Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

them beside thy father's--wait on the Lord, and thou shalt, obtain”-his words became inaudible. Helon held his cold band, and bathed it with his tears; and all who stood around his bed in mournful silence, thought him already dead. But the dying eye opened once more,gazed around on them allthen fixed itself on heaven. His head sunk back in Sulamith's arms. Twice the mouth was distorted in the bitterness of pain then once again. The body became rigid-respiration ceased.

After a solemn pause, each reading in the countenance of the rest the confirmation of his fears, all uttered at the same moment a piercing shriek of grief. The men rent their upper garments, beat their breasts, threw their turbans on the ground, strewed dust and ashes on their head, put on sackcloth, covered their chins, and went barefoot. Helon was hurried away, least, being a priest, he should contract pollution from the dead body.* The eyes of the

* Numb. xix. 14.

corpse were closed, and it was carried into the Alijah by the nearest relatives. As it had been the custom in Judæa, since the captivity, to bury very soon, the night was passed in making preparations. The body was wrapped in a large sheet, the head bound with a napkin, and then the whole from head to foot swathed with a broad bandage, and each foot, each hand, each finger separately. At midnight came the Levites with their musical instruments : the female mourners began their office by lifting up their voices and lamenting, strewing ashes on their heads and singing a dirge. On the following morning the house was filled with neighbours and friends, expressing their sympathy. Sulamith ran about weeping and wringing her hands above her head. The men sat in another apartment upon the ground and mourned in silence. Sulamith was conducted to the apartment of the women, where she placed herself on a carpet in the middle,. and the rest of the females of the family sat round her. The hired mourners formed a wide circle at a little distance. Each of the women

held a handkerchief in her hand by two of the corners. The mourners, who knew a variety of funeral songs, began one which expressed the virtues and calamities of the deceased. Sulamith gave them a sign and they ceased ; and all the females of the family began to weep along with her. They arose, twisted their handkerchiefs together, and ran shrieking round the room, while Sulamith, sitting motionless in the middle, wrung her hands and tore her beautiful dark hair. When she ceased the mourners resumed their song, till she again gave them a signal, and the relatives renewed their lamentations. This lasted till towards evening, when the inhabitants assembled at the door, and the corpse was carried to the grave. Those who carried the bier proceeded with such hasty steps that they seemed rather to run than walkman usage which was said to bear this meaning that death is the most terrible punishment of sin. Every one who met the procession joined the mourners, and bore part in the cries of the women.

Before the gate of the city, in a garden

planted with trees, stood the sepulchre of Elisama’s host, hewn out of the rock; and in this the corpse was deposited; for burning was deemed dishonourable by the Jews, and regarded with abhorrence. The bearers threw aloes, myrrh, and other fragrant substances, upon the body, so as to cover it, and the sepulchre was closed with a stone, which was annually whitened with lime. The friends and relatives having remained standing awhile before the closed sepulchre, bowed themselves thrice to the earth and prayed; then taking up a sod threw it behind them, and said, “ Remember, O man, that dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return." The procession returned with a repetition of the funeral lamentations.

On reaching home they washed their hands, and the neighbours brought them the bread of mourning. A beautiful and humane custom in Israel! No victuals were prepared in the house which death had visited, but the neighbours and friends came with delicate viands and invited the mourners to partake of them, to recruit their strength and spirits. This was called the bread of mourning; and the cup, which was handed round, the cup of consolation. The mourning lasted seven days, during which it was held indecorous to wash the garments, to bathe or anoint the body, or to wear the sandals or the turban. Every day Sulamith went with the women of the family to lament, at the tomb of the deceased, his true affection and his calamitous fate. When the days of mourning were ended suitable presents were made to the friendly host, and Helon, Sulamith, and Selumiel returned from the Peraea over the Jordan to Jericho. The bones of Elisama were to repose in the precincts of Ramoth Gilead till the death of the high-priest, when they should be transferred to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to rest there till the joyful morning of the resurrection, He was at length at peace, after a life, to which, like that of the patriarch Jacob, tranquillity had been a stranger. He had died in the city of the daughter of Jephthah, a victim to his indulgence of Helon's wish to retain the friend of his youth; as she had been the victim of her love to her country. The secret anticipation which had

« AnteriorContinuar »