Whim Alley once led into Danger Court
Loud with the raucous talk of cockatoos,
Where bearded Jews a-squat in alcove shops
Sat waiting like royal falcons in a mews.
Softly as rain the voweled Portuguese
Fell from their red-ripe lips with eastern news
Of galleons whose names were melodies —
Softly — between the shrieks of cockatoos.
Who cared for royal navigation laws
In Danger Court — for what the Soldan said —
Or papal lines between the east and west?
Abram out-Shylocked Isaac with applause,
And clutched the sweated doubloons to his chest,
Whose late lamented owners were scarce dead.
For there were smugglers’ bargains to be made
Where leaping arches looped along the walls,
While sunlight smouldered down the long arcade
And dizened into flame on Spanish shawls.
And what the sequin brought in Louis d’or
Was news, — and rumors passed from Trebizond,
While Rachel clinked brass anklets in a door
With a straight glimpse of blue sea just beyond.
Dark sailors passed with tang of wine and tar,
And merchants with wide hats and wider fringes,
And two black Sambos smoked the same cigar
Upon a chest with three locks and five hinges.
Vanished in air! Those arches roof a cow,
To parrots’ rings the frowsy hens resort;
Whim Alley leads to less than nothing now,
For only shadows dwell in Danger Court.
© Hervey Allen