Edwin Arnold

The Musmee (1892)

The Musmee has brown velvet eyes
Curtained with satin, sleepily;
You wonder if those lids would rise
The newest, strangest sight to see;
But when she chatters, laughs, or plays
Kôto, biwa, or samisen,
No jewel gleams with brighter rays
Than flash from those dark lashes then.

The Musmee has a small brown face,
‘Musk-melon seed’ its perfect shape:
Jetty arched eyebrows; nose to grace
The rosy mouth beneath; a nape,
And neck, and chin, and smooth, soft cheeks
Carved out of sun-burned ivory,
With teeth, which, when she smiles or speaks,
Pearl merchants might come leagues to see!

The Musmee’s hair could teach the night
How to grow dark, the raven’s wing
How to seem ebon! Grand the sight
When, in rich masses, towering,
She builds each high black-marble coil,
And binds the gold and scarlet in;
And thrusts, triumphant, through the toil
The Kanzâshi, her jewelled pin.

The Musmee has wee faultless feet,
With snow-white tabi trimly decked,
Which patter down the city street,
In short steps, slow and circumspect;
A velvet string between her toes
Holds to its place th’ unwilling shoe:
Pretty and pigeon-like she goes,
And on her head a hood of blue.

The Musmee wears a wondrous dress—
Kimono, obi, imoji—
A rose-bush in Spring loveliness
Is not more colour-glad to see!
Her girdle holds her silver pipe,
And heavy swing her long silk sleeves
With cakes, love-letters, mikan ripe,
Small change, musk-bag, and writing-leaves.

The Musmee’s heart is slow to grief,
And quick to pleasure, dance, and song;
The Musmee’s pocket-handkerchief
A square of paper! All day long
Gentle, and sweet, and debonair
Is, rich or poor, this Asian lass:
Heaven have her in its tender care,
O medetô gozarimas!




See notes about Arnold at Fuji-yama. ‘The Musmee’ first appeared in Potiphar’s Wife (London: Longmans, Green, 1892).








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