The Poems of Emma Lazarus, Vol.II, Jewish Poems: Translations
Part 4 out of 5
Father, what news?
The Lord have mercy! Vain is the help of man.
Children, is all in order? We must start
At set of sun on a long pilgrimage.
So wills the Landgrave, so the court decrees.
What is it, father? Exile?
Yea, just that.
We are banished from our vexed, uncertain homes,
'Midst foes and strangers, to a land of peace,
Where joy abides, where only comfort is.
Banished from care, fear, trouble, life--to death.
Oh horror! horror! Father, I will not die.
Come, let us flee--we yet have time for flight.
I'll bribe the sentinel--he will ope the gates.
Liebhaid, Claire, Father! let us flee! Away
To some safe land where we may nurse revenge.
Courage, my son, and peace. We may not flee.
Didst thou not see the spies who dogged my steps?
The gates are thronged with citizens and guards.
We must not flee--God wills that we should die.
Said you at sunset?
So they have decreed.
Oh why not now? Why spare the time to warn?
Why came they not with thee to massacre,
Leaving no agony betwixt the sentence
And instant execution? That were mercy!
Oh, my prophetic father!
Full five hours' grace to shrive our souls with prayer.
We shall assemble in the Synagogue,
As on Atonement Day, confess our sins,
Recite the Kaddish for the Dead, and chant
Our Shibboleth, the Unity of God,
Until the supreme hour when we shall stand
Before the mercy-seat.
In what dread shape
Nerve your young hearts, my children.
We shall go down as God's three servants went
Into the fiery furnace. Not again
Shall the flames spare the true-believers' flesh.
The anguish shall be fierce and strong, yet brief.
Our spirits shall not know the touch of pain,
Pure as refined gold they shall issue safe
From the hot crucible; a pleasing sight
Unto the Lord. Oh, 't is a rosy bed
Where we shall couch, compared with that whereon
They lie who kindle this accursed blaze.
Ye shrink? ye would avert your martyred brows
From the immortal crowns the angels offer?
What! are we Jews and are afraid of death?
God's chosen people, shall we stand a-tremble
Before our Father, as the Gentiles use?
Shall the smoke choke us, father? or the flame
Consume our flesh?
I know not, boy. Be sure
The Lord will temper the shrewd pain for those
Who trust in Him.
May I stand by thy side,
And hold my hand in thine until the end?
What solace hast thou, God, in all thy heavens
For such an hour as this? Yea, hand in hand
We walk, my son, through fire, to meet the Lord.
Yet there is one among us shall not burn.
A secret shaft long rankling in my heart,
Now I withdraw, and die. Our general doom,
Liebhaid, is not for thee. Thou art no Jewess.
Thy father is the man who wills our death;
Lord Henry Schnetzen.
Look at me! your eyes
Are sane, correcting your distracted words.
This is Love's trick, to rescue me from death.
My love is firm as thine, and dies with thee.
Oh, Liebhaid, live. Hast thou forgot the Prince?
Think of the happy summer blooms for thee
When we are in our graves.
And I shall smile,
Live and rejoice in love, when ye are dead?
My child, my child! By the Ineffable Name,
The Adonai, I swear, thou must believe,
Albeit thy father scoffed, gave me the lie.
Go kneel to him--for if he see thy face,
Or hear thy voice, he shall not doubt, but save.
Never! If I be offspring to that kite,
I here deny my race, forsake my father,--
So does thy dream fall true. Let him save thee,
Whose hand has guided mine, whose lips have blessed,
Whose bread has nourished me. Thy God is mine,
Thy people are my people.
Susskind von Orb!
I come, my friends.
Enter boisterously certain Jews.
Come to the house of God!
Wilt thou desert us for whose sake we perish?
The awful hour draws nigh. Come forth with us
Unto the Synagogue.
Bear with me, neighbors.
Here we may weep, here for the last time know
The luxury of sorrow, the soft touch
Of natural tenderness; here our hearts may break;
Yonder no tears, no faltering! Eyes serene
Lifted to heaven, and defiant brows
To those who have usurped the name of men,
Must prove our faith and valor limitless
As is their cruelty. One more embrace,
My daughter, thrice my daughter! Thine affection
Outshines the hellish flames of hate; farewell,
But for a while; beyond the river of fire
I'll fold thee in mine arms, immortal angel!
For thee, poor orphan, soon to greet again
The blessed brows of parents, I dreamed not
The grave was all the home I had to give.
Go thou with Liebhaid, and array yourselves
As for a bridal. Come, little son, with me.
Friends, I am ready. O my God, my God,
Forsake us not in our extremity!
[Exeunt SUSSKIND and JEWS.]
A Street in the Judengasse. Several Jews pass across the stage,
running and with gestures of distress.
Woe, woe! the curse has fallen!
Enter other Jews.
We are doomed.
The fury of the Lord has smitten us.
Oh that mine head were waters and mine eyes
Fountains of tears! God has forsaken us.
[They knock at the doors of the houses.]
What, Benjamin! Open the door to death!
We all shall die at sunset! Menachem!
Come forth! Come forth! Manasseh! Daniel! Ezra!
[Jews appear at the windows.]
ONE CALLING FROM ABOVE.
Neighbors, what wild alarm is this?
Descend! Come with us to the house of prayer.
Save himself whoso can! we all shall burn.
[Men and women appear at the doors of the houses.]
ONE OF THE MEN AT THE DOOR.
Beseech you brethren, calmly. Tell us all!
Mine aged father lies at point of death
Gasping within. Ye'll thrust him in his grave
With boisterous clamor.
Blessed is the man
Whom the Lord calls unto Himself in peace!
Susskind von Orb and Rabbi Jacob come
From the tribunal where the vote is--Death
To all our race.
Woe! woe! God pity us!
Hie ye within, and take a last farewell
Of home, love, life--put on your festal robes.
So wills the Rabbi, and come forth at once
To pray till sunset in the Synagogue.
AN OLD MAN.
O God! Is this the portion of mine age?
Were my white hairs, my old bones spared for this?
Oh cruel, cruel!
A YOUNG GIRL.
I am too young to die.
Save me, my father! To-morrow should have been
The feast at Rachel's house. I longed for that,
Counted the days, dreaded some trivial chance
Might cross my pleasure--Lo, this horror comes!
Oh love! oh thou just-tasted cup of joy
Snatched from my lips! Shall we twain lie with death,
Dark, silent, cold--whose every sense was tuned
To happiness! Life was too beautiful--
That was the dream--how soon we are awake!
Ah, we have that within our hearts defies
Their fiercest flames. No end, no end, no end!
God with a mighty hand, a stretched-out arm,
And poured-out fury, ruleth over us.
The sword is furbished, sharp i' the slayer's hand.
Cry out and howl, thou son of Israel!
Thou shalt be fuel to the fire; thy blood
Shall overflow the land, and thou no more
Shalt be remembered--so the Lord hath spoken.
Within the Synagogue. Above in the gallery, women sumptuously
attired; some with children by the hand or infants in their arms.
Below the men and boys with silken scarfs about their shoulders.
The Lord is nigh unto the broken heart.
Out of the depths we cry to thee, oh God!
Show us the path of everlasting life;
For in thy presence is the plenitude
Of joy, and in thy right hand endless bliss.
Enter SUSSKIND, REUBEN, etc.
Woe unto us who perish!
Susskind von Orb,
Thou hast brought down this doom. Would we had heard
The prophet's voice!
Brethren, my cup is full!
Oh let us die as warriors of the Lord.
The Lord is great in Zion. Let our death
Bring no reproach to Jacob, no rebuke
To Israel. Hark ye! let us crave one boon
At our assassins' hands; beseech them build
Within God's acre where our fathers sleep,
A dancing-floor to hide the fagots stacked.
Then let the minstrels strike the harp and lute,
And we will dance and sing above the pile,
Fearless of death, until the flames engulf,
Even as David danced before the Lord,
As Miriam danced and sang beside the sea.
Great is our Lord! His name is glorious
In Judah, and extolled in Israel!
In Salem is his tent, his dwelling place
In Zion; let us chant the praise of God!
Susskind, thou speakest well! We will meet death
With dance and song. Embrace him as a bride.
So that the Lord receive us in His tent.
Amen! amen! amen! we dance to death!
Susskind, go forth and beg this grace of them.
Punish us not in wrath, chastise us not
In anger, oh our God! Our sins o'erwhelm
Our smitten heads, they are a grievous load;
We look on our iniquities, we tremble,
Knowing our trespasses. Forsake us not.
Be thou not far from us. Haste to our aid,
Oh God, who art our Saviour and our Rock!
Brethren, our prayer, being the last, is granted.
The hour approaches. Let our thoughts ascend
From mortal anguish to the ecstasy
Of martyrdom, the blessed death of those
Who perish in the Lord. I see, I see
How Israel's ever-crescent glory makes
These flames that would eclipse it, dark as blots
Of candle-light against the blazing sun.
We die a thousand deaths,--drown, bleed, and burn;
Our ashes are dispersed unto the winds.
Yet the wild winds cherish the sacred seed,
The waters guard it in their crystal heart,
The fire refuseth to consume. It springs,
A tree immortal, shadowing many lands,
Unvisited, unnamed, undreamed as yet.
Rather a vine, full-flowered, golden-branched,
Ambrosial-fruited, creeping on the earth,
Trod by the passer's foot, yet chosen to deck
Tables of princes. Israel now has fallen
Into the depths, he shall be great in time.*
Even as we die in honor, from our death
Shall bloom a myriad heroic lives,
Brave through our bright example, virtuous
Lest our great memory fall in disrepute.
Is one among us brothers, would exchange
His doom against our tyrants,--lot for lot?
Let him go forth and live--he is no Jew.
Is one who would not die in Israel
Rather than live in Christ,--their Christ who smiles
On such a deed as this? Let him go forth--
He may die full of years upon his bed.
Ye who nurse rancor haply in your hearts,
Fear ye we perish unavenged? Not so!
To-day, no! nor to-morrow! but in God's time,
Our witnesses arise. Ours is the truth,
Ours is the power, the gift of Heaven. We hold
His Law, His lamp, His covenant, His pledge.
Wherever in the ages shall arise
Jew-priest, Jew-poet, Jew-singer, or Jew-saint--
And everywhere I see them star the gloom--
In each of these the martyrs are avenged!
*The vine creeps on the earth, trodden by the passer's foot,
but its fruit goes upon the table of princes. Israel now has
fallen in the depths, but he shall be great in the fullness
Bring from the Ark the bell-fringed, silken-bound
Scrolls of the Law. Gather the silver vessels,
Dismantle the rich curtains of the doors,
Bring the Perpetual Lamp; all these shall burn,
For Israel's light is darkened, Israel's Law
Profaned by strangers. Thus the Lord hath said:*
"The weapon formed against thee shall not prosper,
The tongue that shall contend with thee in judgment,
Thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage
Of the Lord's servants and their righteousness.
For thou shalt come to peoples yet unborn,
Declaring that which He hath done. Amen!"
*Conclusion of service for Day of Atonement.
[The doors of the Synagogue are burst open with tumultuous noise.
Citizens and officers rush in.]
Come forth! the sun sets. Come, the Council waits!
What! will ye teach your betters patience? Out!
The Governor is ready. Forth with you,
Curs! serpents! Judases! The bonfire burns!
A Public Place. Crowds of Citizens assembled. On a platform
are seated DIETRICH VON TETTENBORN and HENRY SCHNETZEN with
other Members of the Council.
Here's such a throng! Neighbor, your elbow makes
An ill prod for my ribs.
I am pushed and squeezed.
My limbs are not mine own.
Look this way, wife.
They will come hence,--a pack of just-whipped curs.
I warrant you the stiff-necked brutes repent
To-day if ne'er before.
I am all a-quiver.
I have seen monstrous sights,--an uncaged wolf,
The corpse of one sucked by a vampyre,
The widow Kupfen's malformed child--but never
Until this hour, a Jew.
D' ye call me Jew?
Where do you spy one now?
You'll have your jest
Now or anon, what matters it?
Have seen a Jew, and seen one burn at that;
Hard by in Wartburg; he had killed a child.
Zounds! how the serpent wriggled! I smell now
The roasting, stinking flesh!
Father, be these
The folk who murdered Jesus?
Ay, my boy.
Remember that, and when you hear them come,
I'll lift you on my shoulders. You can fling
Your pebbles with the rest.
The Jews! the Jews!
Quick, father! lift me! I see nothing here
But hose and skirts.
[Music of a march approaching.]
What mummery is this?
The sorcerers brew new mischief.
Why, they come
Pranked for a holiday; not veiled for death.
Insolent braggarts! They defy the Christ!
Enter, in procession to music, the Jews. First, RABBI JACOB--
after him, sick people, carried on litters--then old men and
women, followed promiscuously by men, women, and children of
all ages. Some of the men carry gold and silver vessels, some
the Rolls of the Law. One bears the Perpetual Lamp, another
the Seven-branched silver Candlestick of the Synagogue. The
mothers have their children by the hand or in their arms. All
The misers! they will take their gems and gold
Down to the grave!
So these be Jews! Christ save us!
To think the devils look like human folk!
Cursed be the poison-mixers! Let them burn!
Enter SUSSKIND VON ORB, LIEBHAID, REUBEN, and CLAIRE.
Good God! what maid is that?
Liebhaid von Orb.
The devil's trick!
He has bewitched mine eyes.
SUSSKIND (as he passes the platform).
Woe to the father
Who murders his own child!
I am avenged,
Susskind von Orb! Blood for blood, fire for fire,
And death for death!
[Exeunt SUSSKIND, LIEBHAID, etc.]
Enter Jewish youths and maidens.
YOUTHS (in chorus).
Let us rejoice, for it is promised us
That we shall enter in God's tabernacle!
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Zion,
Within thy portals, O Jerusalem!
I can see naught from here. Let's follow, Hans.
Be satisfied. There is no inch of space
For foot to rest on yonder. Look! look there!
How the flames rise!
O father, I can see!
They all are dancing in the crimson blaze.
Look how their garments wave, their jewels shine,
When the smoke parts a bit. The tall flames dart.
Is not the fire real fire? They fear it not.
Arise, oh house of Jacob. Let us walk
Within the light of the Almighty Lord!
Enter in furious haste PRINCE WILLIAM and NORDMANN.
Respite! You kill your daughter, Henry Schnetzen!
Liebhaid von Orb is your own flesh and blood.
Spectre! do dead men rise?
Yea, for revenge!
I swear, Lord Schnetzen, by my knightly honor,
She who is dancing yonder to her death,
Is thy wife's child!
[SCHNETZEN and PRINCE WILLIAM make a rush forward towards the
flames. Music ceases; a sound of crashing boards is heard and
a great cry--HALLELUJAH!]
PRINCE WILLIAM and SCHNETZEN.
Too late! too late!
The fire! the fire! Liebhaid, I come to thee.
[He is about to spring forward, but is held back by guards.]
Oh cruel Christ! Is there no bolt in heaven
For the child murderer? Kill me, my friends! my breast
Is bare to all your swords.
[He tears open his jerkin, and falls unconscious.]
The plot and incidents of this Tragedy are taken from a little
narrative entitled "Der Tanz zum Tode; ein Nachtstuck aus dem
vierzehnten Jahrhundert," (The Dance to Death--a Night-piece of
the fourteenth century). By Richard Reinhard. Compiled from
authentic documents communicated by Professor Franz Delitzsch.
The original narrative thus disposes, in conclusion, of the
"The Knight Henry Schnetzen ended his curse-stricken life in a
cloister of the strictest order.
"Herr Nordmann was placed in close confinement, and during the
same year his head fell under the sword of the executioner.
"Prince William returned, broken down with sorrow, to Eisenach.
His princely father's heart found no comfort during the remainder
of his days. He died soon after the murder of the Jews--his last
words were, 'woe! the fire!'
"William reached an advanced age, but his life was joyless. He
never married, and at his death Meissen was inherited by his nephew.
"The Jewish cemetery in Nordhausen, the scene of this martyrdom,
lay for a long time waste. Nobody would build upon it. Now it
is a bleaching meadow, and where once the flames sprang up, to-day
rests peaceful sunshine."
TRANSLATIONS FROM THE HEBREW POETS OF MEDAEVAL SPAIN.
SOLOMON BEN JUDAH GABIROL (Died Between 1070-80.)
"Am I sipping the honey of the lips?
Am I drunk with the wine of a kiss?
Have I culled the flowers of the cheek,
Have I sucked the fresh fragrance of the breath?
Nay, it is the Song of Gabirol that has revived me,
The perfume of his youthful, spring-tide breeze."
--MOSES BEN ESRA.
"I will engrave my songs indelibly upon the heart of
the world, so that no one can efface them."
Night, and the heavens beam serene with peace,
Like a pure heart benignly smiles the moon.
Oh, guard thy blessed beauty from mischance,
This I beseech thee in all tender love.
See where the Storm his cloudy mantle spreads,
An ashy curtain covereth the moon.
As if the tempest thirsted for the rain,
The clouds he presses, till they burst in streams.
Heaven wears a dusky raiment, and the moon
Appeareth dead--her tomb is yonder cloud,
And weeping shades come after, like the people
Who mourn with tearful grief a noble queen.
But look! the thunder pierced night's close-linked mail,
His keen-tipped lance of lightning brandishing;
He hovers like a seraph-conqueror.--
Dazed by the flaming splendor of his wings,
In rapid flight as in a whirling dance,
The black cloud-ravens hurry scared away.
So, though the powers of darkness chain my soul,
My heart, a hero, chafes and breaks its bonds.
Will night already spread her wings and weave
Her dusky robe about the day's bright form,
Boldly the sun's fair countenance displacing,
And swathe it with her shadow in broad day?
So a green wreath of mist enrings the moon,
Till envious clouds do quite encompass her.
No wind! and yet the slender stem is stirred,
With faint, slight motion as from inward tremor.
Mine eyes are full of grief--who sees me, asks,
"Oh wherefore dost thou cling unto the ground?"
My friends discourse with sweet and soothing words;
They all are vain, they glide above my head.
I fain would check my tears; would fain enlarge
Unto infinity, my heart--in vain!
Grief presses hard my breast, therefore my tears
Have scarcely dried, ere they again spring forth.
For these are streams no furnace heat may quench,
Nebuchadnezzar's flames may dry them not.
What is the pleasure of the day for me,
If, in its crucible, I must renew
Incessantly the pangs of purifying?
Up, challenge, wrestle, and o'ercome! Be strong!
The late grapes cover all the vine with fruit.
I am not glad, though even the lion's pride
Content itself upon the field's poor grass.
My spirit sinks beneath the tide, soars not
With fluttering seamews on the moist, soft strand.
I follow Fortune not, where'er she lead.
Lord o'er myself, I banish her, compel,
And though her clouds should rain no blessed dew,
Though she withhold the crown, the heart's desire,
Though all deceive, though honey change to gall,
Still am I lord, and will in freedom strive.
Forget thine anguish,
Vexed heart, again.
Why shouldst thou languish,
With earthly pain?
The husk shall slumber,
Bedded in clay
Silent and sombre,
But, Spirit immortal,
Thou at Death's portal,
Tremblest with fear.
If he caress thee,
Curse thee or bless thee,
Thou must draw near,
From him the worth of thy works to hear.
Why full of terror,
Compassed with error,
Trouble thy heart,
For thy mortal part?
The soul flies home--
The corpse is dumb.
Of all thou didst have,
Follows naught to the grave.
Thou fliest thy nest,
Swift as a bird to thy place of rest.
What avail grief and fasting,
Where nothing is lasting?
In a health-giving draught,
A death-dealing shaft.
Over all, dissolution
Creeps silent and sly.
Unto others remain
The goods thou didst gain
With infinite pain.
Life is a vine-branch;
A vintager, Death.
He threatens and lowers
More near with each breath.
Then hasten, arise!
Seek God, O my soul!
For time quickly flies,
Still far is the goal.
Vain heart praying dumbly,
Learn to prize humbly,
The meanest of fare.
Forget all thy sorrow,
Behold, Death is there!
Be full of repenting,
Lift vision supernal
To raptures eternal.
On ev'ry occasion
Seek lasting salvation.
Pour thy heart out in weeping,
While others are sleeping.
Pray to Him when all's still,
Performing his will.
And so shall the angel of peace be thy warden,
And guide thee at last to the heavenly garden.
Almighty! what is man?
But flesh and blood.
Like shadows flee his days,
He marks not how they vanish from his gaze,
Suddenly, he must die--
He droppeth, stunned, into nonentity.
Almighty! what is man?
A body frail and weak,
Full of deceit and lies,
Of vile hypocrisies.
Now like a flower blowing,
Now scorched by sunbeams glowing.
And wilt thou of his trespasses inquire?
How may he ever bear
Thine anger just, thy vengeance dire?
Punish him not, but spare,
For he is void of power and strength!
Almighty! what is man?
By filthy lust possessed,
Whirled in a round of lies,
Fond frenzy swells his breast.
The pure man sinks in mire and slime,
The noble shrinketh not from crime,
Wilt thou resent on him the charms of sin?
Like fading grass,
So shall he pass.
Like chaff that blows
Where the wind goes.
Then spare him, be thou merciful, O King,
Upon the dreaded day of reckoning!
Almighty! what is man?
The haughty son of time
Drinks deep of sin,
And feeds on crime
Seething like waves that roll,
Hot as a glowing coal.
And wilt thou punish him for sins inborn?
Lost and forlorn,
Then like the weakling he must fall,
Who some great hero strives withal.
Oh, spare him, therefore! let him win
Grace for his sin!
Almighty! what is man?
Spotted in guilty wise,
A stranger unto faith,
Whose tongue is stained with lies,
And shalt thou count his sins--so is he lost,
Uprooted by thy breath.
Like to a stream by tempest tossed,
His life falls from him like a cloak,
He passes into nothingness, like smoke.
Then spare him, punish not, be kind, I pray,
To him who dwelleth in the dust, an image wrought in clay!
Almighty! what is man?
A withered bough!
When he is awe-struck by approaching doom,
Like a dried blade of grass, so weak, so low
The pleasure of his life is changed to gloom.
He crumbles like a garment spoiled with moth;
According to his sins wilt thou be wroth?
He melts like wax before the candle's breath,
Yea, like thin water, so he vanisheth,
Oh, spare him therefore, for thy gracious name,
And be not too severe upon his shame!
Almighty! what is man?
A faded leaf!
If thou dost weigh him in the balance--lo!
He disappears--a breath that thou dost blow.
His heart is ever filled
With lust of lies unstilled.
Wilt thou bear in mind his crime
Unto all time?
He fades away like clouds sun-kissed,
Dissolves like mist.
Then spare him! let him love and mercy win,
According to thy grace, and not according to his sin!
TO A DETRACTOR.
The Autumn promised, and he keeps
His word unto the meadow-rose.
The pure, bright lightnings herald Spring,
Serene and glad the fresh earth shows.
The rain has quenched her children's thirst,
Her cheeks, but now so cold and dry,
Are soft and fair, a laughing face;
With clouds of purple shines the sky,
Though filled with light, yet veiled with haze.
Hark! hark! the turtle's mocking note
Outsings the valley-pigeon's lays.
Her wings are gemmed, and from her throat,
When the clear sun gleams back again,
It seems to me as though she wore
About her neck a jewelled chain.
Say, wilt thou darken such a light,
Wilt drag the clouds from heaven's height?
Although thy heart with anger swell,
Yet firm as marble mine doth dwell.
Therein no fear thy wrath begets.
It is not shaken by thy threats.
Yea, hurl thy darts, thy weapons wield,
The strength of youth is still my shield.
My winged steed toward the heights doth bound,
The dust whiffs upward from the ground;
My song is scanty, dost thou deem
Thine eloquence a mighty stream?
Only the blameless offering.
Not the profusion man may bring,
Prevaileth with our Lord and King.
The long days out of minutes grow,
And out of months the years arise,
Wilt thou be master of the wise,
Then learn the hidden stream to know,
That from the inmost heart doth flow.
My friend spoke with insinuating tongue:
"Drink wine, and thy flesh shall be made whole. Look how
it hisses in the leathern bottle like a captured serpent."
Oh fool! can the sun be forged into a cask stopped with
earthly bungs. I know not that the power of wine has ever
overmastered my sorrows; for these mighty giants I have found
as yet no resting-place.
"With tears thy grief thou dost bemoan,
Tears that would melt the hardest stone,
Oh, wherefore sing'st thou not the vine?
Why chant'st thou not the praise of wine?
It chases pain with cunning art,
The craven slinks from out thy heart."
But I: Poor fools the wine may cheat,
Lull them with lying visions sweet.
Upon the wings of storms may bear
The heavy burden of their care.
The father's heart may harden so,
He feeleth not his own child's woe.
No ocean is the cup, no sea,
To drown my broad, deep misery.
It grows so rank, you cut it all,
The aftermath springs just as tall.
My heart and flesh are worn away,
Mine eyes are darkened from the day.
The lovely morning-red behold
Wave to the breeze her flag of gold.
The hosts of stars above the world,
Like banners vanishing are furled.
The dew shines bright; I bide forlorn,
And shudder with the chill of morn.
WINE AND GRIEF.
With heavy groans did I approach my friends,
Heavy as though the mountains I would move.
The flagon they were murdering; they poured
Into the cup, wild-eyed, the grape's red blood.
No, they killed not, they breathed new life therein.
Then, too, in fiery rapture, burned my veins,
But soon the fumes had fled. In vain, in vain!
Ye cannot fill the breach of the rent heart.
Ye crave a sensuous joy; ye strive in vain
To cheat with flames of passion, my despair.
So when the sinking sun draws near to night,
The sky's bright cheeks fade 'neath those tresses black.
Ye laugh--but silently the soul weeps on;
Ye cannot stifle her sincere lament.
"Conquer the gloomy night of thy sorrow, for the morning greets
thee with laughter.
Rise and clothe thyself with noble pride,
Break loose from the tyranny of grief.
Thou standest alone among men,
Thy song is like a pearl in beauty."
So spake my friend. 'T is well!
The billows of the stormy sea which overwhelmed my soul,--
These I subdue; I quake not
Before the bow and arrow of destiny.
I endured with patience when he deceitfully lied to me
With his treacherous smile.
Yea, boldly I defy Fate,
I cringe not to envious Fortune.
I mock the towering floods.
My brave heart does not shrink--
This heart of mine, that, albeit young in years,
Is none the less rich in deep, keen-eyed experience.
A DEGENERATE AGE.
Where is the man who has been tried and found strong and sound?
Where is the friend of reason and of knowledge?
I see only sceptics and weaklings.
I see only prisoners in the durance of the senses,
And every fool and every spendthrift
Thinks himself as great a master as Aristotle.
Think'st thou that they have written poems?
Call'st thou that a Song?
I call it the cackling of ravens.
The zeal of the prophet must free poesy
From the embrace of wanton youths.
My song I have inscribed on the forehead of Time,
They know and hate it--for it is lofty.
ABUL HASSAN JUDAH BEN HA-LEVI. (Born Between 1080-90.)
A LETTER TO HIS FRIEND ISAAC.
But yesterday the earth drank like a child
With eager thirst the autumn rain.
Or like a wistful bride who waits the hour
Of love's mysterious bliss and pain.
And now the Spring is here with yearning eyes;
Midst shimmering golden flower-beds,
On meadows carpeted with varied hues,
In richest raiment clad, she treads.
She weaves a tapestry of bloom o'er all,
And myriad eyed young plants upspring,
White, green, or red like lips that to the mouth
Of the beloved one sweetly cling.
Whence come these radiant tints, these blended beams?
Here's such a dazzle, such a blaze,
As though each stole the splendor of the stars,
Fain to eclipse them with her rays.
Come! go we to the garden with our wine,
Which scatters sparks of hot desire,
Within our hand 't is cold, but in our veins
It flashes clear, it glows like fire.
It bubbles sunnily in earthen jugs.
We catch it in the crystal glass,
Then wander through cool, shadowy lanes and breathe
The spicy freshness of the grass.
Whilst we with happy hearts our circuit keep,
The gladness of the Earth is shown.
She smileth, though the trickling raindrops weep
Silently o'er her, one by one.
She loves to feel the tears upon her cheek,
Like a rich veil, with pearls inwove.
Joyous she listens when the swallows chirp,
And warbles to her mate, the dove.
Blithe as a maiden midst the young green leaves,
A wreath she'll wind, a fragrant treasure;
All living things in graceful motion leap,
As dancing to some merry measure.
The morning breezes rustle cordially,
Love's thirst is sated with the balm they send.
Sweet breathes the myrtle in the frolic wind,
As though remembering a distant friend.
The myrtle branch now proudly lifted high,
Now whispering to itself drops low again.
The topmost palm-leaves rapturously stir,
For all at once they hear the birds' soft strain.
So stirs, so yearns all nature, gayly decked,
To honor ISAAC with her best array.
Hear'st thou the word? She cries--I beam with joy,
Because with Isaac I am wed to-day.
Long in the lap of childhood didst thou sleep,
Think how thy youth like chaff did disappear;
Shall life's sweet Spring forever last? Look up,
Old age approaches ominously near.
Oh shake thou off the world, even as the bird
Shakes off the midnight dew that clogged his wings.
Soar upward, seek redemption from thy guilt
And from the earthly dross that round thee clings.
Draw near to God, His holy angels know,
For whom His bounteous streams of mercy flow.
"See'st thou o'er my shoulders falling,
Snake-like ringlets waving free?
Have no fear, for they are twisted
To allure thee unto me."
Thus she spake, the gentle dove,
Listen to thy plighted love:--
"Ah, how long I wait, until
Sweetheart cometh back (she said)
Laying his caressing hand
Underneath my burning head."
And so we twain must part! Oh linger yet,
Let me still feed my glance upon thine eyes.
Forget not, love, the days of our delight,
And I our nights of bliss shall ever prize.
In dreams thy shadowy image I shall see,
Oh even in my dream be kind to me!
Though I were dead, I none the less would hear
Thy step, thy garment rustling on the sand.
And if thou waft me greetings from the grave,
I shall drink deep the breath of that cold land.
Take thou my days, command this life of mine,
If it can lengthen out the space of thine.
No voice I hear from lips death-pale and chill,
Yet deep within my heart it echoes still.
My frame remains--my soul to thee yearns forth.
A shadow I must tarry still on earth.
Back to the body dwelling here in pain,
Return, my soul, make haste and come again!
LONGING FOR JERUSALEM.
O city of the world, with sacred splendor blest,
My spirit yearns to thee from out the far-off West,
A stream of love wells forth when I recall thy day,
Now is thy temple waste, thy glory passed away.
Had I an eagle's wings, straight would I fly to thee,
Moisten thy holy dust with wet cheeks streaming free.
Oh, how I long for thee! albeit thy King has gone,
Albeit where balm once flowed, the serpent dwells alone.
Could I but kiss thy dust, so would I fain expire,
As sweet as honey then, my passion, my desire!
ON THE VOYAGE TO JERUSALEM.
My two-score years and ten are over,
Never again shall youth be mine.
The years are ready-winged for flying,
What crav'st thou still of feast and wine?
Wilt thou still court man's acclamation,
Forgetting what the Lord hath said?
And forfeiting thy weal eternal,
By thine own guilty heart misled?
Shalt thou have never done with folly,
Still fresh and new must it arise?
Oh heed it not, heed not the senses,
But follow God, be meek and wise;
Yea, profit by thy days remaining,
They hurry swiftly to the goal.
Be zealous in the Lord's high service,
And banish falsehood from thy soul.
Use all thy strength, use all thy fervor,
Defy thine own desires, awaken!
Be not afraid when seas are foaming,
And earth to her foundations shaken.
Benumbed the hand then of the sailor,
The captain's skill and power are lamed.
Gayly they sailed with colors flying,
And now turn home again ashamed.
The ocean is our only refuge,
The sandbank is our only goal,
The masts are swaying as with terror,
And quivering does the vessel roll.
The mad wind frolics with the billows,
Now smooths them low, now lashes high.
Now they are storming up like lions,
And now like serpents sleek they lie;
And wave on wave is ever pressing,
They hiss, they whisper, soft of tone.
Alack! was that the vessel splitting?
Are sail and mast and rudder gone?
Here, screams of fright, there, silent weeping,
The bravest feels his courage fail.
What stead our prudence or our wisdom?
The soul itself can naught avail.
And each one to his God is crying,
Soar up, my soul, to Him aspire,
Who wrought a miracle for Jordan,
Extol Him, oh angelic choir!
Remember Him who stays the tempest,
The stormy billows doth control,
Who quickeneth the lifeless body,
And fills the empty frame with soul.
Behold! once more appears a wonder,
The angry waves erst raging wild,
Like quiet flocks of sheep reposing,
So soft, so still, so gently mild.
The sun descends, and high in heaven,
The golden-circled moon doth stand.
Within the sea the stars are straying,
Like wanderers in an unknown land.
The lights celestial in the waters
Are flaming clearly as above,
As though the very heavens descended,
To seal a covenant of love.
Perchance both sea and sky, twin oceans,
From the same source of grace are sprung.
'Twixt these my heart, a third sea, surges,
With songs resounding, clearly sung.
A watery waste the sinful world has grown,
With no dry spot whereon the eye can rest,
No man, no beast, no bird to gaze upon,
Can all be dead, with silent sleep possessed?
Oh, how I long the hills and vales to see,
To find myself on barren steppes were bliss.
I peer about, but nothing greeteth me,
Naught save the ship, the clouds, the waves' abyss,
The crocodile which rushes from the deeps;
The flood foams gray; the whirling waters reel,
Now like its prey whereon at last it sweeps,
The ocean swallows up the vessel's keel.
The billows rage--exult, oh soul of mine,
Soon shalt thou enter the Lord's sacred shrine!
TO THE WEST WIND.
O West, how fragrant breathes thy gentle air,
Spikenard and aloes on thy pinions glide.
Thou blow'st from spicy chambers, not from there
Where angry winds and tempests fierce abide.
As on a bird's wings thou dost waft me home,
Sweet as a bundle of rich myrrh to me.
And after thee yearn all the throngs that roam
And furrow with light keel the rolling sea.
Desert her not--our ship--bide with her oft,
When the day sinks and in the morning light.
Smooth thou the deeps and make the billows soft,
Nor rest save at our goal, the sacred height.
Chide thou the East that chafes the raging flood,
And swells the towering surges wild and rude.
What can I do, the elements' poor slave?
Now do they hold me fast, now leave me free;
Cling to the Lord, my soul, for He will save,
Who caused the mountains and the winds to be.
MOSES BEN ESRA (About 1100).
EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK OF TARSHISH,
OR "NECKLACE OF PEARLS."
The shadow of the houses leave behind,
In the cool boscage of the grove reclined,
The wine of friendship from love's goblet drink,
And entertain with cheerful speech the mind.
Drink, friend! behold, the dreary winter's gone,
The mantle of old age has time withdrawn.
The sunbeam glitters in the morning dew,
O'er hill and vale youth's bloom is surging on.
Cup-bearer! quench with snow the goblet's fire,
Even as the wise man cools and stills his ire.
Look, when the jar is drained, upon the brim
The light foam melteth with the heart's desire.
Cup-bearer! bring anear the silver bowl,
And with the glowing gold fulfil the whole,
Unto the weak new vigor it imparts,
And without lance subdues the hero's soul.
My love sways, dancing, like the myrtle-tree,
The masses of her curls disheveled, see!
She kills me with her darts, intoxicates
My burning blood, and will not set me free.
Within the aromatic garden come,
And slowly in its shadows let us roam,
The foliage be the turban for our brows,
And the green branches o'er our heads a dome.
All pain thou with the goblet shalt assuage,
The wine-cup heals the sharpest pangs that rage,
Let others crave inheritance of wealth,
Joy be our portion and our heritage.
Drink in the garden, friend, anigh the rose,
Richer than spice's breath the soft air blows.
If it should cease a little traitor then,
A zephyr light its secret would disclose.
Thou who art clothed in silk, who drawest on
Proudly thy raiment of fine linen spun,
Bethink thee of the day when thou alone
Shall dwell at last beneath the marble stone.
Anigh the nests of adders thine abode,
With the earth-crawling serpent and the toad.
Trust in the Lord, He will sustain thee there,
And without fear thy soul shall rest with God.
If the world flatter thee with soft-voiced art,
Know 't is a cunning witch who charms thy heart,
Whose habit is to wed man's soul with grief,
And those who are close-bound in love to part.
He who bestows his wealth upon the poor,
Has only lent it to the Lord, be sure--
Of what avail to clasp it with clenched hand?
It goes not with us to the grave obscure.
The voice of those who dwell within the tomb,
Who in corruption's house have made their home;
"O ye who wander o'er us still to-day,
When will ye come to share with us the gloom?"
How can'st thou ever of the world complain,
And murmuring, burden it with all thy pain?
Silence! thou art a traveller at an inn,
A guest, who may but over night remain.
Be thou not wroth against the proud, but show
How he who yesterday great joy did know,
To-day is begging for his very bread,
And painfully upon a crutch must go.
How foolish they whose faith is fixed upon
The treasures of their worldly wealth alone,
Far wiser were it to obey the Lord,
And only say, "The will of God be done!"
Has Fortune smiled on thee? Oh do not trust
Her reckless joy, she still deceives and must.
Perpetual snares she spreads about thy feet,
Thou shalt not rest till thou art mixed with dust.
Man is a weaver on the earth, 't is said,
Who weaves and weaves--his own days are the thread,
And when the length allotted he hath spun,
All life is over, and all hope is dead.
IN THE NIGHT.
Unto the house of prayer my spirit yearns,
Unto the sources of her being turns,
To where the sacred light of heaven burns,
She struggles thitherward by day and night.
The splendor of God's glory blinds her eyes,
Up without wings she soareth to the skies,
With silent aspiration seeks to rise,
In dusky evening and in darksome night.
To her the wonders of God's works appear,
She longs with fervor Him to draw anear,
The tidings of His glory reach her ear,
From morn to even, and from night to night.
The banner of thy grace did o'er me rest,
Yet was thy worship banished from my breast.
Almighty, thou didst seek me out and test
To try and to instruct me in the night.
I dare not idly on my pillow lie,
With winged feet to the shrine I fain would fly,
When chained by leaden slumbers heavily,
Men rest in imaged shadows, dreams of night.
Infatuate I trifled youth away,
In nothingness dreamed through my manhood's day.
Therefore my streaming tears I may not stay,
They are my meat and drink by day and night.
In flesh imprisoned is the son of light,
This life is but a bridge when seen aright.
Rise in the silent hour and pray with might,
Awake and call upon thy God by night!
Hasten to cleanse thyself of sin, arise!
Follow Truth's path that leads unto the skies,
As swift as yesterday existence flies,
Brief even as a watch within the night.
Man enters life for trouble; all he has,
And all that he beholds, is pain, alas!
Like to a flower does he bloom and pass,
He fadeth like a vision of the night.
The surging floods of life around him roar,
Death feeds upon him, pity is no more,
To others all his riches he gives o'er,
And dieth in the middle hour of night.
Crushed by the burden of my sins I pray,
Oh, wherefore shunned I not the evil way?
Deep are my sighs, I weep the livelong day,
And wet my couch with tears night after night.
My spirit stirs, my streaming tears still run,
Like to the wild birds' notes my sorrows' tone,
In the hushed silence loud resounds my groan,
My soul arises moaning in the night.
Within her narrow cell oppressed with dread,
Bare of adornment and with grief-bowed head
Lamenting, many a tear her sad eyes shed,
She weeps with anguish in the gloomy night.
For tears my burden seem to lighten best,
Could I but weep my heart's blood, I might rest.
My spirit bows with mighty grief oppressed,
I utter forth my prayer within the night.
Youth's charm has like a fleeting shadow gone,
With eagle wings the hours of life have flown.
Alas! the time when pleasure I have known,
I may not now recall by day or night.
The haughty scorn pursues me of my foe,
Evil his thought, yet soft his speech and low.
Forget it not, but bear his purpose so
Forever in thy mind by day and night.
Observe a pious fast, be whole again,
Hasten to purge thy heart of every stain.
No more from prayer and penitence refrain,
But turn unto thy God by day and night.
HE SPEAKS: "My son, yea, I will send thee aid,
Bend thou thy steps to me, be not afraid.
No nearer friend than I am, hast thou made,
Possess thy soul in patience one more night."
FROM THE "DIVAN."
My thoughts impelled me to the resting-place
Where sleep my parents, many a friend and brother.
I asked them (no one heard and none replied):
"Do ye forsake me, too, oh father, mother?"
Then from the grave, without a tongue, these cried,
And showed my own place waiting by their side.
LOVE SONG OF ALCHARISI.
The long-closed door, oh open it again, send me back once more my
fawn that had fled.
On the day of our reunion, thou shalt rest by my side, there wilt
thou shed over me the streams of thy delicious perfume.
Oh beautiful bride, what is the form of thy friend, that thou say
to me, Release him, send him away?
He is the beautiful-eyed one of ruddy glorious aspect--that is my
friend, him do thou detain.
Hail to thee, Son of my friend, the ruddy, the bright-colored one!
Hail to thee whose temples are like a pomegranate.
Hasten to the refuge of thy sister, and protect the son of Isaiah
against the troops of the Ammonites.
What art thou, O Beauty, that thou shouldst inspire love? that thy
voice should ring like the voices of the bells upon the priestly
The hour wherein thou desireth my love, I shall hasten to meet thee.
Softly will I drop beside thee like the dew upon Hermon.
Now the dreary winter's over,
Fled with him are grief and pain,
When the trees their bloom recover,
Then the soul is born again.
Spikenard blossoms shaking,
Perfume all the air,
And in bud and flower breaking,
Stands my garden fair.
While with swelling gladness blest,
Heaves my friend's rejoicing breast.
Oh, come home, lost friend of mine,
Scared from out my tent and land.
Drink from me the spicy wine,
Milk and must from out my hand.
Cares which hovered round my brow,
Vanish, while the garden now
Girds itself with myrtle hedges,
Round it lie.
All my sorrows die.
See the breathing myrrh-trees blow,
Aromatic airs enfold me.
While the splendor and the glow
Of the walnut-branches hold me.
And a balsam-breath is flowing,
Through the leafy shadows green,
On the left the cassia's growing,
On the right the aloe's seen.
Lo, the clear cup crystalline,
In itself a gem of art,
Ruby-red foams up with wine,
Sparkling rich with froth and bubble.
I forget the want and trouble,
Buried deep within my heart.
Where is he who lingered here,
But a little while agone?
From my homestead he has flown,
From the city sped alone,
Dwelling in the forest drear.
Oh come again, to those who wait thee long,
And who will greet thee with a choral song!
Beloved, kindle bright
Once more thine everlasting light.
Through thee, oh cherub with protecting wings,
My glory out of darkness springs.
Crocus and spikenard blossom on my lawn,
The brier fades, the thistle is withdrawn.
Behold, where glass-clear brooks are flowing,
The splendor of the myrtle blowing!
The garden-tree has doffed her widow's veil,
And shines in festal garb, in verdure pale.
The turtle-dove is cooing, hark!
Is that the warble of the lark!
Unto their perches they return again.
Oh brothers, carol forth your joyous strain,
Pour out full-throated ecstasy of mirth,
Proclaiming the Lord's glory to the earth.
One with a low, sweet song,
One echoing loud and long,
Chanting the music of a spirit strong.
In varied tints the landscape glows.
In rich array appears the rose.
While the pomegranate's wreath of green,
The gauzy red and snow-white blossoms screen.
Who loves it, now rejoices for its sake,
And those are glad who sleep, and those who wake.
When cool-breathed evening visiteth the world,
In flower and leaf the beaded dew is pearled,
Reviving all that droops at length,
And to the languid giving strength.
Now in the east the shining light behold!
The sun has oped a lustrous path of gold.
Within my narrow garden's greenery,
Shot forth a branch, sprang to a splendid tree,
Then in mine ear the joyous words did ring,
"From Jesse's root a verdant branch shall spring."
My Friend has cast His eyes upon my grief,
According to His mercy, sends relief.
Hark! the redemption hour's resounding stroke,
For him who bore with patient heart the yoke!
A TRANSLATION AND TWO IMITATIONS.
(From the German of Heine)
In the evening through her garden
Wanders the Alcalde's daughter,
Festal sounds of drum and trumpet
Ring out hither from the Castle.
"I am weary of the dances,
Honeyed words of adulation
From the knights who still compare me
To the sun with dainty phrases.
"Yes, of all things I am weary,
Since I first beheld by moonlight
Him, my cavalier, whose zither
Nightly draws me to my casement.
"As he stands so slim and daring,
With his flaming eyes that sparkle,
And with nobly pallid features,
Truly, he St. George resembles."
Thus went Donna Clara dreaming,
On the ground her eyes were fastened.
When she raised them, lo! before her
Stood the handsome knightly stranger.
Pressing hands and whispering passion,
These twain wander in the moonlight,
Gently doth the breeze caress them,
The enchanted roses greet them.
The enchanted roses greet them,
And they glow like Love's own heralds.
"Tell me, tell me, my beloved,
Wherefore all at once thou blushest?"
"Gnats were stinging me, my darling,
And I hate these gnats in summer
E'en as though they were a rabble
Of vile Jews with long, hooked noses."
"Heed not gnats nor Jews, beloved,"
Spake the knight with fond endearments.
From the almond-trees dropped downward
Myriad snowy flakes of blossoms.
Myriad snowy flakes of blossoms
Shed around them fragrant odors.
"Tell me, tell me, my beloved,
Looks thy heart on me with favor?"
"Yes, I love thee, O my darling,
And I swear it by our Saviour,
Whom the accursed Jews did murder,
Long ago with wicked malice."
"Heed thou neither Jews nor Saviour,"
Spake the knight with fond endearments.
Far off waved, as in a vision,
Gleaming lilies bathed in moonlight.
Gleaming lilies bathed in moonlight
Seemed to watch the stars above them.
"Tell me, tell me, my beloved,
Didst thou not erewhile swear falsely?"
"Naught is false in me, my darling,
E'en as in my veins there floweth
Not a drop of blood that's Moorish,
Neither of foul Jewish current."
"Heed not Moors nor Jews, beloved,"
Spake the knight with fond endearments.
Then towards a grove of myrtles
Leads he the Alcalde's daughter.
And with Love's slight subtile meshes,
He has trapped her and entangled.
Brief their words, but long their kisses,
For their hearts are overflowing.
What a melting bridal carol
Sings the nightingale, the pure one.
How the fire-flies in the grasses
Trip their sparkling torchlight dances!
In the grove the silence deepens,
Naught is heard save furtive rustling
Of the swaying myrtle branches,
And the breathing of the flowers.
But the sound of drum and trumpet
Burst forth sudden from the castle.
Rudely they awaken Clara,
Pillowed on her lover's bosom.
"Hark! they summon me, my darling!
But before we part, oh tell me,
Tell me what thy precious name is,
Which so closely thou hast hidden."
Then the knight with gentle laughter,
Kissed the fingers of his Donna,
Kissed her lips and kissed her forehead,
And at last these words he uttered:
"I, Senora, your beloved,
Am the son of the respected,
Worthy, erudite Grand Rabbi,
Israel of Saragossa."
"The ensemble of the romance is a scene of my own life--only the
Park of Berlin has become the Alcalde's garden, the Baroness a
Seľora, and myself a St. George, or even an Apollo. This was only
to be the first part of a trilogy, the second of which shows the
hero jeered at by his own child, who does not know him, whilst the
third discovers this child, who has become a Dominican, and is
torturing to the death his Jewish brethren. The refrain of these
two pieces corresponds with that of the first. Indeed this little
poem was not intended to excite laughter, still less to denote a
mocking spirit. I merely wished, without any definite purpose, to
render with epic impartiality in this poem an individual
circumstance, and, at the same time, something general and
universal--a moment in the world's history which was distinctly
reflected in my experience, and I had conceived the whole idea in a
spirit which was anything rather than smiling but serious and
painful, so much so, that it was to form the first part of a tragic
Guided by these hints, I have endeavored to carry out in the two
following original Ballads the Poet's first conception.
Not a lad in Saragossa
Than the Alcalde's youthful grandson,
Donna Clara's boy Pedrillo.
Handsome as the Prince of Evil,
And devout as St. Ignatius.
Deft at fence, unmatched with zither,
Miniature of knightly virtues.
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