Odessa

A poem by John Charles McNeill

A horror of great darkness over them,
No cloud of fire to guide and cover them,
Beasts for the shambles, tremulous with dread,
They crouch on alien soil among their dead.

"Thy shield and thy exceeding great reward,"
This was thine ancient covenant, O Lord,
Which, sealed with mirth, these many thousand years
Is black with blood and blotted out with tears.

Have these not toiled through Egypt's burning sun,
And wept beside the streams of Babylon,
Led from thy wilderness of hill and glen
Into a wider wilderness of men?

Life bore them ever less of gain than loss,
Before and since Golgotha's piteous Cross,
And surely, now, their sorrow hath sufficed
For all the hate that grew from love of Christ!

Thou great God-heart, heed thou thy people's cry,
Bare-browed and empty-handed where they die,
Sea-sundered from wall-girt Jerusalem,
There being no sword that wills to succor them,--

And Miriam's song, long hushed, will rise to thee,
And all thy people lift their eyes to thee,
When, for the darkness' horror over them,
Thou comest, a cloud of light to cover them.

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