Golden Journey to Samarkand


        Golden journey to Samarkand!.. In Europe, long ago these words became an idiom and slogan, something like a tourist brand, symbolizing a magic oriental fairy tale. They are connected with the English poet and dramatist James E. Flecker. His poem "Golden journey to Samarkand" turned into a hymn for travellers making for the East.



        In General readers of the 21st century know little about Flecker. Meanwhile, in his time, his verse and drama, delicate and full of romantic notions of the East, caused great interest and stormy literary disputes.

        Flecker was born in London in 1884. He graduated from a boarding school in Cheltenham, where his father was a director. Upon reaching thirteen, he realized that his feelings and dreams could only be expressed in verse. One of his first poems Flakes was published in the school almanac.

        Having entered Oxford University, Flecker joined the young intellectuals, so-called bohemians. His new friends were highly appreciative of his wittiness and delicate taste. Three years later, he received a bachelors degree and became a school teacher. However, teaching was not the direction for this young man. James gave all his free time to the poetry and published his first book of poems Bridge of fire in 1907.

        Having realized fully that a teaching career was not attractive to him, Flecker decided to switch to the diplomatic service. He entered the Cambridge University to study the Turkish and Arabian languages.

        In 1910, he received his first posting to the British consulate in Istanbul. Flecker, as well as a majority of Englishmen, imagined the East as a fantastic country promising exotic glamour and wonderful adventures. It seemed that Turkey answered his expectations. To his mother he wrote: I can see Bosporus through the windows of my house. In the evenings, I usually observe how the brown walls of the castle turn gold, and the dark blue sea becomes white, while the sun is sinking, sliding down the sky, softly coloured in rose.

        Unfortunately, during the voyage to Turkey, James caught a cold. The disease lasted too long and doctors diagnosed tuberculosis. His diplomatic service was interrupted as he had to undergo a 'cure' at one of the English sanatorium. Flecker was then transferred from Istanbul to the consulate of Great Britain in Izmir.

        When Flecker was appointed the vice-consul to Beirut, he had already become seriously ill. He became indifferent towards the service. Literature remained the major occupation and kept Flecker connected with the intellectual world of England, which was a shelter for the weakening poet. He wrote to his family: I have lost any hope again to see England, the house where I would be happy.

        In 1913, Flecker had to resign from the diplomatic service and to go to Switzerland. There, he wrote his best poem Golden journey to Samarkand. In the foreword to the poem, he declared the creative credo: A poet is not obliged to save the soul of a person, but to prepare it for saving.

        James Flecker had lived a short life, who dreamed about the fantastic and wonderful East. His poems, written in a free and casual style, with dynamically developed plot, can be regarded as amongst the best of his time. The poet affirmed a priority of beauty as supreme aesthetic value. Flecker, as a person and poet, represented a pure dreamer and romanticist.

We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand

Today, the golden road still invites the travellers to the minarets and azure domes of Samarkand and Bukhara.


 

James Elroy Flecker


THE GOLDEN JOURNEY TO SAMARKAND

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,

White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

Sweet to ride forth at evening from the wells
When shadows pass gigantic on the sand,
And softly through the silence beat the bells
Along the Golden Road to Samarkand.

We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.