Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland


A panting messenger of woe and dread,
His garments torn, and dust upon his head,
His wounded feet with blood and travel stained,
From Israel's camp hath Shiloh's city gained.
With throbbing, bursting heart, and blood-shot eye;
With reeling step, and clench'd hands tossed on high;
With sobbing, gasping breath, he told his tale-
When loud to heaven arose the shrieking wail
Of thousand voices; anguish, and despair,
And sense of God-bereavement mingled there!
An aged priest sits watching by the road,
His sad heart trembling for the ark of God-
He starts! he calls!-for on his listening ear
Rise sounds and cries of more than mortal fear;
His eyes are dim, and on his reverend head
Well nigh a century's hoary snows are shed.
He comes in haste, that messenger of fear-
'My awful tidings, priest and father, hear!
From Israel's army I have fled to-day-'
'What is there done, my son? speak quickly, say?'
He trembling said, with voice of faltering dread.
'Before the foe hath Israel's armies fled-
Great was the slaughter there. How shall I tell
Thee, weeping sire, thy priestly children fell?
By heathen hands they died, and woe! Oh woe!
The ark of God is taken.' Fatal blow!
It smote upon his heart; he backward fell.
'Twas not the death of sons he loved too well,
Nor kindred's blood, nor Israel's thousands slain:
'The ark of God is taken,' scorched his brain-
That flash electric. Thus the judge and priest
Of Israel died, nor yet the tidings ceased
Their work of doom. Thou daughter, mother, wife,
Who in thy bosom bore a two-fold life,
In nature's hour of anguish most extreme,
Thou bow'dst thy fainting head; such tidings seem
Too monstrous for belief. The failing tide
Of life is fast receding; to her side
The weeping females press, and 'Fear not thou;
A son is born.' The shadow on her brow,
The seal of death grew darker, answer none,
Nor token of regard she gave. Her son,
In dying accents, she Ichabod named.
This tribute Israel's parted glories claimed.
Even in that hour, bereft of mortal stay,
Her husband, father, given to death a prey,
A mightier woe which mocked at human grief-
A woe to which even God denied relief,
Hath cleft her heart, and this the cureless woe,
'The ark of God is taken.' Let me go
To God himself; I would not longer stay;
I'll seek him in the heaven of heavens. Away
Her soaring spirit mounts the heavenward road;
She lost the ark, but found the living God.
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