FRESHLY the cool breath of the coming eve
Stole through the lattice, and the dying girl
Felt it upon her forehead. She had lain
Since the hot noontide in a breathless trance,
Her thin, pale fingers clasped within the hand
Of the heart-broken Ruler, and her breast,
Like the dead marble, white and motionless.
The shadow of a leaf lay on her lips,
And, as it stirred with the awakening wind,
The dark lids lifted from her languid eyes.
And her slight fingers moved, and heavily
She turned upon her pillow. He was there, —
The same loved, tireless watcher, and she looked
Into his face until her sight grew dim
With the fast-falling tears, and, with a sigh
Of tremulous weakness, murmuring his name.
She gently drew his hands upon her lips,
And kissed it as she wept. The old man sunk
Upon his knees, and in the drapery
Of the rich curtains buried up his face;
And when the twilight fell, the silken folds
Stirred with his prayer; but the slight hand he held
Had ceased its pressure, and he could not hear,
In the dead, utter silence, that a breath
Came through her nostrils, and her temples gave
To his nice touch no pulse, and at her mouth
He held the lightest curl that on her neck
Lay with a mocking beauty, and his gaze
Ached with its deathly stillness.
It was night,
And softly o’er the Sea of Galilee
Danced the breeze-ridden ripples to the shore,
Tipped with the silver sparkles of the moon.
The breaking waves played low upon the beach
Their constant music, but the air beside
Was still as starlight, and the Saviour’s voice,
In its rich cadences unearthly sweet, the air,
Waked by the power of wisdom. On a rock,
With the broad moonlight falling on His brow,
He stood and taught the people. At His feet
Lay His small scrip, and pilgrim’s scallop shell,
And staff; for they had waited by the sea
Till He came o’er from Gadarene, and prayed
For His wont teachings as He came to land.
His hair was parted meekly on His brow,
And the long curls from off His shoulders fell
As He leaned forward earnestly, and still
The same calm cadence, passionless and deep.
And in His looks the same mild majesty,
And in His mien the sadness mixed with power,
Filled them with love and wonder.
As on His words entrancedly they hung,
The crowd divided, and among them stood
Jairus the Ruler. With his flowing robe
Gathered in haste about his loins, he came,
And fixed his eyes on Jesus. Closer drew
The twelve disciples to their Master’s side,
And silently the people shrunk away,
And left the haughty Ruler in the midst
Alone. A moment longer on the face
Of the meek Nazarene he kept his gaze,
And as the twelve looked on him, by the light
Of the clear moon, they saw a glistening tear
Steal to his silver beard, and, drawing nigh
Unto the Saviour’s feet, he took the hem
Of His coarse mantle, and with trembling hands
Pressed it upon his lips, and murmured low,
“Master, my daughter!”
The same silvery light
That shone upon the lone rock by the sea
Slept on the Ruler’s lofty capitals
As at the door he stood, and welcomed in
Jesus and His disciples. All was still.
The echoing vestibule gave back the slide
Of their loose sandals, and the arrowy beam
Of moonlight, slanting to the marble floor,
Lay like a spell of silence in the rooms,.
As Jairus led them on. With hushing steps
He trod the winding stair; but, ere he touched
The latchet, from within a whisper came:
“Trouble the Master not, — for she is dead!”
And his faint hand fell nerveless at his side,
And his steps faltered, and his broken voice
Choked in its utterance. But a gentle hand
Was laid upon his arm, and in his ear
The Saviour’s voice sank thrillingly and low,
“She is not dead, but sleepeth!”
They passed in.
The spice-lamps in the alabaster urns
Burned dimly, and the white and fragrant smoke
Curled indolently on the chamber walls.
The silken curtains slumbered in their folds, —
Not even a tassel stirring in the air, —
And as the Saviour stood beside the bed,
And prayed inaudibly, the Ruler heard
The quickening division of His breath
As He grew earnest inwardly. There came
A gradual brightness o’er His calm, sad face;
And, drawing nearer to the bed, He moved
The silken curtains silently apart
And looked upon the maiden.
Like a form
Of matchless sculpture, in her sleep she lay, —
The linen vesture folded on her breast,
And over it her white, transparent hands,
The blood still rosy in their tapering nails.
A line of pearl ran through her parted lips.
And in her nostrils, spiritually thin,
The breathing curve was mockingly like life,
And round beneath the faintly-tinted skin
Ran the light branches of the azure veins;
And on her cheek the jet lash overlay,
Matching the arches pencilled on her brow.
Her hair had been unbound, and, falling loose
Upon her pillow, hid her small, round ears
In curls of glossy blackness, and about
Her polished neck, scarce touching it, they hung,
Like airy shadows floating as they slept.
‘Twas heavenly beautiful. The Saviour raised
Her hand from off her bosom, and spread out
The snowy fingers in His palm, and said,
“Maiden! Arise!” — and suddenly a flush
Shot o’er her forehead, and along her lips
And through her cheek the rallied color ran,
And the still outline of her graceful form
Stirred in the linen vesture, and she clasped
The Saviour’s hand, and, fixing her dark eyes
Full on His beaming countenance, AROSE.
-N. P. WILLIS.