(Read at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Hesperian Club of Doane College, 1898.)

"There are no friends like the old friends,"—
(This was the genii song),—
"There are no hearts like the old hearts,
"Steady as steel and strong;
"There is no love like the old love,
"Faithful and firm and true,
"There is no truth like the old truth—
"The old that is ever new."

* * * * * * * * * * *

In those fair days of Moorish power and pride,
Before Granada fell or great Abdallah died;—
In those loved days, to every scholar dear,
Ere yet Cordova cringed beneath Castilian spear;—
When every mountain side in southern Spain
With smiling harvest praised the Moslem reign ;—
When Christian students thronged those Arab halls
Where from the mosque the Imam daily calls;—
"Allah il Allah—only God is great—
"Bow down unto Him ere it is too late ;—
"Allah il Allah—only God is just,—
"Kneel down before him, children of the dust,"—

When art and architecture, hand in hand,
With peace and plenty dwelt in that fair land,
And (century blossoms of six hundred years)—
Science and Letters blooming lost their fears ;—
While Europe groping in the ages dark
Sought at this Paynim shrine the heavenly spark,
(And sought it not in vain) to light the fire
Where Greek and Roman embers low expire,—
—That time and place tradition doth disclose
Dwelt a disciple of famed Averroes.
Haroun al Hakim—blessed be the name—
(Two Moslem heroes once had worn the same)—
Was one of noble birth and gently bred,—
The wreath of twenty summers crowned his head;
Long had he listened in Cordovan walls
To Learning as she lectured in her halls ;—
Night after night, when others were asleep,
Had delved in lore and logic long and deep;
Skilled with alembic—in the starry space
The purpose of the Master’s mind to trace,
And in the paths philosophy had trod
To look past priests and bibles up to God.

Held ever in his breast this glowing youth
The hope that he might find and know the truth ;—
That truth so tempered to the mortal mind
To cure the ills and follies of mankind;—
And in his heart another dear desire
Lit up its chambers with a vestal fire—
Another hope of early years—to prove
The meaning and the mystery of love.
Though many a classic face with winning smiles
Had met his gaze in academic aisles,
And many an earnest heart and kindly hand
Been linked with his in friendship’s sacred band,—
Through all his veins there poured the thrilling tide
Of blood that burned, yet was unsatisfied,
And every secret fibre of his brain
Still throbbed for love and truth with ardent pain.

Forth from his mountain college in the west
Haroun al Hakim went upon his quest—
Knight-errant, challenging the world to give
That truth and love which he must find to live.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Weeks passed before his aching Arab feet
First trod the Roman city's sacred street,
Where on the ruins of a world o’erthrown
Saint Peter’s bishop claimed the world his own.—
He saw the Christian Pontiff in his pride,
He saw the beggars for whom Christ had died;
He saw it all—the rags and the romance—
The Latin paupers and the knights of France—
He saw the surly haste and sordid zeal
That sold God’s blessing as it sold a meal;—
He saw beneath the monkish cowl and hood
The heart of bigot and the thirst for blood—
The people’s ruin and the church’s decay—
And sadly journeyed farther on his way.

Beyond the seas that wash the walls of Rome
Philosophy and art once had their home,—
Students of truth and readers of the skies
There pointed man to higher destinies.
Al Hakim followed far with eager breath
To learn the mysteries of life and death—
He found the wild goats feeding by the gate
Where once ruled Plato’s thought or Pericles’ debate ;—
He found the cassocked priests of Byzantine
Still wrangling whether water turned to wine,
And if the body of their Christ once dead
Were eaten in a wafer cake of bread—
While starving mobs without, beyond control,
Fought for the body and forgot the soul.—
Instead of truth and love he found too late
Falsehood and folly mixed with greed and hate.

Sick with surprise—still onward journeying—
Jerusalem, the City of the King!—
On Zion’s mount the cross of peace displayed—
Beneath in every’ street the lance and blade;
Bold Sensuality with religious mask
In ease and wealth shirked every Christian task,—
Knights of the Cross who boasted in their pride
His sepulchre whom they daily crucified,
And still ablaze with gems and jewels kept
Gethsemane—the garden where He wept.
In Golgotha—the valley of the dead—
A glittering chapel raised its garish head—
Where Mary stood beside the empty grave
They robbed the people whom He came to save.

Haroun, with loathing horror of it all,
Sped to Damascus, like another Saul,
—No noonday meteor turned Al Hakim back,
No angel of the Lord stood in his track,
Yet as he slept by ancient Pharpar’s stream
The genii of his birth sang in his dream:

"There are no friends like the old friends,"
(This was the genii song),
"There are no hearts like the old hearts,
"Steady as steel and strong;
"There is no love like the old love,
"Faithful and firm and true,
"There is no truth like the old truth—
"The old that is ever new."

Behold at last, oh wanderer of the west,
Here in Damascus welcome peace and rest ;—
Here, here, at last, beneath the mosque and dome,
Thine Arab soul shall find itself at home.
No Christian spleen here mocks the soul in need,
Or cuts a brother’s throat for love of creed,—
No hateful factions—what ?—alas, alas,
Beard of the prophet, hath it come to pass?
Doctors of Irak and of Basra here.—
Medina mufti, armed with bow and spear ;—
Religious feud burns fierce in every nook
While Persecution checks her bloody book;
Each in the Koran seeks the Almighty’s will
And finds it written "Blest be they that kill";
The plodding poor bound down to grinding toil
Perished like cattle on their native soil,
While owners of the earth their wealth displayed
And made religion servitor to trade.

Stricken as though at loss of dearest friend
Al Haroun journeyed on to Farther Zend :—
In schools of Bagdad for a brief delay
He slept a night and tarried but a day,—

Asked them "What is the aim of human life ?"
And found their answer "Victory in strife."
Then onward still, his journey scarce begun,
To where the Persian mountains greet the sun;
In that far land of shadow and eclipse
He learned his lesson from a Hindoo’s lips:
"What is the crown this human life to bless ?"
The Hindoo answered simply "Nothingness."
"Blessed Nirvana—that is man’s estate,
"To it shall come the lowest and the great;
"All other life is shadow in a glass,
‘This is the substance that shall come to pass;—
"This is the message of the mystic scroll—
"Man loses life to gain a living soul—
"That soul again, like raindrop in a sea,
"Shall lose itself through all eternity.
"This is the final destiny of youth—
"This is the end of love,—this is the endless truth."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Student of Horace, do I need to say
Mutato nomine, narratur de te?"
Oh, western comrade is my story true?
Change time and place and is it told of you?
Where have you wandered since the days of youth
In what far countries seeking love and truth?
Where have you seen the cross of Christ displayed
And Christian murder made a nation’s trade ?
In what proud city of the farther east
Sat cheek by jowl at Dives’ dainty feast—
Who bade the policeman stationed at the door
Tell Lazarus to go and sin no more?
In what Chicago ghetto’s squalid crowd
Marked the starved seamstress stitching at her shroud,
Her sisters sold into a life of shame
And license levied on their fallen fame?
Where did you note the dollars wrung from rent,
Or usury piled cent upon per cent?
Who made the market place a public school
To teach denial of the Golden Rule,
Yet raised to God in heaven ceaseless prayer
His will be done on earth as it is there?
Saw little children die like summer flies,
Shut out by poverty from woods and skies,
While saints repeat the maxim Moloch made
That "competition is the life of trade"?

Who has not wearied in the campaign’s heat
Of partisan contention and deceit?
Or trod the desert waste afar to press
From sphinx-like lips their secret: "Nothingness"?
Who has not longed with ardor none could know
For the old friendships of so long ago?
The old love and old truth again to meet
And fling himself repentant at their feet?
For the old gospel—"brotherhood of men,"—
For the old hope that made that gospel plain ;—
For the old slumber by dear childhood’s stream,
And the old song of genii in our dream:

"There are no friends like the old friends,"
(This is the song they sing),
"There are no hearts like the old hearts,
"Honor to them we bring,
"There is no love like the old love,
"That was once for you and me;
"The new truth is still the old truth
"For the truth it must ever be."


Back to Legacy