[From a Picture]
THE sun has gone down, spreading wide on
The sky-line one ray of red fire ;
Prepare the soft cushions of Sidon,
Make ready the rich loom of Tyre.
The day, with its toil and its sorrow,
Its shade, and its sunshine, at length
Has ended ; dost fear for the morrow,
Strong man, in the pride of thy strength ?
Like fire-flies, heavenward clinging,
They multiply, star upon star ;
And the breeze a low murmur is bringing
From the tents of my people afar.
Nay, frown not, I am but a Pagan,
Yet little for these things I care ;
‘Tis the hymn to our deity Dagon,
That comes with the pleasant night-air.
It shall not disturb thee, nor can it ;
See, closed are the curtains, the lights
Gleam down on the cloven pomegranate,
Whose thirst-slaking nectar invites ;
The red wine of Hebron glows brightly
In yon goblet—the draught of a king ;
And through the silk awning steals lightly
The sweet song my handmaidens sing.
Dost thou think that thy God, in His anger,
Will trifle with nature’s great laws,
And slacken those sinews in languor
That battled so well in His cause ?
Will He take back that strength He has given,
Because to the pleasures of youth
Thou yieldest ? Nay, God-like, in heaven,
He laughs at such follies, forsooth.
Oh ! were I, for good or for evil,
As great and as gifted as thou,
Neither God should restrain me, nor devil,
To none like a slave would I bow.
If fate must indeed overtake thee,
And feebleness come to thy clay,
Pause not till thy strength shall forsake thee,
Enjoy it the more in thy day.
Oh ! fork’d-tongue of adder, by her pent
In smooth lips !—oh, Sybarite, blind !
Oh, woman allied to the serpent !
Oh, beauty with venom combined !
Oh, might overcoming the mighty !
Oh, glory departing ! oh, shame !
Oh, altar of false Aphrodite,
What strength is consumed in thy flame.
Strong chest, where her drapery rustles,
Strong limbs by her black tresses hid
Not alone by the might of your muscles
Yon lion was rent like a kid !
The valour from virtue that sunders,
Is reft of its nobler part ;
And Lancelot’s arm may work wonders,
But braver is Galahad’s heart.
Sleep sound on that breast fair and ample ;
Dull brain, and dim eyes, and deaf ears,
Feel not the cold touch on your temple,
Heed not the faint clash of the shears.
It comes !—with the gleam of the lamps on
The curtains—that voice—does it jar
On thy soul in the night-watch ? Ho ! Samson,
Upon thee the Philistines are.
Published in ‘Sea Spray and Smoke Drift’ (1867).