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.
 
Happy He Who Saw of Old
By Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Trans. Alice Lucas)
 
HAPPY he who saw of old
The high priest, with gems and gold
All adorned from crown to hem,
Tread thy courts, Jerusalem,
Till he reached the sacred place        5
Where the Lord’s especial grace
Ever dwelt, the centre of the whole.
Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        10
 
Happy he that day who saw
How, with reverence and awe
And with sanctity of mien,
Spoke the priest: “Ye shall be clean
From your sins before the Lord.”        15
Echoed long the holy word,
While around the fragrant incense stole.
Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        20
 
Happy he who saw the crowd,
That in adoration bowed,
As they heard the priest proclaim:
“One, Ineffable, the Name,”
And they answered, “Blessed be        25
God the Lord eternally,
He whom all created worlds extol.”
Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        30
 
Happy he who saw the priest
Turning toward the shining East,
And, with solemn gladness thrilled,
Read the doctrine that distilled
As the dew upon the plain,        35
As the showers of gentle rain,
While he raised on high the sacred scroll.
Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        40
 
Happy he who saw the walls
Of the temple’s radiant halls,
Where the golden cherubim
Hide the ark’s recesses dim,
Heard the singer’s choral song,        45
Saw the Levites’ moving throng,
Saw the golden censer and the bowl.
Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        50
 
Ever thus the burden rang
Of the pious songs they sang.
All the glories past and gone
Israel once did gaze upon,
Glories of the sacred fane,        55
Which they mourned and mourned again,
With a bitterness beyond control.
Happy he whose eyes
Saw (they said) the cloud of glory rise,
But to hear of it afflicts our soul.        60
 
 
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