Her tender feet soon wounded were, and sore
With the rough travel, and the weary way,
And her slight limbs, o’ertask’d and loaded, bore
Less lightly up their burden day by day;
But, nature failing, Love imparted power
To bear her steps up to the resting hour.
Alas! the mother gazed with aching eyes
Upon the life-spring in her little child,
As one laid by a fountain while it dries;
Daily she watch’d it ebb, till she grew wild
With anguish at the Angel drawing near,
And bared her own breast for his fatal spear.
She lost all sense of weariness and pain,
And with hot tearless eyes still hurried on,
Bearing the child girt by its cruel chain,
All thought save of her cherish’d burden gone,
Fearful alone lest other eyes should guess
The feeble thing her longing arms did press.
At last they saw the babe was weaker growing,
That soon the little spark of life must fade,
So, spite of all her prayers, and wild tears flowing,
Beside a spring the sleeping child they laid,
And bid her onward, heedless of her woe
But on the earth she fell, and would not go.
They raised her up, and bound her on a steed,
And so march’d onward on their weary way—
For there was none to help her in her need,
And thus they travell’d eastward all the day,
But when they rested, and on each bow’d head
Sleep heavy lay, the mother rose and fled.
And speeding swiftly with a lapwing’s flight,
Backward she hurried to the little spring,
Led by a power that knoweth not the night,
But flies through darkness with unerring wing;
And so e’er morning shimmer’d in the East,
She clasp’d her dead babe to her panting breast.
At morn they miss’d her, and the women said,
“She seeks her babe beside the distant well,
There wilt thou find her, if she be not dead,
For O! the love of mother who can tell.”
And so the steward gallop’d back in haste,
To seek the lost one in the desert waste.
At last the spring rose in the distant sand,
With its close verdure pleasant to the eye,
And there, as, nearing it, the place he scann’d,
He saw the mother with her infant lie,
Quiet and stilly on each other’s breast,
Folded together in unbroken rest;
Her arms around it thrown, that e’en in sleep
Still press’d the infant to her stricken heart,
No rest so perfect, no repose so deep,
From her sweet babe the mother’s love to part.
Before him loud and bitter curses sped—
Who heard him?—for the mother too lay dead.
DATUR HORA QUIETI.