Thomas Aird

First Tale: Herodion and Azala: Part One

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High mission theirs and blest! the Prophets share
Jehovah's mind, Jehovah's word they bear
From land to land, to peoples and to kings,
Borne fear-defying on the Spirit's wings.
Then, then, they wait not through time's dull delay;
Theirs the far vision of the unborn day,
Long glories sleeping in their seed they scan,
And taste the future joys ordained for Man.
But bring the balance. Here the blood is spilt
Of peopled kingdoms by o'erlording Guilt;
There pleasure yields but sorrows—oh, they be
Too many for the good which earth must see.
Hence joy is his o'erbalanced far by pain,
Whose spirit kens the Future's coming train;
Unblest by hope where certainty appears:
And knowledge saddens through protracted years.
For he is human still. Then scorn and hate
Too oft the prophet's warning voice await,
From those for whom the awful charge he bears
To instruct his spirit in their future cares:
So keen their hate, he scarcely can repress
Unhallowed joy at their ordained distress.
If right his heart, yet his the growing wo
Their ills increasing with their scorn to know;
While new-commissioned threats from God on high
Still tell their worth who turn not but will die.
And thus his large heart's but prerogative
With deeper awe, with trembling still to live.

Those joys, how solemn, these majestic woes
Beseem the forms that young Azala shows,
Wrought of her needle round her father's halls:
Their life, their type, their burden she recalls,
As round she leads Herodion by the hand,
And points them there, the prophets of the land.
She, him to please, sprung of a prophet's line,
And far in battle, wrought the bold design;
Yea more she wishes now, great-hearted maid,
Their patriot lessons on his spirit laid,
As back to war he goes: Two orphans they,
Who loved each other from their earliest day,
And now betrothed; but both are self-denied,
And Judah must be saved ere she will be his bride.
No need to nerve his valour, if unbent
By love he slack not: this she must prevent;
And showed the prophets, that his soul might draw
Strength from those forms august, strength from those heads of awe
And lion faces: thus she strengthened him,
That stag-eyed daughter of Jerusalem.

Lo! Judah's Shepherd-King: He bore with grace
A golden harp: high looked his Heavenward face,
Kindling to song divine. Behind him rose
Mount Zion's pomp of beauty and repose.
Behold! behold, uplifted through the air,
The swift Ezekiel by his lock of hair!
Near burned the Appearance undefinedly dread,
Whose hand put forth upraised him by the head.
Within its fierce reflection cast abroad,
The Prophet's forehead like a furnace glowed.
From terror half, half from his vehement mind,
His lurid hair impetuous streamed behind.

But lo! young Daniel in the Den, the glare
Of lions round him in the twilight there.
Seemed some, as plunged they headlong to devour,
In difficult check caught by a viewless Power;
Bowed their curbed necks, their wrenchèd heads subdued,
Half turned they hung in dreadful attitude.
Others bent slept; but still their fronts were racked
With lust of blood, their forms were still unslacked,
As if at once their hungry rage had been
Drowned in deep sleep by that vast Power unseen.
The rest, with peace upon their massive brows,
Gaze on the Prophet as in prayer he bows.

Divine of beauty more young seers they saw,
And ancients laden with prophetic awe:
Bards they as well as prophets, forth in song
Their spirits rushed against the tops of Wrong.

Herodion went. Land of such men, for thee
The great Deliverer how he longed to be!

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Thomas Aird