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By odors subtly sweet, and whispers near
Of words he loathes, yet cannot choose but hear,
So, while the Rabbi journeyed, chanting low
The wail of David's penitential woe,
Before him still the old temptation came,
And mocked him with the motion and the shame
Of such desires that, shuddering, he abhorred
Himself; and, crying mightily to the Lord
To free his soul and cast the demon out,
Smote with his staff the blankness round about.
At length, in the low light of a spent day,
The towers of Ecbatana far away
Rose on the desert's rim; and Nathan, faint
And footsore, pausing where for some dead saint
The faith of Islam reared a domed tomb,
Saw some one kneeling in the shadow. whom
He greeted kindly: “May the Holy One
Answer thy prayers, O stranger” Whereupon
The shape stood up with a loud cry, and then,
Clasped in each other's arms, the two gray men
Wept, praising Him whose gracious providence
Made their paths one. But straightway, as the sense
Of his transgression smote him, Nathan tore
Himself away: “0 friend beloved, no more
Worthy am I to touch thee, for I came,
Foul from my sins, to tell thee all my shame.
Haply thy prayers, since naught availeth mine,
May purge my soul, and make it white like thine.
Pity me, O Ben Isaac, I have sinned!”
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