Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

And as they draw nigh to the sacred stream, identical with the chief Egyptian divinity Osiris, " the great Nilus, father of the highest deities, even of Ammon," they remember how it became, under the rod of the Hebrew prophet, the source of three terrible inflictions. They rehearse that wondrous narrative (familiar to the lip of childhood), which, beginning at the inundation of the sacred river, usually the period of festivity, grasps, one after another, those physical scourges to which Egypt is liable, and causes them to succeed one upon another, in a terrible circle of vengeance, heightening each, and darkening to the last, until all Egypt shrieks in mourning, and the haughty monarch is heard exclaiming, “Up! get you out from the land !"

Vividly recalling these events upon the very soil where they occurred, their emotions become too great to be restrained, and, in responsive number, they mutually repeat couplets of an ancient psalm.

Joseph “He turned their waters into blood, And their river, that they could not drink !"

MARY. “He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, And gnats into all their coasts.".

JOSEPH. “He gave them hail for rain, And flaming fire in their land!"

But gave

MARY. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, And their flocks to hot thunderbolts."

Joseph.
“He sent darkness and made it dark,
And they rebelled not against his word."

MARY.
“He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger,
Wrath, and indignation, and trouble,
By sending evil angels among them.”.

JOSEPH.
“He weighed a path to his anger,
He spared not their soul from death,
their life over to the pestilence."

MARY. “He smote all the first-born in Egypt, The chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham!"

Then, too, rushes upon their memory the sublime catastrophe. While Egypt is bowed and crushed by stroke upon stroke, they behold the mustering of the fugitives to the central city, whose very walls they are now approaching. The solemn and singular paschal supper just celebrated for the first time, they behold them gathering in crowds from their different quarters, hastened and helped by the submissive Egyptians. Laden with the proffered spoil, a motley tide of life, with flocks and herds, they wind across to the distant line of sea.

Then comes the infatuated pursuit—the panic-stricken, helpless throng—the rushing of the mighty northeast wind all night down the gulf —the long train winding through the stormy pass, the Egyptian host upon their rear. The morning dawns, and the retiring waves are rolling and dashing where an army had been an hour before. Pausing in their way, and looking afar to the distant sea, they again take up the responsive chant.

JOSEPH. “With the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered to

gether; The floods stood upright as a heap, And the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea."

MARY.
“ The enemy said I will pursue,
I will overtake, I will divide the spoil ;
My lust shall be satisfied upon them;
I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them."

JOSEPH. Thou didst blow with thy wind—the sea covered them : They sank as lead in the mighty waters."

MARY.
“Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods !
Who is like thee, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders !"

So saying, they resume their winding way along the banks of a small tributary of the Nile, its margin fringed with reeds of the papyrus, and overshadowed by the date-bearing palm, and reflecting the walls of a city built upon its bank.*

* Probably Leontopolis.

a

66

[ocr errors]

“Where, within this foreign, this idolatrous city, may we sad exiles find a home ?” asks Mary, disconsolately.

“ Fear not but that the Lord God of our fathers will provide,” answers Joseph ; "and know, moreover, that here

many

of

our nation abide, with temple, and priests, and holy worship; among these we will seek a lodging, and not in the home of the stranger.”

And now they enter the city gates, through those massive walls, built on high embankments and piles, and begin to wander through the populous streets and squares, where tower on high the lofty obelisks, the solemn ranges of Coptic architecture, covered with hieroglyphics, and uncouth and obscene sculptures. Weary, at length, with searching for the quarter occupied by their brethren, and spent with the heat of the sultry air, they pause beneath the shadow of a vast pile, gloomily adorned with sphinxes, and other monsters of the grotesque chisel of the Nile. Here, while breathing a silent prayer to the God of Israel, they behold advancing toward them a venerable stranger, wearing the garb of the sons of Aaron. And the old man asks,

“Whither goest thou, and whence comest thou ?"

And Joseph replies, "We are come from Beth

[ocr errors]

a

lehem-Judah unto the land of Ham, fleeing from the face of Herod the king, and there is no man that receiveth us to house; yet there is both straw and provender for our camels, and there is bread and wine also for me and for thy handmaid; there is no want of any thing." Then answers the old man,

" Peace be with thee: howsoever, let all thy wants lie upon me, only lodge not in the street.” So he brings them into his house, and while he gives provender to the camels, they wash their feet, and eat and drink, and make their hearts merry.

Reclining in the court, we behold them upon soft mats, listening to the cool, plashing fountain, exhilarated with the scene of safety and of refuge, and breathing the rich odors of tropical flowers, while they rehearse, so far as they may, to hospitable Benaiah, the history of their flight, and the news from their native land.

Upon a mattress the youthful mother has laid her child, and gazes on him with a mother's ever new delight, while the maidens of the household wonder at the beauty of the infant fugitive.

[Like some strange exotic dropped from Paradise, and all unwonted in this world, seems to these daughters of the Nile that babe, with those dark, radiant eyes, wherein seems to sleep a

« ÖncekiDevam »