Thomas Aird

Second Tale: Othuriel: Canto VI: The Death And Buriel Of Moromne And Joanna

 Next Poem          

Loud tumults rend the night; the loudest drew
Othuriel northward: thither fast he flew;
Yet pausing oft as came behind him cries,
And waftings met him from the kindled skies.
There oft he saw in some sequestered nook
A famished mortal eat with hurried look,
The very joy of whose possession foiled
Itself with jealous fears to be despoiled;
He ne'er unslacking o'er his chance supply
The gaunt and strict-drawn wolf within his eye.

Here blackened forms, a visionary throng,
With noiseless feet came flittingly along;
In eager silence glaring some retreat,
Some feebly chatter in the lonely street.
But lo, the wall embattled! High and far
Maromne's spear led on the Hebrew war.
Othuriel saw, and swift to her he sprung,
Nor vainly; back a foe from her he flung,
Who leapt to seize her; he enraged his spear
Struck out; Maromne with a shriek of fear
Before her son her shielding bosom cast,
And far that weapon through her body passed.
Othuriel raised her; back the Jews were driven,
The Romans knew him now, and space to him was given
To gaze in tearless silence on her face,
As blanching death came over it apace;
Yet there her love, his sorrow to beguile,
Kept up a pale and melancholy smile:—
“My very dear young son! I see thee yet,
And loath my eyes from thee in death to set!
In happier days, and earlier to me won,
Would I had known thee, O my son! my son!”
She paused exhausted; aye, as aye grew dim
Her eye, she cleared it still to look on him.
Convulsive shudders passed throughout her frame,
And o'er her face an awful sorrow came:—
“Joanna! Tamar!” cried she: “Night of fear!
Away, my son! we must not both be here.
Lord, let me up! lift up my painful side,
That in the rock my children I may hide,
Till Thy great indignation be o'erpast,
Descending on us to consume us fast!
Lord God of Abraham! shall mean kingdoms buy
My lovely children? help! I must not die!”

But she is dead. Othuriel closed her eyes;
And lifting carried through tumultuous cries
Her body homeward, dipping still his feet
In blood clear glittering on the flaming street.
Captives he passed, young men and virgin bands,
Far to be driven to strange and cruel lands,
A huddled throng: scarce glutted Strength and Rage
Could thrust their cloyed blades thro' encumbering Age.
When foes he met, his dead one down he laid,
O'er her he stood, fiercely he waved his blade;
Aloof they passed, he raised his sacred load,
And soon again Maromne's chambers trode.
There on a bed he laid her; swift he traced
His mother's rooms deserted, silent, waste;
He calls on Tamar, on Joanna calls,
But hears alone the echo of the halls.
He sought that vault where, many a night and day,
His own dear mother's prisoner he lay;
There by the lamp still burning, lo! 'tis she,
His own Joanna kneeling on her knee,
But pale as death; her left hand back entwined
In Tamar's hair, who shrinking sits behind,
Her right upstays her leaning on a spear:
Ah! blood is welling from that side so dear,
Down o'er her snowy vesture far it streams.
But still her eye with angry beauty gleams,
Fixed on that slaughtered Roman whom her lance
Pierced doubtless first to stay his base advance.
Slow went Othuriel near; the virgin raised
Her eyes, and strangely, keenly, on him gazed
One moment; shrieking in her gladness, she
Sprung, stretched her arms in death with him to be,
Fell, ere he met her, o'er that soldier's head;
He rushed, he raised his young Joanna—dead.

A grief so stern as his no tears supplied,
He bore and laid her by his mother's side;
Tamar went with him, her he held a space
Upraised to look upon their mother's face:—
“You know her, Tamar? She to us has been
A dearer mother than wide earth has seen,
But she is gone from us; yet better far
That she is dead in these sore days of war.
Weep not, my sister lamb, of thee I'll take
Great care, and love thee greatly for her sake:
I am thy brother, come with me!” He led
The stumbling child, and from the chamber sped;
Nor, by the very greatness of the ill
Awed, much she wept, but clung unto him still.
The roof he sought; high streaming in the breeze,
He saw the banner of the Maccabees;
Down quick he tore its lettered flag; he sought,
By Tamar led, a sepulchre remote
Behind the house; away its stone he rolled,
And spread within that standard's silken fold;
Then forth he brought his dead ones from that room,
And side by side he laid them in the tomb;
And round their holy heads, and round their feet,
With gentlest care he wrapped the embroidered sheet;
Rolled back the stone to guard their long long rest;
Upsnatched his sister, to his swelling breast
Strained; kissed her forehead, and her face bedewed
With silent tears still checked but still renewed;
Then strove in vain his sobbings to repress,
That she might fear not from his great distress:
The while he bore her in his arms away,
And came to Titus ere the rising day.

Next Poem 

 Back to
Thomas Aird