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Mysterious, secret, incomprehensible.
Scourge, to punish with a whip made of leather thongs.
Drapery, curtains, hangings.
To that mysterious* realm, where each shall
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave, at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and
By an unfaltering * trust, approach thy grave, 80
Like one that draws the drapery * of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
DAVID'S * LAMENT FOR ABSALOM.-N. P. Willis. NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS (1817-1867) was born at Portland, Maine, U. S. He was a poet and essayist: best known works are, Pencillings by the Way, an account of his travels in Europe, and Inklings of Adventure. His poems are graceful and pleasing, and replete with happy fancies couched in wellchosen language.
Pall, shroud, cover
ing of a dead body.
most perfect form,
Absalom, was the son
of David. He rebelled
against his father,
but was defeated and
killed by Joab, one of
Clad in the garb of
battle, armed like sol-
Bier, a carriage or
frame of wood for
bearing the dead to
who fled from him.
diers for the fight.
Sackcloth, a coarse cloth garment, worn
by the Israelites in time of mourning.
THE pall* was settled. He who slept beneath
Was straightened for the grave; and, as the
Sank to the still proportions, they betrayed
The matchless symmetry* of Absalom.*
His helm was at his feet: his banner, soiled
With trailing through Jerusalem, was laid
Reversed, beside him and the jewelled hilt,
Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade,
Rested, like mockery, on his covered brow.
The soldiers of the king trod to and fro,
Clad in the garb of battle; * and their chief,
The mighty Joab, stood beside the bier,'
And gazed upon the dark pall steadfastly,
As if he feared the slumberer might stir.
A slow step startled him. He grasped his 15
As if a trumpet rang; but the bent form
Of David entered, and he gave command,
In a low tone, to his few followers,
And left him with his dead. The king stood
Till the last echo died; then, throwing off
The sackcloth from his brow, and laying back
* David, the son of Isai, was a young shepherd boy, who slew with a sling and a stone the great Philistine giant Goliath, He was afterwards anointed king by Samuel, and became very powerful. He wrote the Book of Psalms, &c.
The pall from the still features of his child,
He bowed his head upon him, and broke forth
In the resistless eloquence of woe :
"Alas! my noble boy! that thou shouldst die!
Thou, who wert made so beautifully fair!
That Death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering
How could he mark thee for the silent tomb,
My proud boy, Absalom!
"Cold is thy brow, my son! and I am chill,
As to my bosom I have tried to press thee!
How was I wont to feel my pulses thrill,
Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress
35 And hear thy sweet 'My father!' from those
And cold lips, Absalom!
"The grave hath won thee! I shall hear the
Of music, and the voices of the young;
And life will pass me in the mantling blush,
And the dark tresses to the soft winds
But thou no more with thy sweet voice shalt
"And oh ! when I am stricken,* and my heart, Like a bruised reed,* is waiting to be broken, 45 How will its love for thee, as I depart, Yearn* for thine ear to drink its last deep token!
so sweet, amid death's gathering
To see thee, Absalom!
And now, farewell! 'Tis hard to give thee up,
With death so like a gentle slumber on
And thy dark sin!*-oh! I could drink the
If from this woe its bitterness had won thee. May God have called thee, like a wanderer, home,
My lost boy, Absalom!"
Eloquence of woe, ut. terance of sorrow in
Clustering hair. Absalom had very long beautiful hair, of which he was very vain. He was punished for his vanity, how
ever, for we are told
that when flying from before his father in
battle, he was caught
by his hair in the branches of an oak.
tree, and hung there till Joab came up and killed him,
I am stricken, I am
struck with age. Reed, a piece of grass with a jointed stem. Fearn, to long for.
It were, it would be.
Death's gathering gloom, the mist that comes over the eyes of the dying.
Thy dark sin. Ab
salom's rebellion against his father.
Three mighty lakes, Katrine, Achray, and Vennachar; from the last of which the stream in question flows.
Target, a shield
usually made of
strong leather, and
studded with brass or
Lowland, the part of
Scotland south of
the Grampian hills.
Vich-Alpine, the des-
cendant of Alpine,
the family name of
Clan, a Scottish
family or tribe.
Watch and ward,
soldiers on guard.
Brand, a sword.
Coilantogle ford, on
the river at the
eastern extremity of
Life preserved, Ro-
derick had had a
chance of taking
SAXON AND THE GAEL.*-Scott.
THE Chief in silence strode before,
And reached that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,*
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
And here his course the chieftain stayed,
Threw down his target * and his plaid,
And to the Lowland* warrior said:
"Bold Saxon! to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine* has discharged his trust.
This murderous Chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan,*
Hath led thee safe through watch and ward,*
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard.
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A Chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel!
See here, all vantageless* I stand,
Armed, like thyself, with single brand:
For this is Coilantogle ford,*
And thou must keep thee with thy sword."
The Saxon paused:-"I ne'er delayed,
When foeman bade me draw my blade;
Nay, more, brave Chief, I vowed thy death;
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved,*
A better meed* have well deserved:
Can nought but blood our feud * atone?
Are there no means?".
And hear,-to fire thy flagging * zeal,-
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel;
*The Saxon and the Gael, James V., King of Scotland (Fitz-James), and Roderick Dhu, a Highland chief, who was a robber and murderer.
For thus spoke Fate,* by prophet* bred
Between the living and the dead :
'Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife.'”.
Then, by my word," the Saxon said,
"The riddle is already read.
Seek yonder brake * beneath the cliff,—
There lies Red Murdoch,* stark and stiff.
Thus Fate hath solved her prophecy;
Then yield to Fate, and not to me.
40 To James, at Stirling,* let us go;
When, if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the King shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free, I plight mine honour, oath, and word, 45 That, to thy native strengths restored, With each advantage shalt thou stand That aids thee now to guard thy land.”Dark lightning flashed from Roderick's eye"Soars thy presumption,* then, so high, 50 Because a wretched kern* ye slew,
Homage to name to Roderick Dhu?
He yields not, he, to man nor Fate !
Thou add'st but fuel to my hate :-
My clansman's blood demands revenge.—
55 Not yet prepared! Nay, then, I change
My thought, and hold thy valour light
As that of some vain carpet knight,*
Who ill deserved my courteous care,
And whose best boast is but to wear
6c A braid of his fair lady's hair."-
"I thank thee, Roderick, for the word!
It nerves my heart, it steels my sword;
For I have sworn this braid * to stain
In the best blood that warms thy vein.
65 Now, truce farewell! and ruth begone !-
Yet think not that by thee alone,
Proud Chief! can courtesy be shown;
Though not from copse, or heath,* or cairn,*
Start at my whistle clansmen stern,
70 Of this small horn one feeble blast
Would fearful odds against thee cast.
But fear not-doubt not-which thou wilt-
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt."
Then each at once his falchion * drew;
75 Each on the ground his scabbard * threw ;
Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what he ne'er might see again ;-
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious* strife they darkly closed.-
Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu
That on the field his targe* he threw,
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside;
For, trained abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.
He practised every pass and ward,
To thrust, to strike, to feint,* to guard ;
While, less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintained * unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood :
No stinted draught, no scanty tide-
The gushing flood the tartans * dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And showered his blows like wintry rain:
And as firm rock, or castle-roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe, invulnerable * still,
Foiled his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta'en,* his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud Chieftain * to his knee !—
"Now yield thee, or by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dies my 105 blade!"
"Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy !
Let recreant* yield, who fears to die."-
Like adder* darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young, 110
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung;
Received, but recked * not of a wound,
And locked his arms his foeman round!—
Now, gallant Saxon,* hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown!
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel
Through bars of brass and triple steel!-
They tug, they strain !-down, down they
The Gael above, Fitz-James below!