Boaz Asleep.

A poem by Victor Marie Hugo

("Booz s'était couché.")

[Bk. II. vi.]


At work within his barn since very early,
Fairly tired out with toiling all the day,
Upon the small bed where he always lay
Boaz was sleeping by his sacks of barley.

Barley and wheat-fields he possessed, and well,
Though rich, loved justice; wherefore all the flood
That turned his mill-wheels was unstained with mud
And in his smithy blazed no fire of hell.

His beard was silver, as in April all
A stream may be; he did not grudge a stook.
When the poor gleaner passed, with kindly look,
Quoth he, "Of purpose let some handfuls fall."

He walked his way of life straight on and plain,
With justice clothed, like linen white and clean,
And ever rustling towards the poor, I ween,
Like public fountains ran his sacks of grain.

Good master, faithful friend, in his estate
Frugal yet generous, beyond the youth
He won regard of woman, for in sooth
The young man may be fair - the old man's great.

Life's primal source, unchangeable and bright,
The old man entereth, the day eterne;
And in the young man's eye a flame may burn,
But in the old man's eye one seeth light.

As Jacob slept, or Judith, so full deep
Slept Boaz 'neath the leaves. Now it betided,
Heaven's gate being partly open, that there glided
A fair dream forth, and hovered o'er his sleep.

And in his dream to heaven, the blue and broad,
Right from his loins an oak tree grew amain.
His race ran up it far, like a long chain;
Below it sung a king, above it died a God.

Whereupon Boaz murmured in his heart,
"The number of my years is past fourscore:
How may this be? I have not any more,
Or son, or wife; yea, she who had her part.

"In this my couch, O Lord! is now in Thine;
And she, half living, I half dead within,
Our beings still commingle and are twin,
It cannot be that I should found a line!

"Youth hath triumphal mornings; its days bound
From night, as from a victory. But such
A trembling as the birch-tree's to the touch
Of winter is an eld, and evening closes round.

"I bow myself to death, as lone to meet
The water bow their fronts athirst." He said.
The cedar feeleth not the rose's head,
Nor he the woman's presence at his feet!

For while he slept, the Moabitess Ruth
Lay at his feet, expectant of his waking.
He knowing not what sweet guile she was making;
She knowing not what God would have in sooth.

Asphodel scents did Gilgal's breezes bring -
Through nuptial shadows, questionless, full fast
The angels sped, for momently there passed
A something blue which seemed to be a wing.

Silent was all in Jezreel and Ur -
The stars were glittering in the heaven's dusk meadows.
Far west among those flowers of the shadows.
The thin clear crescent lustrous over her,

Made Ruth raise question, looking through the bars
Of heaven, with eyes half-oped, what God, what comer
Unto the harvest of the eternal summer,
Had flung his golden hook down on the field of stars.

BP. ALEXANDER.

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