The Well.

Alas! for this deceitful sphere, which every day
Casteth into the pit some heart-enlightening luminary!
The gazelle feeding in the pastures of the soul
It delivereth into the claws of the devouring wolf:
When Joseph was given over into the fangs of those wolves,
Heaven cried,—“Behold! wolves are carrying off a lamb!”
Whilst they still shewed themselves in the eyes of their father,
They robbed one another to prove their affection:
One would carry him on the tip of his shoulder;
Another would embrace and bear him in his bosom;
But no sooner had their feet touched the skirts of the desert,
Than they stretched forth upon him the hand of the oppressor,
And cast off their burthen from the shoulder of compassion
Down amidst the thorns and the hard pebbles.
Now he standeth on the thorns with naked foot,
And pricks and splinters lacerate his feet;
Now without a shoe he treadeth the stony way,
And teareth his silver hand to pieces on the rock;
The sole of his foot, which rivaleth the rose,
Maketh roseate the thorns and stones with its blood.
Lingereth he behind those hard-fisted ten,
One would smite him with a wound on the cheek;
Hurrieth he forward, another with a torrent of blows on the neck
Would beat him black and blue like the face of a criminal;
And walketh he along with them side by side,
They would drag him by the ears on one side and the other.
Did he in tears hang on any one’s skirt,
In anger he would tear open the collar of his garment;
Did he fling himself weeping at any one’s feet,
He would place with laughter his foot upon his head;
Did he utter his woes in the voice of lamentation,
No instrument would reply with accordant notes.
Besmeared with blood, or lying in the dust,
From a bosom torn to pieces with a hundred sorrows,
“O father,” he exclaimed, “where art thou? where art thou?
Wherefore art thou so careless of the welfare of thy child?
Come, and look at the sons of thine handmaidens,
How they are fallen away from the faith and from understanding!
See, what they are meditating in their hearts against the cherished one of thy bosom;
How they are repaying the claims of thy kindness!
The rose, which bloomed in the garden of thy soul,
On which dropped down the rain of thine affection,
Is so faded from thirst under the scorching heat,
That it no longer retaineth either colour or moisture;
A sapling, delicately nurtured in Paradise,
And planted in the flower-border of the palace of life,
Hath so fallen to the ground under the wind of tyranny,
That it is totally overgrown with thorns and brambles!
The moon, which illumined thy night with its light,
Which seemed so far removed from the darkness of the spheres,
Is obscured by the scowling heavens to such a degree,
That it is fain to ask for a ray from even the new moon.”

But his lamentations naught avail him: he is dragged away to the well.

There he once more entreateth for mercy from their injustice,
And reneweth in such wise his wailings and supplications,
That if they could have been heard by the rock,
From his burning grief it would have melted like wax;
But as the sharp note became sharper still,
Their stony hearts became still stonier.

He is plunged into the well; but the Angel Gabriel descends to him from Paradise, brings him a wonderful amulet to sustain his fortitude, and com­forts him with an assurance, that his pitiless brethren will hereafter come to his presence to sue for his pity and forgiveness.