Who talks of Babylon when God even now
Is training her fierce champion, Holofernes,
Into the death a woman holds before him?
A woman killing Holofernes!
Be she abused by him or not, I know
God means to give her marvellous hands to-night.
I know it by my heart so strangely sick
With looking out for the first drowsy stir
In that huge flaming quiet of the camp.
Now fearfuller qualm than famine eagerly
Handles my life and pulls at it,—my faith’s
Hunger for being fed with sounds and visions:
The firelight mixt with a trooping bustle of shadows,
The silence suddenly shouting with surprise,
That tells of men astounded out of sleep
To find that God hath dreadfully been among them.
We have mistaken Judith.
Even as now
God is mistaken by your doubting hearts.
She that has dealt with such a pride of spirit
In all her ways of life, so that she seemed
To feel like shadow, falling on the light
Her own mind made, the common thoughts of men;
Ay, she that to-day came down into our woe
And stood among the griefs that buzz upon us,
Like one who is forced aside from a bright journey
To stoop in a small-room’d cottage, where loud flies
Pester the inmates and the windows darken;
This she, this Judith, out of her quiet pride,
And out of her guarded purity, to walk
Where God himself from violent whoredom could
Scarcely preserve her shuddering flesh! and all
For our sake, for the lives she hath in scorn,
This horrible Assyrian risk she ventures.
There should be prayer for that. Let us ask
To bind the men, whose greed now glares upon her,
In some strange feebleness; surely he will;
Surely not with woman’s worst injury
Her noble obedience he will reward!
Let us ask God to bind these men before her.
They are not his to bind: else, were they here?
They are the glorying of Nebuchadnezzar’s
Heart of fury against our God, sent here
Like insolent shouting into his holy quiet.
God could not bind these bragging noises up
In Nebuchadnezzar’s heart; it is not his,
But made by Babylonian gods or owned
By thrones that hold the heavens over Nineveh.
For all these outland greatnesses, these kings
Whose war goes pealing through the world, these towns
Infidel and triumphant, reaching forth
Armies to hug the world close to their lust,—
What are they but the gods making a scorn
Of our God on the earth? Then how can he
Alter these men from wicked delight? or how
Keep Judith all untoucht among their hands,
When his own quietness he could not keep
Unbroken by the god’s Assyrian insult?
But with a thunder he can shatter this
Intruding noise, and make his quiet again.
And in their lust he can entangle them,
Deceiving them far into Judith’s beauty,
Which is his power, and lop them from their gods.