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In the belly of such a ship! God's priest!
Was this a hymn of glory to the Creator, this which now he did heari
What could the nations learn of Samson-Solomon, that great priest to the Almighty?
There came to the slaves a negro, who distributed water and ill-smelling food. The oars ceased, the sails were taken in, the ship became motionless. The slaves did eat.
Then looked Samson-Solomon through his oar-hole, observing a tiny, templed village lying at rest upon a rounded hill, as though it were a soft couch. The stones in the streets glittered like pearls with the scales of fishes. It seemed a spot where all was happiness, where misery and gloom could never be. A fute sounded, out among the hills. Suddenly the hortator's hammer struck. Hundreds of backs straightened. “Un-us, du-o! Un-us, du-o!"
“ Betwixt the hammerings of the hortator, he caught the occasional low repeatings of the flute. These died away. “You-will nev-er leavethis place-alive! You-will nev-er leave-this place-alive! You-have failed-as priest-of-God! You-have failed-as priest-of-God !”
And so till the thick night came, and he, together with certain others were ordered to stretch out along their benches and to sleep.
Samson slept. And there came no dreams unto him.
And he awoke when a messenger from the hortator struck him and bade him pull again.
He joined him to the stroke, grieving that never a sweetly solemn dream had come to illumine his dull sleep. “I am,” said he, "forgotten of God.”
After a time the vessel slowed, and men from a boat on the far side of the galley were being uplifted into the ship. Looking through his port-hole Solomon beheld in the sea the inverted heavens-the blue-black, tremulous vault and all the innumerable throbbing hosts of God. What Lampadephorean philosopher was it which had said that many of the stars were worlds like this, peopled perchance with men? Ah yes, Anaxagoras! He could almost hear again the lips of Lampadephorus reviewing the doctrines of Anaxagoras.
Samson's eye picked out in the water one sadly glimmering orb, which, as he fondly imagined, might be indeed a world like unto Earth. Did this globe of ours in its turn appear to people on that orb like a quivering speck of unaccountable fire? Anaxagoras, as the Jew remembered, had said that, given the same conditions of its origin, another world than ours would also in time bear upon it men whose history should not differ in any particular from that of the peoples on this globe. What, then, of free will there Sint Adonai? Messias! Was there really sin upon that speck of fire ? Time and space must be there, of course. Were Jews there? Were they there because of sin ?
The scent of wild thyme, sweet and overpowering, came from the near-by woodland, taunting Samson of the Cyrenaic sheepfields with his loss of liberty. There were also soft voices on the shore. Laughter.
Still he was looking at the tiny star, that trembling bit of gilded dust sailing athwart the infinite of space and time. Infinite! Time and space and stars and galleys, yea and men's bodies and the lives which are bound up thereunto
The star began to rise a little, then to sink. A tremor passed beneath the galley. The star, agitated, broke into innumerable points, which, after moments of darting hither and yon, again united, again separated, touched, parted, touched-became once more a single, steady, beautiful, brightly gleaming star, at rest upon God's bosom.
A scourge bit into the Jew's shoulders. He had leaned too far forward!
There was trampling on the decks, muffled voices. One cried out that a life had been taken without need. A heavy body was cast overboard, shortly after that, another. Then the blows of the hortator. “You-will nev-er leave-this place-alive, you-will never leave-this place-alive!”
He passed a night of little ease, fevered by the unaccustomed toil, the foul air, the steady misery above him and before, most of all by his alienation from Adonai. At early morn he was suffered to sleep again.
And when he again awoke, he beheld once more a country that did mock him, a mass of green forest and dense shade.
After a while there appeared, at intervals, in some clearing, a hovel, round as a cask for wine and not much bigger, set underneath a conical jutting roof of straw or wild-wood thatch. And it seemed that happiness must be even in such places. Some hours thence they rode by a land where more men lived and these more skillful, and where the water lay in innumerable directions, into and out of the coast. Listlessly he watched the amazing variations of this world of mingled land and sea, this labyrinthine freedom—the chaos of islets, the mysterious, happy passages which opened and closed among them, as the oar-banks throbbed and throbbed, and the wind, a bitter and rebellious captive, still complained and tore and snapped at the rigging.
And after a little while of looking, he ceased again for a time
to behold the taunting things which lay before his physical eye. For at heart he was ever a dreamer, and now, as never in his life before, he dreamed a waking dream (though a cast-off priest in the belly of a pirate ship) a dream of the Land, of his own people, of his priesthood and of God.
Outside rose the whispers of God's waters, like multitudes of little earnest prayers. Even the waters knew Adonai, and they worshipped Him.
The galley went out from the straits and islands and into the Great Sea, and, pretending to be a harmless merchant ship, put into a port on the coast of Africa, where it sold many things, and returning thence, passed by Alexandria down into the Nile, and having traded at many cities for many days, returned thence, and passed once more through the Great Sea and touched at Malta and again at Spain.
So Samson-Solomon travelled about the world, unmet and unsaluted, cursed and scourged, used and made little account of.
Coming back eastward well beyond Italy, they wound round about certain islands, and came, at noisy noon, so close to a shore that Samson-Solomon could smell the clover of its excellent fields and hear the giant bees a-humming, and all was merely as a bright foil for the blackness of his gloom.
Afterwards they came out into the open sea again.
Then, in the distance, Samson-Solomon's ear caught a strange throb—a great groaning—a solemn, soul-searching vibration of infinite pathos and power. Again and yet again! Rhythmic, regular, recurrent as the note of sorrow in the song of every life. There was no misunderstanding that curious complex of sounds, that sudden plunge and strain, that grind, that groan, that ultimate crescendo of wild, protesting shriek. Splash, strain, groan, and shriek! Splash, strain, groan, and shriek! How often had he not contributed the voice of his own indignant oar to a similar wild chorus of unavailing and inarticulate protest. The voice of his oar-he had no voice!
"Pleasure galley!" rang out a voice on deck. “Make ready all.”
A mastigaphor came down into the belly of the ship, and began belaboring the slaves that these might pull harder. The rudderchains creaked, a spot of light from a port-hole circled (as the ship turned) over the back of a slave sitting in front of the Jew.
Then, “All speed forward!”
Now there were music and sweetest singing on the pleasure craft, and all her masts and sides were decked with flowers. Victory! But just as the pirate vessel was about to ram the pleasure galley's side, behold that vessel veered, and there was seen at its own great prow a ram (though mostly covered with the flowers). And on her decks appeared not drunken roysterers, as Mastix must surely have supposed, but Roman soldiers, piked and speared and a many of them.
“We have been deceived,” cried voices. A moment later-"Why care?'
Again the rudder-chains creaked. Again the spot of light shooting backward over the slave before the Jew. Again, "All speed ahead!” And again the scourge on the bleeding backs.
A great shock of the whole ship, a little lifting of her prow, a sudden recoil.
Then, far above, chains clanked, fire flashed, men screamed and shouted. Tramplings went to and fro, steel clashed on steel, heavy bodies fell on decks or splashed down into the sea.
But Samson's deadened soul took little heed as about all these things. He cared not if he lived or died.
An order came to row again.
So he rowed, and saw as in a dream the bending backs of all the other rowers. After a little, as the vessel drew away from the wreck of the war-ship that had been disguised as a pleasure vessel, Samson beheld her reddened timbers casting a smoky blaze over the burnished
Then took the pirates their booty up among the islands of Greece, there to sell it, and so out into a wilderness of straits again.
And, as always, Samson-Solomon dreamed about the Land of God.
And whenever he beheld great flocks of foam go floating by, that looked like ewes and lambs, he became homesick and heavy indeed of heart for a sight of Migdal Eder and the hills and valleys around Bethlehem. Prayed he a day and a night for rescue-prayed with the whole of his heart and his soul and his mind and strength. "Return me, oh return me, Lord God of Israel, unto Jerusalem and unto the Land of Judah. If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my
1; chief joy. And let me, I pray thee, come before thy High Priest in thy Holy house, and serve within thy Temple."
Then suddenly he saw before him, as plainly as with the eye of sense, a vast chamber of imagery. Therein he beheld, first, the lascivious rites of Greece and Rome. He saw, as it seemed, in the temple to Aphrodite of Corinth, hundreds and still more hundreds of prostitutes, fulfilling their “sacred” functions. A voice said, “And the woman I made that the man might love her!” He saw also, at Rome, the Floralia, which were held in honor of the goddess Flora. And the same voice said, “Have I not made the blossoms that the earth might be a place of beauty! And behold how man hath
? marred his own joy-with drunkenness, with whoring, with all manner of obscene abominations.” He saw, moreover, the Druids of Gaul, as these did make them hollow images of wicker, the which they filled with living men and burnt. And he saw both women and men, Kedeshoth and Kedeshim, who were consecrate unto idolatrous practices. And they marched before him, an unending company. Some worshipped Autolycus, a thief, others the Greek robber, Hermes. He saw the Ithyphalli in the rites of Bacchus, the Athenians in their Ascophoria. There were priests of Cybele, in women's clothes and mutilated, being not as men. And there was bestiality, not only among the Chemarim, but among the multitudes also which followed them. And many men (among these multitudes) committed all manner of uncleanness with other men, even as women with women. The heart of the Jew was downcast utterly. But the Lord said unto him, “Once again, I will shew thee a thing." And he shewed him the rites of Baal. Thousands of images of brass, all heated till they shone like snow. Into the arms of the heated images great multitudes cast their children, each the first born of his own house. And Samson beheld among the multitudes of the Chemarim, a person he well knew and one that led them all. He looked and looked again. Behold it was Abaddone Abaddone, she that had been the wife of his bosom.
Then cried (as it happened) one that was in the ship, but up above, to Mastix: “Mastix, I tell thee that one religion is just as good as any other." And Mastix assented with a mighty oath even to Hades, him that ruled in hell, that this was so.
But, in the belly of the ship, the more the Jew thought about his falls from the pure religion of Jehovah, the more he perceived that he needed Shiloh. “Am I alone to convert the world to thee, Adonai? And who is there even to liberate me from the ship? Can I alone destroy these chains ? Oh, that Shiloh were here! Shiloh, Shiloh ! But behold! I brought not with me out of Cyrenaica Berith, which is Machashebethel. What a paltry priest of the Lord of all this universe am I, a slave, alone and captive in the belly of a pirate ship!"
After a time he began to think, “Suppose that Messiah should never come within my days. I should never behold Him, then, at any time, in the flesh. I should never touch His sacred hand, or hear His holy voice. I should not perceive my God until I die."