Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems/Chunder Ali's Wife

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1670579Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems — Chunder Ali's Wife1873John Boyle O'Reilly



"I AM poor," said Chunder Ali, while the Mandarin above him
Frowned in supercilious anger at the dog who dared to speak;
"I am friendless and a Hindoo: such a one meets few to love him
Here in China, where the Hindoo finds the truth alone is weak.
I have naught to buy your justice; were I wise, I had not striven.
Speak your judgment;" and he crossed his arms and bent his quivering face.

Heard he then the unjust sentence: all his goods and gold were given
To another, and he stood alone, a beggar in the place.

And the man who bought the judgment looked in triumph and derision
At the cheated Hindoo merchant, as he rubbed his hands and smiled
At the whispered gratulation of his friends, and at the vision
Of the more than queenly dower for Ahmeer, his only child.
Fair Ahmeer, who of God's creatures was the only one who loved him,
She, the diamond of his treasures, the one lamb within his fold.
She, whose voice, like her dead mother's, was the only power that moved him,—
She would praise the skill that gained her all this Hindoo's silk and gold.
And the old man thanked Confucius, and the judge, and him who pleaded.

But why falls this sudden silence? why does each one hold his breath?
Every eye turns on the Hindoo, who before was all unheeded,
And in wond'ring expectation all the court grows still as death.

Not alone stood Chunder Ali: by his side Ahmeer was standing,
And his brown hand rested lightly on her shoulder as he smiled
At the sweet young face turned toward him. Then the father's voice commanding
Fiercely bade his daughter to him from the dog whose touch defiled.
But she moved not, and she looked not at her father or the others
As she answered, with her eyes upon the Hindoo's noble face:
"Nay, my father, he defiles not: this kind arm above all others
Is my choosing, and forever by his side shall be my place.

When you knew not, his dear hand had given many a sweet love-token,
He had gathered all my heartstrings and had bound them round his life;
Yet you tell me he defiles me: nay, my father, you have spoken
In your anger, and not knowing I was Chunder Ali's wife."