Emma Lazarus

22 July 1849 – 19 November 1887 / New York City / United States

The Valley Of Baca


A brackish lake is there with bitter pools
Anigh its margin, brushed by heavy trees.
A piping wind the narrow valley cools,
Fretting the willows and the cypresses.
Gray skies above, and in the gloomy space
An awful presence hath its dwelling-place.

I saw a youth pass down that vale of tears;
His head was circled with a crown of thorn,
His form was bowed as by the weight of years,
His wayworn feet by stones were cut and torn.
His eyes were such as have beheld the sword
Of terror of the angel of the Lord.

He passed, and clouds and shadows and thick haze
Fell and encompassed him. I might not see
What hand upheld him in those dismal ways,
Wherethrough he staggered with his misery.
The creeping mists that trooped and spread around,
The smitten head and writhing form enwound.

Then slow and gradual but sure they rose,
Those clinging vapors blotting out the sky.
The youth had fallen not, his viewless foes
Discomfited, had left the victory
Unto the heart that fainted not nor failed,
But from the hill-tops its salvation hailed.

I looked at him in dread lest I should see,
The anguish of the struggle in his eyes;
And lo, great peace was there! Triumphantly
The sunshine crowned him from the sacred skies.
'From strength to strength he goes,' he leaves beneath
The valley of the shadow and of death.

'Thrice blest who passing through that vale of Tears,
Makes it a well,'-and draws life-nourishment
From those death-bitter drops. No grief, no fears
Assail him further, he may scorn the event.
For naught hath power to swerve the steadfast soul
Within that valley broken and made whole.
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