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.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
Judith at the Tent of Holofernes
 
NIGHT was down among the mountains,
  In her dim and quiet manner,
Where Bethulia’s silver fountains
  Gushed beneath the Assyrian banner.
Moonlight, o’er her meek dominion,        5
  As a mighty flag unfurled,
Like an angel’s snowy pinion
  Resting on a darkened world!
 
Faintly rose the city’s murmur,
  But the crowded camp was calm;        10
Girded in their battle armor,
  Each a falchion at his arm,
Lordly chief and weary vassal
  In the arms of slumber fell;
It had been a day of wassail,        15
  And the wine had circled well.
 
Underneath his proud pavilion
  Lay Assyria’s champion,
Where the ruby’s rich vermilion
  Shone beside the beryl-stone.        20
With imperial purple laden,
  Breathing in the perfumed air,
Dreams he of the Jewish maiden,
  With her dark and jewelled hair.
 
Who is she, the pale-browed stranger,        25
  Bending o’er that son of slaughter?
God be with thee in thy danger,
  Israel’s lone and peerless daughter!
She hath bared her queenly beauty
  To the dark Assyrian’s glance;        30
Now, a high and sterner duty
  Bids her to his couch advance.
 
Beautiful and pale she bendeth
  In her earnest prayer to Heaven;
Look again, that maiden standeth        35
  In the strength her God has given!
Strangely is her dark eye kindled,
  Hot blood through her cheek is poured;
Lo, her every fear hath dwindled,
  And her hand is on the sword!        40
 
Upward to the flashing curtain,
  See, that mighty blade is driven,
And its fall!—’t is swift and certain
  As the cloud-fire’s track in heaven!
Down, as with a power supernal,        45
  Twice the lifted weapon fell;
Twice, his slumber is eternal—
  Who shall wake the infidel?
 
Sunlight on the mountains streameth
  Like an air-borne wave of gold;        50
And Bethulia’s armor gleameth
  Round Judea’s banner-fold.
Down they go, the mailëd warriors,
  As the upper torrents sally
Headlong from their mountain-barriers        55
  Down upon the sleeping valley.
 
Rouse thee from thy couch, Assyrian!
  Dream no more of woman’s smile;
Fiercer than the leaguered Tyrian,
  Or the dark-browed sons of Nile,        60
Foes are on thy slumber breaking,
  Chieftain to thy battle rise!
Vain the call—he will not waken—
  Headless on his couch he lies.
 
Who hath dimmed your boasted glory?        65
  What hath woman’s weakness done?
Whose dark brow is up before ye,
  Blackening in the fierce-haired sun?
Lo! an eye that never slumbers
  Looketh in its vengeance down;        70
And the thronged and mailëd numbers
  Wither at Jehovah’s frown!

  1829.
 
 
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