Wednesday, June 25, 2008

335. Ottoman

The red silken cord, for three long weeks,
lay coiled and hidden in the messenger's pouch.
Having struggled along rain-drenched muddy tracks,
crossed white swollen rivers, climbed over mountains,
he debouched, at last, on the plains of Hungary.
What news from the Light of the World?
croaked the stooping figure of Multan Pasha,
eyes aglitter in a face like mildewed parchment.
Wordlessly the messenger handed him the pouch,
and in silence Multan retired to his chamber
from which he never again would emerge.

European officers facing disgrace and scandal favoured a bottle of whiskey and a loaded pistol; the Sultan simply sent a silken cord to the officials who displeased him.