Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Hadad, Scene III
By James Abraham Hillhouse (1789–1841)
The garden of ABSALOM’S house on Mount Zion, near the palace, overlooking the city. TAMAR sitting by a fountain.

  Tam.  How aromatic evening grows! The flowers,
And spicy shrubs exhale like onycha;
Spikenard and henna emulate in sweets.
Blest hour! which He, who fashioned it so fair,
So softly glowing, so contemplative,        5
Hath set, and sanctified to look on man.
And lo! the smoke of evening sacrifice
Ascends from out the tabernacle. Heaven
Accept the expiation, and forgive
This day’s offences!—Ha! the wonted strain,        10
Precursor of his coming!—Whence can this—
It seems to flow from some unearthly hand—
Had.  Does beauteous Tamar view, in this clear fount,
Herself, or heaven?
Tam.  Nay, Hadad, tell me whence        15
Those sad, mysterious sounds.
Had.  What sounds, dear Princess?
Tam.  Surely, thou know’st; and now I almost think
Some spiritual creature waits on thee.
Had.  I heard no sounds, but such as evening sends        20
Up from the city to these quiet shades;
A blended murmur sweetly harmonizing
With flowing fountains, feather’d minstrelsy,
And voices from the hills.
Tam.  The sounds I mean,        25
Floated like mournful music round my head,
From unseen fingers.
Had.  When?
Tam.  Now, as thou camest.
Had.  ’T is but thy fancy, wrought        30
To ecstasy; or else thy grandsire’s harp
Resounding from its tower at eventide.
I ’ve lingered to enjoy its solemn tones,
Till the broad moon, that rose o’er Olivet,
Stood listening in the zenith; yea, have deem’d        35
Viols and heavenly voices answer’d him.
Tam.  But these—
Had.  Were we in Syria, I might say
The Naiad of the fount, or some sweet Nymph,
The goddess of these shades, rejoiced in thee,        40
And gave thee salutations; but I fear
Judah would call me infidel to Moses.
Tam.  How like my fancy! When these strains precede
Thy steps, as oft they do, I love to think
Some gentle being who delights in us        45
Is hovering near, and warns me of thy coming;
But they are dirge-like.
Had.  Youthful fantasy,
Attuned to sadness, makes them seem so, lady.
So evening’s charming voices, welcomed ever,        50
As signs of rest and peace;—the watchman’s call,
The closing gates, the Levite’s mellow trump
Announcing the returning moon, the pipe
Of swains, the bleat, the bark, the housing-bell,
Send melancholy to a drooping soul.        55
Tam.  But how delicious are the pensive dreams
That steal upon the fancy at their call!
Had.  Delicious to behold the world at rest.
Meek labor wipes his brow, and intermits
The curse, to clasp the younglings of his cot;        60
Herdsmen, and shepherds, fold their flocks—and hark!
What merry strains they send from Olivet!
The jar of life is still; the city speaks
In gentle murmurs; voices chime with lutes
Waked in the streets and gardens; loving pairs        65
Eye the red west in one another’s arms;
And nature, breathing dew and fragrance, yields
A glimpse of happiness, which He, who form’d
Earth and the stars, had power to make eternal.
Tam.  Ah! Hadad, mean’st thou to reproach the Friend        70
Who gave so much, because he gave not all?
Had.  Perfect benevolence, methinks, had will’d
Unceasing happiness, and peace, and joy;
Fill’d the whole universe of human hearts
With pleasure, like a flowing spring of life.        75
Tam.  Our Prophet teaches so, till man rebell’d.
Had.  Mighty rebellion! Had he ’leaguer’d Heaven
With beings powerful, numberless, and dreadful,
Strong as the enginery that rocks the world
When all its pillars tremble; mix’d the fires        80
Of onset with annihilating bolts
Defensive volleyed from the throne; this, this
Had been rebellion worthy of the name,
Worthy of punishment. But what did man?
Tasted an apple! and the fragile scene,        85
Eden, and innocence, and human bliss,
The nectar-flowing streams, life-giving fruits,
Celestial shades, and amaranthine flowers,
Vanish; and sorrow, toil, and pain, and death,
Cleave to him by an everlasting curse.        90
Tam.  Ah! talk not thus.
Had.  Is this benevolence?—
Nay, loveliest, these things sometimes trouble me;
For I was tutor’d in a brighter faith.
Our Syrians deem each lucid fount, and stream,        95
Forest, and mountain, glade, and bosky dell,
Peopled with kind divinities, the friends
Of man, a spiritual race allied
To him by many sympathies, who seek
His happiness, inspire him with gay thoughts,        100
Cool with their waves, and fan him with their airs
O’er them, the Spirit of the Universe,
Or Soul of Nature, circumfuses all
With mild, benevolent, and sun-like radiance;
Pervading, warming, vivifying earth,        105
As spirit does the body, till green herbs,
And beauteous flowers, and branchy cedars rise;
And shooting stellar influence through her caves,
Whence minerals and gems imbibe their lustre.
Tam.  Dreams, Hadad, empty dreams.        110
Had.  These Deities
They invocate with cheerful gentle rites,
Hang garlands on their altars, heap their shrines
With Nature’s bounties, fruits, and fragrant flowers.
Not like yon gory mount that ever reeks—        115
Tam.  Cast not reproach upon the holy altar.
Had.  Nay, sweet.—Having enjoyed all pleasures here
That Nature prompts, but chiefly blissful love,
At death, the happy Syrian maiden deems
Her immaterial flies into the fields,        120
Or circumambient clouds, or crystal brooks,
And dwells, a Deity, with those she worshipp’d;
Till time, or fate, return her in its course
To quaff, once more, the cup of human joy.
Tam.  But thou believ’st not this.        125
Had.  I almost wish
Thou didst; for I have fear’d, my gentle Tamar,
Thy spirit is too tender for a Law
Announced in terrors, coupled with the threats
Of an inflexible and dreadful Being,        130
Whose word annihilates, whose awful voice
Thunders the doom of nations, who can check
The sun in heaven, and shake the loosen’d stars,
Like wind-toss’d fruit, to earth, whose fiery step
The earthquake follows, whose tempestuous breath        135
Divides the sea, whose anger never dies,
Never remits, but everlasting burns,
Burns unextinguish’d in the deeps of Hell.
Jealous, implacable—
Tam.  Peace! impious! peace!        140
Had.  Ha! says not Moses so?
The Lord is jealous.
Tam.  Jealous of our faith,
Our love, our true obedience, justly his;
And a poor recompense for all his favors.        145
Implacable he is not; contrite man
Ne’er found him so.
Had.  But others have,
If oracles be true.
Tam.  Little we know        150
Of them; and nothing of their dire offence.
Had.  I meant not to displease, love; but my soul
Sometimes revolts, because I think thy nature
Shudders at him and yonder bloody rites.
How dreadful! when the world awakes to light,        155
And life, and gladness, and the jocund tide
Bounds in the veins of every happy creature,
Morning is usher’d by a murder’d victim,
Whose wasting members reek upon the air,
Polluting the pure firmament; the shades        160
Of evening scent of death; almost, the shrine
O’ershadowed by the holy Cherubim;
And where the clotted current from the altar
Mixes with Kedron, all its waves are gore.
Nay, nay, I grieve thee—’t is not for myself,        165
But that I fear these gloomy things oppress
Thy soul, and cloud its native sunshine.
Tam.  (in tears, clasping her hands.)  Witness, ye Heavens! Eternal Father, witness!
Blest God of Jacob! Maker! Friend! Preserver!
That with my heart, my undivided soul,        170
I love, adore, and praise thy glorious name,
Confess thee Lord of all, believe thy Laws
Wise, just, and merciful, as they are true.
O Hadad, Hadad! you misconstrue much
The sadness that usurps me—’t is for thee        175
I grieve—for hopes that fade—for your lost soul,
And my lost happiness.
Had.  O say not so,
Beloved Princess. Why distrust my faith?
Tam.  Thou know’st, alas, my weakness; but remember,        180
I never, never will be thine, although
The feast, the blessing, and the song were past,
Though Absalom and David call’d me bride,
Till sure thou own’st, with truth, and love sincere,
The Lord Jehovah.        185
Had.  Leave me not—Hear, hear—
I do believe—I know that Being lives
Whom you adore. Ah! stay—by proofs I know
Which Moses had not.
Tam.  Prince, unclasp my hand.        190
Had.  Untwine thy fetters if thou canst.—How sweet
To watch the struggling softness! It allays
The beating tempest of my thoughts, and flows
Like the nepenthe of elysium through me.
How exquisite! Like subtlest essences,        195
She fills the spirit! How the girdle clips
Her taper waist with its resplendent clasp!
Her bosom’s silvery-swelling network yields
Ravishing glimpses, like sweet shade and moonshine
Checkering Astarte’s statue.        200

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