Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

BEHOLD ! Ezekiel to the mountains turns,
To meet the visions of his God he burns.
And well the shattered wilderness becomes
The vehement prophet that athwart it roams,
Where rooted trees half hide, but not conipose
To grace the births of Nature's rudest throes,
Imperfect, difficult, unreconciled :
Blind moaning caverns, rocks abruptly piled
Below, and herbless black peaks split asunder
Aloft, majestic gateways of the thunder,
Accord they not with him whose burdened eye
Sees, through the rent of kingdoms great and high,
Thick gleams of wrath divine, whose visions range
Throughout th' obstructed solitudes of change,
Whose spirit stumbles midst the corner-stones
Of realms disjointed and of broken thrones ?

II.

As on the prophet strode, he saw a maid
Sit in the vale, and on a harp she played.
Before her knelt a savage form, beside
A milk-white horse was rearing in his pride.
Near went the Seer; upsprung that savage man,
Tossed his wild hair, and to the mountains ran;
O'er rocks behind, o'er bushes bounding went,
With startled mane, that steed magnificent.
The minstrel rose; when she Ezekiel saw,
Aside her harp she laid with modest awe,
In haste she came to meet him, named his name,
And prayed his blessing with a reverent claim.
“Say who art thou ?” “ Cyra, of Judah l.”-

Why dwelling here? And who yon form on high,
Chased by the mighty horse ?”—“Great man of God!
Fervid thy spirit, wild is thy abode :
The rocky mountains, where old lions live,
Dread paths to thee, to thee a dwelling give :
Not in soft city, not in kingly dome
Thy jealous soul will deign to make thy home;
So art thou seldom within Babylon's gate,
And so hast beard not of her monarch's fate,
Forth driven by God to wander from bis throne,
Till seven appointed times be o'er him gone!
Behold that king-bim followed by yon steed,
Doomed on the hills and in the wilds to feed I
His head forlorn in nature's naked eye,
Is beat by all the changes of the sky;
He sees the morning star, and the wide noon,
He sees the silver planet of the moon,
Sleep seldom his : The wild beast's in his den-
But through the night must roam the king of men !
Such were the far bounds of his fate, till I”.

“So be abased-be stricken-more than die,

Who scorn Jehovah and his sacred trust,
Who bow the gates of Zion to the dust!
So shall they be : Amazement shall lay bare
Her enemies' souls, and terror, and despair.
So has it been: scarce Edom's name remains.
Soft Syria's loins are wrapped about with pains.
Tyre, where is she? Th' old haughty crocodile
Is he not bridled on the shores of Nile ?
On Ammon's head, on Moab's, Jehovah's doom
Has poured a midnight of unmelted gloom.
God is gone forth! Abroad his swift storms fly,
And strike the mystic birds from out the sky:
Soar, proudly burnished birds of Nineveh,
Home to the windows of your glory flee-
Ha! broke your wings, your trodden plumage rots!
The doves of Ashur lie among the pots !
For him ! for yonder outcast-Wol and wo
Yet more to him who thus has brought her low !
Beneath her branchless palm must Judah sit,
Her widowed face with pens of sorrow writ,
And round her feet the fetters! But has be
Reaped glory hence ? Earth's proud men, come and see!
At best a royal brute, he even without
The majesty of mischief roams about!
So let him"-"Whelmed beneath Jehovah's ban,
'Tis ours to spare the much-enduring man.
Sore was his hand against us, crushed our state;
And great the blame, as our oppression great :
Yea, curse his pride of warlike youth ; o! then
Still let me name him midst earth's noblest men.
But he was bowed, and, prostrate in his change,
Followed the wild ox in his boundless range,
And ate the grass ; his head was wet with dew;
Like claws his nails, his hair like feathers grew.
But I have helped him through his years of ill,
And ne'er will leave him, but will love him still.
Bless him, and curse him not !"

With anger shook
The son of Buzi ; tragic waxed his look;
With vehement force, as if to meet the storm,
He wrapped his rugged mantle round his form.
“Look to me, damsel,” cried he;" are not we
Carried away by our iniquity ?
Shall then the soft desires of women rule
Thy spirit still, and make thee play the fool ?
Because within his silken palaces
He made thee dwell in love's delicious ease,
Thou thought'st it good, and chased him to the hill
In caves of rocks to play the harlot still?
Lord God of Israel ! shall we count it light
So to be driven from Zion's holy height,
Our princes captives made, our stately men
Hewn down in battle, thy dread courts a den;
And scorning types without, and rites within
Of penitence, conform to Heathen sin;
No thought of our estate, no sigh for it,
Degrading even the dust wherein we sit ?
Happy the slain ones of our people! blest
Who fell in Zion's wars, and are at rest!
Yea, happy they whose shoulders labour sore,
With burdens peeled, or weary with the oar;
For so their manly bodies are not broke

With idle dalliance-slavery's heaviest yoke!
Ye tall and goodly youths, your fate is worse,
Your beauty more than burning is a curse;
For ye must stand in palaces, soft slaves
Of kings—your brethren lie in noble graves-
Until your base shame for your origin,
Beyond your wanton masters make you sin;
For ye upon the mountains, with desire
Unholy, looking towards the Persian fire,
Eat, not Jehovah-wards, forgetting him,
Forgot the gates of old Jerusalem !-
Thou too, thou maid of Judah, wo! that thou
Hast lived to be what I must deem thee now !”

He ceased. Like flames that burn the sacrifice
With darting points, shone out the virgin's eyes;
Shook her black locks of youth; drawn back she stood
Dilating high in her indignant mood.
She seized

her harp, she swept the chords along, Forth burst a troubled and tumultuous song; Till, purified from anger and from shame, Austere, severely solemn it became; Yet dashed with leaping notes, as if to tell Jehovah mighty for his Israel. Soft gleamed the prophet's eyes; he knew that strain, Heard in the days of Salem's glorious reign, When Judah's maids in sacred bands advanced, With garlands crowned, and to the timbrel danced. And shone through glazing tears young Cyra's eyes, Her forehead now uplifted to the skies. Her harp she dropped; her bosom greatly heaved, Till words burst forth and thus her heart relieved :“ Perish the song, the harp, the hand for aye; Die the remembrance of our land away; Ne'er be revived the praises of the Lord In the glad days of Zion's courts restored, If I” again she sobbed and hid her face,“ If I have been the child of such disgrace! But, ah ! forgive me, great Ezekiel, Thus to be angry have I done not well; For thine the spirit that for Israel's weal Burns with the fires of jealousy and zeal. O! hear thy handmaid now! For I shall sleep In death, ere cease I for yon king to weep. In that dread night-his wars be judged by God !When o'er our walls victoriously he rode, He saw me lie amidst the trampled mire, That bloody glittered to the midnight fire ; Sprung, snatched me from my mother's dead embrace, Ere the fierce war-steeds trode my infant face; Smiled on me, to his large mailed bosom pressed; Home took me with him, with his love caressed, There made me dwell, there gave to me a name, And to me there a father all became.

“ Then-for my sacred origin I knewMe, yet a child, Jehovah taught to view With scorn the Gentiles' sins; my opening days Taught, more than theirs, to love our people's ways. The monarch smiled; nor sought he to subdue The spirit honoured whence my choice I drew; He gave me teachers of our people, charged To see my childhood with their lore enlarged, To compromise not in their captive place, But tell'Jehovah's doings for our race,

The ancient glories of our people tell;
And in his Court like princes made them dwell.

“Nor heavier task was mine, than that the King
A gladsome song oft made me to him sing;
For he was moody, and with dreams perplexed,
With nightly visions from Jehovah vexed :
My harp I touched; when he was cheered, then I
The mournful hymns of our captivity
Did ne'er forget: magnanimous he smiled,
And named me playfully an artful child;
Then was I bold, my prayer he heard with grace,
And gravely promised to restore our race.
God cast him out; I followed to the hills
My more than father, to divide his ills.
On summits high, and in the wastes his lair,
I found him strange and brutish in despair ;
But tried my harp, less savage soon he grew,
And softly followed through the falling dew.
Caves in yon rock, our mountain people there
Had helped me first his dwelling to prepare;
There, now less wild, the food of men he finds,
And lies through night unstricken by the winds.

“ In yonder hut, a shepherd of our race
For years has given me an abiding-place.
His daughters love me as their sister; they
My simple service share with me by day,
To feed the flocks; when men their labour leave,
And past is now the milking-time of eve,
I harp before his cave, and from the steep
Comes the wild king and couches down to sleep-
0! not to sleep; with self-accusing blame,
With madness wrestling, and with fitful shame.
Sweet psalms I play bim then, till in calm woe
Lies his large heart; then to our cot I go.

“ By Daniel's wise advice, bis battle steed
Was brought, with him upon the hills to feed;
Within his inner cavern as he lies,
His armour nightly gleams before his eyes ;
Memorials these of his heroic days,
To deeds of men again his soul to raise.
Remembering hence his glory, more because
Th' appointed season to a period draws,
His heart with reason swells, bis ancient men
Of counsel come to seek bim in bis den.
Taught by affliction, by our God restored,
Then will he raise the people of the Lord.
'Joy! joy for Zion!' let the captives sing,
Come ihou with me, come bless the wandering King."-

“ True child of Judah! by the Spirit's might
Drawn to these hills, I wait the vision'd night.
Just is thy gratitude. The God of peace
Raise up the king, and make our bondage cease!
My thought injurious turns to solemn praise ;
And if thou keep thy sweet unblemish'd days
In heathen courts, and if thy gentle power
May for our people haste redemption's hour,
High shall thy name in Israel be renown'd,
With praise amidst her loftiest women crown'd;
Yea, more, be praised—thy just and awful pride-
In Heaven, where the great Sanctities abide."

She knelt; he stoop'd her bowing head to bless,
And kiss'd her forehead with a holy kiss,

Then turn'd away; with sobbing joy o'ercome,
Thus high approved, the virgin sought her home.

CANTO II.

THE PLOT OF MERDAN AND NARSES.

High rides the summer moon: Away, how slow,
The lordly waters of Euphrates go!
But see! a shadowy form from yonder rank
Of glimmering trees, comes o'er the open bauk.
Here Narses meets him :-"Merdan, you are late.”.
“ Admit the toils that on my office wait,
And say your purpose.”—“ Nay, 'tis mine to hear
What first you promised to my midnight ear.”
Then Merdan spake :-“ Our mutual hearts are known,
Why pause we then ? Our theme be now the throne.
Meet we not here on our appointed way,
To learn from Chardes what the planets say,
Who, nightly standing on his glimpsing towers,
With piercing ken looks through the starry hours ?
Not rivals, twins are we in present sway;
What then? 'tis based upon the passing day.
Can we maintain it? Merodach is weak.
His father now those ancient servants seek-
Reason returns-again he'll sit on high ;
With ours, the Prince his own mean life will buy."-

“Ha! yes; he knows his feebleness has fail'd
To back our counsels : these shall be assail'd :
The blame of his misrule must we exhaust;
And if we live, our power at least is past."

“ His faith, nor might, to us can safety bring :
Who truste him, hides his jewel in a sling.
In heart he is a parricide; but still
His weakness fears to justify his will.
May such be trusted ? Not his innocence ;
He must be guilty, for our hope is thence.
'Tis ours to goad him on to such a length,
That farthest crime alone may seem his strength.”—

“ Say we at once the outcast monarch slew,
And crush'd our fears ? ”—“Nay, that his son must do ;
So shall our knowledge of his guilt ensure
Bribes for our silence, and our rule endure.
Well, then at once he must insult his sire,
That fears for life may perfect bis desire,
And thus complete the parricide.-On high,
Where vales embosom'd in the mountains lie,
I know a haunt, where comes the desert King
Each noon his limbs beneath the shade to fling.
Beside him feeds his battle-horse, that bore
His youth triumphant on from shore to shore,
A prince's gift, much loved : Near couch'd each night,
Upsprings he neighing with the morning light,
Awakes his lord, again goes forth with him
To range the pastures till the twilight dim.

“ Now Parthian Chud, who rules the royal hounds, By me advanced, in gratitude abounds. His tiger-dogs, from India's northern woods, Fell mountain-climbers, glorying in the floods, Three previous days shall hunger, till arise Their bristly necks, and burn their lamping eyes ;

« PreviousContinue »