Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
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Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
 
The Loan
By Sabine Baring-Gould
 
(Midrash Yalkut, iii, p. 165.)

THE RABBI MEIR,
A black cap on his white hair,
And him before
Unfurled the great book of the Law,
Sat in the school and taught.        5
Many a winged thought
Flew from his lips, and brought
Fire and enlightenment
Unto the scholars bent
Diligently at their writing.        10
And all the while he was inditing,
His soul was near to God
Above the dull earth that he trod.
And as the lark doth sing
High up and quivering        15
In the blue, on heavenward wing,
But ever its breast
Keepeth above its nest,
And singing it doth not roam
Beyond hearing of its home,        20
So the Rabbi, however high he soared
In his teaching, or praying, sung
Close to the ear of his Lord,
Yet ever above his home, his wife and young.
 
Slowly there stole the gloom        25
Of evening into the room,
Then he rose and shut the book
And casting about a look,
Said, with a wave
Of the hand: “God gave        30
The light, and hath taken away,
With the Lord begun,
With the Lord run,
With the Lord done,
Is the day.”        35
Then his way
Homeward cheerfully he took.
In the little house, sedate,
For her husband did await
Beruriah. And for her lord        40
She had laid the supper on the board.
And a lamp was lighted up,
By which he might sup.
He kissed her upon the brow,
And spake to her gently: “How        45
Are the lads today?
Tell me, Beruriah, pray.”
There glittered on her cheek
Two jewels, ere she could speak
And answer, “They are well,        50
Sit you and eat your supper, whilst I tell
What to me befell;
And assure me in what way
You think it had been best
That I had acted.” Thus addressed,        55
He sat him at his meal,
And began to eat: “Reveal
Thy case,” he said. “Yet tell me, I pray,
First—where are my boys today?”
Then suddenly she said,        60
With an averted head:
“Many years are flown
Since one a precious loan
Entrusted to my care, until he came
That treasure to reclaim.”        65
The Rabbi spoke: “Of old
Tobit confided his gold
To Raguel
At Ecbatane. Well,
What further?—But say,        70
Where are my lads, I pray?”
 
“For many years that store
I jealously watched o’er,
Do you think, my lord, that loan
In fourteen years would become my own?”        75
Then, with a glance of blame,
He answered, as he shook his head:
    “For shame.
Wife of my bosom! It were not thine
Should forty years upon thee shine,        80
And the owner not return
To demand it. Beruriah, learn
Not to covet.”
 
Then he paused, and said,
Moving the lamp: “Thine eyes are red,        85
    Beruriah: wherefore?”
 
But she broke
In on his question, and thus spoke:
“To-day there came
To the door the same        90
One who had lent the treasure,
And he said, ‘It is my pleasure
To have the loan restored.’
What do you think, my lord?
Should I have withheld it, Meir?”        95
At his wife with astonished stare
Looked the Rabbi. “O my wife!
Light of my eyes, and glory of my life!
  Why ask this question?”
 
    Then he said,        100
As his eyes wandered towards the bed:
“Why is the sheet,
Usually smooth and neat,
Lifted into many a fold and pleat?”
But she asked: “Should I repine        105
At surrendering what was not mine
To him who claimed it?”
 
    “It was a trust,
Wife of my bosom! What do you ask?—Repine
What! do you lust        110
To keep what is not thine?”
And once again:
“Where are my boys?”
 
    She took him by the hand,
Whilst o’er her features ran a thrill of pain,        115
And brought him to the bed, and bid him stand
There, as she touched the sheet, and said:
“The Lord who gave hath taken. They are dead.”
Softly she raised
The sheet; and with awe        120
The Rabbi his children saw
In the soft twilight
Lying silent, and still and white;
And he said, “Praised
Be the Name of the Lord.        125
My wife and I are content
That the goodly loan to us lent
Should be restored.”
 
 
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