A RHAPSODY OF TYRE
Sidon, the stage of the moving events so far recorded, though it makes much of possessing a separate importance, is really a cross-river residential suburb of Tyre, the great seaport in which all the ships of the world come to and fro. During the day Sidon is virtually emptied of its men-folk, and is given up to perambulators and feminine activities generally; for the men have streamed across the ferries that bridge the sunny, boisterous river, to the docks and offices of Tyre.
Though Tyre is not a very old city, it is not so new as to be denied a few of those associations known as “historical.” Tyre had once the honour to be taken by Prince Rupert, and long before that its nucleus had existed as a monk’s ferry, by which travellers were rowed across the river to the monastery and posting-house at Sidon. Sometimes of an evening Henry and Mike would think of those far-off times as they looked over the ferry-boat at the long lines of river lights, with their restless heaving reflections; and sometimes they could picture to themselves the green sloping banks of the virgin fields, and hear the priory bell calling to them out of the darkness. But such were the faintest of their visions; and they loved the river banks best as they are to-day, with their Egyptian walls and swarming lights and tangled ships.
And whoso should think that that sordid commercial city, given up to all the prose of trade day by day, is not a poet at heart, has never seen her strange smile at evening when the shops are shut, and the offices empty, and the men who know her not gone home. For then across the crowded roofs softly comes a strange sweetness, and deep down among the gloomy wynds of deserted warehouses, still as temples, sudden fairies of sunset dance and dazzle, and touch the grimy walls with soft hands. In lonely back rooms, full of desks and dust, haunted lights of evening stand like splendid apparitions; and sometimes, if you lingered at the top of High Street, beneath the dark old church, and the moon was out on the left of the steeple and the sunset dying on the right, dying beyond the tangled masts and fading from the river, you would forget you were a city clerk, and you would wonder why the world was so beautiful, why the moon was made of pearl, and what it was that called to you out of yonder golden sea; and your heart would fill with a strange gladness, and you would call back to those unearthly voices, “I am yours, yours, all yours!”
Thus would this town of bales and merchants, of office-desks and stools, make poets at evening that she might stone them at noon. For, of course, she would have forgotten it all in the morning; and it were well not to remind her with your dreaming eyes of her last night’s softness. She will look back at you with stony misunderstanding, and her new lover Reality will sharply box your ears.