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Monday, August 22, 2011

Number 242: Bayard Taylor "Bedouin Song"

Bedouin Song

From the Desert I come to thee
On a stallion shod with fire;
And the winds are left behind
In the speed of my desire.
Under your window I stand,
And the midnight hears my cry:
I love thee, I love but thee,
With a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the Judgement
Book unfold!

Look from thy window and see
My passion and my pain;
I lie on the sands below,
And I faint in thy disdain.
Let the night-wind touch thy brow
With the heat of my burning sigh,
And melt thee to hear the vow
Of a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the Judgement
Book unfold!

My steps are nightly driven,
By the fever in my breast,
To hear form thy lips
The words that shall give me rest.
Open the door of thy heart,
And open thy chamber door,
And my kisses shall teach thy lips
The love that shall fade no more
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the Judgement
Book unfold!

-- Bayard Taylor

Hap Notes: This passionate bit of fancy written by Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) will most certainly give readers pause who assumed that burning passionate love has reached its limits in the movies. Taylor wrote this in the 1800s and while it is fanciful, its ardent drive is pretty hot stuff (and retains a bit of modesty, too.)

Born to well-to-do Quaker parents, Taylor went to school and was then apprenticed to a printer. He maintained an interest in poetry and did a great deal of reading on his own. His poetry found a small audience and he took a job for several newspapers. He was friends with Horace Greeley who employed him at the New York Tribune. He also wrote travel articles for the United States Gazette and the Saturday Evening Post. While Taylor was chiefly a very popular travel writer and poet, he did write a couple of novels as well.

Taylor was gifted with language studies and was proficient in German (Mark Twain met him on one of his travels by ship and commented on it and Taylor's affable nature). Taylor was an adventurous student of other cultures. He met Tennyson on one of his junkets and he traveled to a huge variety of places including England, Germany, Sweden. Denmark, Lapland, Austria, Egypt, China, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor, Constantinople and even the Arctic. His popular travel books made him a household name. He was also a war correspondent during the Civil War and was the Chargé d'Affaires under the American minister to Russia at St. Petersburg. Abraham Lincoln was among the audience when he gave a lecture on Russia in Washington.

He became a professor at Cornell in 1869 where he continued to work on a translation of Goethe's Faust and lectured on Goethe and Schiller (of whom he was planning to write biographies.) He was an extraordinary mixture of adventure, language, culture and poetry. His travels gave him plenty of fodder for his often romantic poetry full of exotic places, descriptions and phrases.

After his death, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, encouraged by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote a memorial poem to Taylor.

Today's poem was written in 1853 on the Mozambique Channel. The verses gallop along as passionately as the words, don't they? It always reminds me of a Valentino movie full of incense, colorful tents, handsome desert riders, palm tree-d oases, etc. etc. Taylor did not mean this as a judgment or cliche about Bedouins – it is meant as a dreamy tribute to passionate and enduring love. Taylor actually saw the places he wrote dramatic romantic poems about and this, in itself, is somewhat of a poetic novelty.

Here's a good Taylor quote: “The healing of the world is in its nameless saints. Each separate star seems nothing, but a myriad scattered stars break up the night and make it beautiful.”

You can find many of Taylor's books here:

Here's a bio and few of his poems:

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