The Israelite Amid Philistines

Enter EZRIL dragged in by two Venetians.

Help! help, you kindly people of this place!
Help for the helpless old! Have mercy, sirs!
Oh! it is in your hearts, deny it not;
Shut not your ears to its enchanting tongue.
It will unlock a heaven in your souls,
Wherein my pardon and my pity sits.
I kneel to you, as you unto your god:
Reject me not, teach him not cruelty.
Be heavenly, as you can.

1st Venet.
Hush! frosty jew!
Or take my answer from this tongue of steel.

When you are old, and fearful,
With age’s wintry winds shaking your limbs,
Thus may you cry, thus may you wring your hands,—

1st Venet.
And thus be struck. Once more have silence with thee,
Or death possess me if I stab thee not.
Now comrade, shall we let the coward live?

2nd Venet.
Wilt thou betray us, dotard?

By my life,
If you will grant me it to swear upon,

1st Venet.
It is a rubbed and brittle oath,
As what ’tis sworn: break one, thou breakest both.
I’ll snap thy being like a frozen breath,
If thou breathest falsely.

If I kill my truth,
Drive thy revenge into my midmost heart.

1st Venet.
Hark, once again! Where wert thou journeying, jew,
With gold-stuffed panniers, thus?

To Venice town.—
Alas! remind me not of my dear riches,
The beauteous jewels of my bosom; take them.—
I would that I were stouter in my soul,
That I dared die!—Be gentle with the sacks;
They’re full of fair, white silver: as I tied them,
I felt their strings run tickling through my veins.

1st Venet.
O ho! here’s royal booty, on my soul:
A draught of ducats! By this silver sight
I love thee, bushy dog, and thou shalt live
To sweep the corners of men’s souls again.
Be comforted. Let’s toss them on our shoulders,
And swim the Po.

2nd Venet.
First, look you here, old man:
There’s a clenched hand; dost see?

‘Tis hard as iron:
(aside) Hell melt it so!

2nd Venet.
And in’t a sword:—

(aside) As sharp as are the teeth
Of my heart’s father, a fierce curse of thee.—
What then, sir?

2nd Venet.
Speak once of us,
Look after us, or press that foot of thine
Upon yon lip of Po, where Venice grows,—
They’re in thy muddy body to the wrist.

   [Exeunt Veneti.

The weight of Atlas’ shoulder slip upon you!
The waves smile, do they? O, that they would laugh,
Open their liquid jaws and shut them on you!
These are but thieves, the emptiers of my soul,—
These, that have scooped away my sweetest kernel,
My gathered seed of kingdom-shading wealth,
Crown-blossomed, sword-leaved, trunked with struggling armies,
And left the wrinkled skin upon my arms,—
These are but thieves! And he that steals the blood,
A murderer is he? Oh! my thoughts are blunt:—
I’ll throw away the workings of my tongue,
Till I’ve the craft to make a curse so long,
Fangish enough to reach the quick of earth,
That hell whose flaming name my feelings echo,
And rouse it for them.
                                 Death! here comes a man
To stare into my ruin.


Hail, country of my birth!
We’re met in season; winter in us both,
The fruit picked from us, poor and snowy-scalped,
And almost solitary. I did turn
An ermined shoulder on thee, when I stepped
Out of thine airy door of earth and sky,
Upon that watery threshold;
And now I face thee with a ragged front:
A coin of Fate’s cross-stamp, that side a Duke,
And this, which Time turns up, (so hell might stick
Upon the back of heaven,) a scratched despair!

* * *

[Kelsall, 1851]