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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

Zara, The Martyr

The following extract, upon which the poem of Zara is based, is from the pen of E.L. Mitford, Esq., author of an appeal in behalf of the Jewish nation. I have presumed upon a poet's privilege, and have, for various reasons, transferred the scene of the catastrophe from Fez to Constantinople.

"I will narrate a case," says Mr. Mitford, "which took place at Tangier, and with which I was, therefore, well acquainted. The individual sufferer was an interesting Jewess, of respectable family, residing at Tangier; and much is it to be regretted that our Consul-General had not influence--or, if he did possess any, that he did not exert it--to avert the horrid catastrophe.

"This young creature was summoned before the Cadi, by two Moors, who deposed to her having pronounced their confession of faith. This, however, she utterly denied, but in vain; and the Cadi had no alternative, even had he possessed the inclination, but to decree her conformity to Islamism, on pain of death. I was never able to obtain correct information as to whether the witnesses were actuated by sinister motives, or whether the poor girl really did repeat the fatal words in jest. There is, doubtless, much friendly intercourse between the Jews and the better-disposed Moors, in which gossip and jesting are sometimes carried beyond the verge of safety, considering the relative position of the parties. Again, in a scriptural language like the Arabic, in which the name of G-d so constantly occurs, there are many ejaculations repeatedly uttered by the Jews which approach very near to this formula, and might, therefore, be mistaken for it. Be this as it may, the affair was of too serious a nature to be passed over lightly by the Jewish community, who at least deserve the credit of uniting for mutual protection, and, consequently, every exertion was made, but unsuccessfully, by influence and money, to crush it in the bud. It had, however, become too public not to reach the ears of Malai Abderahman, to whose decision it was, therefore, referred, and the parties repaired to Fez for that purpose.

"Whatever might have influenced her accusers, there could be no doubt of the motive of the Sultan in enforcing the decree, which was, to obtain another plaything for his harem; in fact, so well known was his character in that respect, that, from the moment of her being ordered to his presence, no one expected any other result--for few possibly imagines, not did the Sultan himself, that she would have courage to brave the alternative, rather than abandon the faith of her fathers. Such, however, was the case. She was first sent to the Serail, where every means were employed to shake her constancy; threats, blandishments, and the most brilliant promises, were tried by turns, and were equally unsuccessful. Even her relations were allowed to see her, to endeavor by their persuasions to divert her from her resolution; but, with a firmness which, against such assaults, could have been the effect only of the deepest conviction, this young and noble creature held fast her integrity, and calmly chose a horrible, though honorable death, to the enjoyment of an ignominious existence of shame and infamy.

"The Jews came forward with offers of immense sums of money to save her, but her fate was irrevocably decided, and the only mercy the baffled tyrant could afford his young and innocent victim, was to allow of her being decapitated, instead of being burnt alive. I had an account of the closing scene from an eyewitness, who was one of the guards at the execution--and although, as a body, there is nowhere a more dissolute set of irregular soldiery than the Morocco Moors, yet he confessed to me that many of his vice-hardened companions could not restrain their tears, and that he himself could not look with dry eyes on a sight of such cold-blooded atrocity.

"This beautiful young creature was led out to where a pile ready for firing had been raised for her last couch, her long, dark hair flowing disheveled over her shoulders, she looked around in vain for a heart and hand that could succor, though so many eyes pitied her; for the last time she was offered--with the executioner and the pyre in all their terror before her--her life, on condition of being false to her G-d; she only asked for a few minutes for prayer, after which her throat was cut by the executioner, according the barbarous custom of the country, and her body consumed on the fire.

Introduction to Zara

Oh, harp of Judah, thou beloved so long,
A feeble hand essays thy notes again,
And thou returnest in answer to the song,
Fraught with deep sadness, a low, wailing strain;
A mournful murmur swells, as if in pain,
Along thy chords. Oh! melancholy lyre,
Let not those notes reverberate in vain,
But let the mournful strain, ere it expire,
Pervade my trembling soul with its ethereal fire.

Oh, harp! how has thy lofty spirit slept,
Thou, whose proud strings once trill'd 'neath kingly hands,
That told of Israel's sorrows when she wept,
Her triumphs when she burst her conquerors' bands;
Then swelled the choral notes to distant lands,
And songs of triumph borne upon the air,
Proclaimed to all that He, whose love withstands
The many sins to which frail man is heir,
Had stooped in mercy down to hear the captive's prayer.

But now, no powerful hand essays thy string,
No loudly swelling note responds in pride;
Weak and uncertain is the lay I sing,
And faint and mournfully hast thou replied--
An humble meed we bring to her who died
For the pure faith she loved; but the sad lay,
Rude though its numbers be, let none deride;
Fain would an unskilled hand point out the way,
To lead their steps aright, who from fair wisdom stray.


'Tis midnight in Stamboul! The radiant light
Of the soft moon gilds minaret and tower,
And the deep stillness of the silent night
Is fraught with poetry. In such an hour,
Can fierce and angry passions wield their power?
Can wayward thoughts or sinful wishes feed
The human heart? Alas, the simplest flower
Might teach to erring man, whate'er his creed,
A lesson fraught with truth that all who list may read.

'Tis midnight! yet from many a lattice gleams
A flood of golden light, and all is gay
Within Namouna's bower; bright, sparkling beams,
And sounds of merry laughter, and the play
Of fragrant fountains, whose soft, cooling spray,
Falls like a gentle shower of summer rain,
Scattering its sweets around, and in the ray
Of brightly beaming lamps, flashes again
In rainbow brightness o'er that fair and joyous train.

There is one form amid the festal throng,
Whose step is lightest in the mazy dance,
And whose rich voice is sweetest in the song,
Whose eye, out-sparkling all in its wild glance,
Seemeth to know the witchery to entrance,
And make all hearts her own, as by a spell--
While innocence and purity enhance
Charms that might win a hermit from his cell,
Or teach a Santon sage 'mong infidels to dwell.

Mahmoud had seen that peerless Hebrew maid,
Fairest of all where all were passing fair,
Had seen her, and had worshipped, but afraid
To harm one ringlet of her raven hair,
Or even in his wildest moments dare
To breathe his passion--sought by woman's wile
To lure her on to join the revel there;
Thinking, if fraud or treachery could beguile
Her soul from its pure faith, the rest were easy spoil.

And well Namouna knew each crafty wile,
To soothe the unwary conscience into sleep,
With tender accent and with winning smile,
And even tears, for she could also weep
If needs must be--and her soft spells could keep
The senses prisoner, and with poison steep
The unguarded mind; nor could their thoughts discern
How deep within her heart dark, vengeful feelings burn.

She had enticed her there in bitter hate,
But veiled her feelings beneath friendship's guise,
Displayed the royal trappings of her state,
And watched the effect in the unfeigned surprise
That lighted up those dark and liquid eyes,
When first the regal splendor met their view;
It seemed like a faint dream of paradise
To Zara, gazing on a scene so new,
She deems it all a dream too gorgeous to be true.

Ropes of rare orient pearl festoon the folds
Of mist-like drapery of pale, amber dye;
A vast shell-fashioned golden basin holds
The silver flood, that, rushing toward the sky,
Rains back in glittering diamond drops, while high,
Rearing their polished heads to that proud dome,
Pillars of porphyry and jasper vie,
With western sunlight on the ocean's foam,
That brings the sea-tost mariner bright dreams of home.

Through the quaint lattice-bars the moonlight falls
On flashing gems of rarest beauty, wove
In shape of every flower whose hue recalls
Thoughts of the fresh pure earth, and early love;
While in each cloud-like, canopied alcove,
Hang lamps like the faint inside of a shell,
Rose-tinted and gold-veined, whose every move
Sends forth a sound like a far distant bell,
Heard on a dewy eve in some lone, woody dell.

The fairy luxury of bower and hall,
The Musnud thickly gemmed, the inlaid floor,
And the rich treasures of the pictured wall,
The glittering gold and azure belt that bore
The Koran's holy text, and circled o'er
That gorgeous spot, like heaven's vault of light--
All formed a scene whose likeness ne'er before
In any shape or guise had met her sight,
And proved to her young mind a source of deep delight.

Where'er she moves, they, with cold, jealous eyes,
Gaze on her fatal gift of beauty, rare
Even in that clime, where, as for Paradise
Are culled earth's loveliest of bright and fair.
And when the Muezzin calls to midnight prayer,
Namouna urges her to join the rest,
With all her suasive words and seeming care,
As tho' a mother made that mild request--
Strange feelings stirred within that young and artless breast.

"Thy faith is like our own," Namouna said;
"There is no G-d but G-d--that prayer is thine,
And it is ours; thy mother, when she prayed,
Taught thy young voice to hymn that sacred line,
And as she taught, let now the task be mine;
While others seek the Frank's bewildering creed,
Let it be mine to watch the fragile vine
She tended with such care, lest some foul deed
Sap the young root and leave the tender plant to bleed.'

Lightly to others' words she laughing gave
A quick response; but when Namouna spoke,
With that sweet voice so tremulous and grave,
She turned attentively--and thoughts awoke
Of that fair clime, where, 'neath oppression's yoke,
Her sainted mother died. And the bright sod,
Earth's bosom, blushed with the fierce deeds that broke,
Lawless and wild, beneath a bigot's rod;
Her voice responds to theirs, "There is no G-d but G-d."

"Mahomet is his prophet!" It is well.
The prayer is done, and now she joins the lay,
In which her voice steals o'er them, like the spell
The Bulbul leaves at the decline of day
Around his favorite rose, who, when the gray,
Dim twilight comes, raises her drooping form,
Unmindful how the sunbeams pale away--
While, pantingly, she listens for that warm
And gushing melody, that soothes her like a charm.

Already has the wily tempter's art--
Ah! fondly trusting and too simple maid--
Woven its spells around thy childlike heart;
Thou seest not the secret snare they laid--
Thou'rt like a fluttering bird, who in the shade
Of leafy forest sings, while the death aim
Is level'd at its heart; thou hast repaid
In thy sweet notes, what e'en would savage tame,
Or quell the darkest deed that human heart could frame.

Within the precincts of that gay hareem,
Were other forms than met fair Zara's eye,
And though all bright and innocent did seem,
Their harmless mirth and childlike revelry,
For other eyes and ears were watching high,
Eager to catch one stray, unguarded word,
That might betray her soul in her reply.
Ah! little dreamed that fair and guileless bird,
When those few words she spoke, that other ears had heard.

The night is well nigh spent, and one by one
The lovely revelers retire to rest,
And she is left in her gay bower alone,
The ringing laugh, scarce ended, which the jest,
Mirth-born, provoked. And now the glittering vest
Of sable-tinted night pales in the gray
First tinge of early dawn--the slumbering West
Still wears night's livery, but the faint marked ray
Tells in the glowing East the coming hour of day.

Morn breaks at length, and from her fairy bower
She watched the last star's lingering ray depart;
Why in the calm, gray twilight of that hour,
Creeps such a sudden chill across her heart?
She who so late had borne the blithest part
Among that laughing group, sits silent there,
Dreaming, she scarce knows what. Why does she start,
As the dull Muezzin's morning call to prayer
Comes with its solemn tone on the soft balmy air?

Namouna sought her side, but even her low,
Sweet, pleasing voice, fell strangely on her ear;
It seemed as if a sense of coming woe
Crept to her heart, and chained its pulse with fear,
So strangely now do last night's scenes appear,
So fraught with some unfathomed mystery.
What means Namouna? "Thou art mistress here!"
"Rejoice," she said at length, "that thou art free
From that dark, erring creed, which so long fettered thee!"

"My creed? Thou ravest! Has my soul flung back
That glorious faith, taught by a mother's tongue,
And lisped in earliest childhood? The bright track
Left by the powerful day-god, when he sprung
From out the lap of night, or midway hung
In his career, was not more pure and bright
Than that dear faith. Namouna, thou hast wrung
My heart with deepest anguish and affright,
Nor can I yet believe my ears have heard aright."

"Peace, peace!" Namouna cried. "thou ravest! thou
Wert better dead than let thy false lips speak
Those impious words; thou darest not break thy vow--
Mahmoud has heard thee. Hence, and let him wreak
His vengeance on her head who thus would break
Her faith with heaven." The Sultan! ha, that name
Unravels all the mystery; they would seek
That foul device to urge her on to shame;
Where could she turn for help when his dread summons came?

Pure as a snow-flake in its midway flight,
Ere earthly touch or earthly stain defile
Its fleecy whiteness, fair as is the light
Of some lone star, whose trembling beams beguile
The dreamy poet--she whose lightest smile
Shed happiness around her--what is she?
The storm-tost wanderer wrecked on some lone isle,
Who fain must trust his ill-made bark to sea--
Were emblem meet for her in her lone misery.

They bear her to a fair and glittering bower,
Whose gorgeous splendor palls upon the sight,
And strive with all the arts of wealth and power,
To lure her from the narrow path of right.
And then her trial came, when day and night
Her soul was racked with question and reply;
But, though bewilder'd and perplex'd with fright,
Still true to her pure faith, they vainly try
To win her from the track by force or subtlety.

In his seraglio, moody and apart,
Young Mahmoud sat; no stranger's eye could trace
The bitter struggle of his writhing heart,
In the cold lineaments of that pale face.
Yet his heart weeps, and strives in vain to efface
That fragile suppliant from his throbbing brain!
It will not be! the maddening pulse keeps pace
With the wild whirlwind; fool! how more than vain
Were thy imagines joys, based on another's pain.

In vain his favorite tries each graceful wile,
In vain his beauteous slaves of fair Cashmere,
Strive as of yore to win their master's smile--
All sounds fall cold on his insensate ear,
He heeds not mirth nor music--a vague fear,
A shuddering sense of some impending ill,
A sound, a whisper, that he will not hear,
Presses upon his brain against his will,
And struggle as he may, the vision haunts him still!

He signs them to depart; they know his mood,
It brooks not idle question nor reply.
"Bear hence our mandate--be it understood
We seek our prisoner; and thou, Zerli,
Place thou those gew-gaws such as woman's eye
Delights to look on, that she needs must see
Our care hath left no fitting toy awry;
And if she still disdain my gifts and me--
Ah, Allah! no, that thought is hopeless misery."

A lulling fountain's gently soothing sound,
Steals with its murmuring tones o'er her sad soul,
And in the coming twilight that around
Deepens the shadows, dreamy visions stole,
Sweet thoughts come crowding on without control--
She treads again her native valleys free,
With those she loves, and fancy steeps the whole
In her elysian dye, till memory
Revels in the bright past of love and liberty.

"Zara!" she starts! that voice dispels the dream
Which for a moment brought back other days.
"Houri! to-night thy matchless beauties seem
Even lovelier than when last they met my gaze;
Thou heed'st not! know a monarch seldom prays
For mortal boon; thou hast presumed to spurn
My proffered love; the heart that thus repays
With coldness my love's coin, can also turn
To deadly venomed hate the fires with which I burn.

"Now listen: hitherto my love hath kept
My lips from uttering all I have to tell,
But now, let the stern truth that only slept,
Be waken'd, and thy childish dream dispel.
But look not on me thus! I love so well,
That my heart seems scarce strong enough to bear
Thy thrilling, searching glance, that, like a spell,
Fetters it down to earth. Beware! beware!
Tempt not my lips to speak what thou wilt dread to hear."

Suddenly, as by magic, while he spoke,
A thousand starry lamps flash o'er the scene,
Soft, mellowed, and subdued, their radiance broke,
And in their amber-colored light are seen
Bands of dusk, silent slaves, who glide between
Those rows of gleaming pillars; now they meet,
And kneeling, offer her as to a queen,
Rich robes and sparkling gems, and incense sweet,
All bring their richest gifts their hareem queen to greet.

But, amid flashing gems and music's tone,
Which now swells gently through that fair arcade,
Another moves with stealthy steps alone--
The headsman! loathed wretch! his glittering blade
An instant gleams before the affrighted maid,
Then vanishes like all that fair array--
Even like the ripples some fair child has made
Upon a lake's calm bosom, while at play;
So gleams awhile that pageantry, so fades away.

"Zara!" the monarch murmured, "oft my tongue
Essayed to speak the words that give thee o'er
To misery, but thy pure soul so clung
To that bright vision, which can never more
Greet thy young life, that pitying, I forbore
To break the spell that solaced thy sad heart;
Oh! must I yield thee to that headsman's power?
Wilt thou, so young and lovely as thou art,
Leave all that lures to life, and recklessly depart?

"Thou mays't reject the love I offer thee,
Thou mays't spurn back a mighty monarch's prayer,
But in thine hour of fearful agony,
Thou wilt in vain recall the tender care
That would have shielded thee from harm. Beware!
Heed how thou lay the axe unto the stem--
I swear to thee, by Allah! every hair
Of thy dear head more precious is than gem,
Though rarest of its kind, in Stamboul's diadem."

"Oh! give me back," she cried, "the thoughts that blest
Those happy days, ere thy dark treachery came;
Thou hast tortured--give my fainting spirit rest,
Nor seek to lead my innocence to shame.
Oh! by the love thou pleadest--by the flame
Which fain would lead my soul to misery,
I do conjure thee, tarnish not thy name
For a poor vassal--set thy prisoner free,
And every prayer she breathes shall blessings ask for thee."

"Dreamer, I tell thee it is vain! the power
That giveth life or death, lies not in me;
Thy sentence is decided! in one hour
From the next sunrise must thy spirit free,
Float on through depths of vast eternity.
Whither? thou tremblest; oh, be mine the prize--
Let the deep, yearning love I bear for thee,
Win back a soul too young for Paradise,
Nor let cold bigots boast such costly sacrifice."

"An hour from sunrise!" she exclaimed. "Oh, G-d!
Must my young life pass thus from the bright earth,
And all the pleasant paths my feet have trod--
My hours of innocent and guileless mirth,
Fade like a dream away? And thy lone hearth
Deserted; Father, will it never be
Again love's shrine? Oh! thou, who from her birth
Hast guided thy child's steps to Heaven with thee,
How wilt thou bear this weight of crushing misery?"

She stood entranced in her heart-rending woe--
The flood-gates of her stricken soul were dried!
Ah! only they who feel such grief, can know
How the heart shrinks from all the world beside,
And feels but its own woe. In vain she tried
To rally her scared senses; ne'er till now
Had she relinquished hope; but even that died.
Yet, in her sorrows deepest tortures, when
He strove to win her back, her soul flashed forth again.

"I spurn," she cried, "thy hatred and thy love--
I trample on these gew-gaws of thy state,
By which my soul's pure mission thou would'st prove.
Monarch, I spurn and I defy thee! great
As is thy power, and fearful as thy hate,
It harms me not; my pure thoughts soar as free
As the light, viewless winds, nor would I mate,
Trampled and death-doomed as I am, with thee,
Slave as thou art to thy vile sensual fantasy."

"Beware!" he cried, thou spurn'st the hand that fain
Would wreathe a diadem around thy head;
Oh! heed me, and be wise; this is the vain,
Wild outbreak of thy spirit; now, be led
By reason's light, and heed what I have said--
I swear to make thee partner of my throne,
If thou renounce thy fatal creed, and tread
In the right path to heaven. Oh! be mine own,
Nor leave my struggling soul thus tortured and alone.

"Without thee life is vain; vain is the pride,
The pomp and splendor of my kingly crown,
But with thee, beauteous being, by my side,
How would my soul deride the smile or frown
Of fickle fortune. Here my heart lays down
Its wealth of earnest love, and at thy feet
Offers such homage as a queen might own;
Thou, so obscure, unknown, nations shall greet,
And tongues of far-off climes my Zara's name repeat."

"Yes," she exclaimed, "and they shall hold the breath,
When it comes coupled with thine own, and know
That thy false lips could doom unto her death,
One who had never wrought thee bale or woe;
And this deep, blood-dyed deed of guilt shall show,
Even as a beacon, warning others clear
Of the foul, fatal rocks that lurk below
A kingly aspect. Yes! the world shall hear
The fate of one poor maid, whose course thy hand did steer."

The wildest prayers that human tongue could frame,
The deepest soul-felt pleadings of despair,
The quivering lips and the dark eye of flame,
And trembling form that kneels before her there,
Move her no more than the faint breath of air,
That through the casement flings its fragrance now,
And stirs the tresses of her raven hair,
Which, cold and damp, cling to her pallid brow--
Her thoughts are not on earth, nor heeds she earthly vow.

Dawn, in its loveliest hue, when the free earth
Bounds into gladness, like a parent, kept
From the beloved sight of those whose birth
Was her sole joy; a mother who has wept
That they were severed when their spirits leapt
To meet each other; even so does she,
Our mother earth, weep through the night which swept
Her loved ones from her sight, and in her glee
Hail the first dawn of light with song and revelry.

A gallant bark, like a fair, graceful swan,
Skims proudly o'er the light, snow-crested wave
Of the fair Bosphorus, and ere the dawn
Kisses the eyelids of the East, her brave
And gallant crew, impatient of their grave
And silent chief, turn with a wistful gaze
To that loved shore which the bright waters lave;
They bless the fragrant breeze that round them plays,
And brings back thoughts of love, and home, and happy days.

Sunrise! broad over minaret and mosque,
Flashes the golden beam! the palm that bends
Its graceful form beside the gay kiosk,
Glitters like diamonds as the light ascends;
And every humble rivulet that wends
Its quiet, noiseless way, dimples with light,
And blesses in its murmurs Him who sends
Such gladness upon earth; the mountains height,
Rock, tree and river, all in one glad hymn unite.

Now the light boat draws near the wished-for land;
Away regret and fear! friends meet again,
Eye beams on eye, hand grasps the welcome hand.
Cast to the winds remembrance of past pain,
The very air breathes forth a joyous strain;
Hearts, throbbing fast with coming ecstasy,
Turn from the heaving billows of the main,
To meet, perchance, a gloomier destiny
Than the rude, swelling winds of the tempestuous sea.

These may be borne, the storm may pass away,
The haughty wave may ripple at the bow,
The gloomy sky, surcharged with sulphurous ray,
May beam tomorrow with its wonted glow,
But who that stakes his happiness below,
And finds it wrecked, can turn to life again
With heart as light, and with as calm a brow,
In the dark downfall of his hopes, as when
He first essayed to mount above his fellow men.

An aged, bending form, whose steps ne'er stay
For one brief moment, while the busy throng
Leap to the shore, now wends his lonely way
To that loved home, from which, though absent long,
His thoughts ne'er wandered--nay, the very song
Breathed by the oarsmen rude, seems like a spell,
A voice from home, and wakens feelings strong
And powerful within his bosom's cell,
As he returns to scenes beloved so long and well.

Reanimated by such thoughts, he speeds
To that loved spot where all his wishes lie;
He speeds with anxious, trembling steps, nor heeds
The motley crowd, who pass each other by
With hurried step, as if some revelry,
Some passing pageant, claimed their special care;
He heeds them not, but dreams of pleasures nigh.
What sound was that upon the summer air!
Was it his daughter's name! why was it uttered there?

It sounds again more near! his senses reel!
Dare foul-mouthed slaves breathe that beloved name?
He questions them, and many in their zeal
Betray the horrid truth! The torrent came;
It moved--it spread--even like the glowing flame,
Swayed by the midnight wind--the rushing tide
Swept past, nor heeded that pale, trembling frame;
They come--their numbers swell on every side--
"As a vile wretch should die, she dies today!" they cried.

On, on! he too is borne amid the rest,
Nor strives to turn; a fascination lies
In all around him, and within his breast
His heart lies like a corpse; but now those eyes
Meet his! and as the soaring eagle flies
To meet the sun, he bursts the living mass--
He clasps her to his heart--his treasured prize!
His own! Alas, as frost-work on a glass
Melts in the morning's sun, his dreams of pleasure pass.

Who comes on bounding steed of sable hue,
Urging with fiery haste amid the throng?
Back, back! beware in time, ye servile crew,
'Tis Mahmoud! fast and heedlessly along
The crowded path he bounds, as if the wrong
His love had wrought on one, was darker shown
Than cruelty to others. Fierce among
The assembled crowd he spurs, nor plaintive moan,
Nor pleading prayer for pity, moves that heart of stone.

He seeks her, but his voice is faint and low,
Quelled and subdued by fear, and his strong frame
Shakes like a reed. "Fond maniac, I forego
The love I sued for; live! nor let my name
Be dimmed for future ages." His breath came
Panting and fast; terror was in his eye,
And his pale, bloodless cheek attests the same.
"Speak thou!" he cried, in his wild agony,
"Old man, whose erring creed has brought her here to die!"

"Speak to her--bid her again live for love,
Not mine! that fantasy is forever fled;
Let her but live! perchance thy words may move."
"Forbear, forbear!" with trembling voice she said,
"Oh! thou, upon whose snow-enwreathed head
This fearful weight will fall so heavily,
Could'st thou behold thy daughter's soul misled,
Her life one endless chain of misery,
Removed from her dear faith, my Father, and from thee?

"Oh, G-d of Abraham, be my refuge now,
Thou to whose holy laws my soul hath clung
Unstained and undefiled, receive me, Thou,
Eternal and Omnipotent." They wrung
All hearts, those words, and fixed attention hung
Upon her voice; so young, so fair, to die.
Dark, bearded, callous men, held up their young,
That they might gaze on her, and marvel why
So fair a thing was formed for man's cold butchery.

A moment's silence o'er that fearful spot,
A moment, and each breath is held in awe,
In that brief space each petty feud forgot;
The multitude, obeying Nature's law,
Shrink from a sight that softest tears might draw
From sternest eyes, and teach men to forgive.
And, as a drowning wretch clings to a straw,
So through her heart and brain wild feelings strive,
And gather from that pause a hope that she may live.

"Ye shall not slay her; she is all mine own,
The treasured relic of the buried past;
Ye cannot leave me, aged and alone,
To battle with my griefs. Oh! ye who cast
This agony o'er one whose life speeds fast
To the abyss of death, a broken reed,
Tremble, and turn in time, lest the fierce blast
Of a wronged father's curse to heaven shall speed,
And call down G-d's own vengeance on this ruthless deed."

"Gold! aye, a monarch's ransom shall be his,
Who frees her from this foul and unjust doom."
"Peace, peace! if gold could bribe us, long ere this
Thy tribe had spared us all this day of gloom,
But fate, oh, Allah! how shall man presume
To counteract the just decrees of fate?
Commander of the Faithful, Thou to whom
We bow in reverence, Thy servants wait
Thy signal to dispatch her soul to Eblis' gate."

"Spare her a moment--one brief moment pause;
She yet may turn, and in this trying hour
May see the wisdom of our prophet's laws.
Zara, wilt thou not heed me?" Fiend, thy power
Availeth naught, for that fair, fragile flower,
Crushed by thy hand, uprises calm and strong;
Her pale lips move in prayer--hush, pause--they cower,
Those abject slaves--for, o'er the assembled throng
Roll the clear liquid words of Israel's Shemang.

Thus died she! Oh, in pity draw the veil,
And shut the hideous picture from the sight,
Let never mortal hear so sad a tale
As that which quenched forever the young light,
Whose being was a household's joy. Let night
Exclude forever from the face of day
The fatal hour that thus in hope's despite,
Forever blotted out that youthful ray,
And led through terror dark a parent's mind astray.

Never, from that vile, fatal hour, uprose
His sinking mind from its dull weight of care,
But ever as the morning sun uprose
To light the gladsome earth, did he repair
To that fell spot, and there in deepest prayer
Plead for his Zara, deeming some fair tree
The object of his earnest, wild despair;
And as the rustling wind stirred its light canopy,
Dream't 'twas his daughter's hand that beckon'd from the sky.