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The tears well up, and scarce could she not moan
When father, brother, husband, all have died.
She now has no possessions, neither home,
But travels to a distant, unknown land:
Once so secure, yet now compelled to roam;
Once rich in love, she treads through foreign sands.
Her weary feet move forward but by faith;
For all left to her name is mere belief:
Mind, heart so far away she seems a wraith-
Love, happiness- all taken by a thief.
When, sometime since, her heart had broke in two,
The path of life, once single, parted way;
Forsake she could, but this she would not do-
All else was gone- with mother she would stay:
"Intreat me not to leave thee," was her plea,
"For whither thou wilt go, there will I; pray
Forbid me not to follow after thee,
For where thou lodgest I would also stay:
"Thy people shall be mine, thy God my God;
And where thou liest, I will gladly lie
Beside thee, overhead the selfsame sod;
That even then thou mightest be closeby.
"And so they twain walk on, hand clasped in hand;
Both hold the only thing they yet possess:
The younger but a stranger in the land,
An enemy, a widow in distress.
She rose before the sun to find a place
Where she might gather barley ears and wheat;
A field where she might find some needed grace
To gather for their winter store of meat:
Then Boaz comes from Bethlehem, and see,
He tarries with the reapers of the wheat:
He comes to Ruth and says, "Hear'st not thou me?
Remain until the harvest is complete:
"Go not from hence, but in my fields abide,
And let thine eyes be on the field they reap;
Behold, these maidens thou may'st work beside,
And near the reapers thou may'st ever keep."
Then to her face she fell, and wond'ringly
Asked why to her, a stranger, was so kind;
And he replied that she unfailingly
Had cleaved unto her mother with one mind,
And left her father, mother, and the soil
Of her nativity, and kissed the dust
Of some strange land wherein she meant to toil;
Forsaking gods of Moab God to trust:
"The Lord," said he, "reward thee for thy deeds,
And recompense thy labour and thy love:
The God of Israel answer all thy needs,
And make his wings a shelter from above."
Then said the maid, "My lord, please let me find
Some grace and favour in thy blessed sight,
For that thou hast been friendly, spoken kind,
And I am but a stranger in the night."
Then Boaz said, "At mealtime here abide;
Rest in the shade, come, sit with us and dine:
So down she sat, a reaper on each side;
She ate her wheat and dipped her bread in wine.
Then Ruth arose, and to her work she leaves:
The master thus commands his servant men,
"Let this young maid glean e'en among the sheaves;
Rebuke her not, for she shall come again;
And let some handfuls fall onto the ground,
There let them lie for my sake and for hers
That she may glean and plenty may be found;
For reasons she has need of it are pure."
And as she worked, Ruth knew not what a sight
Of beauty and of diligence she made,
As in the golden field in sunset's light
She bowed her head and knelt as if she prayed.
It came to pass that in his fields she stayed
Until the end of barley harvest came,
When mother told the lovely little maid
To seek for his provision and his name.
She washed and dripped an oil filled with sweet
Perfumes of wild roses on her face:
She had not much; her beauty was complete
With but her finest clothes to seek his grace.
Her braided hair shone brighter than the gem
That never graced her soft and shapely form;
Her eyes, they sparkled brighter than the hem
Of gold and pearls that she had never worn:
Thus Ruth went down unto the threshing floor
Where Boaz winnowed barley till the night,
And peeked at him so shyly 'round the door;
She never let him leave her searching sight.
His workday done, the master ate and drank;
With happiness his heart was full when fed:
Then by a heap of wheat he went and sank
Into the furry robes that made his bed;
And Ruth, a while watching till he sleep
Kept vigil from a stone used as a seat,
Till when his eyes had closed and sleep was deep
She lifted up the cover from his feet
And softly laid her down and dreamed of brides
Until the watchman struck a dozen beats,
And being startled, Boaz woke and spied
A woman sleeping at his very feet:
"Who art thou?" queried he in sleepy voice;
"Thine handmaid, Ruth," was her unsure reply;
Then blessed he her for wise and kindly choice,
For passing poor and rich young fellows by.
"And now, my daughter, gladly shall I do
According to thy wishes, for all here
Consider thee as virtuous and true;
Howbeit, there is one to thee more near,
A kinsman who must duly have his say:
If he decline, then rest assured I will
Perform the part of kinsman." So she lay
Down at his feet, and both were quiet, still.
In grey of early morning she arose,
Before a face could be discernéd there;
To keep from what some people might suppose
And who might stand along the road to stare:
Then Boaz said, "Bring here the vail thou hast
Upon thy head and hold it in thy hand:
Six times the barley measure filled and passed
From heap to vail as much as she could stand.
Then Boaz went up to the city gate
To find the nearer kinsman, whom he sought,
To see if he would purchase the estate
Of Ruth, and she herself, but he could not;
So Boaz purchased all the widows' land;
The houses, barns, and fields, though overgrown;
And bought what pleased him most, Ruth's comely hand
To cherish and to make his very own:
Then Boaz went to find the handmaid, Ruth
And lift her from a servant to a wife;
To love her in all tenderness and truth
In every day God blessed them both with life.
[By Isaiah Zerbst. Published 9/7/14. Parts of poem have been removed due to soup's limitations.]
Copyright © Isaiah Zerbst | Year Posted 2014