By lamplight through the long night hours, he kept his vigil by her side, His love still fresh, though wilting flowers adorned the room on every side; He would not give her up for dead, but tended her with loving care And would not leave, though many said it did no good to tarry there. He stood over her prostrate form, and weeping, said a fervent prayer, “Lord, by your word you calmed a storm, and stilled the swirling, howling air. If you can do such mighty deeds, then you can hush the solemn knell That rings for her I love, who needs your healing touch to make her well.” He looked upon her battered face, her two black eyelids swollen shut The lips that he with tender grace once kissed, now bleeding, torn and cut. He leaned against the bedside rail and took her hand and gazed upon Her outstretched frame poured out, so frail, her bones so thin, her skin so wan. He thought back to those former days when first he met his dying love, When his astonished eyes did gaze upon her beauty, and thereof His heart began to sing aloud her praise with songs of love and pride To laud her every virtue, proud to have her standing at his side. And oh! what virtues she did then display, outshining all by far. Among the maidens fair to men, she stood out like a shining star! Though born of painful labor, she did much, while young, to ease the pain Of many who in hope would flee to her that they might freedom gain. She beckoned all with open arms, and welcomed them upon her land Where, far from tyranny´s alarms, they might, unfearing, freely stand, She took in each abandoned waif in need of refuge and relief From danger, that he might be safe, no longer bound with chains of grief. All this she felt compelled to do because of that rich legacy Received from noble forbears who in other lands across the sea Taught her to prize the equal worth and dignity of every man And guard the rights which all at birth receive from God´s Almighty hand. From them she wisely learned to hate the vile oppressor and bemoan The pride of earthly kings, who great in their own eyes, usurp God’s throne. Embracing self-restraint, she placed upon herself the rule of law That tyranny might never taint her shores, nor prove her fatal flaw. Enriching poor men with her wealth, and throwing drowning men a rope, Her face then glowed with youth and health, her eyes then sparkled full of hope. She was a city on a hill, a light to guide men out of caves Of persecution and ill will, where martyrs lay in unmarked graves. Her love of virtue, fear of God, her sense of equity toward all Who came to walk upon her sod, made many hearken to her call. They came to seek a better life, a wholesome place to call their home Where, free from warfare´s din and strife, they would no longer have to roam. She was not perfect—that is true!—how sad she took so long to see Her glaring sin against some who came to her land in chains, not free, For far too long, she left in place those cursed chains and shut her eyes To gross injustice toward a race who lifted up to heaven their cries. This was a tragic chapter in the story of his dear one´s life. Her tolerance of this one sin brought untold anguish, war, and strife As brothers standing face to face in mortal combat on a field Brought on her sacred soil disgrace, inflicting wounds yet to be healed. Her sin, though great, was born of old, and banned at last by righteous laws, A fact which shows, if truth be told, her virtues vanquishing her flaws; That´s why so many ventured there, drawn by the ocean´s flowing streams To climb her locks of auburn hair and find the maiden of their dreams. But now, alas! Her head lies shorn, her locks cut off by worthless men Who viewed her noble past with scorn, and scoffed at things beyond their ken. Into their cruel company she fell in an unguarded hour— A prey to their unloving schemes to crush her like a fragile flower. Exploiting her naivete, they took her out, they said, to dine. They fed her sweets along the way, and made her sleepy with fine wine. Then having drugged her, stripped her bare, divested her of all her wealth To show contempt, they cut her hair—and so deceived her by their stealth. Deceiving her with clever lies and shaming her for sins long past, They blinded her short-sighted eyes, and made her doubt her worth at last. They led her blind into a rut, and called her names, like slut and whore And left her bleeding, bruised and cut, unconscious of her life before. As battered women often do, she yielded to this sad abuse, Believing things that were not true, assuming she was of no use. So acting like a faithless wife, she gave herself (to ease her pain) To pleasures and a wasted life and ceased to walk upright and sane. She drifted on from year to year, her darkened mind awash in drugs, Until they found her, brought her here, no longer bullied by those thugs. That´s why he stood beside her bed, and wept for her both day and night, For though his love lay now half dead, she once had been a shining light. His heart weighed down with woe, he turned and saw a woman sitting there, Though aged, her face was all aglow with health and strength, as from her chair She watched her troubled son in peace, then spoke soft words of quiet power To make his heavy sadness cease, his heart consoled at this sad hour. “I know you love her much, my son. I´ve loved her too, for after all. She served our home for years and won our heart´s affection, you recall. But keep in mind, that though you love her, she is still a servant girl; You can´t make fish to fly above, nor from mere paste produce a pearl. Nor can you make a servant rise to heights of glory that belong To those with heaven in their eyes, who´ll sing forever Beulah´s song, You are my royal son, my own, the heir to riches vast ahead, One day you´ll sit upon a throne, long after this poor girl is dead. I do not mean to wound your heart, nor speak too harshly, but you know That servants must at last depart, they cannot live where princes go. The same path you may walk awhile, but soon your pathways must diverge, For you live under heaven´s smile, she´s of a world that God must purge. Remember, too, from birth she had a known congenital defect, We therefore knew she might go mad some day and lose all self-respect; Let not your heart be ruled by rage because of what´s been done to her, Instead, prepare to turn the page and to God´s providence defer. I know not if she´ll pass away now at this time, or live on still— Revived to live another day—that rests upon your Father´s will. Although she lives, yet this is sure, the life she has, your life outruns. No lasting union can endure of earth´s own maids and heaven´s sons. My son, take heart, and be assured, your Father knows your every need He´ll tend you as a mother bird protects her young and gives them seed. He´ll heal your wounds and pour on you the balm of Gilead above, And while on earth, take comfort, too, from having your dear mother´s love!" Thus with these words old Sarah spoke, she stilled her dear son´s aching heart. A sense of destiny awoke in him, that helped him to depart. He looked upon his love, bereft, then kissed her cheek to say goodnight, Then with his mother, as he left, with one last glance, turned out the light. Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.