taper and slim and tall,
Reeled and swam in the brazen light;
And prayers went up by day and night,
But thin and drawn were the lips that prayed.
The river writhed in its slimy bed,
Shrunk to a tortuous, turbid thread;
The burnt earth cracked like a cloven rind;
And still the wind, the ruthless wind, Khamsin,
The wind from the desert, blew in!

Into the cool of the mosque it crept,
Where the poor sought rest at the prophet's shrine;
Its breath was fire to the jasmine vine;
It fevered the brow of the maid who slept,
And men grew haggard with revel of wine.

The tiny fledgling died in the nest;
The sick babe gasped at the mother's breast.
Then a rumor rose and swelled and spread
From a tremulous whisper faint and vague,
Till it burst in a terrible cry of dread.
The plague! the plague! the plague!
Oh, the wind, Khamsin,
The scourge of the desert, blew in!

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Clinton Scollard