And sicken at them. Yet do I not require
Thy purpose; whether thy proud heart must have
The wound of death from steel that has not toucht
The peevish misery these Jews call blood;
Whether thy mind is for velvet slavery
In the desires of some Assyrian lord—
Forgive me, Judith! there my love spoke, made
Foolish with injury; and I should be
Unwise to stay here, lest it break the hold
I have it in. I go, and I am humbled.
But thou shalt have thy asking: the gate is thine.
How can it harm me more, to feel my beauty
Read by man’s eyes to mean his lust set forth?
Yea, Holofernes now can bring no shame
Upon me that Ozias hath not brought.
But this is chief: what balance can there be
In my own hurt against a nation’s pining?
God hath given me beauty, and I may
Snare with it him whose trap now bites my folk.
There is naught else to think of. Let me go
And set those robes in order which best pleased
Manasses’ living eyes; and let me fill
My gown with jewels, such as kindle sight,
And have some stinging sweetness in my hair.—
Manasses, my Manasses, lost to me,
Gone where my love can nothing search, and hidden
Behind the vapours of these worldly years,
The many years between me and thy death;
Thine ears are sealed with immortal blessedness
Against our miserable din of living;
Through thy pure sense goeth no soil of grief.
Forgive me! for thou hast left me here to be hurt
And moved to pity by the dolour of men.
The garment of my soul is splasht with sorrow,
Sorrowful noise and sight; and like to fires
Of venom spat on me, the sorrow eats
Through the thin robe of sense into my soul.
And it is cried against me, this keen anguish,
By my own people and my God’s;—and thou
Didst love them. Therefore thou must needs forgive me,
That I devise how this my beauty, this
Sacred to thy long-dead joy of desire,
May turn to weapon in the hand of God;
Such weapon as he hath taken aforetime
To sword whole nations at a stroke to their knees,—
Storms of the air and hilted fire from heaven,
And sightless edge of pestilence hugely swung
Down on the bulk of armies in the night.
Such weapon in God’s hand, and wielded so,
A woman’s beauty may be now, I pray;
A pestilence suddenly in this foreign blood,
A blight on the vast growth of Assyrian weed,
A knife to the stem of its main root, the heart
Of Holofernes. God! Let me hew him down,
And out of the ground of Israel wither our plague!
BEFORE THE TENT OF HOLOFERNES