Through Keneh’s narrow streets we went,
We heard the humming of the wheel,
Where o’er his work the potter bent.
The kneaded mass he downward threw,
Dead clay life’s instinct seemed to feel,
And into forms of beauty grew.
Thence to the Potter’s hill we came,
That burns like Tophet evermore,
And smells of smoke and smouldered flame.
This lined his kiln with shapes of clay,
That from the pit drew forth his store,
And hurried with his jars away.
The potter’s ass, with steady feet,
And bulged with burdens either side,
Went jostling down the busy street.
The crowd gave way with willing grace,
Tho’ none before his coming cried—
‘For the jar-carrier make place’—
The sun hath put their hearts to school,
They know the universal need
Of ‘kulleh’ porous, ‘bellas’ cool.1
We are but as these pots, say they,
From Allah’s hand we all proceed,
To back return as broken clay.
Yea, and tho’ made by Allah’s hand,
We from a fiery furnace go
To help or hurt a weary land.
How soon we too are cracked and burst
With flames that work our being woe,
How much to be more full we thirst!
So with his burden through the town,
Toward the raft upon the Nile,
The ass unchallenged hies him down.
There from his nets he gives his store
To clamorous boatmen, rests awhile,
And hies him back in quest for more.
[1 The ‘kulleh’ is the small water-bottle used for drinking from; the ‘bellas’ is the huge water-jar for household use. The staple manufacture of Keneh is this pottery.]
(Idylls and Lyrics of the Nile, p. 102)