THE DEATH OF AMNON. A POEM.[Page][Page]
THE DEATH OF AMNON.
CANTO THE FIRST.
1 The Royal youth I sing, whose sister's charms
2 Inspir'd his heart with love; a latent love
3 That prey'd upon his health; he droop'd; so droops
4 A beauteous flow'r, when in the stalk some vile
5 Opprobrious insect 'bides. In conscious pain
6 He pass'd the hapless hours, while in his breast
7 Th' aspiring passion, yet by virtue sway'd,
8 It's proper limits knew. I love, said he,
9 Whom do I love? my sister — ah; my sister;
10 Can I my misplac'd passion gratify,
11 And bring disgrace on her? No, sweetest maid,
12 I am thy brother; 'tis a brother's part
13 Thy honour to protect and not destroy.
14 When Shechem burning with untam'd desire[Page 2]
15 Dishonour'd Dinah, how her brethren rag'd!
16 Each took his sword, the princely ravisher,
17 And every citizen a victim fell
18 To their just fury. I'm an Isra'lite;
19 Shall I forego this high prerogative,
20 And plunge myself and sister into ruin?
21 An act that ev'n an heathen would degrade.
22 No; sooner shall my passion unreveal'd
23 Lie cank'ring in my bosom, till it taints
24 My very blood, and stops my panting breath.
25 Better my lov'd companions pass my grave,
26 And shed a tear to think I died so young,
27 Than shun me living as a vile reproach
28 To nature, royalty, and Israel.
29 Already I perceive my strength to fail,
30 The ruddy bloom of health forsakes my cheeks;
31 Perhaps death's not far off. — O welcome guest,
32 Hasten thy tardy steps, why linger'st thou,
33 Or wait'st on those, who wish thee far away?
34 O thou, that hast the pow'rs of life and death,
35 Take hence my life, and end my wretchedness.
36 A spacious land I see on ev'ry side
37 Bless'd with fertility; the cultur'd vales
38 Yield plenteous crops; the rising hills are rich,
39 With verdant pasture mantled, crown'd with trees;[Page 3]
40 My father's kingdom this. — What is't to me?
41 It fires not my ambition, all I ask
42 Is one small spot of earth to lay me down
43 Beneath the turf, forgetting and forgot,
44 A small request, and yet though small, denied.
45 Methinks I feel my strength renew'd; 'tis so;
46 Struggling with life I sigh for death in vain.
47 Again my passions rise, again rebel;
48 I still must live and live in misery.
49 But I've a thought, that stings me yet more deep;
50 Doubtless some happy rival will be crown'd
51 With Tamar's love; O tort'ring thought, must I
52 Behold her deck'd in bridal robes to bless
53 A rival; 'tis too much; — I cannot bear
54 E'en to suppose it, I'll from court retire;
55 My gay companions now are irksome grown,
56 And all my pleasures are transform'd to pains.
57 My sister's cheering smiles, that once convey'd
58 Soft raptures to my heart, awake such pangs,
59 As I can scarce endure. Again I feel
60 My spirits sink; Oh! welcome fading sickness!
61 I'll cherish thee and aid thee with my sighs,
62 To still this heart, that now rebellious beats
63 Against my reason's strongest argument.
64 Though Tamar's beauty prompts my warmest wish,[Page 4]
65 Her fairer virtues keep me still in awe,
66 Forbidding my aspir'ing love to soar.
67 With sweet simplicity she smiles, secure
68 In innocence, commanding my respect,
69 And this command I must — I will obey;
70 But fly her presence, lest some hapless smile
71 Inflame my soul, and I in passions phrensy
72 Should act against my final resolution
73 To bear my griefs untold, and secret pine
74 Till sadd'ning sorrow sinks me to the grave.
75 Thus, to himself complaining, he resolv'd,
76 Nor sought a confidant to share his grief.
77 A friend he had, the son of Shimeah,
78 Nam'd Jonadab; a man by nature subtle,
79 Proud and ambitious; yet would meanly stoop
80 To the most base and most ignoble acts,
81 To serve his private ends. The artless youth
82 Oft to his plausibilities gave ear,
83 Not e'en suspecting, that beneath the cloak
84 Of formal flatt'ries self-int'rest hides
85 It's serpent head. Yet still the youth from him
86 His wayward passion labour'd to conceal,
87 By forcing smiles to veil his grief; nor knew,
88 How little they resemble those, that spring
89 From gentle impulses of hearts at ease. [Page 5]
90 For Jonadab, with penetrating eye,
91 Quickly discern'd the grief, he strove to hide.
92 What cause, said he, can Amnon have to mourn?
93 A King's son now, — a King in time may be.
94 Was it in probability, that I
95 Should be a King, the very contemplation
96 Would shut my soul to sorrow. Oh! the thought
97 Swells my imagination. Did but Amnon
98 Aspire as much to greatness, I could plot
99 Surprizing stratagems. But he poor Prince
100 Has long imbib'd such close contracted notions,
101 As bar his path to honour. Like a maid.
102 He talks of virtue, weeps at others woes,
103 Yet talks of greatness too; 'tis in the soul,
104 He says, all greatness dwells; 'tis not the crown,
105 That makes his father great, but 'tis his virtues;
106 And those alone he wishes to inherit,
107 Thereby to gain dominion o'er himself,
108 And reign unenvi'd; but perchance there now
109 Springs in his soul some change of sentiment;
110 And he his principles, so long retain'd,
111 Loth to renounce, may want a friend to prompt,
112 And urge him to the attainment of his will.
113 Then who so fit for such a talk as I?
114 I'm great in his esteem, have free access[Page 6]
115 To him at all times; but, if now I'm slack,
116 Perhaps I may be rivall'd in his favour
117 By some more forward to promote his wish.
118 I'll to him straight, in these cool ev'ning hours
119 Into his private garden he retires,
120 Sighs to the winds, and to the moon complains.
121 But I must him approach with seeming awe,
122 As fearful to disturb his solitude,
123 And with a gentle flow of soothing words
124 Insinuate myself into his soul,
125 Then guide him as I please. The love-sick youth
126 Beneath the thickest solitary shade
127 Was wand'ring, lost in melancholy mood,
128 So deep in thought, he ne'er perceiv'd th' approach
129 Of Jonadab, till startled by his voice;
130 Then smil'd, as usual, as his friend drew near,
131 Who thus the Royal youth address'd — Oh! why
132 Dost thou, a King's son, pine in discontent?
133 Can there be ought, that's unattainable
134 To crown thy soul with peace? Thy father's kind,
135 Too fond and too indulgent to refuse
136 A son's request, be what it will methinks.
137 But why from me conceal thy griefs? am I
138 A friend, unworthy of thy confidence?
139 Have I e'er been unfaithful to my trust? [Page 7]
140 Or has some jealous whisperer impos'd
141 Upon my Royal friend's credulity,
142 To vilify his faithful Jonadab?
143 Half lost in thought, the Prince made no reply.
144 And Jonadab a while suspended stood;
145 But, recollecting, took his hand and said;
146 Why weeps my Prince? what sorrow wounds thy heart?
147 I love, says Amnon; and his hand withdrew
148 To wipe his tears, and turn'd from Jonadab:
149 Then seems returning, then he onward goes
150 In pensive sadness. Jonadab pursues,
151 Resolv'd to urge his full confession, lest
152 Some other should be made his confidant,
153 And he discarded, lose the Prince's favour.
154 Amnon return'd, as ready to confess
155 As he to hear, and thus his speech began.
156 O friend, I love — I love thee as my friend,
157 And such thou art, the sharer of my joys;
158 All my delights were doubled, shar'd with thee.
159 But now a strange dilemma has befall'n me;
160 I would not speak it to an ear but thine;
161 I love my sister Tamar; tell it not,
162 My reason almost fails to be my guide.
163 This passion, Oh! this wild rebellious passion,
164 If cherish'd, fast it grows as noisome weeds,[Page 8]
165 And, if suppress'd, still strengthens in the stalk.
166 So let it strengthen, till, too strong for me,
167 I sink beneath its weight. But Jonadab,
168 Ne'er let the secret pass thy lips, for I
169 So much respect and honour her I love,
170 That for the richest diadem on earth
171 I would not give her pain; her heart's so prone
172 To pity, it would burst in grief for me,
173 Did she but know the half I feel for her.
174 Then Jonadab, with seeming kind affection,
175 And tears of sympathy reply'd; kind Prince,
176 Distrust me not, thy confidence I claim;
177 Thou know'st the feelings of my friendly heart
178 Admit no rest, if Amnon is unhappy;
179 Shall David's meanest subjects smile secure
180 Beneath his prudent equitable sway,
181 Their least complaints regarded? and his son
182 Repine without redress? It must not be.
183 Amnon reply'd, I cannot thee distrust,
184 And if thou know'st a way to ease my heart,
185 Discover it my friend, for I despair.
186 Dispel those useless tears, says Jonadab:
187 Think not to drown it in those briny floods;
188 Love is a flame those waters cannot quench;
189 Nor is there any cure short of enjoyment. [Page 9]
190 Then there's no hope for me, the Prince reply'd,
191 Till the kind earth receive me; for can I?
192 I cannot — Oh! I cannot injure her.
193 Droop not, my gentle friend, says Jonadab;
194 This tim'rous tenderness but ill becomes
195 A Royal Prince, the hope of Israel,
196 The son of David; think but who thou art,
197 The eldest son of Israel's mighty King;
198 Whose dreaded name thro' all the nations round
199 Strikes terror to his enemies, and fills
200 The grateful hearts of all his friends with joy;
201 Whose tongues with pleasure tell his mighty deeds,
202 And virgins celebrate his fame in songs;
203 While Amnon thus effeminately weeps,
204 Like some fair captive maid, snatch'd from the arms
205 Of her fond lover. O my Royal friend,
206 Better ten thousand injur'd virgins mourn,
207 Than David's son thus live inglorious.
208 There is a sort of viand she prepares,
209 Unparallel'd, of which none other knows
210 The just proportion of ingredients us'd.
211 A sickness feign'd might veil the deep design,
212 And put her in thy power; by this excuse
213 That thou canst take nought else; nor fear but she
214 Will keep the secret, to preserve her fame. [Page 10]
215 After a little pause the youth reply'd,
216 It shall be so; — but yet I doubt — I fear —
217 If I — I'll think no more of consequences,
218 I am determin'd — yes, it shall be so.
219 To-morrow be it done, said Jonadab.
220 Amnon reply'd — to-morrow is the day.
221 So parted they that night; and Jonadab,
222 In conscious pride of self-sufficiency,
223 Thus to himself his Royal friend derides.
224 Poor thing, how easily he's wrought upon?
225 In time the kingdom will be his, and I,
226 In fact, shall reign, though he the title bears.
227 That time might be anticipated, but
228 Amnon wants courage for so bold a stroke.
229 He's unambitious, nor has resolution
230 To seize a tempting crown within his reach;
231 But should it gently fall upon his head,
232 Perhaps he'll wear it, if some bolder hand
233 Don't snatch it off. But this Amour may prove
234 A clew to guide to greater enterprizes.
235 When these precise ones once extend beyond
236 The bounds their narrow minds have circumscrib'd,
237 From step to step insensibly they go,
238 Till so familiariz'd by custom, they
239 With calmness will transact the very things,[Page 11]
240 Which but to mention, ere they launch'd so far,
241 They'd shudder at. But I must wait th' event.
242 So saying, he retir'd to take repose,
243 The common blessing graciously diffus'd
244 Through Nature, to refresh her wearied sons;
245 That with new strength and vigour they may hail
246 The rising day, rejoicing in the light.
1 From Ammon's wasted cities, with the crown
2 Of Hanun, their proud contumacious King,
3 Whose insolence had caus'd his overthrow,
4 The conquering King of Israel return'd
5 In glorious triumph to Jerusalem;
6 There from exhausting toils of bloody war
7 In safety to repose his wearied soul,
8 And taste the sweets of calm domestic bliss.
9 But ere the tumults of triumphal joy
10 Subsided, and the sacred rites perform'd
11 Of general praises with the harp and song,
12 The King's long-wish'd tranquility's disturb'd
13 By the sad news, that Amnon, his dear son,
14 A captive now to dang'rous sickness lies,
15 While life and death dispute their doubtful right.
16 The pious King laid down his harp, the song
17 Unfinish'd, and with anxious haste repair'd
18 To Amnon, whose dissimulation pass'd
19 Quite unsuspected. How could he suspect
20 A fraud of such sort in a virtuous son?
21 Full oft a partial parent overlooks
22 An obvious fault, or by affection blind[Page 13]
23 Discerns it not; but here no cause appear'd
24 T' awake suspicion, for his languid eyes
25 And palid cheeks gave signals of disease.
26 While thus the son in feeble tone complain'd,
27 The tender father stooping low to hear, —
28 I'm very sick, and whatsoever food
29 My servants here prepare, gives me disgust.
30 My sister Tamar, with superior skill,
31 Prepares a cake delicious to my taste;
32 This I could eat methinks from her kind hand,
33 Was she permitted to attend me here.
34 The King with fond solicitude retir'd,
35 And speedily dispatch'd a messenger
36 To Tamar, saying, 'twas his royal will,
37 That she should go direct to Amnon's house,
38 And there administer, with friendly aid,
39 Whate'er his sickly appetite demands.
40 The hour had pass'd, at which the royal maid
41 Came from her closet, splendidly attir'd;
42 Her hair with precious sparkling gems beset,
43 Faint mimicks of her more illustrious eyes.
44 About her neck a shining golden chain,
45 And o'er her loosely thrown, in careless folds,
46 A various colour'd robe, which, as she mov'd,
47 Trail'd on the ground, or flutter'd in the wind. [Page 14]
48 Thus all the virgin daughters of the King
49 In splendid raiment shone; but none so bright
50 In beauty, as the daughter of Maacah.
51 Soon as the sun had drank the morning dew,
52 Into her garden walk'd the lovely fair;
53 Not like a proud imperious haughty Queen,
54 With tossing head and scornful eyes, that glar'd
55 Malignant, scattering discontent around,
56 And vain in fancied greatness. Greater she
57 In inoffensive modesty, and bright
58 In virtue, as the rays that gild the morn,
59 Warming the flow'rs to ripeness, and exhaling
60 Their various sweets to fill the garden air.
61 Pleas'd with the grateful smell, she skips about
62 From flow'r to flow'r, and cautiously selects
63 The sweetest in a wreath, to deck that breast,
64 Which never yet inflam'd by vicious thought,
65 Or by unreasonable rebukes depress'd,
66 Had felt a secret pang, or learn'd to sigh.
67 But oh! how happy for the mortal race,
68 That from their eyes the future is obscur'd;
69 Did we but know the secret ills that wait
70 In darkness to surprize us, what would be
71 Our life, but one sad scene of misery?
72 All present pleasures would be bitter made[Page 15]
73 By aggravating thoughts of ills to come.
74 But blind to future things the present bless.
75 When peace and plenty smile auspiciously,
76 The heart with sense of Providence impress'd
77 O'erflows with gratitude, and conscious joy.
78 Such joy now fill'd the royal fair one's breast,
79 Intent on the formation of her wreath;
80 When lo! her handmaid came to her in haste,
81 With tidings, that a message had arriv'd
82 Straight from the King, declaring his desire,
83 That she to Amnon's house immediately
84 Would go, and dress him cakes, for he is sick.
85 The King's command she instantly obey'd;
86 Down dropt the unfinish'd wreath; she skimm'dalong
87 O'er the parterres, nor stay'd to find the path.
88 Her sweeping garments gently brush'd the flow'rs;
89 The ripest shedding, strew'd the way she went
90 With variegated fragments. So the breeze
91 Whisks o'er the forest, and some shatt'ring leaves
92 Fall gently rustling thro' the shrubs beneath.
93 Then, gath'ring up her robe, she onward sprang,
94 And sisterly affection urg'd her haste.
95 Amnon in highest expectation lyes
96 Counting the-slow-pac'd moments as they pass'd;
97 Now thinks his scheme's discover'd — he's betray'd —[Page 16]
98 Or some curs'd intervening accident
99 Delays, perhaps prevents her coming. Thus
100 Doubts, fears, and wild impatience in his breast
101 Tumultuously contended, till she came,
102 With all the feelings of a tender sister;
103 But not a thought of vile licentious love
104 Profan'd her breast; to see him thus she wept,
105 But turning, wip'd her tears, suppress'd her grief,
106 And with officious haste the cakes prepar'd.
107 Wisdom has pow'r, like the meridian fun,
108 To hide all other brightness in its glare;
109 But virgin modesty, with winning smiles,
110 Shines a perpetual morning. So she shone
111 Serenely mild, nor knew her pow'r to please.
112 But oh! the graceful dignity of virtue
113 Unthinking captivates the worthy soul,
114 The feebly good with emulation fires,
115 And strikes the very libertines with awe.
116 So Amnon, aw'd to see her lovely form,
117 Became irresolute; and recantation
118 Stagger'd his purpose. — First he paus'd; then thus
119 Expostulating with himself he lay;
120 Oh! how can I despoil this lovely maid,
121 This fairest of the fair? I cannot — no —
122 I'll let her go untouch'd. But then must I[Page 17]
123 Still pine in languishment, as heretofore;
124 And Jonadab will at my weakness laugh.
125 At last some wine he snatch'd, and eager drank
126 To drown his scruples, and to fire his soul.
127 Such aid the most abandoned oft require,
128 When unsuspecting innocence at once
129 Tempts and forbids, more pow'rfully forbids,
130 Than the persuasive eloquence of speech.
131 But the defence, which innocence can boast
132 With tears and mild intreaties, is but weak,
133 When love and wine unite their frantick pow'rs,
134 And leaving virtue fainting in the rear,
135 Rush on impetuous. — Hapless Tamar thus
136 To lawless outrage falls th' unwilling prey.
1 Heav'n gave to man superior strength, that he
2 The weaker sex might succour and defend;
3 But he that dares pervert this giv'n blessing,
4 To ruin and destroy their innocence,
5 Shall feel pursuing vengeance, nor escape
6 Her rod uplifted, nor avert the stroke.
7 Conviction's sword shall pierce him, and remorse
8 With all the tortures of the mind assail,
9 Till he a victim falls to grim despair;
10 Except repentance timely to his aid
11 Come with her tears, to sooth, to mitigate;
12 While her attendant hope extends a ray,
13 To point where mercy spreads her healing wings,
14 Nor e'en with this is vengeance satisfied,
15 She'll still pursue with some external ills,
16 Exhausted health and spirits; — drooping — drear,
17 An outcast of society he roams,
18 Alike discarded by his friends and foes;
19 Perhaps assassination proves his end.
20 The hapless Amnon from his couch arose,
21 Inflam'd with hatred more than once with love.
22 Frantick with keen remorse and conscious guilt,[Page 19]
23 He rav'd — he stamp'd — when to him Jonadab
24 Came to congratulate him; but the Prince
25 Shot from his eyes a keen malignant glance,
26 That spoke displeasure, and with threat'ning hand
27 Upheld, thus in an angry tone began:
28 Hence from my sight, thou basest, worst of fiends,
29 Nor ever dare approach my presence more.
30 Struck with this strange reception, Jonadab
31 Step'd back, and bowing with respectful awe,
32 Said, — O my Prince, why am I thus discarded?
33 I still remain thy well affected friend,
34 Ready to — prompt me, (interrupts the Prince)
35 To do some greater crime than I have done.
36 Curse on thy instigations; to my heart,
37 My inexperienc'd heart thou drilld'st a way
38 T' infuse licentiousness; and thou a friend?
39 Ere thou presum'st to take that sacred name,
40 Abandon thy base principles, and learn
41 'Tis virtue only constitutes a friend.
42 He paus'd — th' astonish'd Jonadab approach'd
43 Nearer to Amnon; beg'd him to resume
44 His wonted calmness, but to hear him speak.
45 I'll hear no more of thee, reply'd the Prince;
46 I'm lost, I'm irrecoverably lost:
47 What were the pains I felt to those I feel? [Page 20]
48 An hell within me burns, and deep remorse,
49 That never dying worm, now gnaws my soul;
50 And thou, my instigator. Villain, flee,
51 Lest this my crime I complicate with murder.
52 Then Jonadab withdrew chagrin'd, and full
53 Of ran'crous malice; mutt'ring as he went,
54 Shall murder crown thy crime young man? — it shall;
55 But thou the murder'd, — not the murderer.
56 I'll hence to Absalom, the brother kind
57 Of this fair injur'd maid; he doubtless will
58 Avenge her wrongs, and shew himself a brother.
59 He has a noble, calm, undaunted spirit;
60 Deliberately resolute, and fit
61 For such an enterprize; and Jonadab
62 Shall not be slack to aggravate the crime,
63 And urge him on, or aid him, if requir'd.
64 But I must veil my real sentiments
65 With counterfeited sorrow, and observe
66 Each secret movement of his varying soul,
67 And sympathise with him. Young Absalom
68 Returning from the fields, where he had been
69 To view his teeming flocks, jocund and gay,
70 In all the sprightliness of youth and beauty,
71 Upon his slow-pac'd mule rode gently on
72 In careless attitude, and smil'd to see[Page 21]
73 All nature smile around; when Jonadab,
74 With solitary gait, approach'd, then turn'd
75 Aside, as if to shun the Royal youth;
76 Which Absalom perceiving, stopp'd his mule,
77 And leaning on his neck, with courteous air
78 Thus Jonadab in gentlest tone address'd:
79 What mean those solemn looks, that down-cast eye?
80 Now peace and plenty bless our happy land:
81 Joy should methinks extend its cheering ray
82 To ev'ry individual; but thou
83 Look'st half dejected, wand'ring in the fields
84 At this late hour; the day is in decline;
85 The shepherds to their folds have led their flocks,
86 And to their peaceful homes are hast'ning. Come,
87 Return with me, my friend, nor farther go;
88 If ought distress thee, hide it not from me,
89 I have an heart to feel for the distress'd;
90 An hand too ever ready to revenge
91 The wrongs impos'd by violence and injustice
92 Smile and be happy, said the Royal youth;
93 And rising from his leaning posture, look'd
94 So gracefully endearing and so kind,
95 That Jonadab thus ventur'd to begin: —
96 'Tis not for me to smile, most noble Prince,
97 While inconsolable and unredress'd,[Page 22]
98 Dishonour'd Tamar weeps in bitter woe,
99 Dishonour'd, and by whom? says Absalom,
100 Name but the villain, vengeance on his head
101 Shall instant fall; this hand shall strike the blow.
102 Earth, canst thou bear the wretch's feet to touch
103 Thy surface, and not groan? Whoe'er he be,
104 The miscreant shall not see to-morrow' sun.
105 Too hasty, Prince, says Jonadab; be calm;
106 Recall the fatal sentence; tis too much
107 To raise thine hand against a brother's life,
108 Thine elder brother — Brother, said the Prince,
109 And is it possible my brother thus
110 Sould be deprav'd? my brother Amnon too?
111 O virtue, where dost thou reside, if not
112 In Amnon? but if he's thus lost to shame,
113 It cancels all the duty that I owe him;
114 Henceforth shall intercourse between us cease,
115 Till I have form'd a scheme to be reveng'd;
116 Amnon shall die, and die by Absalom.
117 Go Jonadab, go home, and secret keep
118 This purpose of my soul; — I'll be thy friend,
119 Said Absalom. — Then, onward as he pass'd,
120 Thus Jonadab congratulates himself:
121 Oh! happy I, no sooner have I lost
122 The favour of one Prince, but I have gain'd[Page 23]
123 Another; Absalom is more aspiring;
124 Not cool and passive, like the silly Amnon,
125 But pants to rule; he has a kingly spirit.
126 Once in his garden, as I lay conceal'd,
127 I heard him in soliloquy, "Oh! to reign —
128 To wield a sceptre and establish laws;
129 Oh! did the people seek to me for judgment,
130 And Princes wait for my decisive voice,
131 Ere they the cause determin'd; could I hear
132 The loud applauding multitude exclaim,
133 Long live King Absalom. " — He's fit to rule.
134 When Amnon is dispatch'd, perhaps he may
135 Assume the kingdom — Be it so, and I
136 Will be his ready agent, if he please,
137 To aid his plots, or form them. Oh! how sweet
138 The counsel that is fram'd to please our wills,
139 How readily adopted; how despis'd
140 That which is adverse, be it e'er so good.
141 But dear, dear self stands first in the account
142 Of friends, and that's the friend I'll ever serve:
143 Whether to Amnon or to Absalom
144 I pay external homage. If to me
145 This Absalom proves too imperious,
146 I'll aid the King, and keep myself secure.
147 Ay — that's the centre to which I must point[Page 24]
148 All schemes and plots; then smiling as he went,
149 With eager pace he hasten'd to his home.
150 Grief and revenge now labour'd in the breast
151 Of Absalom; but artfully he hides
152 The struggling passions; a composure feign'd,
153 Sits on his countenance with placid ease;
154 And he in seeming gaiety rode home.
155 His servants there in readiness attend,
156 Each anxious to receive the first command;
157 Nor fear unjust reproofs, nor angry frowns,
158 Th' unwelcome greetings of imperious Lords.
159 Too oft do masters, void of judgment, check,
160 By froward peevishness and discontent,
161 The many little assiduities,
162 Which otherwise a servant's zeal would mark,
163 Nor make distinction between good and bad;
164 But Absalom, with nicest judgment, scans
165 Their merits and defects; he in reproof
166 Is slowly cautious, and exactly just;
167 No clam'rous oaths re-eccho thro' his hall,
168 Nor mutt'ring servants whisper imprecations;
169 Tho' affable and courteous, yet he ne'er
170 To low familiarity descends;
171 But with great dignity is nobly kind,
172 Reigns in their hearts, and by enliv'ning smiles[Page 25]
173 Encourag'd, they spontaneously attend,
174 And love completes their servitude with joy,
175 So now, as always at their lord's approach,
176 A secret transport thrill'd thro' ev'ry heart.
177 The gate one open'd, one receiv'd the mule,
178 Whilst he dismounting with a sprightly bound,
179 Tripp'd lightly o'er the pavement; and those eyes
180 Which ever spread serenity around,
181 Sparkled with seeming pleasure till he came,
182 Ent'ring his mansion, to where Tamar sat
183 In the most striking attitude of woe;
184 Her head, bestrew'd with ashes and reclin'd,
185 One trembling hand supported; th' other hid
186 Among the fragments of her robe, which she
187 In the first agonies of her grief had torn.
188 He stopp'd, turn'd pale; then in his changing face
189 Resentment flush'd, and sorrow swell'd his heart,
190 Which lab'ring to suppress he trembling stood;
191 But like a torrent, which breaks down a bank
192 New rais'd to stop its course, so burst his grief
193 Thro' all his feign'd composure. In his arms
194 He clasp'd the grieving fair, and mutual tears
195 Proclaim'd the anguish of their burden'd hearts,
196 But tho' his sorrow thus had burst its bounds,
197 Revenge in ambush lurk'd, while thus the Prince[Page 26]
198 With soothing words his sister thus address'd, —
199 I know the sad occasion of thy woe;
200 But he's thy brother; silent bear thy wrongs,
201 Nor by immod'rate grief enhance the ill
202 Which cannot be redress'd. No blame is thine;
203 My sister still in heart is undesil'd.
204 Tamar attempts reply; but from their springs
205 In swifter currents flow'd the briny pearls;
206 At length the pow'r of speech return'd, the fair
207 Heav'd a deep sigh, and thus her moan began, —
208 O injury unparallel'd! O deed
209 More cruel than the murd'rers deadly blow!
210 He takes our life, 'twas lent but for a time;
211 Perhaps some years — perhaps a day — an hour:
212 But he that robs a woman of her honour,
213 Robs her of more than life; — a brother too
214 Still aggravates the guilt. — O purity,
215 Thou first of female charms, to thee we owe
216 Our dignity; which, if in meekness clad,
217 Gives us insuperable pow'r; but, if
218 Of this depriv'd, our most presumpt'ous claim
219 Is cool compassion. O dejected state!
220 That humble homage we receive from men,
221 In such proportion as our virtue fails,
222 Diminishes. Th' inestimable gem,[Page 27]
223 More precious than fine gold or rubies, — far
224 Outvies the dazzling rays of beaut'ous forms,
225 Which like gay meteors but excite our gaze,
226 Then fade away. But this pre-eminence
227 No more I boast; now stamp'd with infamy,
228 That due respect, that def'rence ever paid
229 To my exalted state shall hence be chang'd
230 To scorn: tho' by the dignity of birth
231 Protected from low insult, can I 'scape
232 The meaning leer, the vain contemptuous smile,
233 Or, the more humbling pity of the proud?
234 Such moving strains in Absalom call'd forth
235 All the fond raptures of fraternal love;
236 Who thus consol'd her grief, — thou ne'er shalt be
237 Abandon'd to the scorn of taunting dames,
238 Who triumph in the downfal of the fair.
239 My home be ever thine; in me behold
240 Thy guardian, brother, friend, companion kind.
241 'T shall be my earliest and my latest care,
242 With chearful converse to enliv'n thy hours;
243 All thou canst with, which I have pow'r to grant,
244 Expect from me. His sister gave her hand,
245 An earnest of conformity — he press'd
246 The giv'n pledge; her grateful heart reply'd, —
247 O brother, always kind, now doubly so,[Page 28]
248 To ope thy friendly arms in this distress,
249 And take me to protection: I accept
250 Thy offer'd boon. Farewell, ye courtly scenes;
251 No more shall Tamar shine in your resorts;
252 But here recluse and tranquil ever 'bide;
253 Regaling in that never-cloying feast,
254 Th' internal calm of an untainted mind.
255 This none can ravish from me; this is life.
256 That God which rais'd my father to the throne,
257 And still protects him with his pow'rful arm,
258 Shall be my all in all. To him I'll pray
259 Incessant, and the great Jehovah's name
260 Shall fire my theme, and fill my heav'nly song.
1 Now solemn evening drew her silent veil
2 O'er smiling nature, and the pious King
3 In supplication spent the sacred hour
4 With special fervour, making intercession
5 To the great sole dispenser of all good
6 To bless his son, and soon restore his health.
7 He scarce had ended prayer, when tidings came
8 That Jonadab beg'd audience. — The King
9 Eager to learn, thus instantly reply'd,
10 Go send him hither; welcome to my soul
11 Is Jonadab, my Amnon's social friend;
12 He doubtless comes to bring me news of him.
13 He enters. — Thus the King, — O Jonadab,
14 How does thy friend, my son, my Amnon now?
15 Amnon is well, O King, says Jonadab.
16 Is well! return'd the astonish'd King, is well!
17 'Tis but few hours since I myself him saw,
18 And saw him sick, — and say'st thou now he's well;
19 Thou know'st it not, which much I wonder at,
20 Because I know he loves thee; go now to him,
21 Go act a friendly part, go comfort him,
22 I tell thee he is sick. — Says Jonadab,[Page 30]
23 I can inform thee of the whole device
24 Of his pretended sickness. Then the King, —
25 Say'st thou pretended sickness? If there is
26 Dissimulation in my son, declare it;
27 I'll hear thee; — but take heed thou slander not,
28 Nor censure him unjustly, on thy life.
29 Amnon has not been sick, says Jonadab;
30 'Twas but a feint to lure his sister there
31 To his embraces, and he has succeeded.
32 What do I hear? reply'd the King; my son
33 Defil'd my daughter! Rising as he spoke,
34 With indignation flashing from his eyes;
35 Forth from his house he rush'd with hasty steps
36 To Amnon, who was unprepar'd to see
37 This unexpected visitant: The youth
38 Already self-convicted, now abash'd,
39 Ne'er ventur'd once to raise his down-cast eyes,
40 But speechless and confounded stood to hear
41 His sharp rebuke; when thus the King began: —
42 O son, thou shameful troubler of my house;
43 What hast thou done? Where are thy princely virtues
44 Inculcated so long? Now blasted all.
45 My elder-born, my first, my greatest joy,
46 Thus to debase thyself, thou that should'st be
47 The first in virtue, as the first in birth. [Page 31]
48 How can a Prince, himself debas'd with crimes,
49 Aspire to judge and punish wicked men?
50 In which of all my sons can I confide,
51 Now Amnon fails, whom I have faultless deem'd?
52 Thou bitter herb, — thou blemish of my honour;
53 How can I brook this foul disgrace? Must I
54 For ever bear confusion in my face,
55 And blush for thee, thou worse than enemy?
56 Amnon, no longer able to support
57 Such just reproof, in silence turn'd away,
58 And bursting into tears withdrew. — The King
59 Return'd with anger burning in his breast,
60 Mingled with sorrow for his daughter's wrongs;
61 My daugher! Oh! my daughter! he exclaim'd,
62 I would avenge thy wrongs; but oh! if I
63 Avenge my daughter, I destroy my son.
64 Then, all a father's tenderness prevail'd,
65 He wept, — his wrath subsided and he paus'd,
66 His own past failings rising in his mind;
67 His guilty love for Bathsheba — he sigh'd
68 Her murder'd husband; shudd'ring at the thought,
69 He saw no way to sooth the present ills
70 But suff'ring and forbearance. — Then the King,
71 As if the stroke came from the hand of Heav'n,
72 Fell prostrate to the earth, submitting thus:[Page 32]
73 Righteous art thou, O Lord, and all thy judgments just,
74 Amnon mean while, with piercing grief oppress'd,
75 Doubled by th' fore displeasure of the King,
76 Sat down and wept, while tears supply'd their streams.
77 Then rising, walk'd about with restless steps,
78 And thus in bitter agonies complain'd:
79 What am I now, and where? Of late I pin'd
80 In hopeless love, yet then I had some stay,
81 An heart-felt innocence, that could support
82 And cheer the drooping spirits. But alas!
83 Virtue has left me now, and I'm expos'd;
84 Expos'd to what? to what, alas! I know not;
85 'Tis Hell itself bursts in upon my soul,
86 And pours forth all its torments. — Terrors! Death!
87 O irrecoverable innocence!
88 Where art thou gone? for ever banish'd hence.
89 Arise ye thickest mists, ye darkest clouds
90 O'er-cast those twinkling stars. O sable night,
91 Wrap me in deepest shades, nor let a beam
92 Of penetrating light expose me more;
93 Darkness is fitted to the guilty mind
94 That shrinks and starts at ev'ry glimmering ray.
95 But oh! it is not in the pow'r of darkness
96 To hide the hated self from self; within
97 A sacred light perpetually shines,[Page 33]
98 Exposingev'ry failure to the sense,
99 That vainly struggles to compose the mind,
100 And hush her sad inquietudes to peace.
101 But peace, the guest of innocence alone,
102 Takes an eternal leave when guilt intrudes,
103 And now has took eternal leave of me.
104 Ah! wretched me! Oh! curse on vicious friends!
105 Had Jonadab advis'd me virtuously,
106 I'd still been innocent, and Tamar pure;
107 My father still had smil'd on me with joy,
108 Nor had I trembled at his chiding frowns;
109 Absalom would have call'd me brother still,
110 But now he'll own me not. — This slight is just,
111 And this the least part of my punishment;
112 For inward guilt has yet severer pangs.
113 So wander'd he, complaining half the night,
114 Then sought for rest in sleep, but sought in vain:
115 Terrific dreams invade his wish'd repose.
116 He sleeps, starts, wakes; — then sleeps and starts again;
117 And rises soon, but not to meet the morn
118 With joy as heretofore; but to bewail
119 The loss of that sweet calm that ever dwells
120 Within the guiltless breast; and in the world
121 Dwells no one more entitled to the bliss
122 That waits on virtue, than was Amnon once:[Page 34]
123 He therefore more severely feels the loss
124 For having tasted in its first degree
125 Its sov'reign blessedness. — Who'd then forsake
126 The peaceful path of virtue to pursue
127 Alluring vice through folly's labyrinth,
128 Grasping at shadows of felicity,
129 'Till overtaken by her evil train
130 Of shame, remorse, confusion, and despair?
131 Such evils now the hapless Amnon haunt,
132 While in th' avenging hand of Absalom
133 Death lurking lies. — Th' ambitious Prince, resolv'd
134 At once t' avenge his sister, and remove
135 An obstacle betwixt him and the crown,
136 With unremitting vigilance attends
137 The silent shades and unfrequented paths
138 Where Amnon used to walk, and meditate,
139 Hoping to meet defenceless and alone
140 The destin'd youth, and steal away his life.
141 But Amnon now as cautiously avoids
142 His dreaded presence; not with dread of death;
143 Such fear ne'er fill'd his unsuspicious breast;
144 But conscious guilt, that daunter of the soul,
145 That few can brave, deter'd the timid youth.
146 Two years within the breast of Absalom
147 Revenge in ambush lurk'd, while in his face[Page 35]
148 The mildest gentleness and sweetness play'd:
149 Thus secrèt burns the subterraneous fire,
150 While on earth's teeming surface gaily smiles
151 The verdant herbage strew'd with various flowers,
152 Till, bursting from beneath, the sulph'rous fumes
153 O'erturn the mountains, and the crumbling mould
154 Buries the blooming beauties that it bore:
155 So he unable longer to contain
156 The hidden rancour burning in his breast
157 Determin'd by some bold and desp'rate stroke
158 T' effect his purpose; and with Jonadab
159 Consulted, who thus readily advis'd: —
160 Assume the friend, — entice him to thine house;
161 The cred'lous youth will ne'er suspect a fraud.
162 Now is the time, now comes the yearly feast
163 When shepherds fleece their flocks: make him thy guest
164 With all thy brothers: when with mirth and wine
165 His heart's elate, how easy will it be
166 To give the final blow. With lowring brow
167 Revengeful Absalom the rash advice
168 Adopted, and a sullen gloom o'ercast
169 His lively features. Stern as that grim Lord
170 That through the forest takes his fearless way,
171 With high deportment Absalom retir'd.
1 Returning summer now came smiling on,
2 Exciting ev'ry peaceful breast to mirth;
3 But Amnon meets with tears the fatal season:
4 This sad remembrancer of his past crime
5 Awoke his grief, and from his couch he rose
6 Ere yet th' approaching day began to dawn,
7 While the full moon reign'd mistress of the night.
8 Sleep on, ye sons of innocence and ease,
9 (The restless Amnon with a sigh exclaim'd,
10 As from his window high he cast a look
11 Over the silent streets, for not a voice
12 Disturb'd the solemn hour) sleep on — sleep on:
13 So was I wont to sleep away the night,
14 Rise with the morn, and in the day rejoice:
15 But now in morn or night, or sleep or 'wake,
16 I feel no joy. Oh that I could forget
17 I once was happy! Oh that this one step,
18 One erring step, should kill my peace for ever.
19 O moon, I blush beneath thy silver beams;
20 I've ost beheld thee with exulting heart,
21 But now I shrink at ev'ry thing that's pure:
22 A modest virgin, innocent and fair,[Page 37]
23 Strikes terror to my soul: to me she seems
24 Exalted high above my fallen state:
25 If such an one I venture to approach,
26 I instantly recoil, and justly pay
27 A secret adoration to the breast
28 Of innocence; for Oh! what parity
29 Can there subsist 'twixt innocence and guilt?
30 The world's reproaches and censorious sneers
31 Harrow the heart and aggravate the sense:
32 But yet that aggravation poiz'd against
33 The pangs of guilt, is of but little weight:
34 The world offended may again be won,
35 Or all its vain reproaches set at nought,
36 When the heart, firmly steel'd with innocence,
37 Shrinks not, but rises with true nobleness,
38 Superior to the grov'ling sons of vice,
39 And smiles at pow'rless envy. — But alas!
40 To me returns, whether of day or night,
41 Aid sharp reflection and new point its spears.
42 Now waking birds in chearful concert join.
43 Their ev'ry note proclaims them innocent.
44 The fun arises and the world awakes;
45 The Prince retires with melancholy steps
46 Into his garden, where recluse and still
47 Beneath the arching boughs of shady trees,[Page 38]
48 With head declin'd and arms lock'd round his breast,
49 He sigh'd the heavy slow-pac'd hours away;
50 'Till interrupted by a messenger,
51 Who, with due deference approaching near,
52 Thus spake: O Prince, I come from Absalom,
53 His sheep he shears to-morrow, and intreats
54 Thee, with thy Royal brothers, to partake
55 The feast, and spend with him the day in mirth.
56 Surprize and pleasure rush'd into his heart
57 At such an unexpected invitation,
58 Which he accepted, nor did hesitate
59 One moment to resolve; for Amnon still
60 Was unsuspicious as an infant child,
61 That fearless trusts itself to ev'ry arm
62 That opens to recieve it. With quick step
63 He paces to and fro; his bosom glows,
64 And thus anticipates th' expected bliss.
65 O joyful day when I again shall meet
66 My dear offended brother, whom so long
67 I've cautiously avoided: his good will
68 Greatly exceeds my most advent'rous hope:
69 Forgetful of my faults, he kindly now
70 Invites me to his house, without reproach
71 Or intimation of my late misdeeds.
72 Yes, my good brother, I will be thy guest —[Page 39]
73 My grateful heart o'erflows; I now could fall
74 Down at thy feet, and from thy hand receive
75 The death I do deserve. Thus Amnon still,
76 In humble strain and true repentant heart,
77 Pour'd forth his soul in such foliloquies
78 All day and night, till in the morning fair,
79 The foremost of the princely cavalcade,
80 He gladly hasted to the fatal feast.
81 Now Absalom with secret pleasure sees
82 The long wisth'd day arrive, and in the morn
83 Assiduously in comely dress array'd
84 His lovely person, lovely in extreme:
85 Not in all Israel's num'rous tribes was found
86 His peer in beauty; for from head to foot
87 No blemish, no deformity was seen,
88 But well proportion'd limbs, and features fair,
89 With ev'ry natural, ev'ry borrow'd grace
90 That gives to beauty power. The conscious Prince
91 Omitted no external ornament
92 That might, if possible, such gifts improve:
93 But looking at his spotless hands, he said, —
94 Must these be dy'd in blood? a brother's blood?
95 No, I have servants, they shall give the blow.
96 Then to and fro he through his chamber stalk'd,[Page 40]
97 Revolving in his mind the consequence
98 Of op'ning his design. He paus'd, he thought
99 His servants might refuse — or worse, betray.
100 At length he says, — I'm wrong to censure them;
101 Great proofs I've had of their sidelity;
102 I'll trust them now. Then call'd he those he lov'd:
103 They came. He says, You have done all things well
104 According to my order for this feast,
105 But on your cares I can so well depend,
106 That whatsoever is given to your charge
107 I think no more of, for I've always found
108 You true and faithful; therefore I make choice
109 Of you for my accomplices this day:
110 'Tis not intended for a day of mirth,
111 As it appears, and must as yet appear
112 Till I've fulfill'd the purpose of my soul.
113 Our guests must sumptuously be entertain'd:
114 But when they have partook the rich repast,
115 And wine exhilerates and mirth prevails,
116 Be you prepar'd, and when I give the word,
117 Pierce Amnon to the heart, for he must die.
118 His servants tremble at the dire command.
119 Why tremble ye? said Absalom, fear not,
120 'Tis I command you — all the deed is mine;[Page 41]
121 Ye are but instruments within my grasp,
122 And of his blood are spotless: if there's guilt
123 In taking vengeance for the atrocious crime,
124 Let all that guilt be mine: since justice sleeps
125 In his fond father's hand, 'tis right that I
126 Assume the pow'r, and on his impious head
127 Hurl vengeance. But observe, it next behoves
128 Us to evade the storm that will ensue:
129 In Geshur we shall find a safe retreat:
130 My fleetest horses for the flight prepare:
131 Soon as the wound is given, we'll mount and flee;
132 Swift as the sweeping winds we'll o'er the hills,
133 And leave the King to bury him, and mourn.
134 His servants, more by love than duty bound,
135 All bow'd obedient to his sov'reign will.
136 Now came the Royal guests, and Amnon first
137 Dismounting from his mule, with conscious blush
138 And fault'ring voice thus ventur'd to address
139 Th' offended brother: — O my Absalom,
140 Forgive, he said — and interrupting tears
141 Pleading more pow'rfully than eloquence,
142 Stagger'd the purpose of Maacah's son,
143 And in his feeling soul a conflict rais'd
144 Betwixt his brother's life and sister's fame:[Page 42]
145 He silent paus'd; but in his breast revenge
146 Was too deep rooted by a two year's growth
147 For one soft moment to eradicate:
148 He therefore wip'd away a piteous tear,
149 And made to Amnon this compos'd reply:
150 I did not send for thee to weep and mourn;
151 To-day I have a feast; this prosp'rous year
152 Increasing flocks increase the shepherds joy:
153 Rejoice with me, my brother, and be glad.
154 Then did he warmly press his hand, and point
155 The chiefest place. The Prince shed tears of joy,
156 Then fat him down, forgot his grief and smil'd.
157 Wine in profusion sparkled in the bowls,
158 Inspiring social mirth; they freely quaff'd;
159 But Absalom th' emolient draught evades,
160 Lest it relax his stern determination;
161 But quick replenishes the sinking bowls,
162 Pressing on all the intoxicating cup,
163 'Till mirth predominates, and ev'ry heart
164 Expands with social freedom; Absalom
165 Then gives the fatal word; his servants plunge
166 The destin'd dart, and from the Prince's side
167 Gush'd forth life's reeking stream — he fell — uprose
168 In consternation those whom vengeance spar'd,[Page 43]
169 Each trembling for his life; confus'd they fled:
170 Mingling with gore, the wine in currents flow'd;
171 While, rolling in the flood, the murder'd Prince
172 Alone, in all the agonies of woe,
173 Groan'd out his soul, and clos'd his eyes in death.