17. A Chant -

That day, though to the convent brood
A holiday, was kept in mood
Of serious sort, yet took the tone
And livery of legend grown
Poetical if grave. The fane
Was garnished, and it heard a strain
Reserved for festa. And befell
That now and then at interval
Some, gathered on the cliffs around,
Would sing Saint Cosmos' canticle;
Some read aloud from book embrowned
While others listened; some prefer
A chant in Scripture character,
Or monkish sort of melodrame.

Upon one group the pilgrims came
In gallery of slender space,
Locked in the echoing embrace
Of crags: a choir of seemly men
Reposed in cirque, nor wanting grace,
Whose tones went eddying down the glen:

First Voice

No more the princes flout the word —
Jeremiah 's in dungeon cast:
The siege is up, the walls give way:
This desolation is the last.

The Chaldee army, pouring in,
Fiercer grown for disarray,
Hunt Zedekiah that fleeth out:
Baal and Assyria win:
Israel's last king is shamed in rout,
Taken and blinded, chains put on,
And captive dragged to Babylon.

Second Voice

O daughter of Jerusalem,
Cast up the ashes on the brow!
Nergal and Samgar, Sarsechim
Break down thy towers, abase thee now.

Third Voice

Oh, now each lover leaveth!

Fourth Voice

None comfort me, she saith:

First Voice

Abroad the sword bereaveth:

Second Voice

At home there is as death.

The Four

Behold, behold! the days foretold begin:
A sword without — the pestilence within.

First and Second Voices

But thou that pull'st the city down,
Ah, vauntest thou thy glory so?

Second and Third Voices

God is against thee, haughty one;
His archers round about thee go:

The Four

Earth shall be moved, the nations groan
At the jar of Bel and Babylon
In din of overthrow.


First Voice

But Zion shall be built again!

Third and Fourth Voices

Nor shepherd from the flock shall sever;
For lo, His mercy doth remain,
His tender mercy —

Second Voice

And forever!

The Four

Forever and forever!

Choral

Forever and forever
His mercy shall remain:
In rivers flow forever,
Forever fall in rain!
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