Reginald Heber

REFT of thy sons, amid thy foes forlorn,

Mourn, widowed queen, forgotten Sion, mourn!

Is this thy place, sad city, this thy throne,

Where the wild desert rears its craggy stone;

While suns unblest their angry lustre fling,

And wayworn pilgrims seek the scanty spring?

Where now thy pomp which kings with envy viewed?

Where now thy might which all those kings subdued?

No martial myriads muster in thy gate;

No suppliant nations in thy Temple wait;

No prophet bards, thy glittering courts among,

Wake the full lyre, and swell the tide of song:

But lawless force, and meagre want are there,

And the quick-darting eye of restless fear,

While cold oblivion mid thy ruins laid,

Folds his dank wing beneath the ivy shade.

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O happy once in Heaven’s peculiar love,

Delight of men below, and saints above!

Though, Salem, now the spoiler’s ruffian hand

Has loosed his hell-hounds o’er thy wasted land;

Though weak, and whelmed beneath the storms of fate,

Thy house is left unto thee desolate;

Though thy proud stones in cumbrous ruin fall,

And seas of sand o’ertop thy mouldering wall;

Yet shall the Muse to Fancy’s ardent view

Each shadowy trace of faded pomp renew:

And as the seer on Pisgah’s topmost brow

With glistening eye beheld the plain below,

With prescient ardor drank the scented gale,

And bade the opening glades of Canaan hail;

Her eagle eye shall scan the prospect wide,

From Carmel’s cliffs to Almotana’s tide;

The flinty waste, the cedar-tufted hill,

The liquid health of smooth Ardeni’s rill;

The grot where, by the watchfire’s evening blaze,

The robber riots, or the hermit prays;

Or where the tempest rives the hoary stone,

The wintry top of giant Lebanon.

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For thee his ivory load Behemoth bore,

And far Sofala teemed with golden ore;

Thine all the arts that wait on wealth’s increase,

Or bask and wanton in the beam of peace.

When Tiber slept beneath the cypress gloom,

And silence held the lonely woods of Rome;

Or e’er to Greece the builder’s skill was known,

Or the light chisel brushed the Parian stone;

Yet here fair Science nursed her infant fire,

Fanned by the artist aid of friendly Tyre.

Then towered the palace, then in awful state

The temple reared its everlasting gate:

No workman’s steel, no ponderous axes rung!

Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung.

Majestic silence!—then the harp awoke,

The cymbal clanged, the deep-voiced trumpet spoke;

And Salem spread her suppliant arms abroad,

Viewed the descending flame, and blessed the present God.

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Lo! star-led chiefs Assyrian odors bring,

And bending Magi seek their infant King!

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Daughter of Sion! virgin queen! rejoice!

Clap the glad hand and lift the exulting voice!

He comes,—but not in regal splendor drest,

The haughty diadem, the Tyrian vest;

Not armed in flame, all-glorious from afar,

Of hosts the chieftain, and the lord of war:

Messiah comes! let furious discord cease;

Be peace on earth before the Prince of Peace!

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Ye hovering ghosts, that throng the starless air,

Why shakes the earth? why fades the light? declare!

Are those His limbs, with ruthless scourges torn?

His brows, all bleeding with the twisted thorn?

His the pale form, the meek, forgiving eye

Raised from the cross in patient agony?

Be dark, thou sun,—thou noonday night, arise,

And hide, O, hide, the dreadful sacrifice!

Ye faithful few, by bold affection led,

Who round the Saviour’s cross your sorrows shed,

Not for his sake your tearful vigils keep;

Weep for your country, for your children weep!

Vengeance! thy fiery wing their race pursued;

Thy thirsty poniard blushed with infant blood.

Roused at thy call, and panting still for game,

The bird of war, the Latian eagle came.

Then Judah raged, by ruffian Discord led,

Drunk with the steamy carnage of the dead:

He saw his sons by dubious slaughter fall,

And war without, and death within the wall.

Wide-wasting plague, gaunt famine, mad despair,

And dire debate, and clamorous strife were there;

Love, strong as death, retained his might no more,

And the pale parent drank her children’s gore.

Yet they who wont to roam the ensanguined plain,

And spurn with fell delight their kindred slain;

E’en they, when, high above the dusty fight,

Their burning temple rose in lurid light,

To their loved altars paid a parting groan,

And in their country’s woes forgot their own.

As mid the cedar courts and gates of gold

The trampled ranks in miry carnage rolled,

To save their Temple every hand essayed,

And with cold fingers grasped the feeble blade:

Through their torn veins reviving fury ran,

And life’s last anger warmed the dying man!

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Ah! fruitful now no more,—an empty coast,

She mourned her sons enslaved, her glories lost:

In her wide streets the lonely raven bred,

There barked the wolf, and dire hyenas fed.

Yet midst her towery fanes, in ruin laid,

The pilgrim saint his murmuring vespers paid;

’T was his to climb the tufted rocks, and rove

The checkered twilight of the olive grove;

’T was his to bend beneath the sacred gloom,

And wear with many a kiss Messiah’s tomb.

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