Page images

The thoughtful ancient, standing by my side, Gazed on it mildly sad. I asked him why. “ Well may’st thou join in gladness,” he replied, 6 With the glad earth, her springing plants and

flowers, And this soft wind, the herald of the green Luxuriant summer. Thou art young like them, And well may’st thou rejoice. But while the

flight Of seasons fills and knits thy spreading frame, It withers mine, and thins mine hair, and dims These eyes, whose fading light shall soon be

quenched In utter darkness. Hearest thou that bird ?"

I listened, and from 'midst the depth of woods
Heard the love signal of the grouse, that wears
A sable ruff around his mottled neck;
Partridge they call him by our northern streams,
And pheasant by the Delaware. He beat
'Gainst his barred sides his speckled wings, and

A sound like distant thunder ; slow the strokes
At first, then fast and faster, till at length
They passed into a murmur, and were still.

6. There hast thou," said my friend, “a fitting

type Of human life. 'Tis an old truth, I know,

But images like these revive the power
Of long familiar truths. Slow pass our days
In childhood, and the hours of light are long
Betwixt the morn and eve; with swifter lapse
They glide in manhood, and in age they fly;
Till days and seasons flit before the mind
As flit the snow-flakes in a winter storm,
Seen rather than distinguished. Ah ! I seem
As if I sat within a helpless bark
By swiftly running waters hurried on
To shoot some mighty cliff. Along the bank,
Grove after grove, rock after frowning rock,
Bare sands, and pleasant homes, and flowery

And isles and whirlpools in the stream appear
Each after each, but the devoted skiff
Darts by so swiftly, that their images
Dwell not upon the mind, or only dwell
In dim confusion : faster yet I

By other banks, and the great gulf is near.

“ Wisely, my son, while yet thy days are long,
And this fair change of seasons passes slow,
Gather and treasure up the good they yield-
All that they teach of virtue, of pure thoughts
And kind affections, reverence for thy God
And for thy brethren; so when thou shalt come
Into these barren years, thou may'st not bring
A mind unfurnished, and a withered heart."

Long since that white-haired ancient slept—but


While the red flower-buds crowd the orchard

And the ruffed grouse is drumming far within
The woods, his venerable form again
Is at my side, his voice is in my ear.


Rizpah was king Saul's concubine. To stay the famine, and in atonement for the sin of the house of Saul in slaying the Gibeonites, her two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, and the five sons of Michal (Saul's daughter) were taken by king David, “And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord; and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of the harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.

“And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the water dropped upon them ont of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night." 2 Sam. xxi. 9-11.

SEAR what the desolate Rizpah said, As on Gibeah's rocks she watched the dead. The sons of Michal before her lay, And her own fair children, dearer than they. By a death of shame they all had died, And were stretched on the bare rock, side by side : And Rizpah, once the loveliest of all That bloomed and smiled in the court of Saul,

All wasted with watching and famine now,
And scorched by the sun her haggard brow,
Sat mournfully guarding their corpses there,
And murmured a strange and solemn air,-
The low, heart-broken, wailing strain
Of a mother that mourns her children slain.
6 I have made the crags my home, and spread
On their desert back my sackcloth bed ;
I have eaten the bitter herb of the rocks,
And drunk the midnight dew in my locks;
I have wept till I could not weep, and the pain
Of my burning eyeballs went to my brain.
Seven blackened corpses before me lie
In the blaze of the sun and the winds of the sky,
I have watched them through the burning day,
And driven the vulture and raven away;
And the cormorant wheeled in circles round,
Yet feared to alight on the guarded ground;
And, when the shades of twilight came,
I have seen the hyena's eyes of flame,
And heard at my side his stealthy tread;
But aye, at my shout the

And I threw the lighted brand, to fright
The jackal and wolf that yelled in the night.
66 Ye were foully murdered, my hapless sons,
By the hands of wicked and cruel ones :
Ye fell, in your fresh and blooming prime,
All innocent, for your father's crime.


He sinned--but he paid the price of his guilt
When his blood, by a nameless hand, was spilt ;
When he strove with the heathen host in vain,
And fell with the flower of his people slain,
And the sceptre, his children's hands should sway,
From his injured lineage passed away.

“ But I hoped that the cottage roof would be
A safe retreat for my sons and me;
And that while they ripened to manhood fast,
They should wean my thoughts from the woes

of the past. And my bosom swelled with a mother's pride, As they stood in their beauty and strength by my

side; Tall, like their sire, with the princely grace Of his stately form, and the bloom of his face.

"Oh, what an hour for a mother's heart,
When the pitiless ruffians tore us apart;
When I clasped their kness, and wept, and prayed,
And struggled, and shrieked to heaven for aid,
And clung to my sons with desperate strength,
Till the murderers loosed my hold at length,
And bore me breathless and faint aside,
In their iron arms, while my children died.
They died-and the mother that gave them birth
Is forbid to cover their bones with earth.

« PreviousContinue »