The Burial of Samuel

Thirty days amid the hills of Ramah
Doth the voice of lamentation swell,
Like the murmur of a mighty river,
When the winter floods are on the fell,

Like a wind imprison'd in the gorges
Of the mountains, moaning as it sweeps —
But no tempest in the valley struggles,
And no torrent tumbles from the steeps.

All the Israelites make moan together
With a lamentation loud and sore,
For the seer is gather'd to his fathers,
They shall hear the prophet's voice no more.

Bear him, bear him slowly to the burial,
Haunted as ye go is all the air,
With a thousand sweet and solemn fancies,
Memories of the great man that ye bear.

Like a sudden incense borne from Shiloh,
Round the cold corpse comes a fragrant breath,
And a young child with a linen ephod
Girded, glideth by the car of death.

There's a look upon the sharpen'd features
Of the old man, strangely like the grace
And the glory of unclouded childhood,
As it smiles upon that phantom face.

Sure those lips have held a high communion
And those ears a wondrous Voice have heard,
When the call came through the darken'd chamber,
And the child made answer, — Speak, O Lord. —

For his smile is shadow'd in its brightness,
As by some great glory pass'd away —
So the hills that have been gold at sunrise,
Wear a deeper purple all the day.

Lo! the kingly Benjamite beside him
Walketh once again with stately tread,
And the wither'd hands are raised in blessing,
And the oil is pour'd upon his head.

But the prophet's heart is full of sorrow,
And some natural tears unbidden spring,
For he sees the rending of the mantle,
And he mourneth for the fallen king.

Sons of Jesse, tall of form, and goodly,
Seven brave warriors pass before the seer,
Look not on their beauty, or their stature,
For the Lord's anointed is not here.

Call the youngest, call him from the sheepfold,
In his eye a spirit pure and free,
On his cheek the colour of the morning,
Call him from the sheepfold! this is he!

Slowly, slowly now the visions vanish,
Israel's wail comes up upon the ear,
Prayers of pleading, words of love and warning,
All are over — lift the silent bier!

Leave the old man — leave him with his Father,
Dark and lonely in that quiet place
Lonelier shadows on his heart have fallen,
Darker griefs have deepen'd on his face.

An ungrateful people's causeless clamour,
Sons regardless of their father's call,
And his dream of hero-goodness broken
On the hard heart of rebellious Saul.

But the tree that blossom'd well in summer,
Blossoms sweetly at the autumn's close;
Graces nursed in childhood and in manhood,
In old age are sweeter than the rose.

Here is incense, richer than in Shiloh
The child-Levite from the altar sent,
Deeds of love and mercy and devotion,
All the fragrance of a life well spent.

Calmly slept the fair child by the altar,
As he waited for God's voice of dread —
Calmer doth the good saint sleep in Ramah,
Waiting for the Voice that wakes the dead.
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