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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

Women of the Bible

Series I

SARAH
REBEKAH
LEAH
RACHEL
MIRIAM
RUTH AND NAOMI
ESTHER

Come with the voice, the lyre,
Daughters of Judah, with the timbrel rise;
Ye of the dark, prophetic, eastern eyes,
Imperial in their visionary fire;
Oh! Steep my soul in that old glorious time,
When God’s own whispers shook the cedars of your clime.
HEMANS.

Ye come, ye come! I see a spirit band
Through the dim, shadowy twilight of the past,
Slowly advancing. Nearer, nearer yet,
Ethereal spirites, that my soul may catch
A glimpse of that bright loveliness o’er which
A charm of heaven lingers—oh! How unlike
The beauty of this earth. Now swifter move
Those glittering pinions, and one radiant form
Is bending queen-like o’er her sister shades.
Hark! How their voices swell; the golden clouds
Hang motionless; light silvery masses roll,
And half envelop the bright, beauteous forms
Of the fair choristers. Sweet vision, stay!
Let not the o’erwearied mind, too sorely tried,
Be fettered down again to earth’s dull tasks,
But lose itself thus in sweet dreams of heaven.

SARAH

Room for that queenly one!
Room for the peerless gem—
Place on her form the regal robe,
On her brow the diadem.

And hail her as the queen
Of a high and noble race;
Proud mother of a princely line,
Radiant in every grace.

She comes, a husband’s pride,
Protected by his arms;
And haughty kings and princes bend
In homage to her charms.

From her our race hath sprung—
She has given us a dower
More dear than gems or robes of price,
Or the pomp of earthly power.

Then blest, forever blest!
Be she, who thus hath given
Unto her weary, earth-born sons,
A heritage in heaven.

REBEKAH

Like Roseate clouds that, at the day’s decline,
Gather in gorgeous beauty ‘round the sun,
And pageant his departure, they appear,
Bright and ethereal, floating thro’ the mist
That, like a veil, is spread ‘twixt earth and heaven.
If thus, oh! Fountain of eternal light,
The soul finds pleasure holding sweet commune
With the faint shadows of thy blest abode,
How will thy glories burst upon the view,
When the freed spirit wakens from its dream,
And earth, so long the grave of buried hopes,
Releases us forever!

No. II

Lift from her virgin brow the veil;
Young Hebrew, unto thee is sent
A ministering angel, whose bright form
Brings peace and joy within thy tent.

And thou, fair daughter of the East,
Whose stately step and flashing eye?
Whose graceful form and noble mein,
Proclaim thy birth and lineage high;

When thy dark eyes were heaven-ward raised,
Did fires prophetic light thy soul,
And point to thee the weary path,
Thy children tread to win their goal?

Or did bright visions cheer thy soul,
And spread a beaming halo o’er them,
When gentile kings should own their sway,
And haughty nations boe before them.

Thy faith, thy love, thy modest worth,
Need no recording tablet now;
No stone on which to grave thy name,
Nor earthly wreath to bind thy brow.

Deep in each earnest Jewish heart
Are shrined those memories of the past,
Memories that time can ne’er efface,
Nor sorrow’s blighting wing o’ercast.

No. III.

LEAH

Morn breaks! And now each lofty mountain top
Unveils its beauties. And the heavy mist
That all night long hung o’er them like a shroud,
Slowly and silently is gathered up.

Fold after fold the snowy, vapory mass
Ascends, and leaves the fresh, pure, smiling earch
Awaiting, like a bride, to greet her lord
In bloom and beauty.

See! Where glides a form
Between the water’s edge and yonder group
Of graceful willows; beauty hath she none,
And yet, methinks that dorrowing face might win
A gleam of pity from a savage breast.
‘Tis she! The first of womankind whose love
Was unrequited.

Thou lovest, and vainly; dark and fearful power;
That thus can sway weak woman’s earthly lot?
Toy of a moment, born to be forgot?
She lavishes her wealth of love?her dower?
On one who marks with cold and careless eyes,
The deep outpouring of the young heart’s sacrifice.

Thou sad, pale trembler, who with tearful eye
Dost mark thy lord’s approach, and vainly yearn
For one kind greeting?one poor, cold return
Of all the love thou offerest?one reply
To the deep throbbing of thy faithful heart!
Sad dove, that sitt’st with folding wings apart,
Brooding o’er miseries in mercy given,
To teach thy soul, and lead it back to heaven.

Thou glidest from the budy haunts of men,
In the still dawn, and quiet dewy eve,
And ‘neath the vine’s cool graceful foliage, when
The midnight moon looks down, and waters heave
And leap beneath her light, thy voice in prayer
Steals on the silence of the midnight air;
And a faint whispering hope around thee breathes,
And from the faded flowers that mem’ry wreathes,
Thou may’st perchance gather one bud to bless
Thy sorrowing heart, and sheer its loneliness.

RACHEL

Not such thy fate, thou fair and happy bride.
Away! Away at early eventide,
Thou fliest swift to meet thy loved one’s voice,
Sound that can make thy woman’s heart rejoice,
And send a rapturous thrill of hope and pride
Through all thy frame; ah, happy in thy love,
Happy to know that earth holds nought beside
So dear to either? the bright sky above,
The fair earth spread before thee like a shrine,
A universal temple, where the soul
May offer up its sacrifice divine,
Of prayer, free, gushing from the heart without control.

Yet thine was woman’s lot, thine her deep grief,
And thine her gleams of sunshine light and grief,
Her transient tears, and smiles, alas, her all
Of light and evanescent power.? Recall
The past, turn o’er the ancient, sacred page,
And trace the fate of man from youth to age:
‘Tis still the same: a few brief years of pain,
And dust returns to dust, earth claims again
Her kindred earth,? Then let the path we’ve trod,
Whether in tears or smiles, still upward lead to God.

MIRIAM

Retire, ye waves, roll back your crested heads,
Presume not to approach the royal host,
That presses onward to your bosom now,
In glittering pomp, and panoply of war.
See how they tower, those lordly swelling waves,
And form a pathway, wall’d on either side;
Rides the king safely now.

The billows roll,
But not in sport?not as when tempests lash
Their angry heads?but with a sullen sound,
Murmuring, and low, and moaning as in fear;
They heave and rise, then slowly sink again,
Awaiting but the word that sets them free.
Yet what hath he, that kingly one, to fear?
Have they not pass’d in safety o’er the path?
They, his hereditary bondsmen??and shall he,
A monarch, a thrones king, with all his train,
His gorgeous, glittering host of armed men,
Yield to base coward fear? Away the thought!
He comes to conquer; hear ye not that shout?
It tells of victory already won.

Yet see!
The strange commotion in that armed mass.
They turn, they flee! O gods of Egypt, help!
Help! For the waters overwhelm them now.
Vain prayer! Wild shrieks burst on the affrighted ear,
And now the mad waves triumph o’er the sound.
Whose voicxe thus echoes o’er the raging waste?
Who calls for help in that wild surging sea?
Mighty and dreaded Pharaoh, is it thou?
Thou! Why the very waves laugh thee to scorn;
And of thy train, the meanest follower
Claims brotherhood with Egypt’s haughty king,
And boasts as lordly sepulture. Sad sight?
Chariot, and horse, and rider, each alike
Engulfed in one vast grave.

Now on the air,
And borne across those waters, comes the sound
Of woman’s voice; exultingly it swells;
Earth hears it, and rejoices, and the sea
Flows with a softer murmur to the sound.

MIRIAM’S SONG.

“A song, a song of praise to Israel’s God,
Whose strong right arm hath triumphed o’er our foes;
Who can now point to where proud Pharaoh trod?
Above his head the circling waters close?
Let earth, and sea, and air, repeat again
The loud hosannahs of our joyful strain.

“Oh! Raise our glorious song of praise on high,
Our hallelujahs to the God of Hosts;
Praise Him whose arm had brought deliv’rance nigh,
Whose will has triumphed o’er man’s sinful boasts.
The steed and rider hath he overthrown?
Shout ye his name?the Lord our God is one!”

Ages have passed, have circling rolled away,
Since fond lips breathed alous that joyful prayer,
Yet fancy sweeps across the busy brain,
Recalling shapes and voices mingling there.
Oh, woman! Weak and powerless, yet unto thee is given
The task to prune the budding branch, and bid it bloom for heaven.

No. V.

RUTH AND NAOMI

Through the long lapse of ages, and the dim
And indistinct, and faintly pencil’d past,
What forms approach me? Surely not of earth?
And yet they seem earth-born; but, oh! How fair!
A heavenly halo rests on that young head,
And in those dove-like eyes there beams a fire
Unknown to earth?so passionless, so pure!
And that low voice comes on the whispering wind,
Like some sweet melody we’ve heard in dreams.

“Nay, urge me not, my mother, nor entreat
Thy daughter to return from following thee;
For whither thou do’st wend thy weary steps,
There will I follow; where thou liest thy head,
Shall mine repose; thy people shall be mine,
And He, the God whom thou so truly lovest,
Shall be my only God. Where thou diest,
I, too, will die, and there will I be buried.

“I cannot leave thee, mother! In my heart
There springs a well of such deep tenderness,
A fountain gushing with such earnest love?
Earnest, untiring love for thee, as springs
Only from God. Then urge me not to go.
Oh! Mother, I will watch by thee, as thou
Did’st watch in his weak infancy and youth,
Him, the departed; and when faint and sad
Thou pausest by the way, my voice shall bring
Back to thy heart the memories of the past;
And I will sing the lays my Mahlon loved,
And sooth thee unto slumber.”

RUTH’S SONG.

I.

“Let slumber fall lightly
On eyelids opprest,
And evening beam brightly
With visions of rest.

II.

“The weary day cometh
With toil and with sorrow,
But hope nightly beameth,
With joy for the morrow.

III.

“Then, slumber, fall lightly
On eyelids opprest,
And evening beam brightly
With visions of rest.

IV.

“The pale stars above us
Shed around their pure light,
Like eyes that still love us,
Keeping watch through the night.

V.

“Fair angels are keeping
Their vigils above,
E’en while we are sleeping
We share in their love.

VI.

“Then let slumber fall lightly
On eye-lids opprest,
And evening beam brightly
With visions of rest.”

Love never yet
Shone with such pure unselfishness, as when
It prompted that frail gentle one to leave
Her childhood’s hone, her fondly cherished friends,
And follow that lone mourner. Who can trace
Thy fate, fair daughter of the Moabites,
And fail to think of her who held a place?
A mother’s sacred place?in thy young heart?
And thou had’st thy reward, even here on earth;
When Bethlehem-Judah’s gates received ye both
Wearied and sad, and travel-soiled and faint,
Ye passed from penury and hopeless grief
To an immortal name.

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No. VI.

ESTHER

Ye are passing away, passing away,
Like the midnight dream of a fevered brain,
That fadeth with reason’s returning away?
And the weary slumberer striveth in vain
Again to recall.

Ye are passing away! Ye fade like the wreath
Of a summer cloud that pageants the sun,
When he speeds to his setting, and sinks beneath
The burnished wave, when his race is run,
And dark shadows fall.

Oh! Leave me not thus, while my spirit clings
To the hallow’d memories of the past,
And every trace of its history flings
A shadow of beauty that, fleeing fast,
Returns not again.

Must ye fade from my sight, ye forms of air,
Will the glorious vision forever depart?
Yet one gentle spirit seems lingering there,
As if loath to add to a human heart
A shadow of pain.

The vision hath changed! A palace appears,
Its proud front dazzling and bright in the sun;
Who are they that some with wild gestures and tears?
What evil hath chanced them, what deed has been done,
That paleth the cheek,

And causeth the stern, proud man to bow,
While the damps of death pass over his frame,
And his heart thrills with anguish? Shield them now,
Oh, Father! They call on thy holy name,
Thy mercy they week.

“We are the last of a long cherished race?
Redeemer of Israel hear our cry!
Oh! Thou in high heaven, Thy dwelling-place,
Pass not the prayer of affliction by?
Hear us, oh, God.

“If our steps have strayed in the paths of shame,
Yet now, when the floods of affliction roll,
We come to thee, Father! We call on thy name!
The billows dash wild o’er the desolate soul?
Save us, oh, God!”

Crushed, humbled, trodden down unto the earth,
Have ye no help?
is no deliverer nigh?
Hath Israel no champion to stand forth,
And shield her in her hour of agony
And bitter woe?

Like moon-rise breaking upon deepest night,
Like ocean calmed amid its wildest storm,
Hath fallen the balm of peace; what arm of might
Wrought their deliverance?
what warrior form
Claims homage now?

No slaughter marks the path the conqueror trod,
No blood-stained trophies prove the victor’s power;
Woman’s meek prayer breathed fervently to God,
Has burst the bonds in dark affliction’s hour,
Of those who mourn.

Now fades the vision; and the clouds of night
Roll back before the coming orb of day;
And all those fair ethereal forms of light
Melt into air, and fading pass away,
Ne’er to return.