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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

Women of the Bible

Series II


My soul has woo'd you back, ethereal forms!
It sought you in the stillness of the night,
When the world slept, and the pale stars looked down,
In all their quiet beauty. Then my thoughts
Held commune with the spirits of the past,
And yearned to be among you. Ye have come
In answer to my solitary call,
And fancy now exults, to meet again
The sweet companions of her loneliness.

Ye return, ye return, to my sight once more,
Sweet visions come thronging o’er heart and brain,
Ye gladdened my heart when its joys seemed o’er,
And freed my mind from a galling chain.

Ye return, ye return! And my bosom bounds
To welcome ye back, bright forms of air;
Oh! Once more lighten life’s weary rounds,
And ease my heart of its weight of care.

The captive enfranchised when hope seemed past,
Hails not the first dawn of his liberty,
(Tho’ the bounding pulse of his heart throb fast,)
With half the delight I now welcome ye.

The cold world came between us, and veiled my sight,
And the glorious vision seemed passing away,
But ye come once again, fair forms of light,
Ye come, and my spirit exults in her lay.


“My son, my pearl, my jewel without price,
Oh! How my yearning heart will bleed for thee;
My lamb, selected for the sacrifice,
Ah! Whither shall thy sorrowing mother flee?

“Who will assuage my grief when thou art gone?
Who bid the craving of my bosom cease?
And mourning still for thee, my precious son,
Where shall I turn to find the balm of peace?

“Oh, thou! My husband, stifle not my grief;
Thou addest torture to my wild despair;
Thou can’st not give my aching heart relief?
The load is heavier than my heart can bear.

“My boy, my treasure, must I part from thee?
Can my soul dream of thee as one departed?
Oh! Nought can quell my bitter agony,
When thou art gone, and I am broken-hearted.

“Ye are cruel, thus to tear him from my heart;
I tell ye, helf my love is still unsaid?
Oh! Let me once, before he must depart,
Pillow upon my breast his precious head.

“So let him lie, and as that gladsome smile
Lingers upon his lip, can I forbear
To press it iwht mine own, and thus beguile
The bitter workings of my fond despair?

“Away! My arms shall bear him to his rest.”
And now with trembling steps she threads her way,
And places him within his chilly nest,
And watches lest the rustling sedges play

Too roughly with her rude and fragile ark,
That, like a stone, unseemly to the view,
Contains within a glittering, living spark,
A treasure on those waters calm and blue.

Fond, mourning mother, it is heaven’s decree;
In yielding him, thou givest a nation joy?
Quell, then, the torrent of thine agony,
And yield to God’s own hand thy cherished boy.

Yet ‘twas a struggly bitter to thy heart,
Thus passing on thy lonely pilgrimage;
Nor can thy grief, all humble as thou art,
Pass unregarded on our history’s page.


The sound of the trumpet swells loud on the gale,
And a glittering host spreads o’er mountain and vale,
Like the leaves of the forest they cumber the ground,
And death and destruction are scattered around.

They come in the flush of their pride-swollen power;
Woe, woe! To the vanquished in victory’s hour,
When the groans of the dying, the shriek of despair,
And the shout of the conqueror blend on the air:

When the sword shall be fleshed in the innocent breast,
And the delicate nursling be torn from its rest?
And manhood shall see, without power to aid,
The dishonor and bondage of matron and maid.

They come! The earch quivers beneath the firm tread
Of proud Sisera’s hosts, and, ere day-dawn has sped,
Impatient of conquest, they rush to the fight
That will bring to them victory and spoil, ere the night.

What hath woman to do amid havoc and blood,
Whose ensanguined tide tinges Kishon’s pale flood?
From her own quiet dwelling why comes she afar,
To mingle with men ‘mid the horrors of war?

Can’st thou conquer, Oh, Israel! Grief-stricken and lone?
Can a powerless woman restore thee thine own?
“Up, Barak! Arouse thee, thy foeman is near,
And the shouts of his army burst lous on the ear.”

But vainly they strive, by the spear and the sword,
To conquer a multitude strong in the Lord;
For the spear and the sword shall be blunted and dim,
‘Gainst a nation whose trust and whose hope are in Him.

Their haughty invaders are vanquished and slain,
The pride of King Jabin lies stretched on the plain,
And never on mountain, in valley or glen,
Shall their hosts spread destruction and carnage again.

And thou, gentle woman, so meek in thy might,
God-fearing and loving, thou aidest the fight,
And thy song, as we trace it, recalls thee as when
Thy presence gave hope to the fortunes of men.


There are sounds of complaint in a lordly hall;
What grieveth the spirit of Judah’s king?
Hath a mystical finger portrayed on the wall
His prophetic doom, or his kingdom’s fall,
Or whence does that sorrow spring?

Have his cities been wasted by sword and by flame,
Are his treasures engulfed bu the sea?
Does his heart lie crushed by a weight of shame,
That stains his kingdom and sullies his name,
And causes his misery?

Oh! A heavier doom than these has spread
A shadow o’er heart and brain?
A weightier grief has bowed his head;
And though few and low were the words he said,
They betoken’d his inward pain.

“Go ask,” he said, “of the good and wise,
If this doom may pass away?
If holy prayer, and the sacrifice
Of our penitent hearts, may yet arise,
To avert the evil day.”

And whom shall they seek in that trying hour?
What ancient and deep-learned see,
Whose prophetic words have a magical power
To point the right path when dark tempests lower,
And the strong man sinks with fear?

Oh! How can a woman’s voice foretell
The heavy doom they dread to know?
Or, how can she pierce through the mystic veil
Of the shadowy future, and breathe a spell
Like that which her lips breathe now?

“Ye ask me what answer the Lord hath given?
Thus say to him who sent you here:
For the deep transgressions of those who have striven
To call down the judgment and vengeance of heaven,
Both they are theirs shall from hence be driven,
And their spirits shall quail with fear.

“A terror and blight in field and on flood,
Shall descend into all who have fled from me?
Who have bowed themselves to a god of wood,
And polluted their hands with innocent blood;
Let the reptiles crawl where their palace hast stood,
And their names be a mockery.

“Go bear ye hence to an erring race,
The answer God in his wrath hath sent,
And say to the hardened and shameless of face,
That henceforth the wide world has no resting-place
To screen them from terror and deep disgrace,
Until all His anger is spent.”


A picture rises from the buried past,
A mother and her boy stand limned there,
In act to part. Not for a little space,
Not for a childish holiday, nor yet
In the death-struggle; sickness has not pales
The roseate blush upon that blooming cheek,
Nor dimmed the gladness of that clear, bright eye;
And his sweet ringing laugh comes gushingly,
As from a heart untainted yet by care.
And she, that fair young mother, with low voice,
And with a struggle to force back her tears,
Thus breathes her sad farewell:

“Again I return to my desolate dwelling,
No child’s gentle accents will fall on my ear,
But memory will point to the deep fount of pleasure
My lonely heart treasures in holiness here.

“Thou wert asked of my God, and to Him I resign thee,
A sacrifice worthy, a gift undefiled;
He heart my low prayer, and sent thee to cheer me,
Bright hope of my bosom, my innocent child.

“Oh! Would not that bosom be more than ungrateful,
If its own selfish promptings would plead for thee now?
If the joy of thy presence could make my unmindful
Of all my soul pledged in that grief-stricken vow!

“Go stainless and pure; may the Being thou servest,
The God of thy fathers, watch over thee still;
From childhood till age, may all heavenly blessings
Float o’er thee like sunlight, and shield thee from ill.

“Go, ere the cold world casts a shadow to darken
Thy glorious pathway, or dim thy career?
Ere thy young heart repent o’er a sin-blighted hour,
Or thy cheek feels the shame of a penitent tear.

“I return to my home, but thy image goes with me,
And though the lip writhe, and the throbbing heart swell,
I may not embitter thy young spirit’s gladness,
Nor dim by a tear-drop thy mournful farewell!”


Midnight in the Assyrian camp! No sound
Mingles with the light zephyr, whose faint breath
Fans the dull sleeper’s cheek, and lifts the tress
Of raven hair on many a sunburnt brow,
Or revels in light playfulness around
The gorgeous canopy of Holofernes.
‘Tis silence all. A murmuring rivulet,
Whose ripples scarce disturb the wakeful ear
Of the tired sentinel, goes whispering by,
And whisperingly is answered by the bough
Of palm and cedar on the mountain side.
The moon hath waned, and in its stead the pale
And melancholy stars are out upon
The midnight sky of Judea.

Lift we now
The veil of yonder tent: what wee we there?
Hush! For a sound might wake the slumberer,
Who soon must know a deeper, darker sleep.
There, on his couch, gleaming with gold, and bright
With glittering jewels, the proud conquerer lies.
Deep sleep is on him. Pause and gaze upon
A nation’s dreaded scourge! The embroidered robe
Clings to a form of strength and majesty,
And the broad, massive brow, and deep-set eye,
And the compression of the closed lips,
Are all indicative of firm resolve.
He is alone: no! by the flickering beam
Of yonder lamp of fretted gold, we see
Another form.

A woman! A fair, lovely flower,
With eye of fire and lip of pride,
Why stands she by the hero’s side,
Thus, at the midnight hour?
The glossy tendrils of her hair,
Enwreathed with many a costly gem,
Meet for a monarch’s diadem?
Float o’er her bosom fair,
And veil?nay, grace the lovely form
That trembles like a timid dove;
Trembles, but not with thoughts of love.
Ah, no! that bare white arm,
That pplucks the falchion from its place,
And waves it glittering o’er her head,
Attests ‘tis for no love embrace
Her steps are hither led.

Hark! Heard ye not a sudden sound?
The drowsy sentry paused to hear,
But the sweet brooklet, murmuring near,
Is all that meets his startled ear,
In the dim silence round.
And ere the dull gray dawn of day
Breaks from the chambers of the east,
The Hebrew matron takes her way
Among her native hills to pray;
And ‘tis their lord’s behest
That she, unquestioned, pass to where
Her feelings pour themselves in prayer.

She leaves that scene of blood behind,
And speeds through many a lonely dell;
But the fearful workings of her mind,
Oh! Who shall dare to tell?
She leaves that scene, but not alone?
A severed, ghastly, gory head,
Whose glances lately met her own,
Bears witness from the dead,
How fearfully her woman’s soul
Had mocked at Nature’s soft control?
How well her mission sped!
Oh! Not by woman’s gentle hand
Should blood be shed or victory won;
Yet, for her God, her love, her land,
What hath not woman done?


Earth has proud records of her favored sons;
There is no land but teems with the great deeds
Of the high, daring chieftain, or the wise
And patient scholar, or the statesman, bold
And energetic in his country’s cause;
Or him who, with discrimination nice, can see
Some rules for mechanism in the slight
Attenuated fibres of a gossamer?
Each adds his quota, and each gains a name.

But thou, oh, helpless woman! What hast thou?
What offering can’st thou add unto the store,
Or whereby can’st thou hope to gain a name
That shall be handed to posterity?
Thou can’st but suffer, and with patient heart
Bear meekly, and with humble faith, thy load.
But thou, stern warrior on the battle plain,
Or patriot doomed to bleed; ye whom the world
Holds up as models to mankind, ye sink
In utter nothingness before the name
Of her who seven times died in those she loved?
Yea, seven times did that mother’s yearning heart
Bear the sharp pangs of death, in witnessing
The mortal agony of those for whom
She would have perilled life and limb to save.
High-hearted mother! Honored be the name
Of her who stifled Nature for her God,
And led her sons to heaven.


Now do I know that ye are passing hence,
For the world’s darkened shadows flit before me,
And the bright tissue of magnificence,
The halo of heaven’s light that ye cast o’er me,
Is fading fast.

Sweet forms! I have not woo’d ye back in vain;
Full well have ye repaid my soul’s deep sadness,
Turning to heppiness my hours of pain,
And tinging even sorrow’s cup with gladness,
Tho’ light and brief.

The world can never know what sweet communion
Our spirits held together, oh, departed!
Nor can it dream the pain which our disunion
Brings to the heart of one too often thwarted
In life’s lone track.

Fair dream, thou hast beguiled full many an hour;
Thou wert no idle, no fantastic vision,
Startling the soul with fancy’s sunlit power,
And steeping the ‘rapt senses in elysian
Scenes of delight.

Ye once were real, ye forms that melt asay,
Once bore on earth your woman’s share of anguish?
Lived, loved and suffered thro’ life’s little day,
And though on earth your forms no longer languish,
Yet still ye live.

Ye live in truthful chronicles of yore,
Where history points with her unerring finger;
But unto me never, oh! Never more
Will ye return, or for one moment linger,
As ye were wont!

And as the snow-wreath melts beneath the sun,
Leaving no traces of its fleecy whiteness,
So do ye warn me that my task is done,
For ye dissolve, and of your radiant brightness
Leave not a ray.

Ye are gone! And now no longer to my touch
Will the faint, quivering harp-strings yield a measure;
Yet truth fraught is the lesson?such, oh! Such,
Mortal, are all our hopes of earthly pleasure,
Fleeting and frail!