Banish the husband and wife from their old, familiar-grown dwelling,
Drive them to wander abroad through nights and days of privation,—
Then, ah then! we look round us to see what man is the wisest,
And no longer in vain his glorious words will be spoken.
Tell me, art thou not judge among this fugitive people,
Father, who thus in an instant canst bid their passions be quiet?
Thou dost appear to-day as one of those earliest leaders,
Who through deserts and wanderings guided the emigrant nations.
Yea, I could even believe I were speaking with Joshua or Moses.”
Then with serious look the magistrate answered him,
“Truly our times might well be compared with all others in strangeness,
Which are in history mentioned, profane or sacred tradition;
For who has yesterday lived and to-day in times like the present,
He has already lived years, events are so crowded together.
If I look back but a little, it seems that my head must be hoary
Under the burden of years, and yet my strength is still active.
Well may we of this day compare ourselves unto that people
Who, from the burning bush, beheld in the hour of their danger
God the Lord: we also in cloud and in fire have beheld Him.”
Seeing the priest was inclined to speak yet more with
And was desirous of learning his story and that of his people,
Privately into his ear his companion hastily whispered:
“Talk with the magistrate further, and lead him to speak of the maiden.
I, however, will wander in search, and as soon as I find her,
Come and report to thee here.” The minister nodded, assenting;
And through the gardens, hedges, and barns, went the spy on his errand.
Now when the foreign judge had been by the minister
As to his people’s distress, and how long their exile had lasted,
Thus made answer the man: “Of no recent date are our sorrows;
Since of the gathering bitter of years our people have drunken,—
Bitterness all the more dreadful because such fair hope had been blighted.
Who will pretend to deny that his heart swelled high in his bosom,
And that his freer breast with purer pulses was beating,
When we beheld the new sun arise in his earliest splendor,
When of the rights of men we heard, which to all should be common,
Were of a righteous equality told, and inspiriting freedom?
Every one hoped that then he should live his own life, and the fetters,
Binding the various lands, appeared their hold to be loosing,—
Fetters that had in the hand of sloth been held and self-seeking.
Looked not the eyes of all nations, throughout that calamitous season,
Toward the world’s capital city, for so it had long been considered,
And of that glorious title was now, more than ever,