A Selection of Hebrew Melodies No. I

Song Cycle by Isaac Nathan (1790 - 1864)

Word count: 3862

1. She walks in beauty [sung text checked 1 time]

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light 
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
 
One shade the more, one ray the less, 
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress, 
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express 
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent.

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  • FRE French (Français) (Alexis Paulin Pâris) , "Elle marche pareille en beauté", appears in Mélodies hébraïques, no. 1
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "In Schönheit geht sie", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Ella incede in bellezza", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. The harp the monarch minstrel swept [sung text checked 1 time]

The harp the monarch minstrel swept,
   The King of men, the loved of Heaven,
Which Music hallow'd while she wept
   O'er tones her heart of hearts had given,
   Redoubled be her tears, its chords are riven!
It soften'd men of iron mould,
   It gave them virtues not their own;
No ear so dull, no soul so cold,
   That felt not, fired not to the tone,
   Till David's lyre grew mightier than his throne!

It told the triumphs of our King,
   It wafted glory to our God;
It made our gladden'd valleys ring,
   The cedars bow, the mountains nod;
   Its sound aspired to heaven and there abode!
Since then, though heard on earth no more,
  Devotion and her daughter Love
Still bid the bursting spirit soar
   To sounds that seem as from above,
   In dreams that day's broad light can not remove.

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3. If that high world [sung text checked 1 time]

If that high world -- which lies beyond
   Our own, surviving love endears;
If there the cherished heart be fond,
   The eye the same -- except in tears --
How welcome those untrodden spheres!
   How sweet this very hour to die!
To soar from earth and find all fears
   Lost in thy light -- eternity!

It must be so -- 'tis not for self
   That we so tremble on the brink,
And striving to o'erleap the gulph,
   Yet cling to Being's breaking link.
Oh! in that future let us think
   To hold each heart the heart that shares;
With them the immortal waters drink,
   And soul in soul grow deathless theirs!

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4. The wild Gazelle [sung text checked 1 time]

The wild Gazelle on Judah's hills,
Exulting yet may bound,
And drink from all the living rills
That gush on holy ground:
Its airy step and glorious eye
May glance in tameless transport by -- 

A step as fleet, an eye more bright,
Hath Judah witness'd there;
And o'er her scenes of lost delight
Inhabitants more fair,
The cedars wave on Lebanon,
But Judah's statelier maids are gone!

More blest each palm that shades those plains 
Than Israel's scatter'd race;
For taking root it there remains 
In solitary grace.
It cannot quit the place of birth, 
It will not live in other earth.

But we must wander witheningly,
In other lands ta die;
And where aun fathers' ashes be,
Our awn may never lie.
Our temple hath nat left a stone.
And mockery sits on Salem's throne.

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5. Oh! Weep for those [sung text checked 1 time]

Oh! weep for those that wept by Babel's stream, 
Whose shrines are desolate, whose land a dream; 
Weep for the harp of Judah's broken shell; 
Mourn -- where their God that dwelt the godless dwell! 

And where shall Israel lave her bleeding feet? 
And when shall Zion's songs again seem sweet? 
And Judah's melody once more rejoice 
The hearts that leap'd before its heavenly voice? 

Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast, 
How shall ye flee away and be at rest! 
The wild-dove hath her nest, the fox his cave, 
Mankind their country -- Israel but the grave!

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6. On Jordan's Banks [sung text not yet checked]

On Jordan's banks the Arab's camels stray,
  On Sion's hill the False One's votaries pray.
The Baal-adorer bows on Sinai's steep -
  Yet there even there - oh God! they thunder sleep:

There - where thy finger scorch'd the tablet stone!
  There - where thy shadow to they people shone!
Thy glory shrouded in its garb of fire:
  Thyself - none living see and not expire!

Oh! in the lightning let thy glance appear,
  Sweep from his shiver'd hand the oppressor's spear!
How long by tyrants shall thy land be trod?
  How long thy temple worshipless, Oh God?

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7. Jeptha's Daughter [sung text checked 1 time]

Since our Country, our God -- Oh, my Sire! 
Demand that thy Daughter expire; 
Since thy triumph was brought by thy vow -- 
Strike the bosom that's bared for thee now! 

And the voice of my mourning is o'er, 
And the mountains behold me no more: 
If the hand that I love lay me low, 
There cannot be pain in the blow! 

And of this, oh, my Father! be sure -- 
That the blood of thy child is as pure 
As the blessing I beg ere it flow, 
And the last thought that soothes me below. 

Though the virgins of Salem lament, 
Be the judge and the hero unbent! 
I have won the great battle for thee, 
And my Father and Country are free! 

When this blood of thy giving hath gush'd, 
When the voice that thou lovest is hush'd, 
Let my memory still be thy pride, 
And forget not I smiled as I died!

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8. Oh! snatched away in beauty's bloom [sung text checked 1 time]

Oh! snatched away in beauty's bloom,
On thee shall press no ponderous tomb;
   But on thy turf shall roses rear
   Their leaves, the earliest of the year;
And the wild cypress wave in tender gloom:

And oft by yon blue gushing stream
   Shall sorrow lean her drooping head,
And feed deep thought with many a dream,
   And lingering pause and lightly tread;
   Fond wretch! as if her step disturbed the dead!

Away! we know that tears are vain,
   That death nor heeds nor hears distress:
Will this unteach us to complain?
   Or make one mourner weep the less?
And thou -- who tell'st me to forget,
Thy looks are wan, thine eyes are wet.

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9. My soul is dark [sung text not yet checked]

My soul is dark - Oh! quickly string
  The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
  Its melting murmurs o'er mine ear. --
If in this heart a hope be dear,
  That sound shall charm it forth again --
If in these eyes there lurk a tear, 
  'Twill flow -- and cease to burn my brain --

But bid the strain be wild and deep,
  Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee -- Minstrel! I must weep,
  Or else this heavy heart will burst --
For it hath been by sorrow nurst,
  And ached in sleepless silence [long]1 --
And now 'tis doom'd to know the worst,
  And break at once -- or yield to song.

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1 in some versions, "too long"

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10. I saw thee weep [sung text checked 1 time]

I saw thee weep - the big bright tear
Came o'er that eye of blue;
And then methought it did appear
A violet dropping dew --
I saw thee smile  -- the sapphire's [blaze]1
Beside thee ceased to shine;
It could not match the living rays
That fill'd that glance of thine.

As clouds from yonder sun receive
A deep and mellow dye,
Which scarce the shade of coming eve
Can banish from the sky --
Those smiles unto the moodiest mind
Their own pure joy impart;
Their sunshine leaves a glow behind
That lightens o'er the heart.

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Note: see also Bécquer's Imitación de Byron
1 in some versions, "blue"

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11. Thy days are done [sung text checked 1 time]

Thy days are done, thy fame begun;
  Thy country's strains record
The triumphs of her chosen Son,
  The slaughters of his sword! 
The deeds he did, the fields he won,
  The freedom he restored! 

Though thou art fall'n, while we are free
  Thou shalt not taste of death! 
The generous blood that flowed from thee
  Disdained to sink beneath:
Within our veins its currents be,
  Thy spirit on our breath! 

Thy name our charging hosts along,
  Shall be the battle-word! 
Thy fall, the theme of choral song
  From virgin voices poured! 
To weep will do thy glory wrong:
  Thou shalt not be deplored.

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12. It is the hour [sung text checked 1 time]

It is the hour when from the boughs
   The nightingale's high note is heard --
It is the hour -- when lovers' vows
   Seem sweet in every whisper'd word --
And gentle winds and waters near
Make music to the lonely ear.
   Each flower the dews have lightly wet,
   And in the sky the stars are met:
And on the wave is deeper blue,
And on the leaf a browner hue --
   And in the Heaven, that clear obscure
   So softly dark -- and darkly pure,
That follows the decline of day
As twilight melts beneath the moon away.

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13. Warriors and chiefs [sung text checked 1 time]

Warriors and chiefs! should the shaft or the sword 
Pierce me in leading the host of the Lord, 
Heed not the corse, though a king's, in your path: 
Bury your steel in the bosoms of Gath! 

Thou who art bearing my buckler and bow, 
Should the soldiers of Saul look away from the foe, 
Stretch me that moment in blood at thy feet! 
Mine be the doom which they dared not to meet. 

Farewell to others, but never we part, 
Heir to my royalty, son of my heart! 
Bright is the diadem, boundless the sway, 
Or kingly the death, which awaits us to-day!

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14. We sate down and wept by the waters [sung text checked 1 time]

We sat down and wept by the waters
Of Babel, and thought of the day
When our foe in the hue of his slaughters
Made Salem's high places his prey;
And ye, oh her desolate daughters!
Were scatter'd all weeping away.

While sadly we gazed on the river
Which roll'd on in freedom below,
They demanded the song: but oh
Never that triumph the stranger shall know!
May this right hand be wither'd for ever
Ere it string our high harp for the foe!

On the willow that harp is suspended,
Oh Salem! its sound should be free;
And the hour when thy glories were ended
But left me that token of thee:
And ne'er shall its soft tones be blended
With the voice of the spoiler by me!

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15. Vision of Belshazzar [sung text checked 1 time]

The King was on his throne, 
  The Satraps throng'd the hall: 
A thousand bright lamps shone 
  O'er that high festival. 
A thousand cups of gold, 
  In Judah deem'd divine -- 
Jehovah's vessels hold 
  The godless Heathen's wine! 
In that same hour and hall, 
  The fingers of a hand 
Came forth against the wall, 
  And wrote as if on sand: 
The fingers of a man; -- 
  A solitary hand 
Along the letters ran, 
  And traced them like a wand. 

The monarch saw, and shook, 
  And bade no more rejoice; 
All bloodless wax'd his look 
  And tremulous his voice. 
"Let the men of lore appear, 
  The wisest of the earth, 
And expound the words of fear, 
  Which mar our royal mirth."
Chaldea's seers are good,
  But here they have no skill; 
And the unknown letters stood 
  Untold and awful still. 
And Babel's men of age 
  Are wise and deep in lore; 
But now they were not sage, 
  They saw -- but knew no more. 

A captive in the land, 
  A stranger and a youth,
He heard the king's command, 
  He saw that writing's truth.
The lamps around were bright, 
  The prophecy in view; 
He read it on that night, -- 
  The morrow proved it true. 
"Belshazzar's grave is made, 
  His kingdom pass'd away,
He, in the balance weigh'd, 
  Is light and worthless clay;
The shroud his robe of state, 
  His canopy the stone:
The Mede is at his gate! 
  The Persian on his throne!"

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See also Belshazzar's Feast (Bible / Walton)

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16. Herod's lament for Mariamne [sung text checked 1 time]

Oh, Mariamne! Now for thee
  The heart for which thou bledst is bleeding;
Revenge is lost in agony,
  And wild remorse to rage succeeding.
Oh, Mariamne! Where art thou?
  Thou canst not hear my bitter pleading.
Ah, couldst thou, thou wouldst pardon now,
  Though heaven were to my prayer unheeding.

And is she dead? And did they dare
  Obey my frenzy's jealous raving?
My wrath but doomed my own despair;
  The sword that smote her is o'er me waving.
But thou art cold, my murdered love!
  And this dark heart is vainly craving
For her who soars alone above
  And leaves my soul unworthy saving.

She's gone, who shared my diadem;
  She sunk, with her my joys entombing.
I swept that flower from Judah's stem,
  Whose leaves for me alone were blooming.
And mine's the guilt, and mine the hell,
  This bosom's desolation dooming;
And I have earned those tortures well,
  Which unconsumed are still consuming!

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Researcher for this text: Ferdinando Albeggiani

17. Were my bosom as false as thou deem'st it to be [sung text checked 1 time]

Were my bosom as false as thou deem'st it to be,
I need not have wander'd from far Galilee;
It was but abjuring my creed to efface
The curse which, thou say'st, is the crime of my race.

If the bad never triumph, then God is with thee!
If the slave only sin, thou art spotless and free!
If the Exile on earth is an Outcast on high,
Live on in thy faith, but in mine I will die.

I have lost for that faith more than thou canst bestow,
As the God who permits thee to prosper doth know;
In his hand is my heart and my hope - and in thine
The land and the life which for him I resign.

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Researcher for this text: Thomas Jaenicke

18. The Destruction of Sennacherib [sung text not yet checked]

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea, 
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown, 
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, 
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride; 
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale, 
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone, 
The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, 
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal; 
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

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Note: first published as "The Destruction of Semnacherib"

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19. Saul [sung text not yet checked]

Thou whose spell can raise the dead, 
Bid the prophet's form appear. 
'Samuel, raise thy buried head! 
King, behold the phantom seer!' 
Earth yawn'd; he stood the centre of a cloud: 
Light changed its hue, retiring from his shroud. 
Death stood all glassy in his fixed eye: 
His hand was wither'd, and his veins were dry; 
His foot, in bony whiteness, glitter'd there, 
Shrunken and sinewless, and ghastly bare; 
From lips that moved not and unbreathing frame, 
Like cavern'd winds, the hollow acccents came. 
Saul saw, and fell to earth, as falls the oak, 
At once, and blasted by the thunderstroke. 

'Why is my sleep disquieted? 
Who is he that calls the dead? 
Is it thou, O King? Behold, 
bloodless are these limbs, and cold: 
Such are mine; and such shall be 
Thine to-morrow, when with me: 
Ere the coming day is done, 
Such shalt thou be, such thy son. 
Fare thee well, but for a day, 
Then we mix our mouldering clay.
Thou, thy race, lie pale and low, 
Pierced by shafts of many a bow;  
And the falchion by thy side 
To thy heart thy hand shall guide: 
Crownless, breathless, headless fall, 
Son and sire, the house of Saul!'

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20. When coldness wraps this suffering clay [sung text checked 1 time]

When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
  Ah! whither strays the immortal mind?
It cannot die, it cannot stay,
  But leaves its darken'd dust behind.
Then, unembodied, doth it trace
  By steps each planet's heavenly way?
Or fill at once the realms of space,
  A thing of eyes, that all survey?

Eternal, boundless, undecay'd,
  A thought unseen, but seeing all,
All, all in earth or skies display'd,
  Shall it survey, shall it recal:
Each fainter trace that memory holds
  So darkly of departed years,
In one broad glance the soul beholds,
  And all, that was, at once appears.

Before Creation peopled earth,
  Its eye shall roll through chaos back;
And where the farthest heaven had birth,
  The spirit trace its rising track.
And where the future mars or makes,
  Its glance dilate o'er all to be,
While sun is quench'd or system breaks,
  Fix'd in its own eternity.

Above or Love, Hope, Hate, or Fear,
  It lives all passionless and pure:
An age shall fleet like earthly year;
  Its years as moments shall endure.
Away, away, without a wing,
  O'er all, through all, its thoughts shall fly;
A nameless and eternal thing,
  Forgetting what it was to die.

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21. Fame, wisdom, love and power [sung text checked 1 time]

Fame, wisdom, love, and power were mine, 
And health and youth possess'd me; 
My goblets blush'd from every vine, 
And lovely forms carress'd me; 
I sunn'd my heart in beauty's eyes, 
And felt my soul grow tender; 
All earth can give, or mortal prize, 
Was mine of regal splendour. 

I strive to number o'er what days 
Remembrance can discover, 
Which all that life or earth displays 
Would lure me to live over. 
There rose no day, there roll'd no hour 
Of pleasure unembitter'd: 
And not a trapping deck'd my power 
That gall'd not while it glitter'd. 

The serpent of the field, by art 
And spells, is won from harming; 
But that which coils around the heart, 
Oh! who hath power of charming? 
It will not list to wisdom's lore, 
Nor music's voice can lure it; 
But there it stings for evermore 
The soul that must endure it.

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22. From the last hill that looks on thy once holy dome [sung text checked 1 time]

From the last hill that looks on thy once holy dome
I beheld thee, oh Sion, when rendered to Rome.
'Twas thy last sun went down, and the flames of thy fall
Flash'd back on the last glance I gave to thy wall.

I look'd for thy temple, I look'd for my home,
And forgot for a moment my bondage to come;
I beheld but the death fire that fed on thy fane,
And the fast-fettered hands that made vengeance in vain.

On many an eve, the high spot whence I gazed
Had reflected the last beam of day as it blazed;
While I stood on the height and beheld the decline
Of the rays from the mountain that shone on thy shrine;

And now on that mountain I stood on that day,
But I mark'd not the twilight beam melting away;
Oh! would that the lightning had glared in its stead,
And the thunderbolt burst on the conqueror's head!

But the gods of the pagan shall never profane
The shrine where Jehovah disdain'd not to reign;
And scattered and scorn'd as thy people may be,
Our worship, oh Father, is only for thee!

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Researcher for this text: Andrew Shackleton

23. Francisca [sung text checked 1 time]

Francisca walks in the shadow of night,
But it is not to gaze on the heavenly light --
But if she sits in her garden bower,
'Tis not for the sake of its blowing flower.
She listens -- but not for the nightingale,
Though her ear expects as soft a tale.
There winds a step through the foliage thick,
And her cheek grows pale -- and her heart beats quick.
There whispers a voice thro' the rustling leaves,
[And her blush returns -- and her bosom heaves.]1
A moment more -- and they shall meet --
'Tis past -- her Lover's at her feet.

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1 omitted in some publications of the poem; also appears as line 15-28 of Parisina (with the name changed from Francisca to Parisina).

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24. Sun of the sleepless [sung text checked 1 time]

Sun of the sleepless! melancholy star!
Whose tearful beam glows tremulously far!
That show'st the darkness thou canst not dispel,
How like art thou to joy remember'd well!
So gleams the past, the light of other days,
Which shines, but warms not with its powerless rays;
A nightbeam Sorrow watcheth to behold,
Distinct, but distant - clear - but, oh how cold!

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25. Bright be the place of thy soul! [sung text checked 1 time]

Bright be the place of thy soul!
  No lovelier spirit than thine
E'er burst from its mortal control,
  In the orbs of the blessed to shine.

On earth thou wert all but divine,
  As thy soul shall immortally be;
And our sorrow may cease to repine,
  When we know that thy God is with thee.

Light be the turf of thy tomb!
  May its verdure like emeralds be:
There should not be the shadow of gloom
  In aught that reminds us of thee.

Young flowers and an evergreen tree
  May spring from the spot of thy rest;
But not cypress nor yew let us see,
  For why should we mourn for the blest?

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First published in Examiner, June 1815, titled "Stanzas" and signed B---n; revised 1816.

Confirmed with The Complete Works of Lord Byron, ed. by John Galt, Esq., Paris, Baudry's European Library, 1837, page 53.


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26. I speak not -- I trace not -- I breathe not [sung text checked 1 time]

I speak not -- I trace not -- I breathe not thy name,
There is grief in the sound, there were guilt in the fame;
But the tear which now burns on my cheek may impart
The deep thoughts that dwell in that silence of heart.

Too brief for our passion, too long for our peace,
Were those hours, can their joy or their bitterness cease?
We repent -- we abjure -- we will break from our chain,
We will part -- we will fly -- to unite it again!

Oh! thine be the gladness, and mine be the guilt!
Forgive me adored one -- forsake if thou wilt;
But the heart which I bear shall expire undebased,
And man shall not break it -- whatever thou may'st.

And stern to the haughty, but humble to thee,
My soul, in its bitterest blackness shall be;
And our days seem as swift -- and our moments more sweet
With thee by my side -- than the world at our feet.

One sigh of thy sorrow -- one look of thy love
Shall turn me or fix, shall reward or reprove;
And the heartless may wonder at all we resign,
Thy lip shall reply not to them -- but to mine.

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27. In the valley of waters [sung text checked 1 time]

In the valley of waters we wept o'er the day
When the host of the stranger made Salem his prey,
And our heads on our bosoms all droopingly lay,
And our hearts were so full of the land far away.

The song they demanded in vain -- it lay still
In our souls as the wind that hath died on the hill;
They call'd for the harp -- but our blood they shall spill
Ere our right hand shall teach them one tone of our skill.

All stringlessly hung on the willow's sad tree,
As dead as her dead leaf those mute harps must be;
Our hands may be fetter'd -- our tears still are free,
For our God and our glory -- and, Sion! -- Oh, thee.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

28. A spirit pass'd before me [sung text checked 1 time]

A spirit pass'd before me: I beheld 
The face of immortality unveil'd -- 
Deep sleep came down on every eye save mine -- 
And there it stood, -- all formless -- but divine; 
Along my bones the creeping flesh did quake; 
And as my damp hair stiffen'd, thus it spake: 

'Is man more just that God? Is man more pure 
Than he who deems even Seraphs insecure? 
Creatures of clay -- vain dwellers in the dust! 
The moth survives you, and are ye more just? 
Things of day! you wither ere the night, 
Heedless and blind to Wisdom's wasted light!'

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29. They say that Hope is happiness [sung text checked 1 time]

They say that Hope is happiness --
  But genuine Love must prize the past;
And mem'ry wakes the thoughts that bless
  They rose the first -- they set the last.
And all that mem'ry loves the most
  Was once our only hope to be:
And all that hope adored and lost
Hath melted into memory.

Alas! it is delusion all -- 
  The future cheats us from afar,
Nor can we be what we recall,
  Nor dare we think on what we are.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]