Now while these evil ones took counsel strange,
The son of Lamech journeyed home; and, lo!
A company came down, and struck the track
As he did enter it. There rode in front
Two horsemen, young and noble, and behind
Were following slaves with tent gear; others led
Strong horses, others bare the instruments
O' the chase, and in the rear dull camels lagged,
Sighing, for they were burdened, and they loved
The desert sands above that grassy vale.
And as they met, those horsemen drew the rein,
And fixed on him their grave untroubled eyes;
He in his regal grandeur walked alone,
And had nor steed nor follower, and his mien
Was grave and like to theirs. He said to them,
'Fair sirs, whose are ye?' They made answer cold,
'The beautiful woman, sir, our mother dear,
Niloiya, bear us to great Lamech's son.'
And he, replying, 'I am he.' They said,
'We know it, sir. We have remembered you
Through many seasons. Pray you let us not;
We fain would greet our mother.' And they made
Obeisance and passed on; then all their train,
Which while they spoke had halted, moved apace,
And, while the silent father stood, went by,
He gazing after, as a man that dreams;
For he was sick with their cold, quiet scorn,
That seemed to say, 'Father, we own you not.
We love you not, for you have left us long,—
So long, we care not that you come again.'
And while the sullen camels moved, he spake
To him that led the last, 'There are but two
Of these my sons; but where doth Japhet ride?
For I would see him.' And the leader said,
'Sir, ye shall find him, if ye follow up
Along the track. Afore the noonday meal
The young men, even our masters, bathed; (there grows
A clump of cedars by the bend of yon
Clear river)—there did Japhet, after meat,
Being right weary, lay him down and sleep.
There, with a company of slaves and some
Few camels, ye shall find him.'
And the man
The father of these three, did let him pass,
And struggle and give battle to his heart,
Standing as motionless as pillar set
To guide a wanderer in a pathless waste;
But all his strength went from him, and he strove
Vainly to trample out and trample down
The misery of his love unsatisfied,—
Unutterable love flung in his face.
Then he broke out in passionate words, that cried
Against his lot, 'I have lost my own, and won
None other; no, not one! Alas, my sons!
That I have looked to for my solacing,
In the bitterness to come. My children dear!'
And when from his own lips he heard those words,
With passionate stirring of the heart, he wept.
And none came nigh to comfort him. His face
Was on the ground; but, having wept, he rose
Full hastily, and urged his way to find
The river; and in hollow of his hand
Raised up the water to his brow: 'This son,
This other son of mine,' he said, 'shall see
No tears upon my face.' And he looked on,
Beheld the camels, and a group of slaves
Sitting apart from some one fast asleep,
Where they had spread out webs of broidery work
Under a cedar-tree; and he came on,
And when they made obeisance he declared
His name, and said, 'I will beside my son
Sit till he wakeneth.' So Japhet lay
A-dreaming, and his father drew to him.
He said, 'This cannot scorn me yet'; and paused,
Right angry with himself, because the youth,
Albeit of stately growth, so languidly
Lay with a listless smile upon his mouth,
That was full sweet and pure; and as he looked,
He half forgot his trouble in his pride.
'And is this mine?' said he, 'my son! mine own!
(God, thou art good!) O, if this turn away,
That pang shall be past bearing. I must think
That all the sweetness of his goodly face
Is copied from his soul. How beautiful
Are children to their fathers! Son, my heart
Is greatly glad because of thee; my life
Shall lack of no completeness in the days
To come. If I forget the joy of youth,
In thee shall I be comforted; ay, see
My youth, a dearer than my own again.'
And when he ceased, the youth, with sleep content,
Murmured a little, turned himself and woke.
He woke, and opened on his father's face
The darkness of his eyes; but not a word
The Master-shipwright said,—his lips were sealed;
He was not ready, for he feared to see
This mouth curl up with scorn. And Japhet spoke,
Full of the calm that cometh after sleep:
'Sir, I have dreamed of you. I pray you, sir,
What is your name?' and even with his words
His countenance changed. The son of Lamech said,
'Why art thou sad? What have I done to thee?'
And Japhet answered, 'O, methought I fled
In the wilderness before a maddened beast,
And you came up and slew it; and I thought
You were my father; but I fear me, sir,
My thoughts were vain.' With that his father said,
'Whatever of blessing Thou reserv'st for me,
God! if Thou wilt not give to both, give here:
Bless him with both Thy hands'; and laid his own
On Japhet's head.
Then Japhet looked on him,
Made quiet by content, and answered low,
With faltering laughter, glad and reverent: 'Sir,
You are my father?' 'Ay,' quoth he, 'I am!
Kiss me, my son; and let me hear my name,
My much desir餠name, from your dear lips.'
Then after, rested, they betook them home:
And Japhet, walking by the Master, thought,
'I did not will to love this sire of mine;
But now I feel as if I had always known
And loved him well; truly, I see not why,
But I would rather serve him than go free
With my two brethren.' And he said to him,
'Father!'—who answered, 'I am here, my son.'
And Japhet said, 'I pray you, sir, attend
To this my answer: let me go with you,
For, now I think on it, I do not love
The chase, nor managing the steed, nor yet
The arrows and the bow; but rather you,
For all you do and say, and you yourself,
Are goodly and delightsome in mine eyes.
I pray you, sir, when you go forth again,
That I may also go.' And he replied,
'I will tell thy speech unto the Highest; He
Shall answer it. But I would speak to thee
Now of the days to come. Know thou, most dear
To this thy father, that the drenched world,
When risen clean washed from water, shall receive
From thee her lordliest governors, from thee
Daughters of noblest soul.'
So Japhet said,
'Sir, I am young, but of my mother straight
I will go ask a wife, that this may be.
I pray you, therefore, as the manner is
Of fathers, give me land that I may reap
Corn for sustaining of my wife, and bruise
The fruit of the vine to cheer her.' But he said,
'Dost thou forget? or dost thou not believe,
My son?' He answered, 'I did ne'er believe,
My father, ere to-day; but now, methinks,
Whatever thou believest I believe,
For thy belov餠sake. If this then be
As thou (I hear) hast said, and earth doth bear
The last of her wheat harvests, and make ripe
The latest of her grapes; yet hear me, sir,
None of the daughters shall be given to me
If I be landless.' Then his father said,
'Lift up thine eyes toward the north, my son'
And so he did. 'Behold thy heritage!'
Quoth the world's prince and master, 'far away
Upon the side o' the north, where green the field
Lies every season through, and where the dews
Of heaven are wholesome, shall thy children reign;
I part it to them, for the earth is mine;
The Highest gave it me: I make it theirs.
Moreover, for thy marriage gift, behold
The cedars where thou sleepedst! There are vines;
And up the rise is growing wheat. I give
(For all, alas! is mine),—I give thee both
For dowry, and my blessing.'
And he said,
'Sir, you are good, and therefore the Most High
Shall bless me also. Sir, I love you well.'