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And there, as in a mirror, saw
The coming of Assyria's war, –
Her swarthy lines of spearmen pass
Like locusts through Bethhoron's grass ;
I saw them draw their stormy hem
Of battle round Jerusalem ;
And, listening, heard the Hebrew wail
Blend with the victor-trump of Baal !
Who trembled at my warning word ?
Who owned the prophet of the Lord ?
How mocked the rude — how scoffed the vile -
How stung the Levites scornful smile,
As o'er my spirit, dark and slow,
The shadow crept of Israel's woe,
As if the angel's mournful roll
Had left its record on my soul,
And traced in lines of darkness there
The picture of its great despair !
Yet ever at the hour I feel
My lips in prophecy unseal.
Prince, priest, and Levite, gather near,
And Salem's daughters haste to hear,
On Chebar's waste and alien shore,
The harp of Judah swept once more.
They listen, as in Babel's throng
The Chaldeans to the dancer's song,
Or wild sabbeka’s nightly play,
As careless and as vain as they.
And thus, oh Prophet-bard of old,
Hast thou thy tale of sorrow told !
The same which earth's unwelcome seers
Have felt in all succeeding years.
Sport of the changeful multitude,
Nor calmly heard nor understood,
Their song has seemed a trick of art, Their warnings but the actor's part. With bonds, and scorn, and evil will, The world requites its prophets still.
So was it when the Holy One
The garments of the flesh put on!
Men followed where the Highest led
For common gifts of daily bread,
And gross of ear, of vision dim,
Owned not the God-like power of Him.
Vain as a dreamer's words to them
His wail above Jerusalem,
And meaningless the watch He kept
Through which His weak disciples slept.
Yet shrink not thou, whoe'er thou art,
For God's great purpose set apart,
Before whose far discerning eyes,
The Future as the Present lies !
Beyond a narrow-bounded age
Stretches thy prophet-heritage,
Through Heaven's dim spaces angel-trod,
Through arches round the throne of God !
Thy audience, worlds ! — all Time to be
The witness of the Truth in thee !
THE WIFE OF MANOAH TO HER HUSBAND.
AGAINST the sunset's glowing wall
The city towers rise black and tall,
Where Zorah on its rocky height,
Stands like an armed man in the light.
Down Eshtaol's vales of ripened grain
Falls like a cloud the night amain,
And up the hill-sides climbing slow
The barley reapers homeward go.
Look, dearest ! how our fair child's head
The sunset light hath hallowed,
Where at this olive's foot he lies,
Uplooking to the tranquil skies.
Oh! while beneath the fervent heat
Thy sickle swept the bearded wheat,
I've watched with mingled joy and dread,
Our child upon his grassy bed.
Joy, which the mother feels alone
Whose morning hope like mine had flown,
When to her bosom, over blessed,
A dearer life than hers is pressed.
Dread, for the future dark and still,
Which shapes our dear one to its will ;
For ever in his large calm eyes,
I read a tale of sacrifice. —
The same foreboding awe I felt
When at the altar's side we knelt,
And he, who as a pilgrim came,
Rose, winged and glorious, through the flame !
I slept not, though the wild bees made
A dreamlike murmuring in the shade,
And on me the warm-fingered hours
Pressed with the drowsy smell of flowers.
Before me, in a vision, rose
The hosts of Israel's scornful foes, —
Rank over rank, helm, shield, and spear,
Glittered in noon's hot atmosphere.
I heard their boast, and bitter word,
Their mockery of the Hebrew's Lord,
I saw their hands His ark assail,
Their feet profane His holy veil.
No angel down the blue space spoke,
No thunder from the still sky broke,
But in their midst, in power and awe,
Like God's waked wrath, OUR CHILD I saw !
A child no more !- harsh-browed and strong,
He towered a giant in the throng,
And down his shoulders, broad and bare,
Swept the black terror of his hair.
He raised his arm — he smote amain,
As round the reaper falls the grain,
So the dark host around him fell,
So sank the foes of Israel I
Again I looked. In sunlight shone
The towers and domes of Askelon.
Priest, warrior, slave, a mighty crowd
Within her idol temple bowed.
Yet one knelt not ; stark, gaunt, and blind,
His arms the massive pillars twined, —
An eyeless captive, strong with hate,
He stood there like an evil Fate.
The red shrines smoked — the trumpets pealed —
He stooped — the giant columns reeled —
Reeled tower and fane, sank arch and wall,
And the thick dust-cloud closed o'er all !
Above the shriek, the crash, the groan
Of the fallen pride of Askelon,
I heard, sheer down the echoing sky,
A voice as of an angel cry. -
The voice of him, who at our side
Sat through the golden eventide,
Of him, who on thy altar's blaze
Rose fire-winged, with his song of praise !
“ Rejoice o'er Israel's broken chain,
Grey mother of the mighty slain !
Rejoice !” it cried, “ He vanquisheth !
The strong in life is strong in death!
To him shall Zorah's daughters raise
Through coming years their hymns of praise,
And grey old men, at evening tell
Of all he wrought for Israel.
And they who sing and they who hear
Alike shall hold thy memory dear,
And pour their blessings on thy head,
Oh, mother of the mighty dead !”
It ceased : and though a sound I heard
As if great wings the still air stirred,
I only saw the barley sheaves,
And hills half hid by olive leaves.