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And roughen'd as it flowd: for vengeance fell
On guilty and apostate Israel.1
we, who sate beneath our household vine,
Fled for long years before the Philistine,
And groan'd to see the spoiler's ruthless hand
Crush the fair promise of our holy land.
Then was it, in that dark and cloudy day
When Israel wander'd shepherdless astray,
That first I saw the partner of my life,
And sought her hand, and she became my wife.
No festal banquet graced our nuptial eve,
No virgins, chaplet-crown'd, came forth to weave
The dance before us, or with sacred hymn
Tended us home:- but on the mountains dim,
In silence and in solitude at night,
Our parents ratified the solemn rite.
They call’d the stars to witness, and the rills
Made answer to the everlasting hills
Espousals meet for Samson's parents ! years
Of brief tranquillity, and many tears
Pass’d silently. But Heaven who gave the bride
The pledge of bridal blessedness denied ;
My wife was barren and bare not:1 alas,
Too oft I saw the cloud of anguish pass
Across her lovely brow, and often read,
Albeit not a whisper'd word she said,
The passionate prayer of Rachel in her eye,
“My husband, give me children, or I die." ?
The foe was seeking other fields of prey ;
Our home began to smile anew ; the day
Was wearing into twilight; when I heard
My wife's quick footstep on the verdant sward.
“ Manoah,” with excited joy she spake,
“At thy command by yonder wooded brake
I watch'd the flock, and on the fountain's stone
Was seated, musing as I deem'd alone,
When on a sudden I was made aware
That some one stood beside me; — without care,
Deeming thou needest me, my eyes I raised,
And on the messenger unconscious gazed :
But when I saw him I was troubled :- white
Was his apparel as transparent light,
And, like the visions of prophetic trance,
The awful beauty of his countenance.
My heart misgave me: was he from above ? —
But fear and wonder both were lost in love
When from his lips the blessed tidings fell
Of bliss to me, and hope to Israel :
Lo, thou art barren, and thou bearest not;
Woman, bewail no more thy childless lot:
Behold thou shalt conceive and bear a child,
A Nazarite devoted, undefiled,
Who while his holy hair unrazor'd grows
Shall save his people from their taunting foes.''
And as in thought she drank the promised cup
Of motherly endearment, love lit up
Her face with pure delight; she could not weep
Though tears were in her eyes, but all the deep
Expressions of a wife's, a woman's soul
Over her face in crimson blushes stole.
Faith wrestled in my heart, and won. I felt
That God had spoken to her, and we knelt
Together suppliant before His throne
And made our souls' harmonious longings known.
So ever used we, and though often cast
As exiles on the desert's howling waste,
Or nightly lurking where the secret wave
Murmur'd but shone not in the starless cave,
Or kneeling on our fathers' burial sod,
One utterance told our yearning thoughts to God.
We pray'd, “O Lord, parental wisdom, grant.”
He heard us; and the heavenly visitant
As she was seated in the lonely field
Again his glory and his grace reveald.
Straightway she ran and calld me ; love divine
Shone calmly in his human eye benign,
And when I ask'd him of our promised child
How we should train him for the Lord, he smiled
And spake so graciously that I began
To feel towards him as a brother man.
He only veil'd his brightness — when I pray'd
That he would tarry where the grateful shade
Fell on the glebe from some o'erhanging rock,
The while I brought a firstling from my flock,
He answer'd, “If a firstling thou wilt bring,
Then offer to the Lord thine offering."
And when astonish'd I besought his name,
He still repress’d my boldness. Soon the flame
Is kindled, and the victim's life-blood flows,
And sweet perfumes of sacrifice arose;
But as they wreath’d towards the azure sky,
Behold the angel of the Lord drew nigh,
And slowly rising with the incense-cloud
Flame-like ascended up to heaven. We bow'd
Our faces to the earth on bended knee,
And trembled at the sight exceedingly;
For when I saw the fiery track he trod,
This is, methought, none other than that God
Who spake to Noah and to Abraham,
And said to Moses, “I am that I am;"
Who led our fathers through the ocean deeps,
Which stood at His command in rock-like heaps ; 2
Who, wrapt in clouds of darkness and of storm,
Rent Sinai's cliffs before His viewless form ; –
And could He our presumptive eye forgive,