Commentary Magazine


Confessions of Zilpah

And [Rachel] gave hint Bilhah, her handmaid, for [the third] wife, and Jacob went in unto her. . . . When Leah now saw that she had left off bearing, she took Zilpah, her maid, and gave her to Jacob for wife. And Zilpah, Leah’s maid, bore Jacob a son. . . (Genesis 30: 4, 9, 10).

I heard a music in my veins that time
when the third wife came to say
she was not well, and he sought pell-mell
that day for another concubine.
They are a fine, but peculiar breed of man,—
this odd, bold Hebrew family. Young Reuben, his son,
is almost old enough to fan the woman flames
and feed the woman fire; yet he aspires
to other things and spends his days in devotions.
An odd creed!
And Jacob, himself, has curious notions.
He too spends his days in furious work and prayer,
but his nights in bed.
He said once: “It’s all God’s device,
all God’s life, sacred, divine,”
as he made his way from wife to concubine.
How nice!
A mixture, a brew in equal parts
of mind and matter, of heart and head,
of high and low, of bed and altar.
But so many divine rules to follow each day.
Are they all priests of this God of theirs,
or fools?

They would have me too obey the least
of their God’s ordinances.
A maid has rules enough from her mistress,
not to be burdened by God all day.
Even the kitchen must be a shrine, a holy sight!
It’s quite a price to pay in order
to hear a music in my veins by night.

_____________

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