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Memories of Cochin

an epithalamium

 

Through high defiles of warehouses that dwarf

With undetermined age the passer-by,

We walk toward the ancient wharf,

Assailed by smells sweet, pungent, bitter, dry:

 

The perfumed plunder of a continent.

To this shore Roman, Moslem, Christian, Jew

Were gathered by the dense, sharp scent;

Absorbed now in the once-outlandish view

 

They camped by hills their children would call home.

So in the soil blurred Roman coins are found;

Saint Thomas stepped into the foam

And strode ashore, and blessed the acrid ground;

 

Jews settled here when Sion was laid waste,

And Arabs edged tall dhows into the bay,

Dutch burghers felt their northern haste,

Becalmed by slow siestas, ebb away . . .

 

So many faiths and peoples mingle here,

Breathing an air benign with spice and scent,

That we, though strangers, should not fear

To invoke, in honor of our sacrament,

 

The sensual, wise genius of this place.

Approach, kind god:  bestow your gifts on two,

Your votaries, of different race

Made one, by love, by marriage, and by you.

 

Dick Davis

 

 

From Seeing the World, Anvil Press, 1980.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
 

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