by Adah Isaacs Menken
Where shall I lead the flocks to-day?
Is there no Horeb for me beyond this desert?
Is there no rod with which I can divide this sea of blood to escape mine enemies?
Must I pine in bondage and drag these heavy chains through the rocky path of my unrecompensed toil?
Must I, with these pale, feeble hands, still lift the wreathed bowl for others to drink, while my lips are parched and my soul unslaked?
Must I hold the light above my head that others may find the green pastures as they march in advance, whilst I moan and stumble with my bare feet tangled and clogged with this load of chains?
Must I still supply the lamp with oil that gives no light to me?
Shall I reck not my being's wane in these long days of bondage and struggle?
Is there no time for me to pray?
Others are climbing the hill-side of glory whilst I am left to wrestle with darkness in the valley below.
Oh where shall I lead the flocks to-day?
Once the soft white flowers of love bloomed upon my bosom.
But, oh! see this iron crown hath crushed the purple blood from my temples until the roses are drowned in it and 'tis withered and weeping on my breast.
The dear hands that planted the sweet flowers should not have been the ones to clasp this heavy iron band round my aching head.
Oh why is it that those we love and cling to with the deepest adoration of our unschooled natures should be the first to whet the steel and bury it in the warm blood that passionate love had created?
Answer me, ye who are ranged mockingly around me with your unsheathed knives. Answer me.
I know that ye are waiting to strike, but answer me first.
I know that if my tearful eyes do but wander from ye one moment your trembling cowardly hands will strike the blow that your black souls are crying out for.
But let your haggard lips speak to give me warning.
Ye wait to see if these tears will blind me.
But I shall not plead for mercy.
Weak and fainting as I am, I fear you not.
For, lo! behold!
I bare to you my white mother bosom!
See, I draw from my heart a dagger whose blade is keener than any ye can hold against me.
The hands I loved most whetted it, and struck with fatal precision ye never can, for he knew where the heart lay.
No one else can ever know.
Look how the thick blood slowly drips from the point of the blade and sinks into the sand at my feet.
The white sand rolls over and covers the stains.
Flowers will spring up even there.
One day the sands will loose their seal, and they will speak.
The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
The first is my own life and the last my child.
That one will bloom eternally.
And together we will sound the horn that shall herd the flocks and lead them up to the Father's pastures.
For I know that somewhere there grows a green bush in the crevice of a rock, and that the enemy's foot may not crush it nor his hand uproot it.
A golden gate shall be unloosed, and we shall feed upon the freshness of the mountains.
But, see, the furnace has been heated seven times.
I still stand barefoot and bondage-bound, girt around my warriors, and chained and down-trodden upon these burning sands.
And yet I will escape.
Look, the pillar of cloud is over my head.
He who saved the bush on Horeb from the flames can lead me through the Red Sea, beyond the reach of these Egyptians with their trumbling chariots, tramping steeds, clashing weapons, and thunders of war.
Above the tumult I hear the voice of Aaron.
When the sun rises the chains shall be unsealed.
The blood shall be lifted from the earth and will speak.
The task-masters shall perish.
The white flocks shall be led back to the broad plains of Hebron.
I still see the pillar of cloud.
God is in the midst of us!
Last updated July 05, 2015