Thomas Aird

Second Tale: Othuriel: Canto V: Othuriel A Prisoner

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Weeks o'er Othuriel went; in silent haste
For him each morn was bread by Tamar placed.
But now a book his sweet young sister brought,
And smiled to him as down she sate remote:
Beneath the scented lamp that lit the place,
Low o'er the opened scroll she bowed her face;
With silver voice, with childhood's reverent awe,
She read the wonders of Jehovah's law.
Each night she did the same: he questioned ne'er
Why thus she came—he knew the loving care
Which sent her thus—but silent leant his head
Against his pillar as she nightly read,
With looks to her of love ineffable,
As down the light upon her countenance fell,
Down on the holy page; and listening hung
To hear her softly-modulated tongue.
And oh, how swelled his bosom at the sight
Of that sweet child struck through with hunger's blight.
Yet there each night with smiles for him that he
Might fear his God, might thus her brother truly be!


II

Day passed, nor Tamar came: at dead of night,
With famine dark, his mother stood in sight;
Yet still her brow a grace majestic wore,
Seen by the lamp that in her hand she bore.
In slumber feigned he kept his lowly bed
Which near his pillar Tamar's love had spread,
As stealthy came she, placed him food, and threw
One glance on him, then hurriedly withdrew.
Swift gleaming back she turned; a space she stood,
Her eyes the while seemed bent upon his food,
Fiercely they shone; in nature's awful stress,
Down shaken fell in many a streaming tress
Her long black hair, concealing half her face;
But back she flung it with a savage grace,
Forth sprung and seized the bread:—“Ah! wo is me,”
Upstarting cried her son, “that this should be!
My mother! O my mother! thy sore want
Is more to me than pains extravagant.”
She shrunk with startled pride, with sudden check
Shrieking she turned, she sunk upon his neck,
With passionate vehemence kissed him, sobbing lay
Within his arms, and there she swooned away.
With holy care Othuriel held her head
Till, soon reviving, faint to him she said:—
“My son has vanquished me! 'tis now confest
Beyond them all I love him far the best.
My lost! my dearly found! come near my heart
And tell me all, for thou in trouble art.
Speak to thy mother! well thou canst not be,
But ill indeed! Yea, I have ruined thee,
Have kept thee here, have ruined thee: the foe
The cause of thy desertion will not know,
Will find, will slay thee. Oh, forgive! forgive!
My soul desired to have thee near me live:
How could I let thee go? Yea more, from this
I thought that you the enlarged remorse would miss
Of that dread vow fulfilled, and chained you thus
From pangs to keep you, warring not on us.
Have I done wrong, my son? But if you deemed
Me harsh and cruel, such I only seemed:
I was not so to thee; for dear thou wert,
Thou first-born of my body and my heart,
And dear thou art! Old kingdoms may remove,
But I will love thee with eternal love!
Ha! this is vain; but I will go this hour,
And fight to save you from their vengeful power.”
She said, nor looked as he implored, but threw
Far back her hair, and glanced from out his view.

III

Othuriel strove, but still he strove in vain,
To bow his pillar and to burst his chain.
Joanna came, and in her hand a sword:—
“'Tis now your hour, to be from thrall restored:
This key,” she said, “I've managed this to gain,
Lest aught should threat you; it unlocks your chain.
Our Temple's burnt! Bent on our Upper Town,
Hark! how the Romans beat our last defences down!
High streams upon our palace to the breeze
The glorious banner of the Maccabees,
Raised by your mother; forth she rushed:—‘This night,’
She cried, ‘I'll save you, for you all I'll fight.’
Haste—follow—win her back; this danger past,
Your Roman power may shield us all at last.
This sword—your father's—take. You're free: away!”
Silent he snatched the sword, and sprung unto the fray.

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Thomas Aird