“O dear harpist,” said the girl by the well.
“Play a song for me that will cast a sweet spell
over my heart that’s weary as can be.
For I am alone now and no-one comforts me.”
“Grandma passed away in the middle of the night.
I prayed for her soul and I held her hand tight.
I know she’s in heaven, mother at her side,
but, oh, the empty place now by my fireside!”
Softly he played to ease the girl’s heart,
plucking at the strings of his beautiful harp.
As they both sang the people gathered round,
there at the well – what a beautiful sound!
They sang seven songs then the harpist said,
“I have a little halvah and I have a little bread.
If I gave you some money could you fetch us some tea?
For, oh, what a thirst has come over me!”
The teaboy’s heart never stood a chance;
it melted right away at the girl’s first glance.
He heard her tale as he carried her tea,
said, “I’ll look after you – will you look after me?”
One day by the well when she was full grown,
and married to the teaboy with children of her own,
the girl, now a woman, saw a very old man
with a beautiful harp in his frail old hands.
“Are you the harpist?” she said to the man.
“Certainly,” he said, “fair lady, I am.
And are you the girl I knew long ago?
We sang by the well, now isn’t that so?”
“Yes,” said the girl, her heart full of joy,
“And how happy I’ve been with my teaboy.
But how have you fared, Sir? Where have you been?
What concerts given, what marvels seen?”
“I’ve played for a sultan, I’ve played for a king.
I’ve played in the places where the greatest sing.
But better than money and the clapping of hands
was playing to the Friend on the desert sands.”
They sang another song for the people there
as the moon unveiled in the mild night air.
And when they were done he whispered in her ear,
“A blanket please–tonight I sleep here.”
The morning found that his soul was now free.
He’d passed in peace the woman could see.
The desert of his heart was open to the wind.
Allah it was who was plucking at the strings.