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.
 
Ode to Zion
By Judah Ha-Levi (Trans. Nina Davis)
 
ZION! of thine exiles’ peace take thought,
The remnant of thy flock, who thine have sought!
From west, from east, from north and south resounds,
Afar and now anear, from all thy bounds,
          And no surcease,        5
          “With thee be peace!”
 
In longing’s fetters chained I greet thee, too,
My tears fast welling forth like Hermon’s dew—
O bliss could they but drop on holy hills!
A croaking bird I turn, when through me thrills        10
Thy desolate state; but when I dream anon,
The Lord brings back thy ev’ry captive son—
          A harp straightway
          To sing thy lay.
 
In heart I dwell where once thy purest son        15
At Bethel and Peniel, triumphs won;
God’s awesome presence there was close to thee,
Whose doors thy Maker, by divine decree,
          Opposed as mates
          To heaven’s gates.        20
 
Nor sun, nor moon, nor stars had need to be;
God’s countenance alone illumined thee
On whose elect He poured His spirit out.
In thee would I my soul pour forth devout!
Thou wert the kingdom’s seat, of God the throne,        25
And now there dwells a slave race, not thine own,
          In royal state,
          Where reigned thy great.
 
O would that I could roam o’er ev’ry place
Where God to missioned prophets showed His grace!        30
And who will give me wings? An off’ring meet,
I’d haste to lay upon thy shattered seat,
          Thy counterpart—
          My bruised heart.
 
Upon thy precious ground I’d fall prostrate,        35
Thy stones caress, the dust within thy gate,
And happiness it were in awe to stand
At Hebron’s graves, the treasures of thy land,
And greet thy woods, thy vine-clad slopes, thy vales,
Greet Abarim and Hor, whose light ne’er pales,        40
          A radiant crown,
          Thy priests’ renown.
 
Thy air is balm for souls; like myrrh thy sand;
With honey run the rivers of thy land.
Though bare my feet, my heart’s delight I’d count        45
To tread my way all o’er thy desert mount,
          Where once rose tall
          Thy holy hall.
 
Where stood thy treasure-ark, in recess dim,
Close-curtained, guarded o’er by cherubim,        50
My Naz’rite’s crown would I pluck off, and cast
It gladly forth. With curses would I blast
The impious time thy people, diadem-crowned,
Thy Nazirites, did pass, by en’mies bound
          With hatred’s bands,        55
          Through unclean lands.
 
By dogs thy lusty lions are brutal torn
And dragged; thy strong, young eaglets, heav’nward borne,
By foul-mouthed ravens snatched, and all undone.
Can food still tempt my taste? Can light of sun        60
          Seem fair to shine
          To eyes like mine?
 
Soft, soft! Leave off a while, O cup of pain!
My loins are weighted down, my heart and brain,
With bitterness from thee. Whene’er I think        65
Of Aholah, proud northern queen, I drink
Thy wrath, and when my Aholibah forlorn
Comes back to mind—’tis then I quaff thy scorn,
          Then, draught of pain,
          Thy lees I drain.        70
 
O Zion! Crown of grace! Thy comeliness
Hath ever favor won and fond caress.
Thy faithful lovers’ lives are bound in thine;
They joy in thy security, but pine
          And weep in gloom        75
          O’er thy sad doom.
 
From out the prisoner’s cell they sigh for thee,
And each in prayer, wherever he may be,
Towards thy demolished portals turns. Exiled,
Dispersed from mount to hill, thy flock defiled        80
Hath not forgot thy sheltering fold. They grasp
Thy garment’s hem, and trustful, eager, clasp
          With outstretched arms,
          Thy branching palms.
 
Shinar, Pathros—can they in majesty        85
With thee compare? Or their idolatry
With thy Urim and thy Thummim august?
Who can surpass thy priests, thy saintly just,
          Thy prophets bold,
          And bards of old?        90
 
The heathen kingdoms change and wholly cease—
Thy might alone stands firm without decrease,
Thy Nazarites from age to age abide,
Thy God in thee desireth to reside.
Then happy he who maketh choice of thee        95
To dwell within thy courts, and waits to see,
          And toils to make,
          Thy light awake.
 
On him shall as the morning break thy light,
The bliss of thy elect shall glad his sight,        100
In thy felicities shall he rejoice,
In triumph sweet exult, with jubilant voice,
          O’er thee, adored,
          To youth restored.
 
 
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