Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Master and Scholar (1866).
Gilboa
By Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821–1891)
 
I.
SO life is ending, and its visions pass
        Before the inward eye,
Like soft dew falling on the tender grass,
        When all around is dry.
 
Through the dark night I see the ruby flush        5
        Of childhood’s earliest day;
Through war’s wild din, and battle’s torrent rush,
        I hear the children play.
 
Yet once again I live that time of might,
        When I, and one with me        10
Who bore my shield, were conquerors in the fight,
        And made the aliens flee.
 
From crag to crag we clambered, hand in hand,
        And leapt from rock to rock;
Till from the height we looked on all the land,        15
        And dared the battle’s shock.
 
I feel the faintness of that noontide heat,
        The thirst that fired the brain;
I taste the golden stream that trickled sweet,
        And brought life back again:        20
 
The fear of death is on me as of old,
        When Saul in sternness strove
An iron mantle round his heart to fold,
        And crush a father’s love;
 
I stood as one condemned to shameful death,        25
        And offered up my life,
As Isaac bowed of old, with calmest breath,
        To meet the glittering knife:
 
When shrill and loud from warriors old and young
        There rose the awe-struck cry;        30
Their strong resolve through hill and forest rung,
        “This day shall no man die!”
 
So with my father many a month passed on,
        I smote the craven foe;
And year by year the crown of victory won,        35
        Requiting blow for blow:
 
And robes of scarlet from each plundered town,
        We brought for Israel’s maids;
The ruby circlet, and the golden crown,
        Rich harvest of our raids.        40
 
So grew my soul to manhood’s kingly noon,
        And all men sang my praise;
Yet darker far than night without a moon,
        Was fame’s full daylight blaze.
 
I craved for one whose heart should beat as mine,        45
        My hopes and thoughts to share;
A soul to live with me the life divine,
        And half grief’s burden bear.
 
I sought for one to be my friend and guide,
        My glory and my joy;        50
When lo! there stood in brightness by my side,
        The minstrel shepherd-boy.
 
II.
YES, there he stood, and life’s deep-hidden fountains
  Welled from my soul in one abounding flood;
The sun shone brighter on the hoary mountains,        55
  A sweeter music murmured through the wood.
 
It was not for the flush of youthful beauty,
  The golden locks that flowed like sunlight down;
Through eye’s wild flash there gleamed the star of duty,
  And on his brow Truth set her kingly crown.        60
 
Strong arm was his to smite the tyrant stranger,
  Voice soft as maiden’s, stirring men to tears,
A soul that knew no fear of death or danger,
  Wide thoughts of wisdom ripening with the years:
 
Forth from his lips there flowed the song of gladness,        65
  His hand brought music from the soulless lyre;
And lo! the spell chased all the clouds of madness,
  Wrath passed away as wax before the fire.
 
Of warriors old he sang, our father’s glory,
  The wonders of the nobler days of old;        70
And strong, deep music thrilled through all the story,
  Stirring all hearts to deeds of prowess bold.
 
He sang the marvels of the earth and heaven,
  The starry night, the cloud-built tent of God,
The wild, dark storm on wings of tempest driven,        75
  The snow-clad heights where never man has trod:
 
And new light streamed o’er mountain and o’er river,
  New voices mingled with the streamlet’s song;
Men’s hearts rose up to meet the Eternal Giver,
  The slave found freedom, and the weak grew strong.        80
 
And oh! my heart clave to him as he chanted
  The hymns that made the brain and spirit thrill;
I found the prize for which my soul had panted,
  The friend and guide of thought, and heart, and will.
 
I track that love throughout life’s varied chances;        85
  And still my heart is with him to the last,
Though all our glory wane as his advances,
  His the bright future, ours the failing past.
 
III.
’TIS well, ’tis well, I grudge him not the glory,
        His people’s love unpriced;        90
Long line of kings, great names renowned in story,
        The far-off, coming Christ.
 
I gave him, in that first bright hour of meeting,
        My robe, and sword, and shield;
And ofttimes since in every secret greeting,        95
        In forest or in field,
 
That sacrifice of self on true love’s altar,
        I, of free choice, renewed;
Nor shall my spirit fail or purpose falter,
        With woman’s varying mood.        100
 
I trust he loves me still, but love’s requiting,…
        What need for that to bless?
Though he should stand a foe against me fighting,
        I should not love him less;
 
Though from his hand should dart the spear to slay me,        105
        I could not him deny;
No other love have I whereon to stay me,
        And when that fails I die:
 
I dream that he will give a little weeping
        Above my fameless grave;        110
I trust my orphaned child to his true keeping
        From shame and death to save:
 
So, though my lineage from the earth shall perish,
        Yet faithful to the end,
He still, through kingly state and strife, may cherish        115
        The memory of his friend.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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