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And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling.
But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent-bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor,
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning
When the Blessed Vision said,
“Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled !”
THE LEGEND OF RABBI BEN LEVI.
Rabbi Ben Levi, on the Sabbath, read
A volume of the Law, in which it said,
“No man shall look upon my face and live."
And as he read, he prayed that God would give
His faithful servant grace with mortal eye
To look upon his face and yet not die.
Then fell a sudden shadow on the page,
And, lifting up his eyes, grown dim with age,
He saw the Angel of Death before him stand,
Holding a naked sword in his right hand.
Rabbi Ben Levi was a righteous man,
Yet through his veins a chill of terror ran.
With trembling voice he said, “What wilt thou here?”
The Angel answered, “Lo! the time draws near
When thou must die ; yet first, by God's decree,
Whate'er thou askest shall be granted thee."
Replied the Rabbi, “Let these living eyes
First look upon my place in Paradise.”
Then said the Angel, “Come with me and look."
Rabbi Ben Levi closed the sacred book,
And rising, and uplifting his grey head,
“Give me thy sword,” he to the Angel said,
"Lest thou shouldst fall upon me by the way."
The Angel smiled and hastened to obey,
Then led him forth to the Celestial Town,
And set him on the wall, whence, gazing down,
Rabbi Ben Levi, with his living eyes,
Might look upon his place in Paradise.
Then straight into the city of the Lord
The Rabbi leaped with the Death-Angel's sword,
And through the streets there swept a sudden breath
Of something there unknown, which men call death.
Meanwhile the Angel stayed without, and cried,
“Come back!” To which the Rabbi's voice replied,
“No! in the name of God, whom I adore,
I swear that hence I will depart no more !"
Then all the Angels cried, “O Holy One,
See what the Son of Levi here has done!
The kingdom of Heaven he takes by violence,
And in thy name refuses to go hence!"
The Lord replied, “My Angels, be not wroth;
Did e'er the son of Levi break his oath?
Let him remain; for he with mortal eye
Shall look upon my face and yet not die."
Beyond the outer wall the Angel of Death
Heard the great voice, and said, with panting breath,
“ Give back the sword, and let me go my way.
Whereat the Rabbi paused, and answered, Nay!
Anguish enough already has it caused
Among the sons of men.” And while he paused
He heard the awful mandate of the Lord
Resounding through the air, “Give back the sword!"
The Rabbi bowed his head in silent prayer;
Then said he to the dreadful Angel, “Swear,
No human eye shall look on it again;
But when thou tak'st away the souls of men,
Thyself unseen, and with an unseen sword,
Thou wilt perform the bidding of the Lord.”
The Angel took the sword again, and swore,
And walks on earth unseen for evermore.
At Stralsund, by the Baltic Sea,
Within the sandy bar,
At sunset of a summer's day,
Ready for sea, at anchor lay
The good ship Valdemar.
The sunbeams danced upon the waves,
And played along her side;
And through the cabin windows streamed
In ripples of golden light, that seemed
The ripples of the tide.
There sat the captain with his friends,
Old skippers brown and hale,
Who smoked and grumbled o'er their grog,
And talked of iceberg and of fog,
Of calm and storm and gale.
And one was spinning a sailor's yarn
The Kobold of the sea; a sprite
Invisible to mortal sight,
Who o'er the rigging ran.
Sometimes he hammered in the hold,
Sometimes upon the mast,
Sometimes abeam, sometimes abaft,
Or at the bows he sang and laughed,
And made all tight and fast.
He helped the sailors at their work,
And toiled with jovial din;
He helped them hoist and reef the sails,
He helped them stow the casks and bales,
And heave the anchor in.
But woe unto the lazy louts,
The idlers of the crew;
Them to torment was his delight,
And worry them by day and night,
And pinch them back and blue.
And woe to him whose mortal eyes
It is a certain sign of death! -
The cabin-boy here held his breath,
He felt his blood run cold.
The jolly skipper paused awhile,
And then again began;
“There is a Spectre Ship,” quoth he,
"A Ship of the Dead that sails the sea,
And is called the Carmilhan. “A ghostly ship, with a ghostly crew,
In tempests she appears; And before the gale, or against the gale, She sails without a rag of sail,
Without a helmsman steers. “She haunts the Atlantic north and south,
But mostly the mid-sea,
Where three great rocks rise bleak and bare
Like furnace chimneys in the air,
And are called the Chimneys Three. “And ill betide the luckless ship
That meets the Carmilhan; Over her deck the seas will leap, She must go down into the deep,
And perish mouse and man." The captain of the Valdemar
Laughed loud with merry heart. “I should like to see this ship,” said he; “ I should like to find these Chimneys Three,
That are marked down in the chart. “I have sailed right over the spot,” he said,
“With a good stiff breeze behind, When the sea was blue, and the sky was clear,You can follow my course by these pinholes here, -
And never a rock could find."
And then he swore a dreadful oath,
He swore by the Kingdoms Three,
That, should he meet the Carmilhan,
He would run her down, although he ran
Right into Eternity!
All this, while passing to and fro,
The cabin-boy had heard ;
He lingered at the door to hear,
And drank in all with greedy ear,
And pondered every word.
He was a simple country lad,
But of a roving mind. “Oh it must be like heaven,” thought he, “Those far-off foreign lands to see,
And fortune seek and find !"