A sound of woe in Salem! - mournful cries
Rose from her dwellings - youthful cheeks were pale,
Tears flowing fast from dim and aged eyes,
And voices mingling in tumultuous wail;
Hands raised to heaven in agony of prayer,
And powerless wrath, and terror, and despair.
Thy daughters, Judah! weeping, laid aside
The regal splendour of their fair array,
With the rude sackcloth girt their beauty's pride,
And thronged the streets in hurrying, wild dismay;
While knelt thy priests before
Who made, of old, renown and empire thine.
But on the spoiler moves - the temple's gate,
The bright, the beautiful, his guards unfold;
And all the scene reveals its solemn state,
Its courts and pillars, rich with sculptured gold;
And man, with eye unhallowed, views the abode,
The severed spot, the dwelling-place of God.
Where art thou, Mighty Presence! that of yore
Wert wont between the cherubim to rest,
Veiled in a cloud of glory, shadowing o'er
Thy sanctuary the chosen and the blest?
Thou! that didst make fair Sion's ark thy throne,
And call the oracle's recess thine own!
Angel of God! that through the Assyrian host,
Clothed with the darkness of the midnight hour,
To tame the proud, to hush the invader's boast,
Didst pass triumphant in avenging power,
Till burst the day-spring on the silent scene,
And death alone revealed where thou hadst been.
Wilt thou not wake, O Chastener! in thy might,
To guard thine ancient and majestic hill,
Where oft from heaven the full Shechinah's light
Hath streamed the house of holiness to fill?
Oh! yet once more defend thy loved domain,
Eternal one! Deliverer! rise again!
Fearless of thee, the plunderer, undismayed,
Hastes on, the sacred chambers to explore
Where the bright treasures of the fane are laid,
The orphan's portion, and the widow's store;
heart through age unsuccoured die
And want consume the cheek of infancy?
Away, intruders! - hark! a mighty sound!
Behold, a burst of light! - away, away!
A fearful glory fills the temple round,
A vision bright in terrible array!
And lo! a steed of no terrestrial frame,
His path a whirlwind, and his breath a flame!
His neck is clothed with thunder - and his mane
Seems waving fire - the kindling of his eye
Is as a meteor - ardent with disdain
His glance - his gesture, fierce in majesty!
Instinct with light he seems, and formed to bear
Some dread archangel through the fields of air.
But who is he, in panoply of gold,
Throned on that burning charger? bright his form.
Yet in its brightness awful to behold,
And girt with all the terrors of the storm!
Lightning is on his helmet's crest - and fear
Shrinks from the splendour of his brow severe.
Oh! more than kingly - godlike! - sternly grand;
Their port indignant, and each dazzling face
Beams with the beauty to immortals given,
Magnificent in all the wrath of heaven.
Then sinks each gazer's heart - each knee is bowed
In trembling awe - but, as to fields of fight,
The unearthly war-steed, rushing through the crowd
Bursts on their leader in terrific might;
And the stern angels of that dread abode
Pursue its plunderer with the scourge of God.
Darkness - thick darkness! - low on earth he lies,
Rash Heliodorus - motionless and pale -
Bloodless his cheek, and o'er his shrouded eyes
Mists, as of death, suspend their shadowy veil;
And thus the oppressor, by his fear-struck train,
Is borne from that inviolable fane.
The light returns - the warriors of the sky
Have passed, with all their dreadful pomp, away
Then wakes the timbrel, swells the song on high
Triumphant as in Judah's elder day;
Rejoice, O city of the sacred hill!
Salem, exult! thy God is with thee still.
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"Heliodorus In The Temple" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 30 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/13503/heliodorus-in-the-temple>.