Actions

Work Header

Seven Pillars as an epic poem: The Introduction

Work Text:

Dedications:

(Note: It is vast folly to reduce the poem To S.A. to a pair of couplets. Forgive me, for I am full of folly)

I loved you, so to build you Freedom, bright, I strove
But Death in envy broke my heart, corrupted Love
Which reached you ere the Earth and worms your body share
And so your House I broke, undone. 'Twas right, not fair.

Before I write this book on the Arab Revolt
The names of those who helped me should not from it molt
As if unneeded for they truely vastly were
And what I write here is flawed mem’ry, all unsure
So here I listed many men near to my heart
But could not list the rank and file who did their part

Introductory Chapter:

This story first in Paris from my notes and wit
I started; but I lost it so it's now re-writ
The record of events, dates, places is as true
As I could make; which for the names I could not do
I say but little for the British fighting men
'Twas Arab war, by Arabs fought, Arabian

My part was poor though often spoke and easily seen
I had no rank as Arab, nor a heavy lean
On British plans. I cannot speak for others work
But for my own; in their words I would likewise lurk.
My tale bears no great lessons nor should shock the world
But little things and private ones are here unfurled
The passions of the young strive to ignite their dreams
Then old men come to warp the work toward useful themes

My goals were mad and for a nation's lofty aim
I'm told I ruined British needs and British gain
I fear I hope that's true for many lives of men
are spent to pay for things worth little now or then

Three years of work for which I wish no good rewards
Three years of British lies to Arabs with my words
Though from the start those promises we freely made
Were clearly false, yet still I Arab leaders bade
Follow the British plan in hope that with the arms
That we provided they might gain respect of harm
I never should have as an Arab's honest friend
Encouraged so much work for such a doubtful end.

Chapter I

Some evils from our circumstances, hopes and thoughts
May come; for slaved we were to them and thus we fought
Morals, wisdom, will our battered bodies hotly fled
Passions wracked the mem'ry and the live envied the dead
The soul- abandoned bodies of the men rebelled
With strange desires, angers, simple nature-felled
The Arab suffered little but our men were fraught
In one another quenched and Hell or Heaven wrought

As I was sent among them, different though a friend
There were such rifts between us as I could not mend
There were things done for which I shan't apologize
For in that place and moment nothing else was wise

One might force others to act as what they are not
Or hide himself as one of them (which he cannot)
Our great rewards were surely stark as the raw pains
Alas I see the hurts now clearer than the gains
One loses in himself his former culture's face
But yet can never gain a new one's innate grace
My Western past is now a hollow loss to me
A hole unfilled; all deeds of men unfit to see

Chapter II

A hurdle for the Arab Movement was the name
For Arabs were of many tribes and none the same
Their common language in a diverse map was spoke
Thin edges farmed but at its heart were desert folk
In center of the desert at oases fair
Was found the soul of Arab thinking everywhere

A migratory pattern crossed that dusty sea
From Yemen, born of richness and much progeny
Through drier lands to barren ones by camel trade
To nomad life new groups of Bedouin were made
These same in time might cross the desert to the north
And there find grassland where a shepherd has some worth
And thence towards Syria and fertile crescent green
The nomad tamed to farmer still had desert dreams

Chapter III

If "Arab" were thus seen as overarching race
Then those of tribe and town must have similar face
And this was seen best in their native-patterned thought
In which a certain hard-edged clarity was wrought
Dogmatic, black and white without the shades we see
Truth or untruth, superlative extremity

Their arts were few though they patroned expansively
What they produced, religions, not philosophy
Indeed they had almost monopolized this art
Their three religions stretched into Earth's every part
Yet of the Arab dogmas these a smattering
Thousands of prophets had followed their patterning
A man of wealth and city left his crowded home
And in the desert lost it all to madly roam
Returning with a glimpse of God back to the mob
He would be mocked and chided for his holy job
Though Jew, Muslim and Christian set their hearts afire
Some thousands others perished on the city's spire

Whatever made the so-called Semite meet with God
Was something built into his mind, a soul unshod
I saw this first when wandering through ancient rooms
Built out of clays mixed, shaped and baked with fine perfumes
Then Dahoum drew me, last, to smell the best of these
Where desert winds, clean, pure could wash the heart to ease
The Arabs in their hearts turned from the works of men
To nothingness, ascetic and of basic ken
There freedom lay, and God, who must be in all things
For all were in God, beautiful and slavering
The name lay ever on their lips, cleanly expressed
And we who made it short and sharp are left unblessed
The desert dweller freely took his joys and lusts
Yet in the town the worldless life succumbed to rusts

The desert born would, faithful, serve a prophet's creed
Until success had robbed them of imminent need
Yet every wave of effort broken on the shore
Would wear the cliffs of decadence and worldly lore
One such of these I led to splash Damascus, green,
Perhaps the next wave rises from our work, unseen.

Chapter IV

Though Arab empire spoke of their brief efforts' power
Once-conquered nations easily left the wedding bower
Clean Arab minds would shun administration's chains
So Turkish men infiltrated and stole their gains
From servants, helpers, politicians, enemies
The Turkish creep and rot soon grew to grasp and seize
The power, changing from ideals to gendarme rule
Suppressing Arab thought and language in the schools

Rebellions erupted Arab vassal states
Subtler, defenses of their intellectual fates
When Arabic was banished from official word
They filled the Turkish with it so it might be heard
Their map was stolen from them by the Turkish scribes
Who fostered angered jealousies between the tribes
But in the language they held their identity
The Koran proved its place with heaven's entity

Some hope arose with the advent of the Young Turks
In their determination to alter the works
Of the Sultan who claimed from Heaven temporal reign.
Nationalistic phrases would ignite the same
In subject nations ready to regain their worth
Imagining allies in that bright Turkish rebirth
But no, they were suppressed even more viciously
So underground they sparked anew and fervently

Mesopotamian officers built the Ahad
The Turkish military birthed an Arab rod
To turn against its parent when rebellion came
But would not wield itself for French and British claims

Greater, the Fetah, secret throughout Syria
The middle class, the rich, intelligenzia
Sought to corrupt the Turkish empire to the core
Turk hands were freed to return strike by coming war
A Frenchman's papers gave the Turks a good excuse
To crush an Arab club but it was little use
It merely warned the Fetah to a greater care
To not suffer the same fate the Armenians shared
Who had, Christian and Moslem, to the same scaffold
Been led and killed - which united rebellion sold.

The Turks, untrusting, scattered Arab armies wide
In hopes that they'd be weakened by the Allied side
To build their strength, the Caliph declared Holy War
And told Mecca's Sherif to echo back the roar

Chapter V

The name "Sherif of Mecca" had a noble bent
The title of Sherif implied Prophet's descent
Recorded in the rolls at Mecca carefully
Temporal rule stayed in Mohammed's family
These Emirs had a pow'r beyond the Turk's control
And so the Sultan claimed to verify their role
Over the years he strengthened his hegemony
By arms, intrigues, Canal, railway and last, money
Should the Emir prove stronger than the Sultan's need
He'd be deposed and rivals given Mecca's deed
When this was not enough, some of the family
Were taken into honorable captivity
Hussein ibn Ali was thus kept for eighteen years
So his sons' education came from Turkish peers

The Young Turks threw the Emir back to home again
Where while he grew stronger among the Arab men
He left two sons to keep an eye on Turkish thought
Abdulla and young Feisal told him what they sought
When war broke out they hurried back to Mecca's walls
Where pilgrimage no longer packed the hallowed halls
This placed them at the mercy of Turkish goodwill
If Indian food-ships failed to grant them succor still
Should Mecca fail to help the Sultan shout 'Jehad'
The Holy Cities could fall hard beneath his rod
And yet shrewd, obstinate, deeply pious Hussein
Refused the call to echo back that Turkish claim

He sent Feisal to talk with Fetah and Ahad
And to Medina, Ali, to raise the Hejaz
on any excuse needed. And to British, word
Through Abdulla he implied Revolt was proffered

In early '15 Feisal sent a cool report
That despite fertile ground inside the Syrian fort
The war was going poorly for their longterm goals.
But as the Dardanelles campaign claimed many souls
He thought it might have made it time to strike at last
Then back in Syria it turned out the chance had passed
As guest of Jemal Pasha he must watch and wait
Seeing his best supporters meet a gruesome fate
The Arab armies exiled, and their peasantry
conscripted; but worse the secret society
Which he had led paraded to the hangman's noose
He could not safely help them nor his tongue unloose
While Jemal Pasha mocked and watched, good Feisal seethed
Just once he spoke, and might never again have breathed

Despite his son's wise warnings not to rashly act
Hussein trusted to Justice and ordered him back
To Medina to raise the crimson flag of war
It might have worked but for an unexpected chore:
Jamal and Enver Pasha made themselves his guests
And hospitality made safe the Arab nest
When Ali of Modhig asked "Shall we kill them now"
"No", Feisal said, "They are our guests", would not allow
though sheiks protested. Feisal pleaded for the lives
Of these two who had killed his friends in their own hives

His anxious guardianship of these within his tents
Made them suspicious; they ordered reinforcements
And further the Hejaz was giv'n a strict blockade
Feisal himself might languish in Damascus shade
But telegrams called him to come restore order
...His hostages were kept behind the Turk border
Success would not be easy with the Turks forewarned
Medina Fakhri Pasha held, his troops full-formed
Yet 'twas too late, so Feisal's suite Damascus fled
And that same day he raised the Arab flag of red

Rebellion was the gravest step those men could make
Succeed or fail, a gamble hazardous to take
'Gainst prophecy; still fortune smiled on the bold
To shake the Arab epic from the stagnant old
Though victory shrunk their hopes to disillusioned grace
Still deathless inspiration shone upon their race.

Chapter VI

Before the war had I traversed Semitic East
Upland and down, I mingled with the social least
Being myself so poor that I could little spend
My time with those whose company all Europe tends
I gained, for us, an unusually angled view
Of ignorant as clear as of the wise and true

Turkey, I saw, was crumbling due to overreach
From trying, unsupported, to hold every peach
Of that fair empire which had been bequeathed to them
As change in world and warfare did their race condemn
They were the slowest to accept machinery
That progress bid them fade into the scenery
With the Young Turks agility returned anew
But isolated commons from the ruling few
Who were of each group but Seljuk or Ottoman
Turkey was dying, knife alone could save her then.

The Anatolian peasant was to service bred
The conscripts from their ranks by nature easily led
So neutral that their every act was calmly done
The best and the most evil birthed beneath the sun
Their showy-vicious officers drove them to death
By pox and worse the Levantine used every breath
And made them into poorer men than they had been
That military broke its sword and dulled its keen

A greater race or power, then, was needed here
To match and best the Turks' annihilistic shear
No European grafting could fulfill the role
All such previous efforts had been swallowed whole
Yet there was local talent ready and to spare
The Arabs after centuries gasping for free air
So some of us began to seek to bend the thought
Of Mother England toward this solution we'd caught

Our leader then was Clayton, whose sobriety
And courage gave deserved responsibility
His efforts were so subtle his touch was unfelt
But before him all barriers would gently melt
Then first among us stood the brilliant Ronald Storrs
Whose quick mind made the moulds wherein our cements poured
George Lloyd was confidence, planted financial seed
He never stayed long though we did like him indeed
Mark Sykes, an advocate of every flighty scheme
Made caricatures of issues one should weighty deem
He saw too late his errors though he tried his best
To mend them, but none listened, ere God gave him rest.

Not one of us but mentor was Hogarth the wise
Whose friendly ear and staunch support gained us allies
With him Cornwallis, passionate though seeming grim
And others still at their own labours behind him
We called ourselves "Intrusive", for to enter halls
Of policy we wished, to heed the Arab calls
To first feelers which years before Abdulla sent
Were added soon our thoughts by Sir McMahon's consent

Alas it was too late for Mesopotamia,
Lord Kitchener's efforts ignored by India
In hopes of building for themselves a colony
Which meant they'd broke negotiation off swiftly
They interned Seyid Taleb, head of the Ahad
Who'd in good faith come to our hands, without a nod
Then into Basra marched and thought the enemy green
But 'twere all Arabs who for this fight were not keen
Who for oppressors 'gainst hoped liberators fought
Once Turks replaced them, the Indian army was caught

THEN we repented with the fall of Erzerum
And I was sent to scout the troubled garrison
The British there did not like that I was present
Two Generals declaimed the lack of their consent
They called my mission (which they did not really know)
Dishonorable for soldiers (was I one - well, no)
I saw it was too late for Kut at any rate
So I did nothing there and left them to their fate
Had they made better use of what conditions lent
They should have been th'unstoppable Arab Movement

As this was not the way that things were pursued there
I did not stay, and never did the British fare
At all well in Irak till the end of the war
As they stayed aliens upon a hostile shore
Compared to Allenby's more kind, friendly approach
They suffered much and died much in their fierce encroach

Chapter VII

Despite the troubles Mesopotamia disgorged
McMahon at last with Mecca had achieved accord
Some skeptics had presumed the Sherif would not rise
Against the Turk and thus his revolt opened eyes
And now internal jealousies reared ugly heads
Sir Archibald Murray would weed his planting beds
Of campaigns that competed with him in his sphere
But as he was unprepped to meet with Arab peers
He could not guide our efforts to support Hejaz
And thus he covered them with politician's gauze
This left McMahon to Foreign Office Attaches
Who trivialized and buried needs in routine's maze
Wingate despite his confidence in our broad plans
Let criticism separate him from McMahon

So things in the Hejaz moved on from bad to worse
With all our Allied efforts underneath this curse
No liason was sent, no prepared strategy
The local needs were given no proper study
French Military Mission was allowed free reign
To undermine the allies we had barely gained
Wingate let foreign troops be placed in the Hejaz
And Murray mocked McMahon for his unfocused Cause
The Revolt thus discredited, the Egypt Staff
Foresaw death for Sherif Hussein and simply laughed

My own place was not easy. I, confined to maps
Started the Arab Bulletin to teach those chaps
What really was proceeding in the Arab world
So Clayton came to need me more as all unfurled
When Clayton was removed and Holdich took command
His retention of me seemed meant to stay my hand
So I sought to escape; I turned to stratagems
To make myself a nuisance to the clucking hens
On the Canal, who boiled in their ignorance
And soon they begged the General to send me hence
I took the chance to beg a leave to spend with Storrs
Who was to meet the Great Sherif, thus quit those bores!
They planned on my return to give me busywork
But Clayton helped me transfer from Egyptian murk
The Arab Bureau now obtained my services
And Storrs and I marched off in smug impertinence

And thus I moved around the square by its three sides
An Oriental method that I shall confide
Was in my heart and nature. Had I been a more
Professional good soldier I'd have sat and swore
As all my efforts came to wreck in proper way
For British officers: NON NOBIS, DOMINE