With other feelings filled:—that ’twas a task
Of easy sort to play the saint by day
Before the public eye, but that all eyes
Were closed at night;—that Zillah’s life was foul,
Yea, forfeit to the law.
Shame—shame to man,
That he should trust so easily the tongue
Which stabs another’s fame! The ill report
Was heard, repeated, and believed,—and soon,
For Hamuel by his well-schemed villainy
Produced such semblances of guilt,—the maid
Was to the fire condemned!
Without the walls
There was a barren field; a place abhorred,
For it was there where wretched criminals
Received their death! and there they fixed the stake,
And piled the fuel round, which should consume
The injured maid, abandoned, as it seemed,
By God and man.
The assembled Bethlehemites
Beheld the scene, and when they saw the maid
Bound to the stake, with what calm holiness
She lifted up her patient looks to heaven,
They doubted of her guilt.—
Stood Hamuel near the pile; him savage joy
Led thitherward, but now within his heart
Unwonted feelings stirred, and the first pangs
Of wakening guilt, anticipant of hell!
The eye of Zillah as it glanced around
Fell on the slanderer once, and rested there
A moment; like a dagger did it pierce,
And struck into his soul a cureless wound.
Conscience! thou God within us! not in the hour
Of triumph dost thou spare the guilty wretch,
Not in the hour of infamy and death
Forsake the virtuous!—
draw near the stake—
They bring the torch!—hold, hold your erring hands!
Yet quench the rising flames!—O God, protect,
They reach the suffering maid!—O God, protect
The innocent one! They rose, they spread, they raged;—
The breath of God went forth; the ascending fire
Beneath its influence bent, and all its flames,
In one long lightning-flash concentrating,
Darted and blasted Hamuel—him alone!
Hark what a fearful scream the multitude
Pour forth!—and yet more miracles! the stake
Branches and buds, and spreading its green leaves,
Embowers and canopies the innocent maid
Who there stands glorified; and roses, then
First seen on earth since Paradise was lost,
Profusely blossom round her, white and red,
In all their rich variety of hues;
And fragrance such as our first parents breathed
In Eden, she inhales, vouchsafed to her
A presage sure of Paradise regained.