(At the Ĝamá El Akbar)
The shrillest pipe man ever played
Was making music overhead,
And in a circle, down below,
Sat men whose faces seemed to show
Another world was all their trade.
Then up they rose, and one by one
Shook skirts down, following him who led
To where the elder brother sat—
All gaberdine and conic hat,
Then bowed, and off for Heaven they spun.
Their hands were crossed upon the breast,
Their eyes were closed as if in sleep,
The naked foot that beat the floor,
To keep them spinning more and more,
Was careless of all need for rest.
Soon every flowing skirt began
Its milkwhite spinning plane to keep,
Each brother of the holy band
Spun in and out with lifted hand
A teetotum no longer man.
But I might see, how, all the while,
With whisper low, and trembling lip,
The word of Allah’s grace was given
To those that twirled from earth to Heaven,
By a stern mouth that knew no guile.
The grey old man, their leader, went
Throughout his spinning fellowship,
And reverently to the ear,
Of every dervish circling near,
He spake a soft encouragement.
The piper piped a shriller psalm,
The dancers thro’ their mystery moved
Untouched, untouching, and the whirl
That set our giddy heads aswirl
Served but to give their faces calm.
Till very surely there was shown
The glimpse of Paradise they loved,
Then drooped the skirts, then failed the trance,
Then one by one they left the dance,
And in the circle sat them down.
(Idylls and Lyrics of the Nile, p. 5)