AZRAEL King Solomon, before his palace gate At evening, on the pavement tessellate Was walking with a stranger from the East, Arrayed in rich attire as for a feast, The mighty Runjeet-Sing, a learned man, And Rajah of the realms of Hindostan. And as they walked the guest became aware Of a white figure in the twilight air, Gazing intent, as one who with surprise His form and features seemed to recognize; And in a whisper to the king he said: "What is yon shape, that, pallid as the dead, Is watching me, as if he sought to trace In the dim light the features of my face?" The king looked, and replied: "I know him well; It is the Angel men call Azrael, 'T is the Death Angel; what hast thou to fear?" And the guest answered: "Lest he should come near, And speak to me, and take away my breath! Save me from Azrael, save me from death! O king, that hast dominion o'er the wind, Bid it arise and bear me hence to Ind." The king gazed upward at the cloudless sky, Whispered a word, and raised his hand on high, And lo! the signet-ring of chrysoprase On his uplifted finger seemed to blaze With hidden fire, and rushing from the west There came a mighty wind, and seized the guest And lifted him from earth, and on they passed, His shining garments streaming in the blast, A silken banner o'er the walls upreared, A purple cloud, that gleamed and disappeared. Then said the Angel, smiling: "If this man Be Rajah Runjeet-Sing of Hindostan, Thou hast done well in listening to his prayer; I was upon my way to seek him there." INTERLUDE. "O Edrehi, forbear to-night Your ghostly legends of affright, And let the Talmud rest in peace; Spare us your dismal tales of death That almost take away one's breath; So doing, may your tribe increase." Thus the Sicilian said; then went And on the spinet's rattling keys Played Marianina, like a breeze From Naples and the Southern seas, That brings us the delicious scent Of citron and of orange trees, And memories of soft days of ease At Capri and Amalfi spent. "Not so," the eager Poet said; "At least, not so before I tell The story of my Azrael, An angel mortal as ourselves, Which in an ancient tome I found Upon a convent's dusty shelves, Chained with an iron chain, and bound In parchment, and with clasps of brass, Lest from its prison, some dark day, It might be stolen or steal away, While the good friars were singing mass. "It is a tale of Charlemagne, When like a thunder-cloud, that lowers And sweeps from mountain-crest to coast, With lightning flaming through its showers, He swept across the Lombard plain, Beleaguering with his warlike train Pavia, the country's pride and boast, The City of the Hundred Towers." Thus heralded the tale began, And thus in sober measure ran.