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Her heart and lip had scarcely power
To feel or frame in that dark hour,
Fearful, yet blameless ! for her birth,
Fair victim, was of common earth,
And she was nurst, in happier hours,
By Nature's common suns and showers;
And when one moment whirls away
Whate'er we know or trust to-day,
And opens that eternal book,
On which we long, and dread, to look-
In that quick change of sphere and scope,
That rushing of the spirit's wings
From all we have to all we hope,
From mortal to immortal thingsThough madly on the giddy brink
Despair may smile, and Guilt dissemble, White Innocence a while will shrink,
And Piety be proud to tremble ! But quickly from her brow and cheek
The flush of human terror faded,
And she aroused, the maiden meek,
Her fainting spirit, self-upbraided,
And felt her secret soul renewed
In that her solemn solitude.
Unwonted strength to her was given
To bear the rod and drink the cup;
Her pulse beat calmer, and to Heaven
Her voice in firmer tone went up : And as upon her gentle heart
The dew of holy peace descended, She saw her last sunlight depart
With awe and hope so meekly blended Into a deep and tranquil sense Of unpresuming confidence, That if the blinded tribes, whose breath
Had doomed her to such dole and death,
Could but have caught one bright, brief glance
Of that ungrieving countenance,
And marked the light of glory shed
Already o'er her sinless head,
The tears with which her eyes were full-
Tears not of anguish—and the smile
Of new-born rapture, which the while
As with a lustrous veil arrayed
Her brow, her cheek, her lip, and made
Her beauty more than beautiful-
Oh, would they not have longed to share
Her torture-yea ! her transport, there?
“Father, my sins are very great;
Thou readest them, whate'er they be;
But penitence is all too late ;.
And unprepared I come to Thee,
Uncleansed, unblessed, unshriven ! “ Yet Thou, in whose all-searching sight
No human thing is undefiled-
Thou, who art merciful in might,
Father, Thou wilt forgive Thy child-
Father, Thou hast forgiven!
“Thy will, not hers, be done to-day!
If in this hour, and on this spot,
Her soul indeed must pass away
Among fierce men who know Thee not-
Thine is the breath Thou gavest ! “Or, if Thou wilt put forth Thine hand
And shield her from the jaws of flame,
Whose people hath not heard Thy name
Thine be the life Thou savest i "
So spoke the blessed maid, and now
Crossing her hands upon her breast,
With quiet eye and placid brow
Awaited the destroying pest ;
Not like a thing of sense and life
Soul-harrassed in such bitter strife,
But tranquil, as a shape of stone
Upraised in ages long bygone
To mark where, closed her toilsome race,
Some sainted sister sleeps in grace.
Such Bertha seemed : about her grew
Sweet wild-flowers, sweet of scent and hue ;
And she had fixed with pious care
Her crucifix before her there,
That her last look and thought might be
Of Christ and of the Holy Tree.
The day was gone, but it was not night:--
Whither so suddenly fled the light ?
Nature seemed sick with a sore disease;
Over her hills and streams and trees
Unnatural darkness fell ;
The earth and the heaven, the river and shore,
In the lurid mist were seen no more ;
And the voice of the mountain monster rose,
As he lifted him up from his noontide repose,
First in a hiss and then in a cry,
And then in a yell that shook the sky;
The eagle from high fell down to die
At the sound of that mighty yell: From his wide jaws broke, as in wrath he woke, Scalding torrents of sulphurous smoke, And crackling coals in mad ascent As from a red volcano went,
And flames, like the flames of hell.
But his scream of fury waxed more shrill,
When on the peak of the blasted hill
He saw his victim bound :
Forth the Devourer, scale by scale,
Uncoiled the folds of his steel-proof mail,
Stretching his throat, and stretching his tail,
And hither and thither rolling him o'er,
Till he covered four score feet and four
Of the wearied and wailing ground:
And at last he raised from his stony bed
The horrors of his speckled head;
Up like a comet the meteor went,
And seemed to shake the firmament,
And batter heaven's own walls !
For many a long mile, well I ween,
The fires that shot from those eyes were seen;
The Burschen of Bonn, if Bonn had been,
Would have shuddered in their halls.
Woe for the Virgin !-bootless here
Were glistening shield and whistling spear
Such battle to abide ;
The mightiest engines that ever the trade
Of human homicide hath made,
Warwolf, balist, and catapult,
Would like a stripling's wand insult
That adamantine hide.
Woe for the Virgin !
Lo! what spell
Hath scattered the darkness, and silenced the yell,
And quenched those fiery showers ?-
Why turns the serpent from his prey ?-
The Cross hath barred his terrible way,
The Cross among the flowers.
As an eagle pierced on his cloudy throne,
As a column sent from its base of stone,
Backward the stricken monster dropped ;
Never he stayed, and never he stopped,
Till deep in the gushing tide he sank
And buried lay beneath the stream,
Passing away like a loathsome dream.
Well may you guess how either bank
As with an earthquake shook ;
The mountains rocked from brow to base;
The river boiled with a hideous din;
As the burning mass fell heavily in ; And the wide, wide Rhine, for a moment's space
Was scorched into a brook.
Night passed, ere the multitude dared to creep,
Huddled together, up the steep ;
They came to the stone; in speechless awe
They fell on their face at the sight they saw :
The maiden was free from hurt or harm,
But the iron had passed from her neck and arm,
And the glittering links of the broken chain
Lay scattered about like drops of rain.
And deem ye that the rescued child
To her father-land would come-
That the remnant of her kindred smiled
Around her in her home,
And that she lived in love of earth,
Among earth's hopes and fears,
And gave God thanks for the daily birth
Of blessings in after years ?
Holy and happy, she turned not away
From the task her Saviour set that day ;
What was her kindred, her home, to her?
She had been Heaven's own messenger !