Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Religious Poems
Ezekiel
 
          Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.—EZEKIEL, xxxiii. 30–33.

THEY hear Thee not, O God! nor see;
Beneath Thy rod they mock at Thee;
The princes of our ancient line
Lie drunken with Assyrian wine;
The priests around Thy altar speak        5
The false words which their hearers seek;
And hymns which Chaldea’s wanton maids
Have sung in Dura’s idol-shades
Are with the Levites’ chant ascending,
With Zion’s holiest anthems blending!        10
 
On Israel’s bleeding bosom set,
The heathen heel is crushing yet;
The towers upon our holy hill
Echo Chaldean footsteps still.
Our wasted shrines,—who weeps for them?        15
Who mourneth for Jerusalem?
Who turneth from his gains away?
Whose knee with mine is bowed to pray?
Who, leaving feast and purpling cup,
Takes Zion’s lamentation up?        20
 
A sad and thoughtful youth, I went
With Israel’s early banishment;
And where the sullen Chebar crept,
The ritual of my fathers kept.
The water for the trench I drew,        25
The firstling of the flock I slew,
And, standing at the altar’s side,
I shared the Levites’ lingering pride,
That still, amidst her mocking foes,
The smoke of Zion’s offering rose.        30
 
In sudden whirlwind, cloud and flame,
The Spirit of the Highest came!
Before mine eyes a vision passed,
A glory terrible and vast;
With dreadful eyes of living things,        35
And sounding sweep of angel wings,
With circling light and sapphire throne,
And flame-like form of One thereon,
And voice of that dread Likeness sent
Down from the crystal firmament!        40
 
The burden of a prophet’s power
Fell on me in that fearful hour;
From off unutterable woes
The curtain of the future rose;
I saw far down the coming time        45
The fiery chastisement of crime;
With noise of mingling hosts, and jar
Of falling towers and shouts of war,
I saw the nations rise and fall,
Like fire-gleams on my tent’s white wall.        50
 
In dream and trance, I saw the slain
Of Egypt heaped like harvest grain.
I saw the walls of sea-born Tyre
Swept over by the spoiler’s fire;
And heard the low, expiring moan        55
Of Edom on his rocky throne;
And, woe is me! the wild lament
From Zion’s desolation sent;
And felt within my heart each blow
Which laid her holy places low.        60
 
In bonds and sorrow, day by day,
Before the pictured tile I lay;
And there, as in a mirror, saw
The coming of Assyria’s war;
Her swarthy lines of spearmen pass        65
Like locusts through Bethhoron’s grass;
I saw them draw their stormy hem
Of battle round Jerusalem;
And, listening, heard the Hebrew wail
Blend with the victor-trump of Baal!        70
 
Who trembled at my warning word?
Who owned the prophet of the Lord?
How mocked the rude, how scoffed the vile,
How stung the Levites’ scornful smile,
As o’er my spirit, dark and slow,        75
The shadow crept of Israel’s woe
As if the angel’s mournful roll
Had left its record on my soul,
And traced in lines of darkness there
The picture of its great despair!        80
 
Yet ever at the hour I feel
My lips in prophecy unseal.
Prince, priest, and Levite gather near,
And Salem’s daughters haste to hear,
On Chebar’s waste and alien shore,        85
The harp of Judah swept once more.
They listen, as in Babel’s throng
The Chaldeans to the dancer’s song,
Or wild sabbeka’s nightly play,
As careless and as vain as they.
*        *        *        *        *
        90
And thus, O Prophet-bard of old,
Hast thou thy tale of sorrow told!
The same which earth’s unwelcome seers
Have felt in all succeeding years.
Sport of the changeful multitude,        95
Nor calmly heard nor understood,
Their song has seemed a trick of art,
Their warnings but the actor’s part.
With bonds, and scorn, and evil will,
The world requites its prophets still.        100
 
So was it when the Holy One
The garments of the flesh put on!
Men followed where the Highest led
For common gifts of daily bread,
And gross of ear, of vision dim,        105
Owned not the Godlike power of Him.
Vain as a dreamer’s words of them
His wail above Jerusalem,
And meaningless the watch He kept
Through which His weak disciples slept.        110
 
Yet shrink not thou, whoe’er thou art,
For God’s great purpose set apart,
Before whose far-discerning eyes,
The Future as the Present lies!
Beyond a narrow-bounded age        115
Stretches thy prophet-heritage,
Through Heaven’s vast spaces angel-trod,
And through the eternal years of God!
Thy audience, worlds!—all things to be
The witness of the Truth in thee!

  1844.
        120
 
 
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