Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, by NINA DAVIS

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THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, by            
First Line: There is a legend full of joy and pain
Last Line: Within its place.
Subject(s): Israel; Jews; Legends; Temples; Judaism; Mosques

THERE is a legend full of joy and pain,
An old tradition told of former years,
When Israel built the Temple once again
And stayed his tears.

'Twas in the chamber where the Wood Pile lay,
The logs wherewith the altar's flame was fed;
There hope recalled the Light of vanished day,
The Light long fled.

A priest moved slowly o'er the marble floor,
Sorting the fuel in the chamber stored;
Frail was his form;—he ministered no more
Before the Lord.

Wrapt in still thought, with sad and mournful mien,
Pyking his axe with oft a troubled sigh,
He dreamed of glory which the House had seen
In days gone by;

Mused of the time when in the Holy Place
God's Presence dwelt between the Cherubim,
And of the day He turned away His face,
And light grew dim;

When the Shechinah from that erring throng,
Alas, withdrew, yet tarried in the track,
As one who lingereth on the threshold long
And looketh back;

Then step by step in that reluctant flight
Approached the shadow of the city wall,
And lingered yet upon the mountain height
For hoped recall.

The Temple standing, pride of Israel's race,
Hath resting there no sacred Ark of Gold;
God's Glory filleth not the Holy Place
As once of old.

Surely the glory of the House is o'er;
Gone is the Presence, silent is the Voice;—
They who remember that which is no more,
Can they rejoice?

To him, so musing, sudden rapture came;
The axe fell from his trembling hand's control;
A fire leapt upward, and a burning flame
Woke in his soul.

His eyes had seen; his soul spoke; he had gazed
Upon one stone of that smooth marble plain:—
Lo! from its place it surely had been raised,
And set again.

Into his heart there flashed prophetic light;
With sudden force the secret was revealed;
What but one treasure, sacred in his sight,
Lay there concealed?

As one of Heaven bid who dare not wait,
With step grown firm as with the strength of youth,
He hastened to his comrade to relate
The wondrous truth.

With hand uplifted, and a light sublime
In eyes that full of some new wonder shone,
He seemed a holy seer of olden time
To look upon.

Yet from his parted lips no message came;
In silence reached he his immortal goal;
And from its dwelling in the earthly frame
Went forth his soul.

Soon o'er the house flew, murmuring, strange reports,
And men and women trembled at the sound,
And priests came swiftly from the sacred courts,
And thronged around.

And all these came from all their paths away,
In hurried gathering which none gainsaid,
And stood in utter silence where he lay,
The priestly dead.

Lo! in the hush the spirit, as it passed
Beyond the still form and the peaceful brow,
Seemed to speak audibly: "O Lord, at last!
I see Thee now.

"Mine eyes have seen this day my life's fair dream,
In this my death have seen that dream fulfilled—
The longing of my heart, the wish supreme
That grief instilled.

"I said, God's Ark is captive far away,
So wept I, Ichabod, for glory fled,
And mourned because the brightness of the day
Was quenched and dead.

"Yet, verily, if in a far-off land
The Ark of God in exile dwelleth still,
Yea, even so 'tis with the pure of hand
Who do His will.

"Know then, ye priests and Levites, Israel all,
Hid in its place the Ark of God doth lie,
His presence hath not gone beyond recall,
But bideth nigh.

"Haste, brethren, let the gates asunder burst;
Regain the Ark, the Covenant hold fast;
And by the glorious Second House, the First
Shall be surpassed!

"Behold, thou comest as the dawn of day!
Shechinah! changeless, to illume the night!
O Thou, Who art a lamp upon the way,
Who art the light!"

So sang his soul, with life's full radiance crowned;
So dawned again the shining of God's face;
For each heart knew the Ark could yet be found
Within its place.

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