ABOVE the head of
There lay two demons in the opened roof
Invisible, and gathered up his words;
For when the Elder prophesied, it came
About, that hidden things were shown to them,
And burdens that he spake against his time.
(But never heard them, such as dwelt with him;
Their ears they stopped, and willed to live at ease
In all delight; and perfect in their youth,
And strong, disport them in the perfect world.)
Now these were fettered that they could not fly,
For a certain disobedience they had wrought
Against the ruler of their host; but not
The less they loved their cause; and when the feet
O' the Master-builder were no longer heard,
They, slipping to the sward, right painfully
Did follow, for the one to the other said,
'Believes our master know of this; and us,
Should he be favourable, he may loose
From these our bonds.'
And thus it came to pass,
That while at dead of night the old dragon lay
Coiled in the cavern where he dwelt, the watch
Pacing before it saw in middle air
A boat, that gleamed like fire, and on it came,
And rocked as it drew near, and then it burst
And went to pieces, and there fell therefrom,
Close at the cavern's mouth, two glowing balls.
Now there was drawn a curtain nigh the mouth
Of that deep cave, to testify of wrath.
The dragon had been wroth with some that served,
And chased them from him; and his oracles,
That wont to drop from him, were stopped, and men
Might only pray to him through that fell web
That hung before him. Then did whisper low
Some of the little spirits that bat-like clung .
And cluster'd round the opening. 'Lo,' they said,
While gazed the watch upon those glowing balls,
'These are like moons eclipsed; but let them lie
Red on the moss, and sear its dewy spires,
Until our lord give leave to draw the web,
And quicken reverence by his presence dread,
For he will know and call to them by name,
And they will change. At present he is sick,
And wills that none disturb him.' So they lay,
And there was silence, for the forest tribes
Came never near that cave. Wiser than men,
They fled the serpent hiss that oft by night
Came forth of it, and feared the wan dusk forms
That stalked among the trees, and in the dark
Those whiffs of flame that wandered up the sky
And made the moonlight sickly.
Was marvellous for beauty, wrought with tools
Into the living rock, for there had worked
All cunning men, to cut on it with signs
And shows, yea, all the manner of mankind.
The fateful apple-tree was there, a bough
Bent with the weight of him that us beguiled:
And lilies of the field did seem to blow
And bud in the storied stone. There Tubal sat,
Who from his harp delivered music, sweet
As any in the spheres. Yea, more;
Earth's latest wonder on the walls appeared,
Unfinished, workmen clustering on its ribs;
And farther back, within the rock hewn out,
Angelic figures stood, that impious hands
Had fashioned; many golden lamps they held
By golden chains depending, and their eyes
All tended in a reverend quietude
Toward the couch whereon the dragon lay.
The floor was beaten gold; the curly lengths
Of his last coils lay on it, hid from sight
With a coverlet made stiff with crusting gems,
Fire opals shooting, rubies, fierce bright eyes
Of diamonds, or the pale green emerald,
That changed their lustre when he breathed.
Feathered with crimson combs, and all his neck,
And half-shut fans of his admired wings,
That in their scaly splendour put to shame
Or gold or stone, lay on his ivory couch
And shivered; for the dragon suffered pain:
He suffered and he feared. It was his doom,
The tempter, that he never should depart
From the bright creature that in Paradise
He for his evil purpose erst possessed,
Until it died. Thus only, spirit of might
And chiefest spirit of ill, could he be free.
But with its nature wed, as souls of men
Are wedded to their clay, he took the dread
Of death and dying, and the coward heart
Of the beast, and craven terrors of the end
Sank him that habited within it to dread
Disunion. He, a dark dominion erst
Rebellious, lay and trembled, for the flesh
Daunted his immaterial. He was sick
And sorry. Great ones of the earth had sent
Their chief musicians for to comfort him,
Chanting his praise, the friend of man, the god
That gave them knowledge, at so great a price
And costly. Yea, the riches of the mine,
And glorious broidered work, and woven gold,
And all things wisely made, they at his feet
Laid daily; for they said, 'This mighty one,
All the world wonders after him. He lieth
Sick in his dwelling; he hath long foregone
(To do us good) dominion, and a throne,
And his brave warfare with the Enemy,
So much he pitieth us that were denied
The gain and gladness of this knowledge. Now
Shall he be certified of gratitude,
And smell the sacrifice that most he loves.'
The night was dark, but every lamp gave forth
A tender, lustrous beam. His beauteous wings
The dragon fluttered, cursed awhile, then turned
And moaned with lamentable voice, 'I thirst,
Give me to drink.' Thereon stepped out in haste,
From inner chambers, lovely ministrants,
Young boys with radiant locks and peaceful eyes,
And poured out liquor from their caps, to cool
His parchèd tongue, and kneeling
held it nigh
In jewelled basins sparkling; and he lapped,
And was appeased, and said, 'I will not hide
Longer, my much desired face from men.
Draw back the web of separation.' Then
With cries of gratulation ran they forth,
And flung it wide, and all the watch fell low,
Each on his face, as drunk with sudden joy.
Thus marked he, glowing on the branchèd
Those red rare moons, and let his serpent eyes
Consider them full subtly, 'What be these?'
Enquiring: and the little spirits said,
'As we for thy protection (having heard
That wrathful sons of darkness walk to-night,
Such as do oft ill use us), clustered here,
We marked a boat a-fire, that sailed the skies,
And furrowed up like spray a billowy cloud,
And, lo, it went to pieces, scattering down
A rain of sparks and these two angry moons.'
Then said the dragon, 'Let my guard, and you,
Attendant hosts, recede; ' and they went back,
And formed about the cave a widening ring,
Then halting, stood afar; and from the cave
The snaky wonder spoke, with hissing tongue,
'If ye were Tartis and Deleisonon,
Be Tartis and Deleisonon once more.'
Then egg-like cracked the glowing balls, and forth
Started black angels, trampling hard to free
Their fettered feet from out the smoking shell.
And he said, 'Tartis and Deleisonon,
Your lord I am: draw nigh.' 'Thou art our lord,'
They answered, and with fettered limbs full low
They bent, and made obeisance. Furthermore,
'O fiery flying serpent, after whom
The nations go, let thy dominion last,'
They said, 'for ever.' And the serpent said,
'It shall: unfold your errand.' They replied,
One speaking for a space, and afterward
His fellow taking up the word with fear
And panting, 'We were set to watch the mouth
Of great Methuselah. There came to him
The son of Lamech two days since.' 'My lord,
They prophesied, the Elder prophesied,
Unwitting, of the flood of waters—ay,
A vision was before him, and the lands
Lay under water drowned: he saw the ark—
It floated in the Enemy's right hand.'
'Lord of the lost, the son of Lamech fled
Into the wilderness to meet His voice
That reigneth; and we, diligent to hear
Aught that might serve thee, followed, but, forbid
To enter, lay upon its boundary cliff,
And wished for morning.'
'When the dawn was
We sought the man, we marked him; and he prayed—
Kneeling, he prayed in the valley, and he said—'
'Nay,' quoth the serpent, 'spare me, what devout
He fawning grovelled to the All-powerful;
But if of what shall hap he aught let fall,
Speak that.' They answered, 'He did pray as one
That looketh to outlive mankind—and more,
We are certified by all his scattered words,
That HE will take from men their length of
And cut them off like grass in its first flower:
From henceforth this shall be.'
That when he
The dragon made to the night his moan.
They said, 'that He above would have men know
That He doth love them, whose will repent,
To that man he is favourable, yea,
Will be his loving Lord.'
The dragon cried,
'The last is worse than all. Oh, man, thy heart
Is stout against His wrath. But will He love?
I heard it rumoured in the heavens of old,
(And doth He love?) Thou wilt not, canst not, stand
Against the love of God. Dominion fails;
I see it float from me, that long have worn
Fetters of flesh to win it. Love of God!
I cry against thee; then art worse than all.'
They answered, 'Be not moved, admired chief
And trusted of mankind;' and they went on,
And fed him with the prophecies that fell
From the Master-shipwright in his prayer.
He lay, for he was sick: at every word
Prophetic cowering. As a bruising blow,
It fell upon his head and daunted him,
Until they ended, saying, 'Prince, behold,
Thy servants have revealed the whole.'
He out of snaky lips did his, forth thanks.
Then said he, 'Tartis and Deleisonon,
Receive your wages.' So their fetters fell;
And they retiring, lauded him, and cried,
'King, reign for ever.' Then he mourned, 'Amen.'
And he—being left alone—he said: 'A light!
I see a light—a star among the trees—
An angel.' And it drew toward the cave,
But with its sacred feet touched not the grass,
Nor lifted up the lids of its pure eyes,
But hung a span's length from that ground pollute,
At the opening of the cave.
And when he
The dragon cried, 'Thou newly-fashioned thing,
Of name unknown, thy scorn becomes thee not.
Doth not thy Master suffer what thine eyes
Thou countest all too clean to open on?'
But still it hovered, and the quietness
Of holy heaven was on the drooping lids;
And not as one that answereth, it let fall
The music from its mouth, but like to one
That doth not hear, or, hearing, doth not heed.
'A message: "I have heard thee, while remote
I went My rounds among the unfinished stars."
A message: "I have left thee to thy ways,
And mastered all thy vileness, for thy hate
I have made to serve the ends of My great love.
Hereafter will I chain thee down. To-day
One thing thou art forbidden; now thou knowest
The name thereof: I told it thee in heaven,
When thou wert sitting at My feet. Forbear
To let that hidden thing be whispered forth:
For man, ungrateful (and thy hope it was,
That so ungrateful he might prove), would scorn,
And not believe it, adding so fresh weight
Of condemnation to the doomèd
Concerning that, thou art forbid to speak;
Know thou didst count it, falling from My tongue,
A lovely song, whose meaning was unknown,
Unknowable, unbearable to thought,
But sweeter in the hearing than all harps
Toned in My holy hollow. Now thine ears
Are opened, know it, and discern and fear,
Forbearing speech of it for evermore.'
So said, it turned, and with a cry of joy,
As one released, went up: and it was dawn,
And all boughs dropped with dew, and out of mist
Came the red sun and looked into the cave.
But the dragon, left a-tremble, called to him,
From the nether kingdom, certain of his friends—
Three whom he trusted, councillors accursed.
A thunder-cloud stooped low and swathed the place
In its black swirls, and out of it they rushed,
And hid them in recesses of the cave,
Because they could not look upon the sun,
Sith light is pure. And Satan called to them—
All in the dark, in his great rage he spake:
'Up,' quoth the dragon; 'it is time to work,
Or we are all undone.' And he did hiss,
And there came shudderings over land and trees,
A dimness after dawn. The earth threw out
A blinding fog, that crept toward the cave,
And rolled up blank before it like a veil—
A curtain to conceal its habiters.
Then did those spirits move upon the floor,
Like pillars of darkness, and with eyes aglow.
One had a helm for covering of the scars
That seamed what rested of a goodly face;
He wore his vizor up, and all his words
Were hollower than an echo from the hills:
He was hight Make. And, lo, his fellow-fiend
Came after, holding down his dastard head,
Like one ashamed: now this for craft was great;
The dragon honoured him. A third sat down
Among them, covering with his wasted hand
Somewhat that pained his breast.
Of thunder, and the sobbings of the wind,
Were lulled, the dragon spoke with wrath and rage,
And told them of his matters: 'Look to this,
If ye be loyal;' adding, 'Give your thoughts,
And let me have your counsel in this need.'
One spirit rose and spake, and all the cave
Was full of sighs, 'The words of Make the Prince,
Of him once delegate in Betelgeux :
Whereas of late the manner is to change,
We know not where 'twill end; and now my words
Go thus: give way, be peaceable, lie still
And strive not, else the world that we have won
He may, to drive us out, reduce to nought.
For while I stood in mine obedience yet,
Steering of Betelgeux my sun, behold,
A moon, that evil ones did fill, rolled up
Astray, and suddenly the Master came,
And while, a million strong, like rooks they rose,
He took and broke it, flung it here and there,
And called a blast to drive the powder forth;
And it was fine as dust, and blurred the skies
Farther than 'tis from hence to this young sun.
Spirits that passed upon their work that day,
Cried out, "How dusty 'tis." Behoves as, then,
That we depart, as leaving unto Him
This goodly world and goodly race of man.
Not all are doomed: hereafter it may be
That we find place on it again. But if,
Too zealous to preserve it, and the men
Our servants, we oppose Him, He may come
And choosing rather to undo His work
Than strive with it for aye, make so an end.'
He sighing paused. Lo, then the serpent hissed
In impotent rage, 'Depart! and how depart!
Can flesh be carried down where spirits wonn?
Or I, most miserable, hold my life
Over the airless, bottomless gulf, and bide
The buffetings of yonder shoreless sea?
O death, thou terrible doom: O death, thou dread
Of all that breathe.'
A spirit rose and spake:
'Whereas in Heaven is power, is much to fear;
For this admired country we have marred.
Whereas in Heaven is love (and there are days
When yet I can recall what love was like),
Is nought to fear. A threatening makes the whole,
And clogged with strong conditions: "O, repent,
Man, and I turn." He, therefore, powerful now,
And more so, master, that ye bide in clay,
Threateneth that He may save. They shall not die.
The dragon said, 'I tremble, I am sick.'
He said with pain of heart, 'How am I fallen
For I keep silence; yea, I have withdrawn
From haunting of His gates, and shouting up
Defiance. Wherefore doth He hunt me out
From this small world, this little one, that I
Have been content to take unto myself,
I here being loved and worshippèd?
How much I have foregone; and must He stoop
To whelm the world, and heave the floors o' the deep,
Of purpose to pursue me from my place?
And since I gave men knowledge, must He take
Their length of days whereby they perfect it?
So shall He scatter all that I have stored,
And get them by degrading them. I know
That in the end it is appointed me
To fade. I will not fade before the time.'
A spirit rose, the third, a spirit ashamed
And subtle, and his face he turned aside:
'Whereas,' said he, 'we strive against both power
And love, behoves us that we strive aright.
Now some of old my comrades, yesterday
I met, as they did journey to appear
In the Presence; and I said, "My master lieth
Sick yonder, otherwise (for no decree
There stands against it) he would also come
And make obeisance with the sons of God."
They answered, nought denying. Therefore, lord,
'tis certain that ye have admittance yet;
And what doth hinder? Nothing but this breath.
Were it not well to make an end, and die,
And gain admittance to the King of kings?
What if thy slaves by thy consent should take
And bear thee on their wings above the earth,
And suddenly let fall—how soon 'twere o'er!
We should have fear and sinking at the heart;
But in a little moment we should see,
Rising majestic from a ruined heap,
The stately spirit that we served of yore.'
The serpent turned his subtle deadly eyes
Upon the spirit, and hissed; and sick with shame,
It bowed itself together, and went back
With hidden face. 'This counsel is not good,'
The other twain made answer; 'look, my lord,
Whereas 'tis evil in thine eyes, in ours
'tis evil also; speak, for we perceive
That on thy tongue the words of counsel sit,
Ready to fly to our right greedy ears,
'Chat long for them.' And Satan, flattered thus
(For ever may the serpent kind be charmed,
With soft sweet words, and music deftly played),
Replied, 'Whereas I surely rule the world,
Behoves that ye prepare for me a path,
And that I, putting of my pains aside,
Go stir rebellion in the mighty hearts
O' the giants; for He loveth them, and looks
Full oft complacent on their glorious strength.
He willeth that they yield, that He may spare;
But, by the blackness of my loathed den,
I say they shall not, no, they shall not yield;
Go, therefore, take to you some harmless guise,
And spread a rumour that I come. I, sick,
Sorry, and aged, hasten. I have heard
Whispers that out of heaven dropped unawares.
I caught them up, and sith they bode men harm,
I am ready for to comfort them; yea, more,
To counsel, and I will that they drive forth
The women, the abhorrèd of my soul;
Let not a woman breathe where I shall pass,
Lest the curse fall, and that she bruise my head.
Friends, if it be their mind to send for me
An army, and triumphant draw me on
In the golden car ye wot of, and with shouts,
I would not that ye hinder them. Ah, then
Will I make hard their hearts, and grieve Him sore,
That loves them, O, by much too well to wet
Their stately heads, and soil those locks of strength
Under the fateful brine. Then afterward,
While He doth reason vainly with them, I
Will offer Him a pact: "Great King, a pact,
And men shall worship Thee, I say they shall,
For I will bid them do it, yea, and leave
To sacrifice their kind, so Thou my name
Wilt suffer to be worshipped after Thine." '
'Yea, my lord Satan,' quoth they, 'do this thing,
And let us hear thy words, for they are sweet.'
Then he made answer, 'By a messenger
Have I this day been warned. There is a deed
I may not tell of, lest the people add
Scorn of a Coming Greatness to their faults.
Why this? Who careth when about to slay,
And slay indeed, how well they have deserved
Death, whom he slayeth? Therefore yet is hid
A meaning of some mercy that will rob
The nether world. Now look to it—'twere vain,
Albeit this deluge He would send indeed,
That we expect the harvest; He would yet
Be the Master-reaper; for I heard it said,
Them that be young and know Him not, and them
That are bound and may not build, yea, more, their
Whom, suffering not to hear the doom, they keep
Joyous behind the curtains, every one
With maidens nourished in the house, and babes
And children at her knees—(then what remain!)
He claimeth and will gather for His own.
Now, therefore, it were good by guile to work,
Princes, and suffer not the doom to fall.
There is no evil like to love. I heard
Him whisper it. Have I put on this flesh
To ruin His two children beautiful,
And shall my deed confound me in the end,
Through awful imitation? Love of God,
I cry against thee; thou art worst of all.'
Now while these evil ones took counsel strange,
The son of Lamech journeyed home; and, lo!
A company came down, and struck the track
As he did enter it. There rode in front
Two horsemen, young and noble, and behind
Were following slaves with tent gear; others led
Strong horses, others bare the instruments
O' the chase, and in the rear dull camels lagged,
Sighing, for they were burdened, and they loved
The desert sands above that grassy vale.
And as they met, those horsemen drew the rein,
And fixed on him their grave untroubled eyes;
He in his regal grandeur walked alone,
And had nor steed nor follower, and his mien
Was grave and like to theirs. He said to them,
'Fair sirs, whose are ye?' They made answer cold,
'The beautiful woman, sir, our mother dear,
Niloiya, bare us to great Lamech's son.'
And he, replying, 'I am he.' They said,
'We know it, sir. We have remembered you
Through many seasons. Pray you let us not;
We fain would greet our mother.' And they made
Obeisance and passed on; then all their train,
Which while they spoke had halted, moved apace,
And, while the silent father stood, went by,
He gazing after, as a man that dreams;
For he was sick with their cold, quiet scorn,
That seemed to say, 'Father, we own you not,
We love you not, for you have left us long—
So long, we care not that you come again.'
And while the sullen camels moved, he spake
To him that led the last, 'There are but two
Of these my sons; but where doth Japhet ride?
For I would see him.' And the leader said,
'Sir, ye shall find him, if ye follow up
Along the track. Afore the noonday meal
The young men, even our masters, bathed; (there
A clump of cedars by the bend of yon
Clear river)—there did Japhet, after meat,
Being right weary, lay him down and sleep.
There, with a company of slaves and some
Few camels, ye shall find him.'
The father of these three, did let him pass,
And struggle and give battle to his heart,
Standing as motionless as pillar set
To guide a wanderer in a pathless waste;
But all his strength went from him, and he strove
Vainly to trample out and trample down
The misery of his love unsatisfied—
Unutterable love flung in his face.
Then he broke out in passionate words, that cried
Against his lot, 'I have lost my own, and won
None other; no, not one! Alas, my sons!
That I have looked to for my solacing,
In the bitterness to come. My children dear!'
And when from his own lips he heard those words,
With passionate stirring of the heart, he wept.
And none came near to comfort him. His face
Was on the ground; but having wept, he rose
Full hastily, and urged his way to find
The river; and in hollow of his hand
Raised up the water to his brow: 'This son,
This other son of mine,' he said, 'shall see
No tears upon my face.' And he looked on,
Beheld the camels, and a group of slaves
Sitting apart from some one fast asleep,
Where they had spread out webs of broidery work
Under a cedar tree; and he came on,
And when they made obeisance he declared
His name, and said, 'I will beside my son
Sit till he wakeneth.' So Japhet lay
A-dreaming, and his father drew to him.
He said, 'This cannot scorn me yet;' and paused,
Right angry with himself, because the youth,
Albeit of stately growth, so languidly
Lay with a listless smile upon his mouth,
That was full sweet and pure; and as he looked,
He half forgot his trouble in his pride.
'And is this mine?' said he, 'my son! mine own!
(God, thou art good!) O, if this turn away,
That pang shall be past bearing. I must think
That all the sweetness of his goodly face
Is copied from his soul. How beautiful
Are children to their fathers! Son, my heart
Is greatly glad because of thee; my life
Shall lack of no completeness in the days
To come. If I forget the joy of youth,
In thee shall I be comforted; ay, see
My youth, a dearer than my own again.'
And when he ceased, the youth, with sleep content,
Murmured a little, turned himself and woke.
He woke, and opened on his father's face
The darkness of his eyes; but not a word
The Master-shipwright said—his lips were sealed;
He was not ready, for he feared to see
This mouth curl up with scorn. And Japhet spoke,
Full of the calm that cometh after sleep:
'Sir, I have dreamed of you. I pray you, sir,
What is your name?' and even with his words
His countenance changed. The son of Lamech
Why art thou sad? What have I done to thee?'
And Japhet answered, 'Oh, methought I fled
In the wilderness before a maddened beast,
And you came up and slew it; and I thought
You were my father; but I fear me, sir,
My thoughts were vain.' With that his father said,
'Whate'er of blessing Thou reserv'st for me,
God! if Thou wilt not give to both, give here:
Bless him with both Thy hands;' and laid his own
On Japhet's head.
Then Japhet looked on him,
Made quiet by content, and answered low,
With faltering laughter, glad and reverent: 'Sir,
You are my father?' 'Ay,' quoth he, 'I am!
Kiss me, my son; and let me hear my name,
My much desired name, from your dear lips.'
Then after, rested, they betook them home:
And Japhet, walking by the Master, thought,
'I did not will to love this sire of mine;
But now I feel as if I had always known
And loved him well; truly, I see not why,
But I would rather serve him than go free
With my two brethren.' And he said to him,
'Father!'—who answered, 'I am here, my son.'
And Japhet said, 'I pray you, sir, attend
To this my answer: let me go with you,
For, now I think on it, I do not love
The chase, nor managing the steed, nor yet
The arrows and the bow; but rather you,
For all you do and say, and you yourself,
Are goodly and delightsome in mine eyes.
I pray you, sir, when you go forth again,
That I may also go.' And he replied,
'I will tell thy speech unto the Highest; He
Shall answer it. But I would speak to thee
Now of the days to come. Know thou, most dear
To this thy father, that the drenched world,
When risen clean washed from water, shall receive
From thee her lordliest governors, from thee
Daughters of noblest soul.'
So Japhet said,
'Sir, I am young, but of my mother straight
I will go ask a wife, that this may be.
I pray you, therefore, as the manner is
Of fathers, give me land that I may reap
Corn for sustaining of my wife, and bruise
The fruit of the vine to cheer her.' But he said,
'Dost then forget? or dost thou not believe,
My son?' He answered, 'I did ne'er believe,
My father, ere to-day; but now, methinks,
Whatever thou believest I believe,
For thy belovèd sake. If this then
As thou (I hear) hast said, and earth doth bear
The last of her wheat harvests, and make ripe
The latest of her grapes; yet hear me, sir,
None of the daughters shall be given to me
If I be landless.' Then his father said,
'Lift up thine eyes toward the north, my son:'
And so he did. 'Behold thy heritage!'
Quoth the world's prince and master, 'far away
Upon the side o' the north, where green the field
Lies every season through, and where the dews
Of heaven are wholesome, shall thy children reign;
I part it to them, for the earth is mine;
The Highest gave it me: I make it theirs.
Moreover, for thy marriage gift, behold
The cedars where thou sleepedst! There are vines;
And up the rise is growing wheat. I give
(For all, alas! is mine)—I give thee both
For dowry, and my blessing.'
And he said,
Sir, you are good, and therefore the Most High
Shall bless me also. Sir, I love you well.'
AND when two days
were over, Japhet said,
'Mother, so please you, get a wife for me.'
The mother answered, 'Dost thou mock me, son?
'tis not the manner of our kin to wed
So young. Thou knowest it; art thou not
Thou carest not for a wife.' And the youth
And made for answer: 'This, my father, saith
The doom is nigh; now therefore find a maid,
Or else shall I be wifeless all my days.
And as for me, I care not; but the lands
Are parted, and the goodliest share is mine.
And lo! my brethren are betrothed; their maids
Are with thee in the house. Then why not mine?
Didst thou not diligently search for these
Among the noblest born of all the earth,
And bring them up? My sisters, dwell they not
With women that bespake them for their sons?
Now, therefore, let a wife be found for me,
Fair as the day, and gentle to my will
As thou art to my father's.' When she heard,
Niloiya sighed, and answered, 'It is well.'
And Japhet went out from her presence.
Quoth the great Master: 'Wherefore sought ye not,
Woman, these many days, nor tired at all,
Till ye had found, a maiden for my son?
In this ye have done ill.' Niloiya said:
Let not my lord be angry. All my soul
Is sad: my lord hath walked afar so long,
That some despise thee; yea, our servants fail
Lately to bring their stint of corn and wood.
And, sir, thy household slaves do steal away
To thy great father, and our lands lie waste—
None till them: therefore think the women scorn
To give me—whatsoever gems I send,
And goodly raimemt—(yea, I seek afar,
And sue with all desire and humbleness
Through every master's house, but no one gives)—
A daughter for my son.' With that she ceased.
Then said the Master: 'Some thou hast with thee,
Brought up among thy children, dutiful
And fair; thy father gave them for my slaves—
Children of them whom he brought captive forth
From their own heritage.' And she replied,
Right scornfully: 'Shall Japhet wed a slave?'
Then said the Master: 'He shall wed: look thou
To that. I say not he shall wed a slave;
But by the might of One that made him mine,
I will not quit thee for my doomèd
Until thou wilt betroth him. Therefore, haste,
Beautiful woman, loved of me and mine,
To bring a maiden, and to say, "Behold
A wife for Japhet." ' Then she answered, 'Sir,
It shall be done.'
And forth Niloiya sped.
She gathered all her jewels—all she held
Of costly or of rich—and went and spake
With some few slaves that yet abode with her,
For daily they were fewer; and went forth,
With fair and flattering words, among her feres,
And fain had wrought with them: and she had
That made her sick, it was so faint; and then
She had fear, and after she had certainty,
For all did scorn her. 'Nay,' they cried, 'O fool!
If this be so, and on a watery world
Ye think to rock, what matters if a wife
Be free or bond? There shall be none to rule,
If she have freedom: if she have it not,
None shall there be to serve.'
The time being done, desponding at her door,
And went behind a screen, where should have
The daughters of the captives; but there wrought
One only, and this rose from off the floor,
Where she the river rush full deftly wove,
'And made obeisance. Then Niloiya said,
'Where are thy fellows?' And the maid replied,
'Let not Niloiya, this my lady loved,
Be angry; they are fled since yesternight.'
Then said Niloiya, 'Amarant, my slave,
When have I called thee by thy name before?'
She answered, 'Lady, never;' and she took
And spread her broidered robe before her face.
Niloiya spoke thus: 'I am come to woe,
And thou to honour.' Saying this, she wept
Passionate tears; and all the damsel's soul
Was full of yearning wonder, and her robe
Slipped from her hand, and her right innocent face
Was seen betwixt her locks of tawny hair
That dropped about her knees, and her two eyes,
Blue as the much-loved flower that rims the beck,
Looked sweetly on Niloiya; but she knew
No meaning in her words; and she drew nigh,
And kneeled and said, 'Will this my lady speak?
Her damsel is desirous of her words.'
Then said Niloiya, 'I, thy mistress, sought
A wife for Japhet, and no wife is found.'
And yet again she wept with grief of heart,
Saying, 'Ah me, miserable! I must give
A wife: the Master willeth it: a wife,
Ah me! unto the high-born. He will scorn
His mother and reproach me. I must give—
None else have I to give—a slave—even thee.'
This further spake Niloiya: 'I was good—
Had rue on thee, a tender sucking child,
When they did tear thee from thy mother's breast;
I fed thee, gave thee shelter, and I taught
Thy hands all cunning arts that women prize.
But out on me! my good is turned to ill.
O, Japhet, well beloved!' And she rose up,
And did restrain herself, saying, 'Dost thou heed?
Behold, this thing shall be.' The damsel sighed,
'Lady, I do.' Then went Niloiya forth.
And Amarant murmured in her deep amaze,
'Shall Japhet's little children kiss my mouth?
And will he sometimes take them from my arms,
And almost care for me for their sweet sake?
I have not dared to think I loved him—now
I know it well: but O, the bitterness
For him!' And ending thus, the damsel rose,
For Japhet entered. And she bowed herself
Meekly and made obeisance, but her blood
Ran cold about her heart, for all his face
Was coloured with his passion.
He said, 'My father's slave;' and she replied,
Low drooping her fair head, 'My master's son.'
And after that a silence fell on them,
With trembling at her heart, and rage at his.
And Japhet, mastered of his passion, sat
And could not speak. O! cruel seemed his fate—
So cruel her that told it, so unkind.
His breast was full of wounded love and wrath
Wrestling together; and his eyes flashed out
Indignant lights, as all amazed he took
The insult home that she had offered him,
Who should have held his honour dear.
The misery choked him, and he cried in pain,
Go, get thee forth;' but she, all white and still,
Parted her lips to speak, and yet spake not,
Nor moved. And Japhet rose up passionate,
With lifted arm as one about to strike;
But she cried out and met him, and she held
With desperate might his hand, and prayed to
Strike not, or else shall men from henceforth say,
'Japhet is like to us." ' And he shook off
The damsel, and he said, 'I thank thee, slave;
For never have I stricken yet or child
Or woman. Not for thy sake am I glad,
Nay, but for mine. Get hence. Obey my words.'
Then Japhet lifted up his voice, and wept.
And no more he restrained himself, but cried,
With heavings of the heart, 'O hateful day!
O day that shuts the door upon delight.
A slave! to wed a slave! O loathèd
Hated of Japhet's soul.' And after, long,
With face between his hands, he sat, his thoughts
Sullen and sore; then scorned himself, and saying,
'I will not take her, I will die unwed,
It is but that;' lift up his eyes and saw
The slave, and she was sitting at his feet;
And he, so greatly wondering that she dared
The disobedience, looked her in the face
Less angry than afraid, for pale she was
As lily yet unsmiled on by the sun;
And he, his passion being spent, sighed out,
'Low am I fallen indeed. Hast thou no fear,
That thou dost flout me?' but she gave to him
The sighing echo of his sigh, and mourned,
And he wondered, and he looked again,
For in her heart there was a new-born pang,
That cried; but she, as mothers with their young,
Suffered, yet loved it; and there shone a strange
Grave sweetness in her blue unsullied eyes.
And Japhet, leaning from the settle, thought,
'What is it? I will call her by her name,
To comfort her, for also she is nought
To blame; and since I will not her to wife,
She falls back from the freedom she had hoped.'
Then he said, 'Amarant;' and the damsel drew
Her eyes down slowly from the shaded sky
Of even, and she said, 'My master's son,
Japhet;' and Japhet said, 'I am not wroth
With thee, but wretched for my mother's deed,
Because she shamed me.'
And the maiden
'Doth not thy father love thee well, sweet sir?'
'Ay,' quoth he, 'well.' She answered, 'Let the heart
Of Japhet, then, be merry. Go to him
And say, "The damsel whom my mother chose,
Sits by her in the house; but as for me,
Sir, ere I take her, let me go with you
To that same outland country. Also, sir,
My damsel hath not worked as yet the robe
Of her betrothal;" now, then, sith he loves,
He will not say thee nay. Herein for awhile
Is respite, and thy mother far and near
Will seek again: it may be she will find
A fair, free maiden.'
Japhet said, 'O maid,
Sweet are thy words; but what if I return,
And all again be as it is to-day?'
Then Amarant answered, 'Some have died in
But yet, I think not, sir, that I shall die.
Though ye shall find it even as I had died—
Silent, for any words I might have said;
Empty, for any space I might have filled.
Sir, I will steal away, and hide afar;
But if a wife be found, then will I bide
And serve.' He answered, 'Oh, thy speech is good;
Now therefore (since my mother gave me thee),
I will reward it; I will find for thee
A goodly husband, and will make him free
Then she started from his feet,
And, red with shame and anger, flashed on him
The passion of her eyes; and put her hands;
With catching of the breath to her fair throat,
And stood in her defiance lost to fear,
Like some fair hind in desperate danger turned
And brought to bay, and wild in her despair.
But shortly, 'I remember,' quoth she, low,
With raining down of tears and broken sighs,
'That I am Japhet's slave; 'beseech you, sir,
As ye were ever gentle, ay, and sweet
Of language to me, be not harder now.
Sir, I was yours to take; I knew not, sir,
That also ye might give me. Pray you, sir,
Be pitiful—be merciful to me,
A slave.' He said, 'I thought to do thee good,
For good hath been thy counsel;' but she cried,
'Good master, be you therefore pitiful
To me, a slave.' And Japhet wondered much
At her, and at her beauty, for he thought,
'None of the daughters are so fair as this,
Nor stand with such a grace majestical;
She in her locks is like the travelling sun,
Setting, all clad in coifing clouds of gold.
And would she die unmatched?' He said to her,
'What! wilt then sail alone in yonder ship,
And dwell alone hereafter?' 'Ay,' she said,
'And serve my mistress.'
'It is well,' quoth he,
And held his hand to her, as is the way
Of masters. Then she kissed it, and she said,
'Thanks for benevolence,' and turned herself,
Adding, 'I rest, sir, on your gracious words;'
Then stepped into the twilight and was gone.
And Japhet, having found his father, said,
'Sir, let me also journey when ye go.'
Who answered, 'Hath thy mother done her part?'
He said, 'Yea, truly, and my damsel sits
Before her in the house; and also, sir,
She said to me, "I have not worked, as yet,
The garment of betrothal." ' And he said,
'tis not the manner of our kin to speak
Concerning matters that a woman rules;
But hath thy mother brought a damsel home,
And let her see thy face, then all is one
As ye were wed.' He answered, 'Even so,
It matters nothing; therefore hear me, sir:
The damsel being mine, I am content
To let her do according to her will;
And when we shall return, so surely, sir,
As I shall find her by my mother's side,
Then will I take her;' and he left to speak;
His father answering, 'Son, thy words are good.'
NIGHT. Now a
tent was pitched, and Japhet sat
In the door and watched, for on a litter lay
The father of his love. And he was sick
To death; but daily he would rouse him up,
And stare upon the light, and ever say,
'On, let us journey;' but it came to pass
That night, across their path a river ran,
And they who served the father and the son
Had pitched the tents beside it, and had made
A fire, to scare away the savagery
That roamed in that great forest, for their way
Had led among the trees of God.
The moon Shone on the river, like a silver road
To lead them over; but when Japhet looked,
He said, 'We shall not cross it. I shall lay
This well-belovèd head low in the
Not on the farther side.' From time to time,
The water-snakes would stir its glassy flow
With curling undulations, and would lay
Their heads along the bank, and, subtle-eyed,
Consider those long spirting flames, that danced,
When some red log would break and crumble down,
And show his dark despondent eyes, that watched,
Wearily, even Japhet's. But he cared
Little; and in the dark, that was not dark,
But dimness of confused incertitude,
Would move a-near all silently, and gaze
And breathe, and shape itself, a manèd
With eyes; and still he cared not, and the form
Would falter, then recede, and melt again
Into the farther shade. And Japhet said:
'How long? The moon hath grown again in heaven,
After her caving twice, since we did leave
The threshold of our home; and now what 'vails
That far on tumbled mountain snow we toiled,
Hungry, and weary, all the day; by night
Waked with a dreadful trembling underneath,
To look, while every cone smoked, and there ran
Red brooks adown, that licked the forest up,
While in the pale white ashes wading on
We saw no stars?—what 'vails if afterward,
Astonished with great silence, we did move
Over the measureless, unknown desert mead;
While all the day, in rents and crevices,
Would lie the lizard and the serpent kind,
Drowsy; and in the night take fearsome shapes,
And oft-times woman-faced and woman-haired
Would trail their snaky length, and curse and mourn;
Or there would wander up, when we were tired,
Dark troops of evil ones, with eyes morose,
Withstanding us, and staring;—O! what 'vails
That in the dread deep forest we have fought
With following packs of wolves? These men of
Even the giants, shall not hear the doom
My father came to tell them of. Ah, me!
If God indeed had sent him, would he lie
(For he is stricken with a sore disease)
Helpless outside their city?'
Then he rose,
And put aside the curtains of the tent,
To look upon his father's face; and lo!
The tent being dark, he thought that somewhat sat
Beside the litter; and he set his eyes
To see it, and saw not; but only marked
Where, fallen away from manhood and from power,
His father lay. Then he came forth again,
Trembling, and crouched beside the dull red fire,
And murmured, 'Now it is the second time:
An old man, as I think (but scarcely saw),
Dreadful of might. Its hair was white as wool:
I dared not look; perhaps I saw not aught,
But only knew that it was there: the same
Which walked beside as once when he did pray.'
And Japhet hid his face between his hands
For fear, and grief of heart, and weariness
Of watching; and he slumbered not, but mourned
To himself, a little moment, as it seemed,
For sake of his loved father: then he lift
His eyes, and day had dawned. Right suddenly
The moon withheld her silver, and she hung
Frail as a cloud. The ruddy flame that played
By night on dim, dusk trees, and on the flood,
Crept red amongst the logs, and all the world
And all the water blushed and bloomed. The stars
Were gone, and golden shafts came up, and touched
The feathered heads of palms, and green was born
Under the rosy cloud, and purples flew
Like veils across the mountains; and he saw,
Winding athwart them, bathed in blissful peace,
And the sacredness of morn, the battlements
And out-posts of the giants; and there ran
On the other side the river, as it were,
White mounds of marble, tabernacles fair,
And towers below a line of inland cliff:
These were their fastnesses, and here their homes.
In valleys and the forest, all that night,
There had been woe; in every hollow place,
And under walls, like drifted flowers, or snow,
Women lay mourning; for the serpent lodged
That night within the gates, and had decreed,
'I will (or ever I come) that ye drive out
The women, the abhorrèd of my
Therefore, more beauteous than all climbing bloom,
Purple and scarlet, cumbering of the boughs,
Or flights of azure doves that lit to drink
The water of the river; or, new born,
The quivering butterflies in companies,
That slowly crept adown the sandy marge,
Like living crocus beds, and also drank,
And rose an orange cloud; their hollowed hands
They dipped between the lilies, or with robes
Full of ripe fruitage, sat and peeled and ate,
Weeping; or comforting their little ones,
And lulling them with sorrowful long hymns
Among the palms.
So went the earlier morn.
Then came a messenger, while Japhet sat
Mournfully, and he said, 'The men of might
Are willing; let thy master, youth, appear.'
And Japhet said, 'So be it;' and he thought,
'Now will I trust in God;' and he went in
And stood before his father, and he said,
'My father;' but the Master answered not,
But gazed upon the curtains of his tent,
Nor knew that one had called him. He was clad
As ready for the journey, and his feet
Were sandalled, and his staff was at his side;
And Japhet took the gown of sacrifice
And spread it on him, and he laid his crown
Upon his knees, and he went forth, and lift
His hand to heaven, and cried, 'My father's God!
'But neither whisper came nor echo fell
When he did listen. Therefore he went on:
'Behold, I have a thing to say to thee.
My father charged thy servant, "Let not ruth
Prevail with thee, to turn and bear me hence,
For God appointed me my task, to preach
Before the mighty." I must do my part
(O! let it not displease thee), for he said
But yesternight, "When they shall send for me,
Take me before them." And I sware to him.
I pray thee, therefore, count his life and mine
Precious; for I that sware, I will perform.'
Then cried he to his people, 'Let us hence:
Take up the litter.' And they set their feet
Toward the raft whereby men crossed that flood.
And while they journeyed, lo, the giants sat
Within the fairest hall where all were fair,
Each on his carven throne, o'er-canopied
With work of women. And the dragon lay
In a place of honour; and with subtlety
He counselled them, for they did speak by turns;
And they being proud, might nothing master them,
But guile alone: and he did fawn on them;
And when the younger taunted him, submiss
He testified great humbleness, and cried,
'A cruel God, forsooth! but nay, O nay,
I will not think it of Him, that He meant
To threaten these. O, when I look on them,
How doth my soul admire.'
And one stood
The youngest; of his brethren, named 'the Rock.'
'Speak out,' quoth he, 'thou toothless slavering
What is it? thinkest thou that such as we
Should be afraid? What is this goodly doom?'
And Satan laughed upon him. 'Lo,' said he,
'Thou art not fully grown, and every one
I look on, standeth higher by the head,
Yea, and the shoulders, than do other men;
Forsooth, thy servant thought not thou wouldst fear,
Thou and thy fellows.' Then with one accord,
'Speak,' cried they; and with mild persuasive eyes,
And flattering tongue, he spoke.
It hath been known to you these many days
How that for piety I am much famed.
I am exceeding pious: if I lie,
As hath been whispered, it is but for sake
Of God, and that ye should not think Him hard,
For I am all for God. Now some have thought
That He hath also (and it may be so
Or yet may not be so) on me been hard;
Be not ye therefore wroth, for my poor sake;
I am contented to have earned your weal,
Though I must therefore suffer.
One cometh, yea, an harmless man, a fool,
Who boasts he hath a message from our God,
And lest that you, for bravery of heart
And stoutness, being angered with his prate,
Should lift a hand, and kill him, I am here.'
Then spoke the Leader, 'How now, snake? Thy
Ring false. Why ever liest thou, snake, to us?
Thou coward! none of us will see thee harmed.
I say thou liest. The land is strewed with slain;
Myself have hewn down companies, and blood
Makes fertile all the field. Thou knowest it well;
And hast thou, driveller, panting sore for age,
Come with a force to bid us spare one fool?'
And Satan answered, 'Nay you! be not wroth;
Yet true it is, and yet not all the truth.
Your servant would have told the rest, if now
(For fullness of your life being fretted sore
At mine infirmities, which God in vain
I supplicate to heal) ye had not caused
My speech to stop.' And he they called 'the Oak'
Made answer, ' 'tis a good snake'; let him be.
Why would ye fright the poor old craven beast?
Look how his lolling tongue doth foam for fear.
Ye should have mercy, brethren, on the weak.
Speak, dragon, then hast leave; make stout thy
What! hast thou lied to this great company?
It was, we know it was, for humbleness;
Thou wert not willing to offend with truth.'
'Yea, majesties,' quoth Satan, 'thus it was,'
And lifted up appealing eyes, and groaned;
'O, can it be, compassionate as brave,
And housed in cunning works themselves have
And served in gold, and warmed with minivere,
And ruling nobly—that He, not content
Unless alone He reigneth, looks to bend
Or break them in, like slaves to cry to Him,
"What is Thy will with us, O Master dear?"
Or else to eat of death?
For my part, lords;
I cannot think it: for my piety
And reason, which I also share with you,
Are my best lights, and ever counsel me,
"Believe not aught against thy God; believe,
Since then canst never reach to do Him wrong,
That He will never stoop to do thee wrong.
Is He not just and equal, yea, and kind?
Therefore, O majesties, it is my mind
Concerning him ye wot of, thus to think
The message is not like what I have learned
By reason, and experience, of the God.
Therefore no message 'tis. The man is mad.'
Thereat the Leader laughed for scorn. 'Hold,
If God be just, there SHALL be reckoning days.
We rather would He were a partial God,
And being strong, He sided with the strong.
Turn now thy reason to the other side,
And speak for that; for as to justice, snake,
We would have none of it.'
And Satan fawned:
'My lord is pleased to mock at my poor wit;
Yet in my pious fashion I must talk:
For say that God was wroth with man, and came
And slew him, that should make an empty world,
But not a better nation.'
'Truth, dragon, yet He is not bound to mean
A better nation; maybe, He designs,
If none will turn again, a punishment
Upon an evil one.'
And Satan cried,
'Alas! my heart being full of love for men,
I cannot choose but think of God as like
To me; and yet my piety concludes,
Since He will have your fear, that love alone
Sufficeth not, and I admire, and say,
"Give me, O friends, your love, and give to God
Your fear." ' But they cried out in wrath and rage,
'We are not strong that any we will fear,
Nor specially a foe that means us ill.'
AND while he
spoke there was a noise without;
The curtains of the door were flung aside,
And some with heavy feet bare in, and set
A litter on the floor.
The Master lay
Upon it, but his eyes were dimmed and set;
And Japhet, in despairing weariness,
Leaned it beside. He marked the mighty ones,
Silent for pride of heart, and in his place
The jewelled dragon; and the dragon laughed,
And subtly peered at him, till Japhet shook
With rage and fear. The snaky wonder cried,
Hissing, 'Thou brown-haired youth, come up to me;
I fain would have thee for my shrine afar,
To serve among an host as beautiful
As thou: draw near.' It hissed, and Japhet felt
Horrible drawings, and cried out in fear,
'Father! O help, the serpent draweth me!'
And struggled and grew faint, as in the toils
A netted bird. But still his father lay
Unconscious, and the mighty did not speak,
But half in fear and half for wonderment
Beheld. And yet again the dragon laughed,
And leered at him and hissed; and Japhet strove
Vainly to take away his spell-set eyes,
And moved to go to him, till piercingly
Crying out, 'God! forbid it, God in heaven!'
The dragon lowered his head, and shut his eyes
As feigning sleep; and, suddenly released,
He fell back staggering; and at noise of it,
And clash of Japhet's weapons on the floor,
And Japhet's voice crying out, 'I loathe thee, snake'
I hate thee! O, I hate thee!' came again,
The senses of the shipwright; and he, moved,
And looking, as one 'mazed, distressfully
Upon the mighty, said, 'One called on God:
Where is my God? If God have need of me,
Let Him come down and touch my lips with
Or dying I shall die.'
It came to pass,
While he was speaking, that the curtains swayed;
A rushing wind did move throughout the place,
And all the pillars shook, and on the head
Of Noah the hair was lifted, and there played
A somewhat, as it were a light, upon
His breast; then fell a darkness, and men heard
A whisper as of one that spake. With that,
The daunted mighty ones kept silent watch
Until the wind had ceased and darkness fled.
When it grew light, there curled a cloud of smoke
From many censers where the dragon lay.
It hid him. He had called his ministrants,
And bid them veil him thus, that none might look;
Also the folk who came with Noah had fled.
But Noah was seen, for he stood up erect,
And leaned on Japhet's hand. Then, after pause,
The Leader said, 'My brethren, it were well
(For nought we fear) to let this sorcerer speak.'
And they did reach toward the man their staves,
And cry with loud accord, 'Hail, sorcerer, hail!'
And he made answer, 'Hail! I am a man
That is a shipwright. I was born afar
To Lamech, him that reigned a king, to wit,
Over the land of Jalal. Majesties,
I bring a message,—lay you it to heart;
For there is wrath in heaven: my God is wroth.
"Prepare your houses, or I come," saith He,
"A Judge." Now, therefore, say not in your hearts,
"What have we done?" Your dogs may answer that,
To make whom fiercer for the chase, ye feed
With captives whom ye slew not in the war,
But saved alive, and living throw to them
Daily. Your wives may answer that, whose babes
Their firstborn ye do take and offer up
To this abhorrèd snake, while yet
Is in their innocent mouths—your maiden babes
Tender. Your slaves may answer that—the gangs
Whose eyes ye did put out to make them work
By night unwitting, (yea, by multitudes
They work upon the wheel in chains). Your friend,
May answer that—(their bleached bones cry out,)
For ye did, wickedly, to eat their lands,
Turn on their valleys, in a time of peace,
The rivers, and they, choking in the night;
Died unavenged. But rather (for I leave
To tell of more, the time would be so long
To do it, and your time, O mighty ones,
Is short),—but rather say, "We sinners know
Why the Judge standeth at the door," and turn
While yet there may be respite, and repent.
"Or else," saith He that formèd
you, "I swear,
By all the silence of the times to come,
By the solemnities of death,—yea, more,
By Mine own power and love which ye have
That I will come. I will command the clouds,
And raining they shall rain; yea, I will stir
With all my storms the ocean for your sake,
And break for you the boundary of the deep.
' "Then shall the mighty mourn.
That have been patient? I will not forbear!
For yet," saith He, "the weak cry out; for yet
The little ones do languish; and the slave
Lifts up to Me his chain. I therefore, I
Will hear them. I by death will scatter you;
Yea, and by death will draw them to My breast,
And gather them to peace.
But yet," saith
"Repent, and turn you. Wherefore will ye die?"
'Turn then, O turn, while yet the enemy
Untamed of man fatefully moans afar;
For if ye will not turn, the doom is near.
Then shall the crested wave make sport, and beat.
You mighty at your doors. Will ye be wroth?
Will ye forbid it? Monsters of the deep
Shall suckle in your palaces their young,
And swim atween your hangings, all of them
Costly with broidered work, and rare with gold
And white and scarlet, (there did ye oppress—
There did ye make you vile); but ye shall lie
Meekly, and storm and wind shall rage above,
And urge the weltering wave.
"Son," ay, to each of you He saith, "O son,
Made in My image, beautiful and strong,
Why wilt thou die? Thy Father loves thee well.
Repent and turn thee from thine evil ways,
O son! and no more dare the wrath of love.
Live for thy Father's sake that formed thee.
Why wilt thou die?" Here will I make an end.'
Now ever on his dais the dragon lay,
Feigning to sleep; and all the mighty ones
Were wroth, and chided, some against the woe,
And some at whom the sorcerer they had named,—
Some at their fellows, for the younger sort—
As men the less acquaint with deeds of blood,
And given to learning and the arts of peace
(Their fathers having crushed rebellion out
Before their time)—lent favourable ears.
They said, 'A man, or false or fanatic,
May claim good audience if he fill our ears
With what is strange: and we would hear again.'
The Leader said, 'An audience hath been given.
The man hath spoken, and his words are nought;
A feeble threatener, with a foolish threat,
And it is not our manner that we sit
Beyond the noonday; 'then they grandly rose,
A stalwart crowd, and with their Leader moved
To the tones of harping, and the beat of shawms,
And the noise of pipes, away. But some were left
About the Master; and the feigning snake
Couched on his dais.
Then one to Japhet said,
One called 'the Cedar Tree,' 'Dost thou, too, think
To reign upon our lands when we lie drowned?'
And Japhet said, 'I think not, nor desire,
Nor in my heart consent, but that ye swear
Allegiance to the God, and live.' He cried,
To one surnamed 'the Pine'—'Brother, behoves
That deep we cut our names in yonder crag,
Else when this youth returns, his sons may ask
Our names, and he may answer, "Matters not,
For my part I forget them." '
'They might do worse than that, they might deny
That such as you have ever been.' With that
They answered, 'No, then dost not think it, no!'
And Japhet, being chafed, replied in heat,
'And wherefore? if ye say of what is sworn,
"He will not do it," shall it be more hard
For future men, if any talk on it,
To say, "He did not do it"?' They replied,
With laughter, 'Lo you! he is stout with us.
And yet be cowered before the poor old snake.
Sirrah, when you are saved, we pray you now
To bear our might in mind—do, sirrah, do;
And likewise tell your sons, " 'The Cedar Tree'
Was a good giant, for he struck me not,
Though he was young and full of sport, and though
I taunted him." '
With that they also passed.
But there remained who with the shipwright spoke:
'How wilt thou certify to us thy truth?'
And he related to them all his ways
From the beginning: of the Voice that called;
Moreover, how the ship of doom was built.
And one made answer, 'Shall the mighty God
Talk with a man of wooden beams and bars?
No, thou mad preacher, no. If He, Eterne,
Be ordering of His far infinitudes,
And darkness cloud a world, it is but chance,
As if the shadow of His hand had fallen
On one that He forgot, and troubled it.'
Then said the Master, 'Yet—who told thee so?'
And from his dais the feigning serpent hissed:
'Preacher, the light within, it was that shined,
And told him so. The pious will have dread
Him to declare such as ye rashly told.
The course of God is one. It likes not us
To think of Him as being acquaint with change:
It were beneath Him. Nay, the finished earth
Is left to her great masters. They must rule;
They do; and I have set myself between,—
A visible thing for worship, sith His face
(For He is hard) He showeth not to men.
Yea, I have set myself 'twixt God and man,
To be interpreter, and teach mankind
A pious lesson by my piety.
He loveth not, nor hateth, nor desires—
It were beneath Him.'
And the Master said,
'Thou liest. Thou wouldst lie away the world,
If He, whom thou hast dared to speak against,
Would suffer it.' 'I may not chide with thee,
It answered, 'NOW; but if there come such time
As thou hast prophesied, as I now reign
In all men's sight, shall my dominion then
Reach to be mighty in their souls. Thou too
Shalt feel it, prophet.' And he lowered his head.
Then quoth the Leader of the young men: 'Sir,
We scorn you not; speak further; yet our thought
First answer. Not but by a miracle
Can this thing be. The fashion of the world
We heretofore have never known to change;
And will God change it now?'
'What is thy thought? THERE
IS NO MIRACLE?
There is a great one, which then hast not read,
And never shalt escape. Thyself, O man,
Thou art the miracle. Lo, if thou sayest,
"I am one, and fashioned like the gracious world,
Red clay is all my make, myself, my whole,
And not my habitation," then thy sleep
Shall give thee wings to play among the rays
O' the morning. If thy thought be, "I am one—
A spirit among spirits—and the world
A dream my spirit dreameth of, my dream
Being all," the dominating mountains strong
Shall not for that forbear to take thy breath,
And rage with all their winds, and beat thee back,
And beat thee down when thou wouldst set thy feet
Upon their awful crests. Ay, thou thyself,
Being in the world and of the world, thyself
Hast breathed in breath from Him that made the
Thou dost inherit, as thy Maker's son,
That which He is, and that which he hath made:
Thou art thy Father's copy of Himself,—
THOU art thy Father's miracle.
He buildeth up the stars in companies;
He made for them a law. To man He said,
"Freely I give thee freedom." What remains?
O, it remains, if then, the image of God,
Wilt reason well, that thou shalt know His ways;
But first thou must be loyal-love, O man,
Thy Father—hearken when He pleads with thee,
For there is something left of Him e'en now,—
A witness for thy Father in thy soul,
Albeit thy better state thou hast foregone.
'Now, then, be still, and think not in thy soul,
"The rivers in their course for ever run,
And turn not from it. He is like to them
Who made them." Think the rather," With my
I have turned the rivers from their ancient way,
To water grasses that were fading. What!
Is God my Father as the river wave,
That yet descendeth, like the lesser thing
He made, and not like me, a living son,
That changed the water-course to suit his will?"
'Man is the miracle in nature. God
Is the ONE MIRACLE to
"There is a God," thou sayest. Thou sayest well:
In that thou sayest all. To Be is more
Of wonderful, than being, to have wrought,
Or reigned, or rested.
Hold then there, content;
Learn that to love is the one way to know,
Or God or man: it is not love received
That maketh man to know the inner life
Of them that love him; his own love bestowed
Shall do it. Love thy Father, and no more
His doings shall be strange. Thou shalt not fret
At any counsel, then, that He will send,—
No, nor rebel, albeit He have with thee
Great reservations. Know, to Be is more
Than to have acted; yea, or after rest
And patience, to have risen and been wroth,
Broken the sequence of an ordered earth,
And troubled nations.'
Then the dragon sighed,
'Poor fanatic,' quoth he, 'thou speakest well.
Would I were like thee, for thy faith is strong,
Albeit thy senses wander. Yea, good sooth,
My masters, let us not despise, but learn
Fresh loyalty from this poor loyal soul.
Let us go forth—(myself will also go
To head you)—and do sacrifice; for that,
We know, is pleasing to the mighty God:
But as for building many arks of wood,
O majesties! when He shall counsel you
HIMSELF, then build. What say you, shall it
An hundred oxen-fat, well liking, white?
An hundred? why, a thousand were not much
To such as you.' Then Noah lift up his arms
To heaven, and cried, 'Thou agèd
shape of sin,
The Lord rebuke thee.'
THEN one ran,
crying, while Niloiya wrought,
'The Master cometh!' and she went within
To adorn herself for meeting him. And Shem
Went forth and talked with Japhet in the field,
And said, 'Is it well, my brother?' He replied,
'Well! and, I pray you, is it well at home?'
But Shem made answer, 'Can a house be well,
If he that should command it bides afar?
Yet well is thee, because a fair free maid
Is found to wed thee; and they bring her in
This day at sundown. Therefore is much haste
To cover thick with costly webs the floor,
And pluck and cover thick the same with leaves
Of all sweet herbs—I warrant, ye shall hear
No footfall where she treadeth; and the seats
Are ready, spread with robes; the tables set
With golden baskets, red pomegranates shred
To fill them; and the rubied censers smoke,
Heaped up with ambergris and cinnamon,
And frankincense and cedar.'
'I will betroth her to me straight;' and went
(Yet laboured he with sore disquietude)
To gather grapes, and reap and bind the sheaf
For his betrothal. And his brother spake,
'Where is our father? doth he preach to-day?'
And Japhet answered, 'Yea. He said to me,
"Go forward; I will follow when the folk
By yonder mountain-hold I shall have warned." '
And Shem replied, 'How thinkest thou?—thine ears
Have heard him oft.' He answered, 'I do think
These be the last days of this old fair world.'
Then he did tell him of the giant folk:
How they, than he, were taller by the head;
How one must stride that will ascend the steps
That lead to their wide halls; and how they drave,
With manful shouts, the mammoth to the north;
And how the talking dragon lied and fawned,
They seated proudly on their ivory thrones,
And scorning him: and of their peakèd
And garments wrought upon, each with the tale
Of him that wore it—all his manful deeds:
(Yea, and about their skirts were effigies
Of kings that they had slain; and some, whose
Many had pierced, wore vestures all of red,
To signify much blood): and of their pride
He told, but of the vision in the tent
He told him not.
And when they reached the house,
Niloiya met them, and to Japhet cried,
'All hail, right fortunate! Lo, I have found
A maid. And now thou hast done well to reap
The late ripe corn.' So he went in with her,
And she did talk with him right motherly:
'It hath been fully told me how ye loathed
To wed thy father's slave; yea, she herself,
Did she not all declare to me?'
'Yet is thy damsel fair, and wise of heart.'
'Yea,' quoth his mother; 'she made clear to me
How ye did weep, my son, and ye did vow,
"I will not take her!" Now it was not I
That wrought to have it so.' And he replied,
'I know it.' Quoth the mother, 'it is well;
For that same cause is laughter in my heart.'
But she is sweet of language,' Japhet said.
Ay,' quoth Niloiya, 'and thy wife no less
Whom thou shalt wed anon—forsooth, anon—
It is a lucky hour. Thou wilt?' He said
I will.' And Japhet laid the slender sheaf
From off his shoulder, and he said,
'Behold, My father!' Then Niloiya turned herself,
And lo! the shipwright stood. 'All hail!' quoth she,
And bowed herself, and kissed him on the mouth;
But while she spake with him, sorely he sighed;
And she did hang about his neck the robe
Of feasting, and she poured upon his hands
Clear water, and anointed him, and set
Before him bread.
And Japhet said to him,
'My father, my belovèd, wilt thou
Be sad because of scorning? Eat this day;
For as an angel in their eyes thou art
Who stand before thee.' But he answered, 'Peace!
Thy words are wide.'
And when Niloiya heard,
She said, 'Is this a time for mirth of heart
And wine? Behold, I thought to wed my son,
Even this Japhet; but is this a time,
When sad is he to whom is my desire,
And lying under sorrow as from God?'
He answered, 'Yea, it is a time of times;
Bring in the maid.' Niloiya said, 'The maid
That first I spoke on, shall not Japhet wed;
It likes not her, nor yet it likes not me.
But I have found another; yea, good sooth,
The damsel will not tarry, she will come
With all her slaves by sundown.'
'Comfort thy heart, and eat: moreover, know
How that thy great work even to-day is done.
Sir, thy great ship is finished, and the folk
(For I, according to thy will, have paid
All that was left us to them for their wage,)
Have brought, as to a storehouse, flour of wheat,
Honey and oil—much victual; yea, and fruits,
Curtains and household gear. And, sir, they say
It is thy will to take it for thy hold
Our fastness and abode.' He answered, 'Yea,
Else wherefore was it built?' She said, 'Good sir,
I pray you make us not the whole earth's scorn.
And now, to-morrow in thy father's house
Is a great feast, and weddings are toward;
Let be the ship, till after, for thy words
Have ever been, "If God shall send a flood,
There will I dwell;" I pray you therefore wait
At least till He DOTH send it.'
And he turned,
And answered nothing. Now the sun was low
While yet she spake; and Japhet came to them
In goodly raiment, and upon his arm
The garment of betrothal. And with that
A noise, and then brake in a woman slave
And Amarant. This, with folding of her hands,
Did say full meekly, 'If I do offend,
Yet have not I been willing to offend;
For now this woman will not be denied
Herself to tell her errand.'
And they sat.
Then spoke the woman, 'If I do offend,
Pray you forgive the bondslave, for her tongue
Is for her mistress. "Lo," my mistress saith,
"Put off thy bravery, bridegroom; fold away,
Mother, thy webs of pride, thy costly robes
Woven of many colours. We have heard
Thy master. Lo, to-day right evil things
He prophesied to us, that were his friends;
Therefore, my answer:—God do so to me;
Yea, God do so to me, more also, more
Than he did threaten, if my damsel's foot
Ever draw nigh thy door." '
And when she
Niloiya sat amazed, in grief of soul.
But Japhet came unto the slave, where low
She bowed herself for fear. He said, 'Depart;
Say to thy mistress, "It is well." ' With that
She turned herself, and she made haste to flee,
Lest any, for those evil words she brought,
Would smite her. But the bondmaid of the house
Lift up her hand and said, 'If I offend,
It was not of my heart: thy damsel knew
Nought of this matter.' And he held to her
His hand and touched her, and said, 'Amarant!'
And when she looked upon him, she did take
And spread before her face her radiant locks,
Trembling. And Japhet said, 'Lift up thy face,
O fairest of the daughters, thy fair face;
For, lo! the bridegroom standeth with the robe
Of thy betrothal!'—and he took her locks
In his two hands to part them from her brow,
And laid them on her shoulders; and he said,
'Sweet are the blushes of thy face,' and put
The robe upon her, having said, 'Behold,
I have repented me; and oft by night,
In the waste wilderness, while all things slept,
I thought upon thy words, for they were sweet.
'For this I make thee free. And now thyself
Art loveliest in mine eyes; I look, and lo!
Thou art of beauty more than any thought
I had concerning thee. Let, then, this robe,
Wrought on with imagery of fruitful bough,
And graceful leaf, and birds with tender eyes,
Cover the ripples of thy tawny hair.'
So when she held her peace, he brought her nigh
To hear the speech of wedlock; ay, he took
The golden cup of wine to drink with her,
And laid the sheaf upon her arms. He said,
'Like as my fathers in the older days
Led home the daughters whom they chose, do I;
Like as they said, "Mine honour have I set
Upon thy head!" do I. Eat of my bread,
Rule in my house, be mistress of my slaves,
And mother of my children.'
And he brought
The damsel to his father, saying, 'Behold
My wife! I have betrothed her to myself;
I pray you, kiss her.' And the Master did:
He said, 'Be mother of a multitude,
And let them to their father even so
Be found, as he is found to me.'
She answered, 'Let this woman, sir, find grace
And favour in your sight.'
And Japhet said,
'Sweet mother, I have wed the maid ye chose
And brought me first. I leave her in thy hand;
Have care on her, till I shall come again
And ask her of thee.' So they went apart,
He and his father, to the marriage feast.
THE prayer of
Noah. The man went forth by night
And listened; and the earth was dark and still,
And he was driven of his great distress
Into the forest; but the birds of night
Sang sweetly; and he fell upon his face,
And cried, 'God, God! Thy billows and Thy waves
Have swallowed up my soul.
Where is my
For I have somewhat yet to plead with Thee;
For I have walked the strands of Thy great deep,
Heard the dull thunder of its rage afar,
And its dread moaning. Oh, the field is sweet—
Spare it. The delicate woods make white their trees
With blossom—spare them. Life is sweet; behold
There is much cattle, and the wild and tame,
Father, do feed in quiet—spare them.
Where is my God? The long wave doth not rear
Her ghostly crest to lick the forest up,
And like a chief in battle fall—not yet.
The lightnings pour not down, from ragged holes
In heaven, the torment of their forkèd
And, like fell serpents, dart and sting—not yet.
The winds awake not, with their awful wings
To winnow, even as chaff, from out their track,
All that withstandeth, and bring down the pride
Of all things strong and all things high—
Oh, let it not be yet. Where is my God?
How am I saved, if I and mine be saved
Alone? I am not saved, for I have loved
My country and my kin. Must I, Thy thrall,
Over their lands be lord when they are gone?
I would not: spare them, Mighty. Spare Thyself,
For Thou dost love them greatly,—and if not . . .'
Another praying unremote, a Voice
Calm as the solitude between wide stars.
'Where is my God, who loveth this lost world—
Lost from its place and name, but won for Thee?
Where is my multitude, my multitude,
That I shall gather?' And white smoke went up
From incense that was burning, but there gleamed
No light of fire, save dimly to reveal
The whiteness rising, as the prayer of him
That mourned. 'My God, appear for me, appear;
Give me my multitude, for it is mine.
The bitterness of death I have not feared,
To-morrow shall Thy courts, O God, be full.
Then shall the captive from his bonds go free,
Then shall the thrall find rest, that knew not rest
From labour and from blows. The sorrowful—
That said of joy, "What is it?" and of songs,
"We have not heard them"—shall be glad and sing;
Then shall the little ones that knew not Thee,
And such as heard not of Thee, see Thy face,
And seeing, dwell content.'
The prayer of
He cried out in the darkness, 'Hear, O God,
Hear HIM: hear this one; through the gates of
If life be all past praying for, O give
To Thy great multitude a way to peace;
Give them to HIM.
But yet,' said he, 'O yet,
If there be respite for the terrible,
The proud, yea, such as scorn Thee—and if not . . .
Let not mine eyes behold their fall.'
'Forgive. I have not done Thy work, Great Judge,
With a perfect heart; I have but half believed,
While in accustomed language I have warned;
And now there is no more to do, no place
For my repentance, yea, no hour remains
For doing of that work again. Oh, lost,
Lost world!' And while he prayed, the daylight
And Noah went up into the ship, and sat
Before the Lord. And all was still; and now
In that great quietness the sun came up,
And there were marks across it, as it were
The shadow of a Hand upon the sun—
Three fingers dark and dread, and afterward
There rose a white thick mist, that peacefully
Folded the fair earth in her funeral shroud,
The earth that gave no token, save that now
There fell a little trembling under foot.
And Noah went down, and took and hid his face
Behind his mantle, saying, 'I have made
Great preparation, and it may be yet,
Beside my house, whom I did charge to come
This day to meet me, there may enter in
Many that yesternight thought scorn of all
My bidding.' And because the fog was thick,
He said, 'Forbid it, Heaven, if such there be,
That they should miss the way.' And even then
There was a noise of weeping and lament;
The words of them that were affrighted, yea,
And cried for grief of heart. There came to him
The mother and her children, and they cried,
'Speak, father, what is this? What hast thou done?'
And when he lifted up his face, he saw
Japhet, his well-belovèd, where he
Apart; and Amarant leaned upon his breast,
And hid her face, for she was sore afraid;
And lo! the robes of her betrothal gleamed
White in the deadly gloom.
And at his feet
The wives of his two other sons did kneel,
And wring their hands.
One cried, 'O, speak to
We are affrighted; we have dreamed a dream,
Each to herself. For me, I saw in mine
The grave old angels, like to shepherds, walk,
Much cattle following them. Thy daughter looked,
And they did enter here.'
The other lay
And moaned, 'Alas! O father, for my dream
Was evil: lo, I heard when it was dark,
I heard two wicked ones contend for me.
One said, "And wherefore should this woman live,
When only for her children, and for her,
Is woe and degradation?" Then he laughed,
The other crying, "Let alone, O prince;
Hinder her not to live and bear much seed,
Because I hate her." '
But he said, 'Rise up,
Daughters of Noah, for I have learned no words
To comfort you.' Then spake her lord to her,
'Peace! or I swear that for thy dream, myself
Will hate thee also.'
And Niloiya said,
'My sons, if one of you will hear my words,
Go now, look out, and tell me of the day,
How fares it?'
And the fateful darkness grew.
But Shem went up to do his mother's will;
And all was one as though the frighted earth
Quivered and fell a-trembling; then they hid
Their faces every one, till he returned,
And spake not. 'Nay,' they cried, 'what hast thou seen?
Oh, is it come to this?' He answered them,
'The door is shut.'