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Mysterivus, secret, To that mysterious * realm, where each shall

His chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave, at night,
Scourge, to panish Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and
with a whip made of
leather thongs.

soothed Unfaltering, fearless. By an unfaltering * trust, approach thy grave, 80 Drapery, curtains,

Like one that draws the drapery * of his couch hangings.

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

DAVID'S * LAMENT FOR ABSALOM.-N. P. Willis. NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS (1817-1867) was born at Portland, Maine, U.S. He was a poet and essayist : best known works are, Pencillings by the way, an account of his travels in Europe, and Inklings of Adventure. His poems are graceful and pleasing, and replete with happy fancies couched in wellchosen language. Pall, shroud, cover. The pall* was settled. He who slept beneath ing of a dead body.

Was straightened for the grave; and, as the


Sank to the still proportions, they betrayed Matchless symmetry, The matchless symmetry * of Absalom.* most perfect form, Absalom, was the son His helm was at his feet: his banner, soiled 5 of David. He rebelled With trailing through Jerusalem, was laid against his father Reversed, beside him: and the jewelled hilt, pursued;

Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade, but was defeated

and Rested, like mockery, on his covered brow. killed by Joab, one of David's generals.

The soldiers of the king trod to and fro, Clad in the garb of Clad in the garb of battle ; * and their chief, battle, armed like sol. The mighty Joab, stood beside the bier, * Bier, a carriage or And gazed upon the dark pall steadfastly, frame of wood for As if he feared the slumberer might stir. bearing the dead to the grave.

A slow step startled him. He grasped his 15

As if a trumpet rang ; but the bent form
Of David entered, and he gave command,
In a low tone, to his few followers,

And left him with his dead. The king stood
Sackcloth, a

still cloth garment, worn Till the last echo died ; then, throwing off by the Israelites in time of mourning.

The sackcloth* from his brow, and laying back





David, the son of Isai, was a young shepherd boy, who slew with a sling and a stone the great Philistine giant Goliath, He was afterwards anointed kiag by Samuel, and became very powerful. He wrote the Book of Psalms, &c.

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killed him,

The pall from the still features of his child,
He bowed his head upon him, and broke forth
In the resistless eloquence of woe :

Eloquence of woe, uto

terance of sorrow in 25 “ Alas ! my noble boy! that thou shouldst die ! beautiful language.

Thou, who wert made so beautifully fair !
That Death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering
hair ! *

Clustering hair. Ab

salom had very long How could he mark thee for the silent tomb,

beautiful hair, 30 My proud boy, Absalom !

which he was very

vain. He was punish“Cold is thy brow, my son ! and I am chill, ed for his vanity, how. As to my bosom I have tried to press thée ! ever, for we are told

that How was I wont to feel my pulses thrill, before his father in Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress battle, he was caught

by his hair in the thee,

branches of an oak. 35 And hear thy sweet My father !' from those tree, and hung there dumb

till Joab came up and
And cold lips, Absalom !
“The grave hath won thee ! shall hear the

Of music, and the voices of the young;

And life will pass me in the mantling blush, 40 And the dark tresses to the soft winds

But thou no more with thy sweet voice shalt
To meet me, Absalom !

I am stricken, I am “ And oh! when I am stricken,* and my heart, struck with age. Like a bruised reed,* is waiting to be broken, Reed, a piece of grass

with a jointed stem, 45 How will its love for thee, as I depart,

Yearn * for thine ear to drink its last deep Yearn, to long for. token!

80 sweet, amid death's gathering It were, it would be. gloom,*

Death's gathering

gloom, the mist that To see thee, Absalom !

comes over the eyes

of the dying. “And now, farewell ! 'Tis hard to give thee up, 50 With death so like a gentle slumber on

thee ! And thy dark sin ! *-oh! I could drink the Thy dark sin. AUcup,

against his father. If from this woe its bitterness had won thee. May God have called thee, like a wanderer, bome,

My lost boy, Absalom !”

It were


salom's rebellion


He covered up his face, and bowed himself
A moment on his child ; then, giving him

A look of melting tenderness, he clasped
Convulsively, with His hands convulsively,* as if in prayer.
violent trembling or

And, as if strength were given him of God, Composed the pall, ar. He rose up calmly, and composed the pall ranged the covering Firmly and decently,—and left him there, of the dead body.

As if his rest had been a breathing sleep.




The Chief, Roderick


Three mighty lakes,
Katrine, Achray, and
Vennachar; from the
last of which the
stream in question
Target, a shield
usually made of
strong leather, and
studded with brass or
Lowland, the part of
Scotland south of
the Grampian hills.
Vich-Alpine, the des-
cendant of Alpine,
the family name of
Roderick Dhu.
Clan, a Scottish
family or tribe.
Watch and ward,
soldiers on guard.
Vantageless, without
Brand, a sword.
Coilantogle ford, on
the river at the
eastern extremity of
Loch Vennachar.
Life preserved, Ro-
derick had had
chance of taking
Fitz-James's life.
Meed, reward.
Feud, quarrel

THE Chief * in silence strode before,
And reached that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,*
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
And here his course the chieftain stayed, 5
Threw down his target * and his plaid,
And to the Lowland * warrior said:
6 Bold Saxon ! to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine * has discharged his trust.
This murderous Chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan,"
Hath led thee safe through watch and ward, *
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard.
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A Chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel !

See here, all vantageless * I stand,
Armed, like thyself, with single brand : *
For this is Coilantogle ford, *
And thou must keep thee with thy sword.”
The Saxon paused :-“I ne'er delayed,
When foeman bade me draw my
Nay, more, brave Chief, I vowed thy death ;
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved, *
A better meed * have well deserved :

Can nought but blood our feud * atone ?
Are there no means ?. -“No, Stranger,

none !
And hear,-to fire thy flagging * zeal,-
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel ;




Flagging, spiritless.


* The Saxon and the Gael, James V., King of Scotland (Fitz-James), and Roderick Dhu, a Highland chief, who was a robber and murderer.

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30 For thus spoke Fate,* by prophet * bred

Between the living and the dead :
•Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife.'»

“Then, by my word,” the Saxon said, 35

“The riddle is already read.
Seek yonder brake * beneath the cliff,-
There lies Red Murdoch,* stark and stiff.
Thus Fate hath solved her prophecy ;

Then yield to Fate, and not to me. 40 To James, at Stirling,* let us go;

When, if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the King shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free,

I plight * mine honour, oath, and word, 45 That, to thy native strengths restored,

With each advantage shalt thou stand
That aids thee now to guard thy land.”-
Dark lightning flashed from Roderick's eye-

“Soars thy presumption,* then, so high, 50 Because a wretched kern * ye slew,

Homage * to name to Roderick Dhu?
He yields not, he, to man nor Fate !
Thou add'st but fuel to


hate :
My clansman's blood demands revenge.-
55 Not yet prepared! Nay, then, I change

My thought, and hold thy valour light
- Aš that of some vain carpet knight,*
Who ill deserved my courteous care,

And whose best boast is but to wear 60 A braid of his fair lady's hair.”–

“I thank thee, Roderick, for the word !
It nerves my heart, it steels my sword;
For I have sworn this braid * to stain

In the best blood that warms thy vein. 65 Now, truce farewell ! and ruth begone !

Yet think not that by thee alone,
Proud Chief ! can courtesy be shown ;
Though not from copse, or heath,* or cairn,*

Start at my whistle clansmen stern, 70 Of this small horn one feeble blast

Would fearful odds against thee cast.
But fear not-doubt not-which thou wilt-
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt.”

Then each at once his falchion * drew ;
75 Each on the ground his scabbard * threw ;

Presumption, pride.
Kern, a Highland foot
soldier armed with a
sword and shield.
The word is generally
used as a term of
Homage, submission.

Carpet knight, one who professes to be a soldier, but who shuns going to battle.

This braid, the lock of hair belonging to Blanche of Devan, a half - crazed

young widow, who was killed by Murdoch, with an arrow intended for Fitz-James. Heath, a place overgrown with short bushes. Cairn,a heap of stones to mark a grave.

Falchion, a sword. Scabbard, sheath, sword-case.

Dubious, doubtful, not sure.

Targe, a target or buckler, a shield.


Feint, to pretend to
strike one part, whilst
really intending to
hit another.
Gael, a native of the
Highlands of Scot-
Maintained, kept up.
Tartans, the plaids
worn by Scotchmen.

Invulnerable, not to
be overcome.
Foiled, disappointed.
Ta'en, taken

Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what he ne'er might see again ;-
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious * strife they darkly closed.
Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu

That on the field his targe * he threw,
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside ;
For, trained abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.
He practised every pass and ward,
To thrust, to strike, to feint," to guard ;
While, less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael * maintained * unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood, 90
And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood :
No stinted draught, no scanty tide-
The gushing flood the tartans * dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And showered his blows like wintry rain: 95
And as firm rock, or castle-roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe, invulnerable * still,
Foiled * his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta’en,* his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud Chieftain * to his knee !
“Now yield thee, or by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dies my 105

blade !"-
“Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy !
Let recreant * yield, who fears to die.”-
Like adder * darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young, 110
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung;
Received, but recked * not of a wound,
And locked his arms bis foeman round !-
Now, gallant Saxon,* hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown! 115
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel
Through bars of brass and triple steel !-
They tug, they strain !-down, down they

The Gael above, Fitz-James below!

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