Achan [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]


(From Jephthah.)

Hath he not followed a star through the darkness,
Ye people who sit at the table of Jephthah ?
Oh ! turn with the face to a light in the mountains,
Behold it is further from Achan than ever !

“I know how it is with my brothers in Mizpeh,”
Said Achan, the swift-footed runner of Zorah,
“They look at the wood they have hewn for the altar ;
And think of a shadow in sackcloth and ashes.

“I know how it is with the daughter of Jephthah,
(O Ada, my love, and the fairest of women!)
She wails in the time when her heart is so zealous
For God who hath stricken the children of Ammon.

“I said I would bring her the odours of Edom,
And armfuls of spices to set at the banquet !
Behold I have fronted the chieftain her father ;
And strong men have wept for the leader of thousands !

“My love is a rose of the roses of Sharon,
All lonely and bright as the Moon in the myrtles !
Her lips, like to honeycombs, fill with the sweetness
That Achan the thirsty is hindered from drinking.

“Her women have wept for the love that is wasted
Like wine, which is spilt when the people are wanting,
And hot winds have dried all the cisterns of Elim !
For love that is wasted her women were wailing !

“The timbrels fall silent ! And dost thou not hear it,
A voice, like the sound of a lute when we loiter,
And sit by the pools in the valleys of Arnon,
And suck the cool grapes that are growing in clusters ?

“She glides, like a myrrh-scented breeze, through the willows,
O Ada, behold it is Achan that speaketh !
I know thou art near me, but never can see thee,
Because of the horrible drouth in mine eyelids.”

Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 142-144

Editor’s notes:
drouth = drought (a prolonged period of no rain or an abnormally low amount of rain); or, in general terms, a prolonged shortage or lack of something

Jephthah = an oratorio (1751) by George Frideric Handel, based upon the story of Jephtha in the Bible (Judges, chapter 11) [see: “Jephtha (Handel)”, Wikipedia (accessed 4 August 2013)]

timbrel = a small hand-held percussion instrument (similar to a tambourine)

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