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Even as he passed the door, these words
Did plainly come to Peter's ears;
And they such joyful tidings were,
The joy was more than he could bear!
He melted into tears.
Sweet tears of hope and tenderness
And fast they fell, a plenteous shower !
His nerves, his sinews seemed to melt;
Through all his iron frame was felt
A gentle, a relaxing power.
Each fibre of his frame was weak;
Weak was the animal within ;
But, in its helplessness, grew mild
And gentle as an infant child,
An infant that has known no sin.
'T is said, meek Beast! that, through Heaven's
He not unmoved did notice now
The cross upon thy shoulder scored,
For lasting impress, by the Lord
To whom all human-kind shall bow;
Memorial of his touch---that day
When Jesus humbly deigned to ride,
Entering the proud Jerusalem,
By an immeasurable stream
Of shouting people deified !
Meanwhile the persevering Ass,
Turned towards a gate that hung in view
Across a shady lane ; his chest
Against the yielding gate he pressed
And quietly passed through.
the stony lane he goes ;
No ghost more softly ever trod;
Among the stones and pebbles, he
Set down his hoofs inaudibly,
As if with felt his hoofs were shod.
Along the lane the trusty Ass
Went twice two hundred yards or more,
And no one could have guessed his aim,-
Till to a lonely house he came,
And stopped beside the door.
Thought Peter, 't is the poor man's home!
He listens—not a sound is heard
Save from the trickling household rill;
But stepping o'er the cottage-sill,
Forth with a little Girl appeared.
She to the Meeting-house was bound
In hopes some tidings there to gather :
No glimpse it is, no doubtful gleam;
She saw-and uttered with a scream,
My father! here's my father!"
word was plainly heard, Heard plainly by the wretched motherHer joy was like a deep affright: And forth she rushed into the light, And saw it was another!
And, instantly, upon the earth,
Beneath the full moon shining bright,
Close to the Ass's feet she fell ;
At the same moment Peter Bell
Dismounts in most unhappy plight.
As he beheld the Woman lie
Breathless and motionless, the mind
Of Peter sadly was confused ;
But, though to such demands unused,
And helpless almost as the blind,
He raised her up; and, while he held
Her body propped against his knee,
The Woman waked—and when she spied
The poor Ass standing by her side,
She moaned most bitterly.
Oh! God be praised !--my heart 's at ease
For he is dead-I know it well!"
-At this she wept a bitter flood;
And, in the best way that he could,
His tale did Peter tell,
He trembles—he is pale as death ;
His voice is weak with perturbation;
He turns aside his head, he pauses ;
Poor Peter from a thousand causes,
Is crippled sore in his narration.
At length she learned how he espied
The Ass in that small meadow-ground;
And that her Husband now lay dead,
Beside that luckless river's bed
In which he had been drowned.
A piercing look the Widow cast
Upon the Beast that near her stands ;
She sees 't is he, that 't is the same;
She calls the poor Ass by his name,
And wrings and wrings her hands.
“O wretched loss—untimely stroke!
If he had died upon his bed !
He knew not one forewarning pain;
He never will come home again-
Is dead, for ever dead!"
Beside the Woman Peter stands;
His heart is opening more and more;
A holy sense pervades his mind;
He feels what he for human kind
Had never felt before.
At length, by Peter's arm sustained,
The Woman rises from the ground-
Oh, mercy! something must be done,
My little Rachel, you must run,-
Some willing neighbor must be found.
Make haste—my little Rachel-do,
The first you meet with—bid him come,
Ask him to lend his horse to-night,
And this good Man, whom Heaven requite,
Will help to bring the body home.”
Away goes Rachel weeping loud ;-
An Infant, waked by her distress,
Makes in the house a piteous cry ;
And Peter hears the Mother sigh,
“Seven are they, and all fatherless !"
And now is Peter taught to feel
That man's heart is a holy thing ;
And Nature through a world of death,
Breathes into him a second breath,
More searching than the breath of spring.
Upon a stone the Woman sits
In agony of silent grief-
From his own thoughts did Peter start;
He longs to press her to his heart,
From love that cannot find relief.
But roused, as if through every limb
Had past a sudden shock of dread,
The Mother o'er the threshold flies,
And up the cottage stairs she hies,
And on the pillow lays her burning head.
And Peter turns his steps aside
Into a shade of darksome trees,
Where he sits down, he knows not how,
With his hands pressed against his brow,
His elbows on his tremulous knees.
There, self-involved, does Peter sit,
Until no sign of life he makes,
As if his mind were sinking deep
Through years that have been long asleep!
The trance is passed away-he wakes;
He lifts his head—and sees the Ass
Yet standing in the clear moonshine;
“When shall I be as good as thou ?
Oh! would, poor beast, that I had now
A heart but half as good as thine !"
But He-who deviously hath sought
His Father through the lonesome woods,
Hath sought, proclaiming to the ear
Of night his grief and sorrowful fear-
He comes, escaped from fields and floods ,-