I fell on my knees, like a lover, or slave,
With my wild hands clasping your slender waist;
And my lips, with a sudden frenzy brave,
A madman’s kiss on your girdle pressed,
And I felt your calm heart’s quickening beat,
And your soft hands on me one instant rest.
And if God had loved me, how endlessly sweet
Had he let my heart in its rapture burst,
And throb its last at your firm small feet!
And when I was forth, I shuddered at first
At my imminent bliss. As a soul in pain,
Treading his desolate path accursed,
Looks back and dreams through his tears’ dim
That by Heaven’s wide gate the angels smile,
Relenting, and beckon him back again,
And goes on, thrice damned by that devil’s wile,—
So sometimes burns in my weary brain
The thought that you loved me all the while.
Down the dim West slow fails the stricken sun,
And from his hot face fades the crimson flush
Veiled in death’s herald-shadows sick and gray.
Silent and dark the sombre valley lies
Forgotten; happy in the late fond beams
Glimmer the constant waves of Galilee.
Afar, below, in airy music ring
The bugles of my host; the column halts,
A wearied serpent glittering in the vale,
Where rising mist-like gleam the tented camps.
Pitch my pavilion here, where its high cross
May catch the last light lingering on the hill.
The savage shadows, struggling by the shore,
Have conquered in the valley; inch by inch
The vanquished light fights bravely to these crags
To perish glorious in the sunset fire;
Even as our hunted Cause so pressed and torn
In Syrian valleys, and the trampled marge
Of consecrated streams, displays at last
Its narrowing glories from these steadfast walls.
Here in God’s name we stand, and brighter far
Shines the stern virtue of my martyr-host
Through these invidious fortunes, than of old,
When the still sunshine glinted on their helms,
And dallying breezes woke their bridle-bells
To tinkling music by the reedy shore
Of calm Tiberias, where our angry Lord,
Wroth at the deadly sin that cursed our camp,
Denied and blinded us, and gave us up
To the avenging sword of Saladin.
Yet would he not permit his truth to sink
To utter loss amid that foundering fight,
But led us, scarred and shattered from the spoil
Of Paynim rage, the desert’s thirsty death,
To where beneath the sheltering crags we prayed
And rested and grew strong. Heroes and saints
To alien peoples shall they be, my brave
And patient warriors; for in their stout hearts
God’s spirit dwells forever, and their hands
Are swift to do his service on his foes.
The swelling music of their vesper-hymn
Is rising fragrant from the shadowed vale
Familiar to the welcoming gates of heaven.