A still dark joy! A sudden face!
Cold daylight, footsteps, cries!
The temple's naked, shining space,
Aglare with judging eyes!
All in abandoned guilty hair,
With terror-pallid lips,
To vulgar scorn her honour bare,
To lewd remarks and quips,
Her eyes she fixes on the ground
Her shrinking soul to hide,
Lest, at uncurtained windows found,
Its shame be clear descried.
All idle hang her listless hands,
They tingle with her shame;
She sees not who beside her stands,
She is so bowed with blame.
He stoops, he writes upon the ground,
Regards nor priests nor wife;
An awful silence spreads around,
And wakes an inward strife.
Then comes a voice that speaks for thee,
Pale woman, sore aghast:
"Let him who from this sin is free
At her the first stone cast!"
Ah then her heart grew slowly sad!
Her eyes bewildered rose;
She saw the one true friend she had,
Who loves her though he knows.
He stoops. In every charnel breast
Dead conscience rises slow:
They, dumb before that awful guest,
Turn, one by one, and go.
Up in her deathlike, ashy face
Rises the living red;
No greater wonder sure had place
When Lazarus left the dead!
She is alone with him whose fear
Made silence all around;
False pride, false shame, they come not near,
She has her saviour found!
Jesus hath spoken on her side,
Those cruel men withstood!
From him her shame she will not hide!
For him she will be good!
He rose; he saw the temple bare;
They two are left alone!
He said unto her, "Woman, where
Are thine accusers gone?"
"Hath none condemned thee?" "Master, no,"
She answers, trembling sore.
"Neither do I condemn thee. Go,
And sin not any more."
She turned and went.--To hope and grieve?
Be what she had not been?
We are not told; but I believe
His kindness made her clean.
Our sins to thee us captive hale--
Ambitions, hatreds dire;
Cares, fears, and selfish loves that fail,
And sink us in the mire:
Our captive-cries with pardon meet;
Our passion cleanse with pain;
Lord, thou didst make these miry feet--
Oh, wash them clean again!