Moses

Original Text: 

Toru Dutt, A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields (London: C. Kegan Paul, 1880): 54-58. Internet Archive

1Upon the crests of tents the day-god threw
2His rays oblique; blazed, dazzling to the view,
3The tracts of gold that on the air he leaves
4When in the sands he sets on cloudless eves,
5Purple and yellow clothed the desert plain.
6High rose the sterile Nebo: climbed with pain
7Moses, the man of God, its rugged side --
8No soul more meek, less subject unto pride.
9One moment had he stopped to cast a look
10Upon the vast horizon, Nature's book.
11Pisgah at first he saw with fig-trees crowned.
12Then, o'er the mountains as they stood around
13Gilead, Ephraim, Manasseh, -- lands
14Fertile to his right, unvexed with sands.
15Then to the south Judah far stretching wild
16Its deserts, at whose edge the bright sea smiled.
17Then further on, with olives graced, a vale,
18Naphtali's portion, -- pale, already pale
19With twilight's shadows, then in flowers and calm,
20Jericho slumbering, city of the palm.
21Then Phogor's meadows lengthened out with woods
22Of mastic-trees, to Segor's solitudes.
23He saw all Canaan, all the promised land
24He knew he should not enter: stretched his hand
25Over the Hebrews, as some words to say,
26Then to the mountain top in silence took his way.
27The fields of Moab filled a circle vast,
28On which the sacred mount its shadow cast.
29Nearer, the host of Israel in the vale
30Stirred like the blades of corn beneath the gale.
31Ere yet on golden sands were dried the drops.
32Or the pearls vanished from the maples' tops.
33Since dawn, the prophet centenarian, feared
34As more than man, and more than man revered.
35Had left the camp, to seek the living Lord,
36And hear, -- oh, wondrous privilege! -- His word.
37Men traced his march -- on, onwards as he went --
38By flames that darted from his eyes intent;
39And when the mountain's summit he attained.
40And his brow pierced the cloud, whence silver-maned
41The lightnings ran, -- at once the incense smoke
42From the stone altars in the valley broke.
43Six hundred thousand Hebrews then in dust
44Bent down. The perfumed cloud with every gust
45Wavered around them, while the sun's last ray
46Melted insensibly to sombre grey.
47With one voice chanted in the twilight dim
48Arose from many hearts the thrilling hymn;
49And Levi's sons erect among the crowd,
50Stood like a cypress grove 'mid foreheads bowed.
51In their skilled hands, clear, loud, the harp-strings rung,
52While to the King of kings the people sung.
53And in God's presence, Moses took his place
54Veiled in the cloud, -- and saw Him face to face.
55He said, -- "O Lord! When shall my journey end?
56Where wilt Thou further yet Thy servant send?
57Must I live feared and lonely from my birth?
58Oh! let me sleep the sleep of all the earth.
59What have I done, elected thus to stand?
60Lo! I have led Thy people to their land.
61Let some one else appear upon the scene
62'Twixt Thee and them, like me to intervene.
63Wild is Thy courser Israel, O my God!
64He needs the iron curb and scorpion rod.
65These and my book I gladly shall resign --
66But Thou art just: Thy will be done, not mine.
67"On all my hopes why still descends a blight?
68Why is my ignorance dispelled by light,
69Since from mount Horeb unto Nebo mount
70Six feet of earth, alas! I cannot count
71To rest in ? What to him who never dies
72Avails it to be wisest of the wise?
73My finger guides a nation's wanderings.
74And draws down fire upon the heads of kings,
75With signs and portents no man ever saw;
76The future on its knees shall take my law;
77The dead, in old tombs opened at my choice,
78Find a mysterious and prophetic voice;
79I stamp upon the nations with my feet;
80My hand makes armies triumph or retreat;
81I lift up generations; at my frown
82From their high place, headlong they tumble down;
83Mighty and lonely from, alas! my birth --
84Now let me sleep the sleep of all the earth.
85"Ah me! The secrets even of the skies
86Are known to me, such power Thou gav'st mine eyes;
87Night at my voice its dark veil rends afar,
88My lips have named and counted every star.
89O'er the blue heavens, whene'er those stars I call,
90"Present" -- they say, and shine out one and all.
91I place my hands on clouds with sombre forms,
92And from their flanks wring out the latent storms.
93Cities I bury in huge piles of sand.
94Mountains o'ertum by winds at my command,
95My feet ne'er tire when travelling through space.
96At my nod rivers change their wonted place.
97Ocean itself is silent at my voice,
98I make thine Israel in his griefs rejoice.
99When he requires new laws, or ease from pains,
100I look up unto Thee. Thy Spirit deigns
101To visit me; earth trembles to its source
102And the sun starts affrighted from its course.
103Angels admire me, jealous seem, and fear.
104And yet, good Lord, I am not happy here.
105Mighty and lonely from, alas! my birth,
106Now let me sleep the sleep of all the earth.
107"Thy breath inspired the shepherd's soul, -- men saw
108And thought me more than man, and fled in awe.
109Bent low their eyes before mine eyes of flame,
110For there they saw what thoughts within me came.
111I've seen Love die, and Friendship quench his light.
112And virgins veil themselves, or faint with fright.
113And thus enveloped in a sable cloud.
114Alone and sad, I marched before the crowd.
115"O lonely heart," I said, "what wilt thou now
116Upon no breast may'st thou e'er lean thy brow.
117Thy hand leaves fear upon the hand it meets.
118Lightnings and storms on thy lips fix their seats.
119Men cannot love thee, -- see, they tremble all,
120Thou openest arms, and on their knees they fall."
121Mighty I've lived and lonely from my birth,
122Oh, let me sleep the sleep of all the earth."
123The people waited long. They feared God's wrath,
124And dared not gaze upon the mountain path.
125Whene'er they raised their eyes, the clouds piled black
126Redoubled deafening, thunder, storm and wrack,
127And sheets of lightning, blinding earth and air,
128Made them bow down again in silent prayer.
129The mountain top at last from clouds grew free,
130But where was Moses? Him they could not see.
131They wept his loss. To lead them to their land
132Stepped to the front, the sceptre in his hand,
133Joshua, God's new Elect, oppressed with care,
134Pensive and pale, the weight of rule to bear.
Dutt, Toru: Moses is a translation of de Vigny, Alfred: Moïse
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012