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.
 
Selichoth
By Alter Abelson
 
WHEN the pride of the rose is the image of sorrow,
And the leaf that is yellow, steals joy from to-morrow,
When the night is the darkest, and the stars are the brightest,
When sleep is the soundest, and dreams are the lightest,
When warm is the home, and the heavens are chilly,        5
And soft is the couch, and the rising is hilly,
When the nests and the flowers are dreaming and sleeping,
Who is it, with heaven is silently weeping
As he dashes a dream from his dim drowsy eye,
When searching for signs of the dawn in the sky?        10
Who is it in shadows, a lantern is lighting,
And fondles a hymnal, days darkened with blighting,
The covers all frayed, and the folios yellowed;
Ah, ages with ages of tear stains here followed;
Who is it with hymnal o’er mountains is running,        15
Through mists that are mazy, and ways that are cunning,
O’er royalties fallen with manifold sighings,
Where the spirit of autumn is silently crying,
O’er Eden in ruins though dewdrops are falling,
Where things that are widowed and orphaned are calling,        20
Through bowers where silent the birds are in dreaming
Of songs they will sing when the heavens are beaming,
O’er gems that are sparkling on bluebells and grasses,
O’er flowers unseen, like a spirit who passes
With the dew on his brow, the malign mists defying?        25
’Tis the Jew, who to God from the shadow is flying,
And the night’s shining soul with a star and a ray,
It brothers the palmer to pray for the Day—
The synagogue seeks he with lights all ashimmer,
And finds there the daylight ere morning stars glimmer;        30
Behold it is Selichoth—the storming of heaven
With prayers and tears till with woe it is riven;
And all the white hymns that are winged with white fire,
And shod with the lightnings of souls that aspire,
Make way through the seraphs that stand by His glory,        35
And tell the Almighty sad Israel’s story.
O hearken how myriads of martyrs are crying,
And ages with ages in sorrows are vying!
“O God, who of mercy made sceptre and station,
Who keepeth His love to the thousandth generation,        40
Long suffering heaven, forgiving transgression
How long will we suffer? O, use your compassion,
And banish injustice, and stay the oppressor,
Redeemer of Israel, sole intercessor!
Make righteousness triumph, make love hold the sceptre,        45
O write Thy humaner and heavenlier chapter,
Bring the Jew a new morn, bring the world a new morrow.”
So prayeth the Jew with the Genius of Sorrow!
 
 
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