Thomas Aird

Second Tale: Othuriel: Canto VII: The End Of Othuriel

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“No, princely Titus! On my head amain
Just Heaven exhaust the armoury of pain!”
Othuriel said, as down a valley they
From wasted Zion far pursued their way,
Leading their steeds; young Tamar went between;
Far on before a Roman host was seen.
“So dread my sin, 'tis nought that I repent
My country's fall; mine must be punishment:
'Tis now begun. But let me not forget
For all thy gracious thoughts my mighty debt.
Kings hate their traitor instruments, and this
The more when they have helped them not amiss;
But not so thou: a nobler rule is thine,
Still work for me, and safety to design,
And hope. Though stern must be my future lot,
My heart shall keep the mitigating thought,
That through my rash dark treason thou hast seen
A better nature, and my friend hast been.
I thank thee, generous Cæsar, but my vow
Is wholly finished, and I leave thee now.
Whither to roam, where resting must be met
My plague of memory, I have fixed not yet.
Would I were in the deserts, to be borne
Fleet o'er a hundred hill-tops through the morn,
To drive the tempest of the chase, to slay
The wild boar only at the fall of day,
When sleep should catch me dropping from my toil,
And dreams alone have time my peace to spoil!
Or give me war—oh give me boundless strife;
Let me be swift and silent all my life!

But ha! this damsel—for her tender sake,
My worthless life in keeping I must take.
For her I've lingered till your host you drew
From ruined Salem, to be safe with you,
My convoy hither. But for me you stay
Too long conversing thus, your troops are on away.
Farewell, heroic man! yon hills afar,
And these the plains of Judah free from war,
Will yield me safety now,” Othuriel said.
But see! outbursting from a neighbouring shade
Of trees, six mounted Jews; their bearing shows
They know and will not spare their country's foes.
Stern, swift they came. Sprung with a startled bound
Othuriel's charger, wheeling round and round.
Upsnatching Tamar, to his readier steed
The Cæsar leapt, and pushed him to his speed.
Othuriel follows; dashing as he went,
A gleaming javelin by a Jew was sent;
Whizzing it overtakes him in its track,
Ha! deep it quivers buried in his back.
Caught with dread check, round writhed Othuriel struck,
With clutching hand that weapon forth to pluck;
Yet kept his seat, and, urging his career,
Pursued yon Hebrew with his levelled spear,
Who followed Titus; well his speed maintained,
He neared him fast as on the Prince he gained,
Ground his clenched teeth, his lance transfixing thrust,
And hurled the Jew down headlong to the dust.
Down too he reeled; yet rising, staggering, he
Leant on his spear that Tamar he might see.
Back gallops Titus in his friendly fear.
But hark, those other horsemen coming near!
“They come, they come! why, Roman, dare you stay?”
Othuriel cried, “Save her! away, away!
Hold but thy hand aloft, a princely sign
To keep my Tamar as if she were thine,
Thy sister or thy daughter; and till death,
Let no man draw her from her father's faith.
Thanks, lifted hand! high token! Now then, flee!
Ride! ere I die, her safety let me see!
The God of Jacob help you, and help her!
I see you, sister, would I with you were!
But I am hurt, I cannot go with you;
Yet long I'll look”—Away his Tamar flew:
And sore the pangs that his young bosom rent,
And much he waved his hand, as on she went;
As still he heard her name him o'er and o'er,
And cry for him, and shriekingly implore
That he would come to her; as turned and bent
To him, to him, o'er Titus' neck she leant,
Yearning for him, her arms outstretched in air
In blent confusion with her floating hair;
As died her voice, her look from him for aye;
As fast and far he saw her borne away.
But soon the parting grief that him subdued,
Was swallowed up by anxious fear renewed;
For lo! those Hebrews still pursuit maintain,
And chance may give them what speed cannot gain.
Heavy with death he staggered; aye the more
He leant upon the spear which scarcely him upbore;
And still from thickening mists his eye he cleared
To see his sister saved; still faint to Titus cheered.
Joy! joy! he sees the Cæsar far before
His following foes; they pause, the chase is o'er!
Tamar is saved! Othuriel, satisfied,
Sprung, clapped his hands, and falling calmly died.

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Thomas Aird