A JOYOUS FESTIVAL.--
The gathering back
Of scattered flowrets to the household wreath.
Brothers and sisters from their sever'd homes
Meeting with ardent smile, to renovate
The love that sprang from cradle memories
And childhood's sports, and whose perennial stream
Still threw fresh crystals o'er the sands of life.
--Each bore some treasured picture of the past,
Some graphic incident, by mellowing time
Made beautiful, while ever and anon,
Timbrel and harp broke forth, each pause between.
Banquet and wine-cup, and the dance, gave speed
To youthful spirits, and prolong'd the joy.
* * * * *
The patriarch father, with a chasten'd heart
Partook his children's mirth, having God's fear
Ever before him. Earnestly he brought
His offerings and his prayers for every one
Of that beloved group, lest in the swell
And surging superflux of happiness
They might forget the Hand from whence it came,
Perchance, displease the Almighty.
Many a care
Had he that wealth creates. Not such as lurks
In heaps metallic, which the rust corrodes,
But wealth that fructifies within the earth
Whence cometh bread, or o'er its surface roves
In peaceful forms of quadrupedal life
That thronging round the world's first father came
To take their names, 'mid Eden's tranquil shades,
Ere sin was born.
Obedient to the yoke,
Five hundred oxen turn'd the furrow'd glebe
Where agriculture hides his buried seed
Waiting the harvest hope, while patient wrought
An equal number of that race who share
The labor of the steed, without his praise.
--Three thousand camels, with their arching necks,
Ships of the desert, knelt to do his will,
And bear his surplus wealth to distant climes,
While more than twice three thousand snowy sheep
Whitened the hills. Troops of retainers fed
These flocks and herds, and their subsistence drew
From the same lord,--so that this man of Uz
Greater than all the magnates of the east,
Dwelt in old time before us.
True he gave,
And faithfully, the hireling his reward,
Counting such justice 'mid the happier forms
Of Charity, which with a liberal hand
He to the sad and suffering poor dispensed.
Eyes was he to the blind, and to the lame
Feet, while the stranger and the traveller found
Beneath, the welcome shelter of his roof
The blessed boon of hospitality.
To him the fatherless and widow sought
For aid and counsel. Fearlessly he rose
For those who had no helper. His just mind
Brought stifled truth to light, disarm'd the wiles
Of power, and gave deliverance to the weak.
He pluck'd the victim from the oppressor's grasp,
And made the tyrant tremble.
To his words
Men listened, as to lore oracular,
And when beside the gate he took his seat
The young kept silence, and the old rose up
To do him honor. After his decree
None spake again, for as a prince he dwelt
Wearing the diadem of righteousness,
And robed in that respect which greatness wins
When leagued with goodness, and by wisdom crown'd.
The grateful prayers and blessings of the souls
Ready to perish, silently distill'd
Upon him, as he slept.
So as a tree
Whose root is by the river's brink, he grew
And flourish'd, while the dews like balm-drops hung
All night upon his branches.
Yet let none
Of woman born, presume to build his hopes
On the worn cliff of brief prosperity,
Or from the present promise, predicate
The future joy. The exulting bird that sings
Mid the green curtains of its leafy nest
His tuneful trust untroubled there to live,
And there to die, may meet the archer's shaft
When next it spreads the wing.
The tempest folds
O'er the smooth forehead of the summer noon
Its undiscover'd purpose, to emerge
Resistless from its armory, and whelm
In floods of ruin, ere the day decline.
* * * * *
Lightning and sword!
Swift messengers, and sharp,
Reapers that leave no gleanings. In their path
Silence and desolation fiercely stalk.
--O'er trampled hills, and on the blood-stain'd plains
There is no low of kine, or bleat of flocks,
The fields are rifled, and the shepherds slain.
The Man of Uz, who stood but yestermorn
Above all compeers,--clothed with wealth and power,
To day is poorer than his humblest hind.
A whirlwind from the desert!
Its fury came. Earth like a vassal shook.
Majestic trees flew hurtling through the air
Like rootless reeds.
There was no time for flight.
Buried in household wrecks, all helpless lay
Masses of quivering life.
Job's eldest son
That day held banquet for their numerous line
At his own house. With revelry and song,
One moment in the glow of kindred hearts
The lordly mansion rang, the next they lay
Crush'd neath its ruins.
_He_,--the childless sire,
Last of his race, and lonely as the pine
That crisps and blackens 'neath the lightning shaft
Upon the cliff, with such a rushing tide
The mountain billows of his misery came,
Drove they not Reason from her beacon-hold?
Swept they not his strong trust in Heaven away?
List,--list,--the sufferer speaks.
"The Lord who gave
Hath taken away,--and blessed be His name."
Oh Patriarch!--teach us, mid this changeful life
Not to mistake the ownership of joys
Entrusted to us for a little while,
But when the Great Dispenser shall reclaim
His loans, to render them with praises back,
As best befits the indebted.
Should a tear
Moisten the offering, He who knows our frame
And well remembereth that we are but dust,
Is full of pity.
It was said of old
Time conquer'd Grief. But unto me it seems
That Grief overmastereth Time. It shows how wide
The chasm between us, and our smitten joys
And saps the strength wherewith at first we went
Into life's battle. We perchance, have dream'd
That the sweet smile the sunbeam of our home
The prattle of the babe the Spoiler seiz'd,
Had but gone from us for a little while,--
And listen'd in our fallacy of hope
At hush of eve for the returning step
That wake the inmost pulses of the heart
To extasy,--till iron-handed Grief
Press'd down the _nevermore_ into our soul,
Deadening us with its weight.
The man of Uz
As the slow lapse of days and nights reveal'd
The desolation of his poverty
Felt every nerve that at the first great shock
Was paralyzed, grow sensitive and shrink
As from a fresh-cut wound. There was no son
To come in beauty of his manly prime
With words of counsel and with vigorous hand
To aid him in his need, no daughter's arm
To twine around him in his weariness,
Nor kiss of grandchild at the even-tide
Going to rest, with prayer upon its lips.
Still a new trial waits.
The blessed health
Heaven's boon, thro' which with unbow'd form we bear
Burdens and ills, forsook him. Maladies
Of fierce and festering virulence attack'd
His swollen limbs. Incessant, grinding pains
Laid his strength prostrate, till he counted life
A loathed thing. Dire visions frighted sleep
That sweet restorer of the wasted frame,
And mid his tossings to and fro, he moan'd
Oh, when shall I arise, and Night be gone!
Despondence seized him. To the lowliest place
Alone he stole, and sadly took his seat
In dust and ashes.
She, his bosom friend
The sharer of his lot for many years,
Sought out his dark retreat. Shuddering she saw
His kingly form like living sepulchre,
And in the maddening haste of sorrow said
God hath forgotten.
She with him had borne
Unuttered woe o'er the untimely graves
Of all whom she had nourished,--shared with him
The silence of a home that hath no child,
The plunge from wealth to want, the base contempt
Of menial and of ingrate;--but to see
The dearest object of adoring love
Her next to God, a prey to vile disease
Hideous and loathsome, all the beauty marred
That she had worshipped from her ardent youth
Deeming it half divine, she could not bear,
Her woman's strength gave way, and impious words
In her despair she uttered.
But her lord
To deeper anguish stung by her defect
And rash advice, reprovingly replied
Pointing to Him who meeteth out below
Both good and evil in mysterious love,
And she was silenced.
What a sacred power
Hath hallow'd Friendship o'er the nameless ills
That throng our pilgrimage. Its sympathy,
Doth undergird the drooping, and uphold
The foot that falters in its miry path.
It grows more precious, as the hair grows grey.
Time's alchymy that rendereth so much dross
Back for our gay entrustments, shows more pure
The perfect essence of its sanctity,
How doth the cordial grasp,
Of hands that twined with ours in school days, now
Delight us as our sunbeam nears the west,
Soothing, perchance our self-esteem with proofs
That 'mid all faults the good have loved us still,
And quickening with redoubled energy
To do or suffer.
The three friends of Job
Who in the different regions where they dwelt
Teman, and Naamah and the Shuhite land,
Heard tidings of his dire calamity,
Moved by one impulse, journey'd to impart
Their sorrowing sympathy.
Yet when they saw
Him fallen so low, so chang'd that scarce a trace
Remained to herald his identity
Down by his side upon the earth, they sate
Uttering no language save the gushing tear,--
Spontaneous homage to a grief so great.
* * * * *
Oh Silence, born of Wisdom! we have felt
Thy fitness, when beside the smitten friend
We took our place. The voiceless sympathy
The tear, the tender pressure of the hand
Interpreted more perfectly than words
The purpose of our soul.
We _speak_ to err,
Waking to agony some broken chord
Or bleeding nerve that slumbered. Words are weak,
When God's strong discipline doth try the soul;
And that deep silence was more eloquent
Than all the pomp of speech.
Yet the long pause
Of days and nights, gave scope for troubled thought
And their bewildered minds unskillfully
Launching all helmless on a sea of doubt
Explored the cause for which such woes were sent,
Forgetful that this mystery of life
Yields not to man's solution. Passing on
From natural pity to philosophy
That deems Heaven's judgments penal, they inferr'd
Some secret sin unshrived by penitence,
That drew such awful visitations down.
While studying thus the _wherefore_, with vain toil
Of painful cogitation, lo! a voice
Hollow and hoarse, as from the mouldering tomb,
"Perish the day in which I saw the light!
The day when first my mother's nursing care
Sheltered my helplessness. Let it not come
Into the number of the joyful months,
Let blackness stain it and the shades of death
Forever terrify it.
For it cut
Not off as an untimely birth my span,
Nor let me sleep where the poor prisoners hear
No more the oppressor, where the wicked cease
From troubling and the weary are at rest.
Now as the roar of waves my sorrows swell,
And sighs like tides burst forth till I forget
To eat my bread. That which I greatly feared
Hath come upon me. Not in heedless pride
Nor wrapped in arrogance of full content
I dwelt amid the tide of prosperous days,
And yet this trouble came."
With mien unmoved
The Temanite reprovingly replied:
"Who can refrain longer from words, even though
To speak be grief? Thou hast the instructor been
Of many, and their model how to act.
When trial came upon them, if their knees
Bow'd down, thou saidst, "be strong," and they obey'd.
But now it toucheth thee and thou dost shrink,
And murmuring, faint. The monitor forgets
The precepts he hath taught. Is this thy faith,
Thy confidence, the uprightness of thy way?
Whoever perish'd being innocent?
And when were those who walk'd in righteous ways
Cut off? How oft I've seen that those who sow
The seeds of evil secretly, and plow
Under a veil of darkness, reap the same.
* * * * *
In visions of the night, when deepest sleep
Falls upon men, fear seiz'd me, all my bones
Trembled, and every stiffening hair rose up.
A spirit pass'd before me, but I saw
No form thereof. I knew that there it stood,
Even though my straining eyes discern'd it not.
Then from its moveless lips a voice burst forth,
"Is man more just than God? Is mortal man
More pure than He who made him?
Lo, he puts
No trust in those who serve him, and doth charge
Angels with folly. How much less in them
Dwellers in tents of clay, whose pride is crush'd
Before the moth. From morn to eve they die
And none regard it."
So despise thou not
The chastening of the Almighty, ever just,
For did thy spirit please him, it should rise
More glorious from the storm-cloud, all the earth
At peace with thee, new offspring like the grass
Cheering thy home, and when thy course was done
Even as a shock of corn comes fully ripe
Into the garner should thy burial be
Beldv'd and wept of all."
The sorrowful response.
"Oh that my grief
Were in the balance laid by faithful hands
And feeling hearts. To the afflicted soul
Friends should be comforters. But mine have dealt
Deceitfully, as fails the shallow brook
When summer's need is sorest.
Did I say
Bring me a gift? or from your flowing wealth
Give solace to my desolate penury?
Or with your pitying influence neutralize
My cup of scorn poured out by abject hands?
That thus ye mock me with contemptuous words
And futile arguments, and dig a pit
In which to whelm the man you call a friend?
Still darkly hinting at some heinous sin
Writes conscious guilt
No transcript on the brow? Hangs it not out
Its signal there, altho' it seem to hide
'Neath an impervious shroud?
Look thro' the depths
Of my unshrinking eye, deep, deep within.
What see ye there? what gives suspicion birth?
As longs the laborer for the setting sun,
Watching the lengthening shadows that foretell
The time of rest, yet day by day returns
To the same task again, so I endure
Wearisome nights and months of burdening woe.
I would not alway live this loathed life
Whose days are vanity. Soon shall I sleep
Low in the dust, and when the morning comes
And thro' its curtaining mists ye seek my face
I shall not be."
* * * * *
Earnest the Shuhite spake,
"How long shall these thy words, like eddying winds
Fall empty on the ear?
Doth God pervert
Justice and judgment? If thy way was pure,
Thy supplication from an upright heart
He would awake and make thy latter end
More blest than thy beginning.
Of ancient times, of History's honor'd scroll
And of the grey-hair'd fathers, if our words
Seem light, we who were born but yesterday.
Ask them and they shall teach thee, as the rush,
Or as the flag forsaken of the pod,
So shall the glory of the hypocrite
Fade in its greenness.
Tho' his house may seem
Awhile to flourish, it shall not endure.
Even tho' he grasp it with despairing strength
It shall deceive his trust and pass away,
As fleets the spider's filmy web. Behold
God will not cast away the perfect man
Nor help the evil doer."
* * * * *
In low tones,
Sepulchral, and with pain, the sufferer spake,
"I know that this is truth, but how can man
Be just with God? How shall he dare contend
With Him who stretches out the sky and treads
Upon the mountain billows of the sea,
And sealeth up the stars?
Array'd in strength,
He passeth by me, but I see Him not.
I hear His chariot-wheels, yet fear to ask
Where goest Thou?
If I, indeed, were pure,
And perfect, like the model ye see fit
To press upon me with your sharpest words,
I would not in mine arrogance arise
And reason with Him, but all humbly make
Petition to my Judge.
If there were one
To shield me from His terrors, and to stand
As mediator, I might dare to ask
Why didst Thou give this unrequested boon
Of life, to me, unhappy? My few days
Are swifter than a post. As the white sail
Fades in the mist, as the strong eagle's wing
Leaves no receding trace, they flee away,
They see no good.
Hath not Thy mighty hand
Fashion'd and made this curious form of clay,
Fenc'd round with bones and sinews, and inspired
By a mysterious soul? Oh be not stern
Against Thy creature, as the Lion marks
His destin'd prey.
Relent and let me take
Comfort a little, ere I go the way
Whence I return no more, to that far land
Of darkness and the dreary shades of death."
* * * * *
Scarce had he ceas'd ere Zophar's turbid thoughts
Made speed to answer.
"Shall a tide of talk
Wash out transgression? If thou choose to set
The truth at nought, must others hold their peace?
Hast thou not boasted that thy deeds and thoughts
Were perfect in the almighty Maker's sight?
Canst thou by searching find out God? Behold
Higher than heaven it is, what canst thou do?
Deeper than deepest hell, what canst thou know?
Why wilt thou ignorantly deem thyself
Unblamed before Him?
Oh that He would speak,
And put to shame thine arrogance.
Discerns all wickedness, all vain pretence
To sanctity and wisdom. Were thine heart
Rightly prepared, and evil put away
From that and from thy house, then shouldst thou lift
Thy spotless face, clear as the noon-day sun
Stedfast and fearless. Yea, thou shouldst forget
Thy misery, as waters that have past
Thou shouldst be secure
And dig about thee and take root, and rest,
While those who scorn thee now, with soul abased,
Should make their suit unto thee.
But the eyes
Of wicked men shall fail, and as the groan
Of him who giveth up the ghost, shall be
Their frustrate hope."
Dejectedly, as one
Who wearied in a race, despairs to reach
The destined goal, nor yet consents to leave
His compeers masters of an unwon field.
"No doubt ye think to have attained
Monopoly of knowledge, and with you
Wisdom shall die. This modesty of creed
Befits ye well. Yet what have ye alledg'd
Unheard before? what great discoveries made?
Who knoweth not such things as ye have told?
Despised am I by those who call'd me friend
In prosperous days. Like a dim, waning lamp
About to be extinguished am I held
By the dull minds of those who dwell at ease.
Weak reasoners that ye are, ye have essay'd
To speak for God. Suppose ye He doth need
Such advocacy? whose creative hand
Holdeth the soul of every living thing,
And breath of all mankind?
He breaketh down,
And who can build again? Princes and kings
Are nothing in his sight. Disrobed of power
Ceaseless they wander and He heedeth not.
Those whom the world have worship'd seem as fools.
He lifteth up the nations at His will,
Or sweeps them with his lightest breath away
Like noteless atoms.
Silence is for you
The truest wisdom. Creatures that ye count
Inferior to yourselves, who in thin air
Spread the light wing, or thro' the waters glide,
Or roam the earth, might teach if ye would hear
And be instructed by them.
Hold your peace!
Even tho' He slay me I will trust in Him
For He is my salvation, He alone;
At whose dread throne no hypocrite shall dare
To stand, or answer.
Man, of woman born
Is of few days, and full of misery.
Forth like a flower he comes, and is cut down,
He fleeth like a shadow. What is man
That God regardeth him? The forest tree
Fell'd by the woodman may have hope to live
And sprout again, and thro' the blessed touch
Of waters at the root put forth new buds
And tender branches like a plant. But man
Shorn of his strength, doth waste away and die,
He giveth up the ghost and where is he?
As slides the mountain from its heaving base
Hurling its masses o'er the startled vale,
As the rent rock resumes its place no more,
As the departed waters leave no trace
Save the groov'd channels where they held their course
Among the fissur'd stones, his form of dust
With its chang'd countenance, is sent away
And all the honors that he sought to leave
Behind him to his sons, avail him not."
He ceas'd and Eliphaz rejoin'd,
Of wisdom dealeth not in empty words
That like the east wind stirs the unsettled sands
To profitless revolt. Thou dost decry
Our speech and proudly justify thyself
Before thy God. He to whose searching eye
Heavens' pure immaculate ether seems unclean.
Ask of tradition, ask the white hair'd men
Much older than thy father, since to us
Thou deign'st no credence. Say they not to thee,
All, as with one consent, the wicked man
Travaileth with fruitless pain, a dreadful sound
Forever in his ears; the mustering tramp
Of hostile legions on the distant cloud,
A far-off echo from the woe to come?
Such is his lot who sinfully contends
Against the just will of the Judging One,
Lifting his puny arm in rebel pride
And rushing like a madman on his doom.
The wealth he may have gathered shall dissolve
And turn to ashes mid devouring flame.
His branch shall not be green, but as the vine
Casteth her unripe grapes, as thro' the leaves
Of rich and lustrous hue, the olive buds
Untimely strew the ground, shall be his trust
Who in the contumacy of his pride
Would fain deceive both others and himself."
To whom, the Man of Uz,--
"These occult truths
If such ye deem them, I have heard before;
Oh miserable comforters! I too
Stood but your soul in my soul's stead, could heap
Vain, bitter words, and shake my head in scorn.
But I would study to assuage your pain,
And solace shed upon your stricken hearts
With balm-drops of sweet speech.
Yet, as for me,
I speak and none regard, or drooping sit
In mournful silence, and none heed my woe.
They smite me on the cheek reproachfully,
And slander me in secret, though my cause
And witness rest with the clear-judging Heaven.
My record is on high.
Oh Thou, whose hand
Hath thus made desolate all my company,
And left me a poor, childless man--behold
They who once felt it pride to call me friend,
Make of my name a by-word, which was erst
Like harp or tabret to their venal lip.
Mine eye is dim with grief, my wasted brow
Furrow'd with wrinkles.
Soon I go the way
Whence I shall not return. The grave, my house,
Is ready for me. In its mouldering clay
My bed I make, and say unto the worm
Thou art my sister."
With unpitying voice
Not comprehending Job, the Shuhite spake.
"How long ere thou shalt make an end of words
So profitless and vain? Thou dost account
Us vile as beasts. But shall the stable earth
With all its rocks and mountains be removed
For thy good pleasure?
See, the light forsake
The wicked man. Darkness and loneliness
Enshroud his dwelling-place. His path shall be
Mid snares and traps, and his own counsel fail
To guide him safely. By the heel, the gin
Shall seize him, and the robber's hand prevail
To rifle and destroy his treasure hoard.
Secret misgivings feed upon his strength,
And terrors waste his courage. He shall find
In his own tabernacle no repose,
Nor confidence. His withering root shall draw
No nutriment, and the unsparing ax
Cut off his branches. From a loathing world
He shall be chased away, and leave behind
No son or nephew to bear up his name
Among the people. No kind memories
Shall linger round his ashes, or refresh
The bearts of men. They who come after him
Shall be astonish'd at his doom, as they
Who went before him, view'd it with affright.
Such is the lot of those who know not God
Or wickedly renounce Him."
Replied the suffering man,
"Ye vex my soul
And break it into pieces. These ten times
Have ye reproach'd me, without sense of shame
Or touch of sympathy. If I have err'd
As without witness ye essay to prove
'Tis my concern, not yours.
But yet, how vain
To speak of wrong, or plead the cause of truth
Before the unjust.
Can ye not understand
God in his wisdom hath afflicted me?
Ilis hand hath reft away my crown and stripp'd
Me of my glory. Kindred blood vouchsafes
No aid or solace in my deep distress.
Estrang'd and far away, like statues cold
Brethren and kinsfolk stand. Familiar friends
Frown on me as a stranger. They who dwell
In my own house and eat my bread, despise me.
I call'd my own tried servant, but he gave
No answer or regard. My maidens train'd
For household service, to perform my will
Count me an alien;--even with my wife
My voice hath lost its power. Young children rise
And push away my feet and mock my words.
Yea, the best loved, most garner'd in my heart
Do turn against me as a thing abhorr'd.
Have pity, pity on me, oh my friends!
The hand of God hath smitten me.
That my Redeemer liveth, and shall stand
At last upon the earth, and though in death
Worms shall destroy this body, in my flesh
Shall I see God."
* * * * *
This glorious burst of faith
Springing from depths of misery and pain
Awed them a moment, like the lightning's flash,
Cleaving the cloud. But gathering strength again,
They sought the conflict.
"Thou, who art so wise,
Hast thou not learn'd how baseless is the joy
And boasting of the hypocrite? His head
Up to the heavens in excellence and pride
May seem to mount, yet shall he swiftly fall
Leaving no trace. Though still he toils to keep
His sin a secret from his fellow-men,
Like a sweet, stolen morsel, hiding it
Under his tongue, yet shall the veil be rent.
God's fearful judgments shall make evident
What he hath done in darkness. Vipers' tongues
And the dire poison of the asp, shall be
His recompense. Terrors shall strike him through,
An inward fire of sharp remorse, unblown
By mortal hand, shall on his vitals feed,
And all his strength consume. His wealth shall fleet,
And they who trusted to become his heirs
Embrace a shadow, for his goods shall flow
Away, as the false brook forsakes its sands.
This is the portion of the hypocrite,
The heritage appointed him by God."
* * * * *
To Zophar answered Job,--
"Hear ye my speech,
And when 'tis done, mock on. Not unto man
Is my complaint. For were it so, my heart
Would sink in darker depths of hopeless woe.
Say ye that earth's 'prosperity' rewards
The righteous man? Why do the wicked live,
Grow old, and magnify themselves in power?
Their offspring flourish round them, their abodes
Are safe from fear. Their cattle multiply
And widely o'er the hills and pastures green
Wander their healthful herds. Forth like a flock
They send their little ones, with dance and song,
Tabret and harp. They spend their days in wealth
And sink to slumber in the quiet grave.
Yet unto God they said, Depart from us,
For we desire no knowledge of thy ways.
Why should we serve the Almighty? Who is he?
And what our profit if we pray to Him?
Close by these impious ones lies down to sleep,
One in the strength and glory of his prime,
Whom sorrow never touch'd, nor age impair'd;
And still another, wan misfortune's child,
Nurtur'd in bitterness, who never took
His meat with pleasure. Side by side they rest
On Death's oblivious pillow. Do ye say
Their varied lot below, mark'd their deserts?
In retribution just?
* * * * *
But as for you
With eyes so sharp for your own selfish ends,
Who by the wayside ask where'er ye go,
"_Where is the dwelling of the prince?_ and seek
Gain more than godliness, I know full well
Your deep contempt for one too poor to bribe
Your false allegiance, and the unkind device
Ye wrongfully imagine.
Will ye teach
Knowledge to God? Doth He not wisely judge
The highest? and reserve the sons of guilt
For the destruction that awaiteth them?"
* * * * *
In quick rejoinder, Eliphaz replied,
"What is thy fancied goodness in the sight
Of the Almighty? Is it gain to Him
If thou art righteous? Would it add to Him
Gladness or glory, that thy ways should be
What thou call'st perfect?
Rather turn thine eyes
Upon the record of thy sins, and see
Their countless number.
Hast thou taken a pledge
From thy poor brother's hand? or reft away
The garment from the shivering? or withheld
Bread from the hungry? or the widow sent
Empty away? not given the weary soul
What it implored? nor bound the broken arm
Of the forsaken fatherless?
Have snares beset thee? and a secret fear
Dismay'd thy spirit? and a rayless night
Shut over thee?
Look to the height of heaven,
Above the utmost star. Is not God there?
Think'st thou that aught can intercept His sight
Or bar His righteous judgment? He who makes
The thickest clouds His footstool, when He walks
Upon the circuit of the highest heavens?
Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace,
Return to Him, and He shall build thee up.
Take thou His precepts to thine inmost heart
That thy lost blessings may revisit thee.
Put far away thy foster'd sins, and share
The swelling flood-tide of prosperity.
Thou shalt have silver at thy will, and gold,
The gold of Ophir in thy path shall lie
As stones that pave the brooks.
Make thou thy prayer,
And pay thy vows, and He will hear thy voice
And give thee light, and thy desires confirm:
For He will save the humble and protect
The innocent and still deliver those
Whose hands are pure."
To whom, the Man of Uz,
"Oh that I knew where I might find my Judge,
That I might press even to His seat, and plead
My cause before Him. Would He strike me dumb
With His great power? Nay,--rather would he give
Strength to the weakness that would answer Him.
Lo! I go forward,--but He is not there,--
And backward, yet my eyes perceive Him not.
On the left hand, His works surround me still,
But He is absent,--on the right, I gaze,
Yet doth He hide Himself.
But well He knows
My way, and when the time of trial's o'er,
And the refining fire hath purg'd the dross,
I shall come forth as gold. My feet have kept
The path appointed, nor from His commands
Unduly swerved, for I have prized His word
More than my needful food.
Yet He performs
What His wise counsel hath decreed for me,
Though sometimes sinks my soften'd heart beneath
The terror of His stroke.
There are, who seize
With violence whate'er their eyes desire;
Gorging themselves upon the stolen flock
And leaving desolate the rifled hut
Of the defenceless. Solitary ones
Hide from their robberies, for forth they go
Into the wilderness, their prey to hunt
Like ravening beasts.
There are, who watch to slay,
Rising before the dawn, or wrapp'd in night
Roaming with stealthy footstep, as a thief,
To smite their victims, while the wounded groan
Struck by their fatal shaft.
There are, who do
Such deeds of utter darkness as detest
The gaze of day. Muffling their face, they dig
Their way to habitations where they leave
Shame and dishonor.
Though He seem to sleep,
God's eye is on their ways. A little while
They wrap themselves in secret infamy,
Or proudly flourish,--but as the tall tree
Yields in a moment to the wrecking blast,
As 'neath the sickle falls the crisping corn,
Shall they be swept away, and leave no trace."
* * * * *
Bildad, the Shuhite, rose in act to speak.
"Dominion is with God, and fear. He makes
Peace in his own high places. Dost thou know
The number of His armies? Or on whom
His light ariseth not?
How then can man
Be justified with God? or he be pure
Born of a woman. Lo! the cloudless Moon,
And yon unsullied stars, are in His sight
Dim and impure. Can man who is a worm
Be spotless with his Maker?"
Hark, the voice
Of the afflicted man:
"How dost thou help
Him that is powerless? how sustain the arm
That fails in strength? how counsel him who needs
Wisdom? and how declare the righteous truth
Just as it is?
To Him who reads the soul,
Hades is naked, and the realms of Death
Have naught to cover them. This pendent Earth
Hangs on his word,--in gathering clouds he binds
The ponderous waters, till at his command
They rend their filmy prison. Day and night
Await his nod to run their measured course.
Heaven's pillars and its everlasting gates
Tremble at his reproof. The cleaving sea
And man's defeated pride confess his power.
Yet the same Hand that garnisheth the skies
Disdaineth not to fashion and sustain
The crooked serpent. But how small a part
Of all its works are understood by us
Dim dwellers in this lowly vestibule,
And by the thunders of mysterious power
Still held in awe.
As the Eternal lives
Who hath bow'd down my soul, as long as breath
Inspires this mortal frame, these lips shall ne'er
Utter deceit, nor cast away the wealth
Of a good conscience. While I live I'll hold
Fast mine integrity,--nor justify
The slanderous charges of a secret guilt
Ye bring against me.
For what is the gain
Of the base hypocrite when God shall take
Away his perjured soul? Yourselves have seen
How often in this life the wicked taste
Of retribution. The oppressor bears
Sway for a while,--but look!--the downfall comes.
His offspring shall not flourish, nor his grave
Be wet with widow's tears.
The unjust rich man
Heapeth up silver for a stranger's hand,
He hoardeth raiment with a miser's greed
To robe he knows not who, though he himself
Had grudg'd to wear it. Boastfully he builds
A costly mansion to preserve his name
Among the people. But like the slight booth,
Brief lodge of summer, shall it pass away.
Terrors without a cause, disable him
And drown his courage. Like a driven leaf
Before the whirlwind, shall he hasten down
To a dishonor'd tomb. Men shall rejoice,
And clap their hands, and hiss him from his place
When he departs.
Surely, there is a vein
For silver, and a secret bed for gold
Which man discovers. Where the iron sleeps
In darkest chambers of the mine he knows,
And how the brass is molten. But a Mind
Deeper than his, close-hidden things explores,
Searching out all perfection.
The mystic treasures of her matron breast,
Bread for her children, gems like living flame,
Sapphires, whose azure emulates the skies,
And dust of gold. Yet there's a curtain'd path
Which the unfettered denizens of air
Have not descried, nor even the piercing eye
Of the black vulture seen. The lion's whelps
In their wide roaming, nor their fiercer sire
Have never trod it.
There's a Hand that bares
The roots of mountains at its will, and cuts
Through rifted rocks a channel, where the streams
And rivers freely flow--an Eye that scans
Each precious thing.
But where doth Wisdom dwell?
And in what curtain'd chamber was the birth
The great Sea uplifts
Its hand in adjuration, and declares
"_'Tis not with me,_" and its unfathom'd deep
In subterranean thunders, echoing cry
"_No, not with me._"
Offer ye not for them
Silver, or Ophir's gold, nor think to exchange
Onyx, or sapphire, or the coral branch
Or crystal gem where hides imprison'd light,
Nor make ye mention of the precious pearl
Or Ethiopian topaz, for their price
Transcendeth rubies, or the dazzling ray
Of concentrated jewels.
In what place
Are found these wondrous treasures? Who will show
Their habitation? which alike defies
The ken of those who soar, or those who delve
In cells profound.
Death and destruction say,
From their hoarse caverns, "We have heard their fame
But know them not."
Lo! He who weighs the winds
Measures the floods, controls the surging sea
And points the forked lightnings where to play,
He, unto whom all mysteries are plain
All secrets open, all disguises clear,
Saith unto man the questioner,--
The fear of God is wisdom, and to break
The sway of evil and depart from sin
Anguish wrings my soul
As in my hours of musing I restore
The picture of my lost prosperity,
When round my side my loving children drew
And from my happy home my steps were hail'd
Where'er I went. The fatherless and poor,
And he who had no helper, welcomed me
As one to right their wrongs, and pluck the spoil
From the oppressor's teeth. Pale widows raised
The glistening eye of gratitude, and they
Whose sight was quench'd, at my remembered tones
Pour'd blessings on me. Overflowing wealth
Brought me no titles that I held so dear
As father of the poor, and comforter
Of all who mourn.
When in the gate I sate
The nobles did me honor, and the wise
Sought counsel of me. To my words the young
Gave earnest heed, the white-hair'd men stood up,
And princes waited for my speech, as wait
The fields in summer for the latter rain.
But now, the children of base men spring up
And push away my feet, and make my name
A bye-word and a mockery, which was erst
Set to the harp in song.
Because my wealth
God hath resumed, they who ne'er dared to claim
Equality with even the lowest ones
Who watch'd my flock, they whom my menials scorned,
Dwellers in hovels, feeding like the brutes
On roots and bushes of the wilderness,
Despise me, and in mean derision cast
Marks of abhorrence at the fallen chief
Whom erst they fear'd.
Unpitied I endure
Sickness and pain that ope the narrow house
Where all the living go. My soul dissolves
And flows away as water--like the owl
In lone, forgotten cavern I complain,
For all my instruments of music yield
But mournful sounds, and from my organ comes
A sob of weeping.
I appeal to Him
Who sees my ways, and all my steps doth count,
If I have walk'd with vanity or worn
The veil of falsehood, or despised to obey
The law of duty; if I basely prowl'd
With evil purpose round my neighbor's door,
Or scorn'd my humblest menial's cause to right
When he contended with me, and complain'd,
Framed as he was of the same clay with me
By the same Hand Divine; or shunn'd to share
Even my last morsel with the hungry poor,
Or shield the uncovered suppliant with the fleece
Of my own cherish'd flock.
If ere I made
Fine gold my confidence, or lifted up
My heart in pride, because my wealth was great,
Or when I saw the glorious King of Day
Gladdening all nations, and the queenly Moon
Walking in brightness, was enticed to pay
A secret homage,--'twere idolatry
If I rejoiced
In the affliction of mine enemy
Or for his hatred breathed a vengeful vow
When trouble came upon him,--if I closed
The inhospitable door against the foot
Of stranger, or of traveller,--or withheld
Full nutriment from any who abode
Within my tabernacle,--or refused
Due justice even to my own furrow'd field,
Then let my harvest unto thistles turn,
And rootless weeds o'ertop the beardless grain."
* * * * *
Then ceased the Man of Uz, like one o'erspent,
Feeling the fallacy of argument
With auditors like these, his thoughts withdrew
Into the shroud of silence, and he spake
No more unto them, standing fix'd and mute,
Like statued marble.
Then, as none replied,
A youthful stranger rose, and while he stretch'd
His hand in act to speak, and heavenward raised
His clear, unshrinking brow, he worthy seem'd
To hold the balance of that high debate.
Still, an indignant warmth, with energy
Of fervid eloquence his lips inspired.
--"I said that multitude of days should bring
Wisdom to man, and so gave earnest heed
To every argument. And lo! not one
Of all your speeches have convicted Job,
Or proved your theory that woes like his
Denote a secret guilt.
I listened still
With that respect which youth doth owe to age,
And till ye ceased to speak, refrain'd to show
Mine own opinion. But there is a breath
From the Almighty, that gives life to thought,
And in my soul imprison'd utterance burns
Like torturing flame. So, will I give it vent
Though I am young in years, and ye are old,
And should be wise. I will not shun to uphold
The righteous cause, nor will I gloze the wrong
With flattering titles, lest the kindling wrath
Of an offended Maker, sweep me hence.
Hearken, O Job, I pray thee, to my words
For they are words of truth.
Thou hast assumed
More perfect innocence than appertains
To erring man, and eager to refute
False accusation hast contemn'd the course
Of the All-Merciful.
Why shouldst thou strive
With Him whose might of wisdom ne'er unveils
Its mysteries to man? Yet doth He deign
Such hints and precepts as the docile heart
May comprehend. Sometimes in vision'd sleep,
His Spirit hovereth o'er the plastic mind
Sealing instruction. Or a different voice
Its sterner teaching tries. His vigor droops,
Strong pain amid the multitude of bones
Doth revel, till his soul abhorreth meat.
His fair flesh wastes, and downward to the pit
He hourly hastens. Holy Sympathy
May aid to uphold him in its blessed arms
Kindly interpreting the Will Divine,
With angel tenderness.
But if the God
Whose gracious ear doth hear the sigh of prayer
Baptized with dropping tears--perceives the cry
Of humbled self-abasing penitence,
He casts away the scourge--the end is gained.
Fresh as a child's, the wither'd flesh returns,
And life, and health, and joy, are his once more.
With discipline like this, He often tries
The creatures He hath made, to crush the seeds
Of pride, and teach that lowliness of soul
Befitting them, and pleasing in His sight.
* * * * *
Oh Man of Uz--if thou hast aught to add
Unto thy argument--I pray thee, speak!
Fain would I justify thee.
Is it well
To combat Him who hath the right to reign?
Or even to those who fill an earthly throne
And wear a princely diadem, to say,
Ye are unjust?
But how much less to Him
The fountain of all power, who heedeth not
Earth's vain distinctions, nor regards the rich
More than the poor, for all alike are dust
And ashes in His sight.
Is it not meet
For those who bear His discipline, to say
I bow submissive to the chastening Hand
That smites my inmost soul? Oh teach me that
Which through my blindness I have failed to see,
For I have sinn'd, but will offend no more.
Say, is it right, Oh Job, for thee to hold
Thyself superior to the All-Perfect Mind?
If thou art righteous what giv'st thou to Him
Who sits above the heavens? Can He receive
Favor from mortals?
Open not thy mouth
To multiply vain words, but rather bow
Unto the teaching of His works that spread
So silently around. His snows descend
And make the green Earth hoary. Chains of frost
Straighten her breadth of waters. Dropping rains
Refresh her summer thirst, or rending clouds
Roll in wild deluge o'er her. Roaming beasts
Cower in their dens affrighted, while she quakes
Convuls'd with inward agony, or reels
Dizzied with flashing fires.
Again she smiles
In her recovered beauty, at His will,
Maker of all things. So, He rules the world,
With wrath commingling mercy. Who may hope
With finite mind to understand His ways,
So excellent in power, in wisdom deep,
In justice terrible, respecting none
Who pride themselves in fancied wisdom."
On the discursive speech a whirlwind breaks,
Tornadoes shake the desert, thunders roll
And from the lightning's startled shrine, _a voice_!
The voice of the Eternal.
"Who is this
That darkeneth knowledge by unmeaning words?
Gird up thy loins and answer.
Where wert thou
When the foundations of the earth were laid?
Who stretch'd the line, and fix'd the corner-stone,
When the bright morning-stars together sang
And all the hosts that circle round the Throne
Shouted for joy?
Whose hand controll'd the sea
When it brake forth to whelm the new-fram'd world?
Who made dark night its cradle and the cloud
Its swaddling-band? commanding
Come, but no further. At this line of sand
Stay thy proud waves."
Hast thou call'd forth the morn
From the empurpled chambers of the east,
Or bade the trembling day-spring know its place?
Have Orion's depths been open'd to thy view?
And hast thou trod his secret floor? or seen
The gates of Death's dark shade?
Where doth light dwell?
And ancient Darkness, that with Chaos reign'd
Before Creation? Dost thou know the path
Unto their house, because thou then wert born?
And is the number of thy days so great?
Show me the treasure-house of snows. Unlock
The mighty magazines of hail, that wait
The war of elements.
Who hath decreed
A water-course for embryo fountain springs?
Mark'd out the lightning's path and bade the rain
O'erlook not in its ministries the waste
And desolate plain, but wake the tender herb
To cheer the bosom of the wilderness.
Tell me the father of the drops of dew,
The curdling ice, and hoary frost that seal
The waters like a stone, and change the deep
Bind if thou canst, the breath
And balmy influence of the Pleiades.
Bring forth Mazzaroth in his time, or guide
Arcturus, with his sons.
Canst thou annul
The fix'd decree that in their spheres detain
The constellations? Will the lightnings go
Forth on thine errands, and report to thee
As loyal vassals?
Who in dying clay
Infused the immortal principle of mind,
And made them fellow-workers?
If thou canst
Number the flying clouds, and gather back
Their falling showers, when parch'd and cleaving earth
Implores their charity. Wilt hunt the prey
With the stern forest-king? or dare invade
The darkened lair where his young lions couch
Ravenous with hunger?
Who the ravens feeds
When from the parent's nest hurl'd out, they cry
And all forsaken, ask their meat from God?
Know'st thou the time when the wild goats endure
The mother-sorrow? how their offspring grow
Healthful and strong, uncared for, and unstall'd?
Who made the wild ass like the desert free,
Scorning the rein, and from the city's bound
Turning triumphant to the wilderness?
Lead to thy crib the unicorn, and bind
His unbow'd sinews to the furrowing plough,
And trust him if thou canst to bring thy seed
Home to the garner.
Who the radiant plumes
Gave to the peacock? or the winged speed
That bears the headlong ostrich far beyond
The baffled steed and rider? not withheld
By the instinctive tenderness that chains
The brooding bird, she scatters on the sands
Her unborn hopes, regardless though the foot
May trampling crush them.
Hast thou given the Horse
His glorious strength, and clothed his arching neck
With thunder? At the armed host he mocks,--
The rattling quiver, and the glittering spear.
Prancing and proud, he swalloweth the ground
With rage, and passionate desire to rush
Into the battle. At the trumpet's sound,
And shouting of the captains, he exults,
Drawing the stormy terror with delight
Into his fearless spirit.
Doth the Hawk
In her migrations counsel ask of Thee?
Mounts the swift Eagle up at thy command?
Making her nest among the star-girt cliffs,
And thence undazzled by the vertic sun
Scanning the molehills of the earth, or motes
That o'er her bosom move.
Say,--wilt thou teach
Creative Wisdom? or contend with Him
The Almighty,--ordering all things at His will?"
* * * * *
Then there was silence, till the chastened One
Murmured as from the dust,
"Lo, I am vile!
What shall I answer thee?--I lay my hand
Upon my mouth. Once have I dared to speak,
But would be silent now, forevermore."
--Yet still, in thunder, from the whirlwind's wing,
Jehovah's voice demanded,--
"Wilt thou dare
To disannul my judgments? and above
Unerring wisdom, and unbounded power
Exalt thine own?
Hast thou an arm like mine?
Array thyself in majesty, and look
On all the proud in heart, and bring them low,--
Yea, deck thyself with glory, cast abroad
The arrows of thine anger, and abase
The arrogant, and send the wicked down
To his own place, sealing his face like stone
Deep in the dust; for then will I confess
Thy might, and that thine own right hand hath power
To save thyself.
Hast seen my Behemoth,
Who on the grassy mountains finds his food?
And 'neath the willow boughs, and reeds, disports
His monstrous bulk?
His bones like brazen bars,
His iron sinews cased in fearful strength
Resist attack! Lo! when he slakes his thirst
The rivers dwindle, and he thinks to draw
The depths of Jordan dry.
Wilt cast thy hook
And take Leviathan? Wilt bind thy yoke
Upon him, as a vassal? Will he cringe
Unto thy maidens?
See the barbed spear
The dart and the habergeon, are his scorn.
Sling-stones are stubble, keenest arrows foil'd,
And from the plaited armor of his scales
The glittering sword recoils. Where he reclines,
Who is so daring as to rouse him up,
With his cold, stony heart, and breath of flame?
Or to the cavern of his gaping jaws
Thick set with teeth, draw near?
The Hand alone
That made him can subdue his baleful might."
* * * * *
Jehovah ceas'd,--for the Omniscient Eye
That scans the inmost thought of man, discern'd
Its work completed in that lowliness
Of deep humility which fits the soul
For heavenly intercourse, and renovates
The blessed image of obedient love
That Eden forfeited.
Out of the depths
Of true contrition sigh'd a trembling tone
In utter abnegation,
In dust and ashes. I abhor myself."
--Thus the returning prodigal who cries
Unclothed and empty, "Father! I have sinn'd,
And am not worthy to be called thy son,"
Finds full forgiveness, and a free embrace,
While the best robe his shrinking form enfolds.
But with this self-abasement toward his God
Job mingled tenderest regard for man.
No longer with indignant warmth he strove
Against his false accusers, or retained
Rankling remembrance of the enmity
That vexed his wounded soul
With earnest prayers
And offerings, he implored offended Heaven
To grant forgiveness to those erring friends,
Paying with love the alienated course
Of their misguided minds.
Heaven heard his voice,
And with that intercession sweet, return'd
The sunbeams of his lost prosperity.
Back came his buried joys. They had no power
To harm a soul subdued. The refluent tide
Of wealth swept o'er him. On his many hills
Gathered the herds, and o'er his pastures green
Sported the playful lambs. The tuneful voice
Of children fill'd his desolate home with joy,
And round his household board their beauty gleam'd,
Making his spirit glad.
So full of days,
While twice our span of threescore years and ten,
Mark'd out its silvery chronicle of moons
Still to his knee his children's children climb'd
To hear the wisdom he had learned of God
Through the strong teaching both of joy and woe.
* * * * *
Nor had this sublunary scene alone,
Witness'd his trial. Doubt ye not that forms
To earth invisible were hovering near
With the sublime solicitude of Heaven.
For he, the bold, bad Spirit, in his vaunting pride
Of impious revolt, had dared to say
Unto the King of Kings,
"Stretch forth thy hand
And take away all that he hath, and Job
Will curse Thee to Thy face."
Methinks we hear
An echo of angelic harmony
From that blest choir who struck their harps with joy
That from the Tempter's ordeal he had risen
An unhurt victor. Round the Throne they pour'd
Their gratulations that the born of clay
Tho' by that mystery bow'd which ever veils
The inscrutable counsels of the All-Perfect One,
Might with the chieftain of the Rebel Host
Cope unsubdued and heavenward hold his way.