Tennyson's Poems

Recollections Of The Arabian Nights

First printed in 1830.

With this poem should be compared the description of Harun al Rashid's Garden of Gladness in the story of Nur-al-din Ali and the damsel Anis al Talis in the Thirty-Sixth Night. The style appears to have been modelled on Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' and 'Lewti', and the influence of Coleridge is very perceptible throughout the poem.

When the breeze of a joyful dawn blew free

In the silken sail of infancy,

The tide of time flow'd back with me,

The forward-flowing tide of time;

And many a sheeny summer-morn,

Adown the Tigris I was borne,

By Bagdat's shrines of fretted gold,

High-walled gardens green and old;

True Mussulman was I and sworn,

For it was in the golden prime [1]

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Anight my shallop, rustling thro' [2]

The low and bloomed foliage, drove

The fragrant, glistening deeps, and clove

The citron-shadows in the blue:

By garden porches on the brim,

The costly doors flung open wide,

Gold glittering thro' [3] lamplight dim,

And broider'd sofas [4] on each side:

In sooth it was a goodly time,

For it was in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Often, where clear-stemm'd platans guard

The outlet, did I turn away

The boat-head down a broad canal

From the main river sluiced, where all

The sloping of the moon-lit sward

Was damask-work, and deep inlay

Of braided blooms [5] unmown, which crept

Adown to where the waters slept.

A goodly place, a goodly time,

For it was in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

A motion from the river won

Ridged the smooth level, bearing on

My shallop thro' the star-strown calm,

Until another night in night

I enter'd, from the clearer light,

Imbower'd vaults of pillar'd palm,

Imprisoning sweets, which, as they clomb

Heavenward, were stay'd beneath the dome

Of hollow boughs.--A goodly time,

For it was in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Still onward; and the clear canal

Is rounded to as clear a lake.

From the green rivage many a fall

Of diamond rillets musical,

Thro' little crystal [6] arches low

Down from the central fountain's flow

Fall'n silver-chiming, seem'd to shake

The sparkling flints beneath the prow.

A goodly place, a goodly time,

For it was in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Above thro' [7] many a bowery turn

A walk with vary-colour'd shells

Wander'd engrain'd. On either side

All round about the fragrant marge

From fluted vase, and brazen urn

In order, eastern flowers large,

Some dropping low their crimson bells

Half-closed, and others studded wide

With disks and tiars, fed the time

With odour in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Far off, and where the lemon-grove

In closest coverture upsprung,

The living airs of middle night

Died round the bulbul [8] as he sung;

Not he: but something which possess'd

The darkness of the world, delight,

Life, anguish, death, immortal love,

Ceasing not, mingled, unrepress'd.

Apart from place, withholding [9] time,

But flattering the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Black the [10] garden-bowers and grots

Slumber'd: the solemn palms were ranged

Above, unwoo'd of summer wind:

A sudden splendour from behind

Flush'd all the leaves with rich gold-green,

And, flowing rapidly between

Their interspaces, counterchanged

The level lake with diamond-plots

Of dark and bright. [11] A lovely time,

For it was in the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Dark-blue the deep sphere overhead,

Distinct with vivid stars inlaid, [12]

Grew darker from that under-flame:

So, leaping lightly from the boat,

With silver anchor left afloat,

In marvel whence that glory came

Upon me, as in sleep I sank

In cool soft turf upon the bank,

Entranced with that place and time,

So worthy of the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Thence thro' the garden I was drawn--[13]

A realm of pleasance, many a mound,

And many a shadow-chequer'd lawn

Full of the city's stilly sound, [14]

And deep myrrh-thickets blowing round

The stately cedar, tamarisks,

Thick rosaries [15] of scented thorn,

Tall orient shrubs, and obelisks

Graven with emblems of the time,

In honour of the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

With dazed vision unawares

From the long alley's latticed shade

Emerged, I came upon the great

Pavilion of the Caliphat.

Right to the carven cedarn doors,

Flung inward over spangled floors,

Broad-based flights of marble stairs

Ran up with golden balustrade,

After the fashion of the time,

And humour of the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

The fourscore windows all alight

As with the quintessence of flame,

A million tapers flaring bright

From twisted silvers look'd [16] to shame

The hollow-vaulted dark, and stream'd

Upon the mooned domes aloof

In inmost Bagdat, till there seem'd

Hundreds of crescents on the roof

Of night new-risen, that marvellous time,

To celebrate the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Then stole I up, and trancedly

Gazed on the Persian girl alone,

Serene with argent-lidded eyes

Amorous, and lashes like to rays

Of darkness, and a brow of pearl

Tressed with redolent ebony,

In many a dark delicious curl,

Flowing beneath [17] her rose-hued zone;

The sweetest lady of the time,

Well worthy of the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.

Six columns, three on either side,

Pure silver, underpropt [18] a rich

Throne of the [19] massive ore, from which

Down-droop'd, in many a floating fold,

Engarlanded and diaper'd

With inwrought flowers, a cloth of gold.

Thereon, his deep eye laughter-stirr'd

With merriment of kingly pride,

Sole star of all that place and time,

I saw him--in his golden prime,


[Footnote 1: "Golden prime" from Shakespeare.]

"That cropp'd the _golden prime_ of this sweet prince."

--_Rich. III._, i., sc. ii., 248.

[Footnote 2: 1830. Through.]

[Footnote 3: 1830. Through.]

[Footnote 4: 1830 and 1842. Sophas.]

[Footnote 5: 1830. Breaded blosms.]

[Footnote 6: 1830. Through crystal.]

[Footnote 7: 1830. Through.]

[Footnote 8: "Bulbul" is the Persian for nightingale. _Cf. Princes_,] iv., 104:--

"O Bulbul, any rose of Gulistan Shall brush her veil".

[Footnote 9: 1830. Witholding. So 1842, 1843, 1845.]

[Footnote 10: 1830. Blackgreen.]

[Footnote 11: 1830. Of saffron light.]

[Footnote 12: 1830. Unrayed.]

[Footnote 13: 1830. Through ... borne.]

[Footnote 14: Shakespeare has the same expression:]

"The hum of either army _stilly sounds_".

--_Henry V_., act iv., prol.

[Footnote 15: 1842. Roseries.]

[Footnote 16: 1830. Wreathed.]

[Footnote 17: 1830. Below.]

[Footnote 18: 1830. Underpropped. 1842. Underpropp'd.]

[Footnote 19: 1830. O' the.]