“A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command.”
The priests and the Levites went forth, to feast at the courts of the Kings;
They were vain of their greatness and worth, and gladdened with glittering things;
They were fair in the favour of gold, and they walked on, with delicate feet,
Where, famished and faint with the cold, the women fell down in the street.
The Priests and the Levites looked round, all vexed and perplexed at the cries
Of the maiden who crouched to the ground with the madness of want in her eyes;
And they muttered — “Few praises are earned when good hath been wrought in the dark;
While the backs of the people are turned, we choose not to loiter nor hark.”
Moreover they said — “It is fair that our deeds in the daylight should shine:
If we feasted you, who would declare that we gave you our honey and wine.”
They gathered up garments of gold, and they stepped with their delicate feet,
And the women who famished with cold, were left with the snow in the street.
The winds and the rains were abroad — the homeless looked vainly for alms;
And they prayed in the dark to the Lord, with agony clenched in their palms,
“There is none of us left that is whole,” they cried, through their faltering breath,
“We are clothed with a sickness of soul, and the shape of the shadow of death.”
He heard them, and turned to the earth! — “I am pained,” said the Lord, “at the woe
Of my children so smitten with dearth; but the night of their trouble shall go.”
He called on His Chosen to come: she listened, and hastened to rise;
And He charged her to build them a home, where the tears should be dried from their eyes.
God's servant came forth from the South: she told of a plentiful land;
And wisdom was set in her mouth, and strength in the thews of her hand.
She lifted them out of their fear, and they thought her their Moses and said:
“We shall follow you, sister, from here to the country of sunshine and bread.”
She fed them, and led them away, through tempest and tropical heat,
Till they reached the far regions of day, and sweet-scented spaces of wheat.
She hath made them a home with her hand, and they bloom like the summery vines;
For they eat of the fat of the land, and drink of its glittering wines.