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Earth, with its throbbing pulses stilled,
Is listening for the orisons of night,
And conning o'er the rosary of stars
Hung brightly on her bosom. Beautiful,
Mysterious night! The great symbolical
Apocalypse of Deity's own grandeur;
Perfect now, as when the creating voice
First called thee night. Earth groans with curses:
Her pristine beauty marr'd, the noxious dew
Of sin on every flower. The heavens,
Harmonious in their mighty sphere
As when the morning stars in concert sang,
Show but their Maker's hand. The poor worm, man,
With his weak, ephemeral hopes and joys,
Wraps around himself the scanty mantle
Of his selfish aims, a fig-leaf covering,
And walks beneath the thousand eyes of night,
Nor trembles at the voice that calls within;
Looks out upon the scene, beautiful
As heaven, solemn as a thought of hell,
And feels no awe at the familiar show.
Not in vain the lesson He has writ in
Cabalistic lines of gold. She who stood,
Alone, on Judea's storied hills,
Read in the emblazoned page what faith
Alone might see. High resolves, begotten
Of her country's bitter wrongs, grew steadfast
As the everlasting stars of heaven.
He who led that host, surely would not leave
Her to the blind uncertainties of chance.
In the instincts that now stirred her heart
She read His will, plainly as if engraved
With pen of iron on the solid rock.
In that dark medieval age, when man
Must needs be something of a “law unto
Himself," the inner voice, that whispers now,
Spake loud and clear. And angels who had left
Their Eden homes to 'tend the fallen race,
Breathed in her ear words that to us would seem
An unknown, mystic tongue.
Of righteous wrath,
No self-elected instrument was she.
Predestinated for this hour, she stood
Obedient to the ordained will,
Accomplishing in one eventful deed
The purpose of her being. And she felt
That He who willed the act would bless the means. God was o'erhead, and at her feet the camps.
Like snowy doves that settle in a flock,
The white tents stood upon the sacred hills,
A host in number like the stars above.
To-night, they boasted when they drove their stakes,
To-morrow's eve should see them on the plain,
And burning cities, sacked and ruined towns,
And widow'd matrons, with their houseless babes,
Attest the vengeance of their steps. Alas!
How helpless Judea seem'd. Yesterday
She threw aside her chains; to-morrow's sun
Might see them riveted anew. Her doom
Was sealed unless her God should interpose.
The reeling sentinel had ceased his round,
And slept at last beside the smould'ring fire.
They too, in imitation of their chief,
With wassails "vex'd the drowsy ear of night,"
Till heavy slumber still'd their babbling tongues.
The lonely jackal's distant, plaintive cry,
The Jordan fretting o'er its rocky bed,
In haste to reach the bosom of the sea,
Were sounds the oleander-scented breeze
Brought from the plains below. The goatherd's cry,
The shepherd's evening song from far-off hills,
Mingled with the night-bird's boding voice.
Nearer was heard the tethered camels'
Awkward tread. Loosed from their cumbrous load, They stalked like spectral shadows on the hill, Cropping the scanty herbage.
Held by a silver bracket, burned with spice
And pungent aromatic sandal-wood
Before the Assyrian's tent. A lamp
Lit within, shone o'er a sleeping soldier.
Fresh from the banquet, he had thrown himself,
Apparelled as he was, upon his couch.
A canopy of purple and of gold,
Wrought with barbaric gems, hung o'er his head.
Heavy potations of generous wine
Had surfeited this sensuous being,
And Holofernes slept:-slept but to dream
Again he had quaffed the ruddy wine,
And sweeter draughts than ever vintage gave,
From rubier lips. His lustful dreams were
Following in the lascivious track
His waking passions made. A mutter'd oath, Or some coarse term of love from coarser lips, Told where his thoughts kept tryst.
A woman's hand
Parted the crimson curtains from the door,
And Judith stood within. With beauty such
As never hath endowed a Gentile maid
She stood, this dusky daughter of the sun,
Fair as Rachel, when her shepherd lover
Deemed her worth the seven years' wooing,
And yet seven more. A high, heroic
Style, like Sarah had, when it tempted God's
Most faithful son to use duplicity.
Courageous was she as the Kenite's wife,
Who slew the sleeping Sisera; wily
As the queen whose conquering beauty made
The royal will subservient to her own
And to her people's good. As noiselessly
As move the figures we but see in dreams,
She glided to the sleeping chieftain's couch,
And bending low,
(6 a moment o'er her face
A tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced, and then it faded as it came."
The glittering sword that hung above his head
Would riot in her kindred's blood, and now
The stalwart arm that then would wield its weight
Was nerveless as an infant's. The charm'd hour
Of fate had come. A woman, frail as fair,
Youthful as weak, accomplishes its design.
She paused a moment ere she laid aside
The mercy-loving nature of her sex.
The woman pleaded in her heart, perhaps
For him defenceless and asleep. 'Twas but
A moment. The vow her lips had breathed
Transformed the creature to a nobler thing.
As vessels that the priests have once blessed,
Though made of common clay, become henceforth
Forever sacred to the temple's use,
So the baptism of her mission fell
Upon the heart and brain, transfiguring
Her whole being. If it is truly said,
"We live in deeds, not years, in thoughts, not breaths,” Then we have erred in calling Judith young.
We looked but on the strangely dazzling face,
The full, voluptuous, and perfect form,
And not upon the spirit caged within.
Called we her fair? How poor a word for
Beauty terrible as Egypt's death-angels!
A woman? Yea, if that be vengeance's sex.
With no unseemly haste proclaiming fear,
She took the pond'rous weapon from the wall;
Laying one hand upon his matted locks,
The other held the instrument of death,
Swift the descending blade flashed in the light.
The deed was done, and Judea was free:
A Woman's hand had brought the priceless gift.
Sing on, O Stars! your everlasting song,
And let the moon in cloudless beauty walk
Her fair celestial way. Before thy light
Shall pale in morning's gray, Judith shall raise
The song of victory Miriam sang,
And Deborah echoed 'neath the spreading palms:
"Israel's God is Lord for evermore."
ANNIE R. BLOUNT.
ISS BLOUNT is a native of Richmond County, Va. She commenced writing for her own pleasure and amusement at an early age, and many of her juvenile productions appeared in print under various signatures.
She graduated at Madison Female College, Madison, Ga., with the very highest honors the institution could confer; the president stating to the trustees and audience that she was the most perfect scholar he had ever graduated.
After her graduation, although very young, Miss Blount, at the earnest persuasion of teachers, friends, etc., assumed the editorial conduct of a literary paper, which, under her auspices, rapidly grew into public favor, and was widely circulated. Miss Blount, besides being literary editress of the "Bainbridge Argus," (which position she held for two years,) contributed to other Southern literary journals. She received a prize offered by a literary paper published in Newbern, N. C., for "the best story by any American writer."
Mr. T. A. Burke, then editor of the "Savannah News," thus alluded to her success:
'An examining committee, composed of W. Gilmore Simms, the eminent novelist, Rev. B. Craven, President of the Normal College, N. C., and John R. Thompson, editor of the 'Southern Literary Messenger,' have awarded the first prize, a one-hundred-dollar gold medal, to 'Jenny Woodbine,' alias Miss Annie R. Blount, of Augusta, Ga., 'for the best story,' to be published in a Southern paper. We know Miss Blount well, and her success as a writer, both of prose and verse, is what her decided talent induced us to expect. She is young-probably the youngest writer of any reputation in the country, North or South — and, with proper study and care, she has much to expect in the future."
This story, "The Sisters," was printed in 1859, in the "Newbern Gazette." Miss Blount has received numerous prizes for poems and novelettes, offered by various papers. In the summer of -, she was invited by the trustees and faculty of Le Vert College, Talbotton, Ga.,