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 Tombs of the Fathers
By James Montgomery
 
IN Babylon they sat and wept
  Down by the river’s willowy side,
And when the breeze their harp-strings swept,
  The strings of breaking hearts replied:
  A deeper sorrow now they hide;        5
No Cyrus comes to set them free
From ages of captivity.
 
All lands are Babylons to them,
  Exiles and fugitives they roam:
What is their own Jerusalem?        10
  The place where they are least at home!
  Yet hither from all climes they come,
And pay their gold for leave to shed
Tears o’er the generations fled.
 
Around, the eternal mountains stand,        15
  With Hinnom’s darkling vale between;
Old Jordan wanders through the land,
  Blue Carmel’s seaward crest is seen;
  And Lebanon, yet sternly green,
Throws, when the evening sun declines,        20
Its cedar shades in lengthening lines.
 
But, ah! forever vanished hence
  The Temple of the living God,
Once Zion’s glory and defence—
  Now mourn beneath the oppressor’s rod        25
  The fields where faithful Abraham trod;
Where Isaac walked by twilight gleam,
And heaven came down on Jacob’s dream.
 
Forever mingled with this soil
  Those armies of the Lord of Hosts,        30
That conquer’d Canaan, shared the spoil,
  Quelled Moab’s pride, stormed Midian’s posts,
  Spread paleness through Philistia’s coasts,
And taught the foes, whose idols fell,
“There is a God in Israel.”        35
 
Now David’s tabernacle gone,
  What mighty builder shall restore?
The golden throne of Solomon,
  And ivory palace, are no more:
  The Psalmist’s song, the Preacher’s lore,        40
Of all they did, alone remain
Unperished trophies of their reign.
 
Holy and beautiful, of old
  Was Zion ’midst her princely bowers;
Besiegers trembled to behold        45
  Bulwarks that set at nought their powers;
  Swept from the earth are all her towers;
Nor is there—so is she bereft—
One stone upon another left.
 
The very site whereon she stood,        50
  In vain the foot, the eye would trace;
Vengeance, for saints’ and martyrs’ blood,
  Her wails did utterly efface;
  Dungeons and dens usurp their place;
The Cross and Crescent shine afar,        55
But where is Jacob’s natal star?
 
Still inexterminable—still
  Devoted to their mother-land,
Her offspring haunt the temple hill,
  Amidst her desecration stand,        60
  And bite the lip, and clench the hand;
Today in that lorn vale they weep,
Where patriarchs, kings, and prophets sleep.
*    *    *    *    *
And by the Gentiles in their pride
  Jerusalem is trodden down;        65
“How long? forever wilt thou hide
  Thy face, O Lord! forever frown?
  Israel was once thy glorious crown,
In sight of all the heathen worn;
Now from thy brow indignant torn.        70
 
“Zion, forsaken and forgot,
  Hath felt thy stroke, and owns it just;
O God, our God! reject her not,
  Whose sons take pleasure in her dust;
  How is the fine gold dimmed with rust!        75
The city, throned in gorgeous state,
How doth she now sit desolate!”
 
 
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