Who are ye, who through the night
Onward urge your desperate flight?
Far and wide the hills repeat
The hurried tread of armed feet,
Ringing helm and dying groan,
The crash of chariots overthrown,
And muttered curse and menace dire,
As warriors in their rage expire.
From the vengeance of the Lord,
From the terrors of the sword,
From Karkor's field, with slaughter red,
Have Zebah and Zalmunna fled.
He who checked their haughty boast,
Hard upon that flying host
Presses, with avenging spear
Flashing on their scattered rear:
Nor can hills of slaughter tire
The pursuer's burning ire;
Still along the hills are poured
Shouts of "Gideon and the Lord."
Morning spread her wings of light
O'er the sable couch of night:
Back the shades of darkness rolled,
Glowed the purple east with gold,
And the young day's rosy glance
Gleamed on broken helm and lance,
Ere the fearful chase was won,
Ere the fierce pursuit was done,
Or the slayer staid his hand,
Or the warrior sheathed his brand,
Or rested from the sanguine toil,
Or paused to share the princely spoil,
And pealed along the host the cry,
"The Lord hath won the victory!"
Lo! Zebah and Zalmunna come,
Unheralded by trump or drum;
Harp and timbrel now are mute,
Cymbal loud and softer flute.
And where are they, the bands that rent
At morn with shouts the firmament?
Like clods, far stretched o'er plain and hill,
Their limbs are stiff, their lips are still!
Broken is the arm of war;
Quenched in night is Midian's star!
Hot with toil, and stained with blood,
Yet still in spirit unsubdued,
To the champion of the Lord
Midian's princes yield the sword.
Pomp and power, and crown and life,
All were staked on that fell strife:
All are lost!--yet still they bear
A monarch's pride in their despair;
A warrior's pride, that will not yield
Though vanquished on the battle-field.
"Captives of my bow and spear!
Zebah and Zalmunna, hear:
God hath smitten down the pride
Of Midian on the mountain's side;
Ye are given, a helpless prey,
Into Israel's hand to-day:
Gideon's arm is strong to spare
Princes, boldly now declare
The form and bearing of the brave
Who at Tabor found a grave?"
His head the high Zalmunna raised,
A moment on the victor gazed,
And paused until the tide of thought
The image back to memory brought:
His reply was stern and brief--
"As thou art--were they, O chief!
Each a regal crown might wear,
Each might be a monarch's heir."--
With a sudden start and cry,
Quivering lip and blazing eye,
Gideon smote his clenched hand
Fiercely on his battle brand--
"Smitten down with spear and bow,
All my father's house lie low,
Brethren of one mother born--
As their sun went down at morn,
Neither crown nor regal state
Shall exempt you from their fate!--
By the Lord of Hosts I swear,
Had your souls been known to spare
The men whom ye at Tabor slew,
Such mercy I had shown to you!
Up Jether!--for thy kindred's sake,
Thy father's sword and spirit take;
Let Zebah and Zalmunna feel
A brother's vengeance in the steel!"
Eagerly the blood-stained brand
Grasped young Jether in his hand,
While the spirit of his race
Lighted up his kindling face,
And his soul to vengeance woke
As he nerved him for the stroke!
"Now for Gideon and the Lord!"
He said--then sudden dropped the sword,
As from a palsied arm; and pressed
His hand upon his heaving breast;
And the burning crimson streak
Faded from his altered cheek,
As he backward slowly stepped,
And turned away his head and wept.
All unbidden to his eyes
Visions of his home arise:
The play-mates of his early years;
The spot that kindred love endears;
The sunny fields; the rugged rocks;
The valley where they fed their flocks;
The still, deep stream; the drooping pride
Of willows weeping o'er the tide.
And are they gone--the young and brave,
Who oft in sport had stemmed that wave?
When, fainting from the mid-day heat,
They sought at noon that cool retreat;
While one among the youthful throng
Poured forth his ardent soul in song,
And bade his harp's wild numbers tell
How Israel fled and Egypt fell!
Proudly then Zalmunna spoke:
"Dost thou think we dread the stroke
Doomed to stretch us on the plain
With the brave in battle slain?
Leave yon tender boy to shed
Tear-drops o'er the tombless dead:
Like the mighty chiefs of old,
Thou art cast in sterner mould.
Rise, then, champion of the Lord,
Rise! and slay us with the sword:
Life from thee we scorn to crave,
Midian would not live a slave!
But when Judah's harp shall raise
Songs to celebrate thy praise,
Let the bards of Israel tell
How Zebah and Zalmunna fell!"