Thomas Aird

Second Tale: Othuriel: Canto I: The Burial

 Next Poem          

Forth comes the day: Othuriel through the land
Of Judah southward leads that Roman band,
To help Vespasian from the Jordan's mouth
Fighting to Idumea on the south.
Down the clear plain they go; but lo! afar
The illumined coming of a host of war,
Banners and flashing spears! From side to side
Sharpening its crescent horns, it barred the valley wide
Upraised, high forward o'er his charger bent,
Throughout that host his eye Othuriel sent.
He turned:—“On must we, soldiers, undismayed,
Beyond those Jews Vespasian needs our aid;
And, ere yon sun be down into the west,
In Judah's southern gardens shall we rest.”

On went they: silent on his conscious steed,
That trode on fire and minced his governed speed,
Othuriel went—shocked to a sudden pause,
Swart gleams his brow, intenser breath he draws,
To see along yon front in warlike pride
His foe peculiar, dark Manasseh, ride,
His hated foe; forth springing, down he led
His Roman foot; it pushed its columned head
With quick short heaves against the Jews' array,
Crashing it dipped into that iron bay;
His widening horse dash out on either side:
The kindling battle rages far and wide.

Along the mingled van with ranging speed
Manasseh rode; leapt from his stricken steed
Othuriel, trembled through his eager frame
His heart absorbed as near his enemy came,
His still sword hung upon his eye, with might
Stamping he dared the Hebrew to the fight.
Manasseh turned and said:—“I know thee, youth;
I wronged thee much when I impeached thy truth;
But I will give thee”—from his charger down
He sprung—“a chance for vengeance and renown.”
“My welcome this!” Othuriel grimly spoke,
And launched his heart upon a mighty stroke;
But warding well unhurt the Hebrew stood,
And still was proof against the blow renewed.
He smote in turn with swiftest vehemence;
His soul Othuriel threw into defence,
Yet wounded deeply, bled. Ha! on his neck
If fall that sheer-driven weapon without check!—
Aside he swerves, is saved; his eye's bold gleam,
Half smiling, darkens into wrath extreme;
His foe has stumbled—o'er the Hebrew's head
Uprising, rose his falchion; down it sped
With might collected, unresisted main,
And drove cold darkness through his cloven brain.

Staggering Othuriel stands, he clears his eye
From dizzy motes to see his foeman die;
Reeling he sinks: The yell is in his ears
Of trampling squadrons; o'er his eye careers
A storm of faces, in a moment dim:
And all is blank and silent now to him.

Next Poem 

 Back to
Thomas Aird