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 Sentinel of the Ages
By Ibbie McColm Wilson
 
UNDER shining, under shadow,
  At the gates of every land,
All adown the lengthening ages,
  Men have seen a Sentry stand;
Looming grandly on the beauty        5
  Of the blue day’s crystal light,
Then anon, in darkness blending
  With mystery of night;
While his meditations linger
  Over glories that are past,        10
And his keen prophetic vision
  Sees the good to come, at last.
 
At the portals of some nations,
  We beheld him, as he stands
Pale and haggard, weak and weary,        15
  With his grey head in his hands,
Bowed in retrospective sorrow,
  For the infamy and scorn,
For the ages of oppression
  By his people meekly borne;        20
Till his features are transfigured
  In a blaze of wrath divine,
And his glassy eyes brim over
  With their bitter burning wine.
 
At another gate we see him,        25
  In the vigor of full prime
Mounted on a stalwart courser,
  For some charge or quest sublime;
Be it to go forth to battle,
  In a cause of righteous strife,        30
Winning liberty, or glory,
  With the purchase of his life.
Or, at least, to gain his guerdon,
  And be named among the great,
By the aid of wealth’s distinction,        35
  Or some service to the State.
 
Otherwhere, we see him, seated
  Underneath the arches vast
Of some old arcade, surrounded
  With the records of the past.        40
Over ancient tomes he ponders,
  Filled with figures rude and strange,
Yet their contents he deciphers
  Through Time’s labyrinthine range;
Then to poesy he turneth        45
  And in numbers sweet recites:
Or he wakes the soul of music
  In the harp whose chords he smites.
 
Once again we see him, crouching
  On a devastated strand,        50
Silent as the Sphinx of Egypt
  Billowed in the surging sand,
For the lash of persecution,
  Heedless of all human right
Fell upon him, watching, waiting,        55
  Till he sank beneath its might.
And he lies there, bruised and bleeding
  But a brave old hero still,
Hoping for his destined future,
  When his Fate has wrought its will.        60
 
Nations, do you know this Sentry,
  Keeping guard, for ages long,
Over learning, arts, religion,
  Through all cruelty and wrong?
Patient under dire oppression,        65
  While the iron pierced his soul;
With no armor for protection;
  With no weapon but a Scroll—
His one treasure; hear him crying,
  “Though I die, let this be true!”        70
Is not his the voice of Jacob?
  Yes! it is—it is—the Jew.
 
Say you that his crime demanded
  Punishment from God and men?
Nay! With God alone be vengeance;        75
  He is merciful. But when
Man metes out his ruthless judgments,
  With a mad presumption blind,
He wreaks cruelties of demons
  On the weaker of his kind.        80
It is not for his defection
  That the Jew has met the sword:
Christians slay their fellow-Christians,
  In the name of their own Lord.
 
Has he sinned—this Jew immortal?        85
  Ay; but he is not alone;
Christ is crucified forever
  In the House He calls His own.
Multitudes bow down before Him
  And profess to own his sway,        90
While their hearts are filled with idols,
  And they, Judas-like, betray
Him who comes, as their Messiah,
  And their fealty would claim;
But they pierce His soul with sorrows,        95
  Shouting praises to His name.
 
Sinned the Jew? Well; he has suffered.
  When he saw his judgment come
He bowed meekly to his sentence;
  Like the shorn lamb, he was dumb:        100
Bearing shame, contempt, revilings,
  Grief and anguish, pain and death;
Only saying: “God is holy;
  He is One,” with latest breath.
Like to Christ, in his submission        105
  He has met a martyr’s fate.
But his resurrection cometh;
  Though it tarry, he can wait.
 
Yes! Already we perceive him,
  Rising up on every hand;        110
Gliding into power and station,
  With the world’s wealth at command.
In the forum, in the senate,
  Lo! he wins immortal fame,
Halls of learning, marts of commerce,        115
  Ring with echoes of his name,
On each plane of high endeavor
  He is foremost in the strife
Culling everlasting laurels
  From the battlefields of Life.        120
 
So God’s ancient, chosen people
  As His Sentinel still stands
With the standard of Jehovah
  In the strong, uplifted hands;
With his jewelled breastplate gleaming        125
  On his proudly heaving chest;
And a lamp forever burning,
  On his helmet’s lofty crest;
While he welcomes the down-trodden
  To his hospitable shores,        130
And in streams of richest bounty
  Blessings on his brethren pours.
 
Standing thus, as great exemplar
  To the world, the Jew appears;
Bringing hope, as well as warning,        135
  To Humanity’s late years,
Showing how, as King, God ruleth,
  When mankind would test His sway,
Yet is tender as a Father
  When, as children, they obey.        140
Prophet, statesman, warrior, scholar,
  Israel’s glories shall increase,
When he claims his royal birthright;
  Brother to the Prince of Peace.
 
 
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