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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Hymns and Sacred Poems. IV. Ruth

Cecil Frances Alexander (1823–1895)

IN the land of Bethlehem Judah

Let us linger, let us wander;

Ephrath’s sorrow, Rachel’s pillar,

Lieth in the valley yonder;

And the yellow barley harvest

Floods it with a golden glory.

Let us back into the old time,

Dreaming of her tender story,

Of her true heart’s strong devotion,

From beyond the Dead Sea water,

From the heathen land of Moab—

Mahlon’s wife, and Mara’s daughter.

On the terebinth and fig-tree

Suns of olden time are shining,

And the dark leaf of the olive

Scarcely shows its silver lining;

For still noon is on the thicket,

Where the blue-neck’d pigeons listen

To their own reproachful music;

And the red pomegranates glisten.

As a queen a golden circlet,

As a maid might wear a blossom,

So the valley wears the cornfields

Heaving on her fertile bosom:

And the round grey hills stand o’er them,

All their terraced vineyards swelling,

Like the green waves of a forest,

Up to David’s royal dwelling.

Lo! the princely-hearted Boaz

Moves among his reapers slowly,

And the widow’d child of Moab

Bends behind the gleaners lowly;

Gathering, gleaning as she goeth

Down the slopes, and up the hollows,

While the love of old Naomi,

Like a guardian angel, follows;

And he speaketh words of kindness,

Words of kindness calm and stately,

Till he breaks the springs of gladness

That lay cold and frozen lately;

And the love-flowers, that had faded

Deep within her bosom lonely,

Slowly open as he questions,

Soon for him to blossom only,—

When that spring shall fill with music,

Like an overflowing river,

All his homestead, and those flowers

Bloom beside his hearth for ever.

Mother of a line of princes,

Wrought into that race’s story,

Whom the Godhead, breaking earthward,

Mark’d with an unearthly glory.

Still he walks among the reapers:

The long day is nearly over,

And the lonely mountain partridge

Seeks afar his scanty cover;

And the flocks of wild blue pigeons,

That had glean’d behind the gleaner,

Find their shelter in the thicket;

And the cloudless sky grows sheener

With a sudden flush of crimson,

Steeping in a fiery lustre

Every sheaf-top in the valley,

On the hill-side every cluster.

Slowly, slowly fade, fair picture,

Yellow lights and purple shadows,

On the valley, on the mountain,

And sweet Ruth among the meadows.

Yet delay, true heart, and teach us,

Pausing in thy matron beauty,

Care of elders, love of kindred,

All unselfish thought and duty.

Linger, Boaz, noble-minded!

Teach us, haughty and unsparing,

Tender care for lowlier station,

Kindly speech, and courteous bearing.

Still each softest, loveliest colour,

Shrine the form beloved and loving,

Heroine of our hearts’ first poem,

Through our childhood’s dreamland moving;

When the great old Bible open’d,

And a pleasant pastoral measure,

As our mothers read the story,

Fill’d our infant hearts with pleasure.