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.
 
Thee I Will Seek
By Simeon ben Isaac ben Abun (Trans. Israel Zangwill)
 
THEE I will seek, to Thee unveil my breast,
O great in Judah and in Israel blest,
  For He who searches mortals understands
How truly my transgressions are confest.
 
Ah, verily, not one of us is just!        5
Thy myriad mercies save us from the dust;
  Lo, unto Thee we stretch our guilty hands,
And in Thy holy Name we put our trust.
 
We put our trust, for ’tis our soul’s delight
To seek in humbleness Thy shield of might;        10
  Thy strength is all the refuge of the poor,
And lowly souls Thou placest on the height.
 
The haughtiness of upstarts I have borne,
Unsated and unceasing is their scorn;
  Lo! we are wasted of the tyrant boor        15
Who left the helpless utterly forlorn.
 
Before Thy mercy-seat the beggars pray,
Their sins confest, abandoned in dismay;
  Lo, pardon them and be no longer vext,
For is it not the dread Atonement Day?        20
 
O Thou in majesty and glory girt,
Be pitiful and trample sin to dirt;
  Lo! sweet as honey tastes the holy text,
“For He is one who healeth those He hurt.”
 
Yea! He will heal and all shall bless His name,        25
He will remove the burden of our blame;
  Before His face His people shall avow
The sins presumption added to their shame.
 
Both these, and those from ignorance that mount,
O cease, according to their plea, to count;        30
  Lo, life eternal set upon their brow,
For, Lord, in Thee is life’s eternal fount.
 
To all who worship Thee grant life and grace,
Their heart’s perversity from them erase;
  Let sprinkled water purify each soul,        35
And let the dew revive each stony place.
 
With dew, O lave Thy lambs from stain and flake,
It is the hour, forgiveness is awake.
  Lo! cleanse them as ’tis written in the Scroll,
“For on this day he shall Atonement make.”        40
 
And this Atonement shall not be less good,
Than when the altar in the Temple stood.
  Lo! known to Him each sinew of my breast,
My reins are fashioned by His fatherhood.
 
My inward parts I’ll fit for serving Thee,        45
So due acceptance greet Thy servant’s plea,
  For whoso honors Thee Thou honorest,
Thou sole-exalted in sublimity.
 
On Thee alone must rest the hope of man,
Iniquities Thou wilt not strictly scan;        50
  Lo! God the righteous loves not punishment,
His ways transcend the little human plan.
 
’Tis of the deed itself I am afraid,
Lest by my sin I shall be duly paid;
  Yet Him I trust, and wait in dumb assent;        55
Repentance ever brought consoling aid.
 
From soul-affliction did I comfort win,
Confessing every public, private sin;
  Lo! this is the appointed Judgment Day,
A covenant eternal set within.        60
 
The day of pardon set to wean from vice,
Remorse replacing ancient sacrifice.
  Ah, could I but beneath His shadow stay.
He knows the weakness of my own device.
 
The wonders of Thy grace let me explore,        65
When Thou Thy sheep and lambs art counting o’er;
  Lo! this Thy flock is shepherded of Thee,
Nor e’er forgets the wonders wrought of yore.
 
Renew Thy deeds to save Thy faithful flock,
The fear of Thee is all their treasure-stock;        70
  Ah, let the foes who judge us learn to see
How little is their rock beside our Rock.
 
When “Israel’s Holy Rock” the heathen cry,
God in their eyes Himself shall sanctify.
  Thus righteousness in these He brings to bud,        75
Down-looking from His holy place on high.
 
He will restore the Temple and its laws,
The glory of His presence there shall pause;
  Lo! men shall tremble when the Judge of blood
Arises to espouse His people’s cause.        80
 
Ah, side with us, make hostile clamor cease,
Thy people from accusing tongues release,
  So Thy beloved shall rechant Thy praise;
For happiness awaits the sons of peace.
 
Then let Thy peace irradiate all things,        85
Account our orisons as offerings;
  Ah, flood us with Thy Presence as with rays,
From Zion goes the Law, the prophet sings:
 
That Law the faithful heard at Sinai,
To which they brought attentive ear and eye,        90
  Lo! God this day His faithful nation thanks,
He is a God who softens at our cry.
 
The Lord shall lead us even after death,
He saves from wrath and pain our mortal breath;
  Lo! arrogance as ignorance He ranks,        95
“It is My people’s ignorance,” He saith.
 
 
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