by Arlo Bates (1850 - 1918)

In the arched gateway of fair Ispahan
Language: English 
In the arched gateway of fair Ispahan,
Where shadows all day long in ambush lurk
Ready to steal abroad at nightfall, sits
Omar, the storyteller. [On his breast,
White as spun-glass, his hoary beard flows down
Until it hides his girdle; his deep eyes
Like cave-set pools in gleaming blackness shine;
His voice is mellow as a drop which falls,
Pure liquid music, in a cistern hewn
From out the living rock.]1 Around him sit
The chief men of the city, they that be
Princes and potentates of Ispahan,
All listening tireless to the tales he tells.

As there they sit at ease, lapped in delight,
Smoking long, fragrant pipes, and nodding grave
Their approbation with high dignity,
The doleful camels burdened pass, the train 
Of desert-faring caravans; and veiled
The women walk in unseen loveliness;
While orient lights and perfumes and soft airs
Give to each sweet romance its setting fit;
And each who hears, himself may haply be 
Actor in tale as strange as that he lists.

Through the long afternoon like fountain-fall
Runs on the tale till the dim air is sweet
With music of its murmurous syllables,
The liquid, melting cadences which drop
From Omar's lips like honey from the comb.
Spell-bound sit they who hear; [while tales like these 
Old Omar tells;]1 and long the shadows grow
Of the tall camels passing and of slaves
Who watch their masters, envying their ease
In the cool gateway of fair Ispahan.

A. Foote sets stanzas 1, 3

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2017-05-02
Line count: 33
Word count: 244