(In the Citadel Courtyard, Cairo, at Sunset)
Like gold, from ground to minaret,
Great Ali’s mosque is all aglow,
As here we stand in silent row,
Beside the courtyard parapet.
Far pyramids to largeness grow
Above the vaporous plain of Nile,
And loftier Hasan’s pile
Lifts from the Rumèleh below.
The Kaliph-tombs beyond the mounds,
Where stand the torn and spectral mills,
Are silent with a hush that stills
The neighbour city’s murm’ring sounds.
With gift of glory for the hills
Of near Mokattam, from the west,
The sun is sinking to his rest,
And all the heaven with splendour fills.
Each living thing with wonder stands
To see rose-red the daystar’s rim
Pause on the far horizon dim,
Then plunge into the desert sands.
Hark! as with sound of seraphim
Sudden the silent air is stirred,
And floating far and wide, is heard
The blind Muëddin’s Evening hymn.
Now high, now low, the cadence falls,
Music of streams and summer-rhymes
Of bees that murmur in the lines,
And far-off Alpine cattle-calls,
Seem blent with bells and silver chimes,
In mellow mystery of sound
That floats where mountains stand around,
From cities glad at festal times.
Sweet harmonies enchant the ear,
And grow and surge, as man to man
Sings resonant his loud adân,
To tell the time of prayer is near.
Now fades another daylight’s span,
‘God is most great,’ I testify;
‘Attend unto Muhammad’s cry,
Ye followers of the true Korân!’
From mosque to mosque in marvellous tone
Clear voices rang, all else was hushed;
Like spray of sound the music gushed
From those tall fountain-heads of stone.
And still the heavens faintly flushed,
And still the message rose and fell,
Till over Cairo’s citadel
The first star into glory rushed.
‘God is most great, and there is none
But God, Muhammad was God-sent!
Come, then, to prayer and to content,
God is most great, the Only One!’
Upon the parapet we leant,
Our souls were called to evening prayer,
We felt the music in the air,
For more than Muslim hearts was meant.
NOTE.—The hours of prayer—Adân—are proclaimed by the Mueddins (or Muezzins) from the minarets of the mosques five times a day, at periods that mark the division of the Eastern day: (1) Magrib, a little after sunset; (2) Asha, nightfall, an hour and a half after sunset; (3) Subh, daybreak; (4) Duhr, midday; (5) Asr, afternoon, and hour and a half after sunset.
(Idylls and Lyrics of the Nile, p. 2)