Thomas Aird

The Demonaic: Chapter VI: Miriam At The Hill Of Cavalry

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The Holy City Miriam reached; but Jesus was not there,
For He was gone to Galilee. She turned with mute despair,
And wearily retraced her path. Months slowly rolled away,
Her son still pining down through each gradation of decay.
At length she was assured that Christ was in Jerusalem,
And through the silent night again she went in quest of Him.
As broke the spotted dawn she heard the sound of camel bells,
Soft tinkling far; before her now a tented valley swells:
For from wide lands, and distant isles, the Passover could still
Bring up the scattered tribes of God unto His Holy Hill.
Their whitening tents the valley filled; but all deserted stood,
Save that some slaves went here and there to give the camels food.
To Miriam's question they replied, their lords were gone to see
A strange impostor crucified with thieves on Calvary.
Then went she on until she saw, above the City fair,
The Temple like a snowy mount far up in the clear air;
Around its upward-circling courts she saw the forms of men
Bending in westward gaze as if some distant thing to ken.
Still was the sky. At once on them a mighty whirlwind fell,
And tossed their garments seen afar, and brought with many a swell
The City's din tumultous. A blind and smothering fear
On Miriam came; with breathless haste she to the gates drew near,
Passed through the hurrying streets, and gained the foot of Calvary.
She turned—a pomp processional, and shouting crowds were nigh.

She saw—blind to all else—she saw Him whom she came to seek,
Bearing His cross; and thorns were crushed around that brow so meek!
Immortal anguish held His face; yet tempered with a look
Which seemed prepared no shame, no pain, from mortal man to brook;
Prepared to burst all bands, to flash, put indignation on,
To shake—to thunder-strike—to quell His foes as from a throne.
O Son of God! Yet still His face majestic patience bound.
How can she ask, in such an hour, His help? He turned half round;
She felt that He read all her heart, when on her face was stayed
That eye, like an abyss of love. With claspèd hands she prayed.
With silent lips and reverent eyes. He turned from her again;
Yet left her to believe, with joy, her prayer had not been vain.
How can she go and leave Him thus? Oh how her bosom burned
With holy gratitude to Christ, as up she slowly turned!
She saw the throngs go closing up; the winding pomp before
A lustre all unnatural upon its ensigns bore,
Beneath a burning sun that smote the summit of the hill.
An ominous cloud, behind, o'erhung the City dark and still.

Softly she joined a company of women; and they stood
Afar, and oft with quick short look the glancing summit viewed.
They saw not what was done—from this the greater was their fear.
Mute, trembling, pale, forward they bent as if some shriek to hear.
Horror on Miriam fell; she thought of Herman, and was glad
That in his sickness a just cause to haste away she had.
She went, yet oft looked back; she saw the uplifted cross at last,
And shrieked, and faster went till she the gates of Zion passed.
She passed the silent vale of tents, the camels grazing wide;
The glittering streams shone in the sun, and shone the mountain-side;
A forest near, when she its first outstanding trees had won,
A horror of great darkness fell: the quenchèd day was done.
She went into the night-locked wood; 'twas silent as the sleep
That watched the hoary secrets of the uncreated deep.
Then a sound shook the mountain-bars, as when some fallen pile
Of ages sends a dull far voice o'er sea and sounding isle.

Without a breath the forest shook; and then the earth was rocked;
And trees fell crashing all around; and birds of night were shocked,
Screaming from out their rifted nests: with helpless wings they beat
The ground, and came and fiercely pecked, fluttering o'er Miriam's feet.
Steps, as if shod with thunder, ran. Through the infested wood
Slowly had Miriam groped her way, and in its skirts she stood,
When all at once burst forth the day from out the folds of night,
And with rebounding glory flashed along the heavens of light.
Wedges of terror clove her heart; stumbling, she hasted on
With dazzled eyes, and reached her home—her Herman's life was gone!
Reeling she turned, she knew not why; all blindly forth she burst;
But back she flew, and kissed his lips: “How durst I go! how durst
I leave him thus in death!” and then she beat her breast, and cried,
“Had I not gone, had I been here, my Herman had not died!”

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Thomas Aird