IN THE TENT OF HOLOFERNES
Holofernes (alone with Judith).
Thou art the woman! Thou hast come to me!—
O not as I thought! not with senses blazing
Far into my deep soul abiding calm
Within their glory of knowledge, as the vast
Of night behind her outward sense of stars.
Now am I but the place thy beauty brightens,
And of myself I have no light of sense
Nor certainty of being: I am made
Empty of all my wont of life before thee,
A vessel where thy splendour may be poured,
After the way the great vessel of air
Accepts the morning power of the sun.
Now nothing I have known of me remains,
Save that, within me, far as the world is high
Beneath this dawn that gilds my spirit’s air,
Some depth, more inward even than my soul,
Troubles and flashes like the shining sea.
O Jewish woman, if thou knewest all
The hunger and the tears the punisht world
Suffers by cause of thee, and of my dream
That thou wert somewhere hidden in mankind!
I could not but obey my dream, and toil
To break the nations and to sift them fine,
Pounding them with my warfare into dust,
And searching with my many iron hands
Through their destruction as through crumbs of marl,
Until my palms should know the jewel-stone
Betwixt them, the Woman who is Beauty,—
Nature so long hath like a miser kept
Buried away from me in this heap of Jews!
Now that we twain might meet, women and men
In every land where I have felt for thee
Have taken desolation for their home,
Crying against me,—and against thee unknowing.
Ah, but I had given over to despair
The mind in me, I ground the stubborn tribes,
I quarried them like rocks and broke them small
And ground them down to flinders and to sands;
But never gleamed the jewel-stone therein,
Naught but the common flint of earth I found.
And in a dreary anger I kept on
Assailing the whole kind of man, because
Some manner of war my soul must needs inhabit.
Like a man making himself in drunken sleep
A king, my soul, drunk with its earthly war,
Kept idle all its terrible want of thee,
Believed itself managing arms with God;
Yea, when my trampling hurry through the earth
Made cloudy wind of the light human dust,
I thought myself to move in the dark danger
Of blinding God’s own face with blasts of war!
Until my rage forgot his crime against me,
His hiding thee, the beauty I had dreamt.
Yea and I filled my flesh with furious pleasure,
That in the noise of it my soul should hear
No whispering thought of desperate desire.
Nevertheless, I knew well that my heart’s
Sightless imagination lifted his face
Continually awake for news of thee.
But ’twas infirm and crazy waking, like
As when a starving sentry, put to guard
The sleep of a broken soldiery that flees
Through winter of wild hills from hounding foes,