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 Melting Pot
By Berton Braley
 
BEARDED old patriarchs, flippant young men,
Faces from synagogue, tenement, den,
Native and foreign and Gentile and Jew—
Faces of every contour and hue—
Bad faces, good faces, carved-out-of-wood faces,        5
Scarred faces, marred faces, tender and hard faces.
Clusters and bevies of trim little Jewesses,
Telling what “Abie” or “Ikey” or “Louie” says,
Beauties from Italy, Russia and France,
Clad in their gayest of clothes for a dance;        10
Hawksters and womenfolk bargaining, bickering,
Polyglot, clamoring, bartering, dickering
Under the lights that are flaring and flickering;
Lovers and criminals, preachers and panderers,
Lawyers and pawnbrokers, flashy philanderers.        15
Every conceivable garb for the viewing—
Rags that are fluttering, silks all frou-frouing;
Here shivers misery, near by we have a new
Modiste’s creation as “swell as the Avenue”;
Hats up to date and of hoariest lineage!        20
Simpering girls at the utterly ninny age,
Babies in arms and young boys at the skinny age
Mix in with fat men and beggars a-muttering,
Where from the pushcarts the peddlers are sputtering
Praises unending for wares they are vending;        25
Furniture, notions and kitchen utensils,
Suits, furs and underwear, pictures and pencils:
Stores all ablaze ’mid a babble that’s furious—
Rich people, poor people, quaint folks and curious,
Painted dames, queens of a doubtful society,        30
Folks and more folks in an endless variety,
Scions of different nations and races
Coming and going from thousands of places!
Color and movement and bustle and noise,
Mothers and fathers and maidens and boys,        35
Glad folks and sorrowful, dreary or cheery,
Beautiful, horrible, lively or weary,
Loving and hateful and sober and bleary,
Glitter and grayness and laughter and pain,
Passing, repassing and passing again.        40
Life!—that is all, with its mirth and its toiling,
Life—like a kettle that’s bubbling and boiling,
Under the glare of the merciless light—
Heart of the Ghetto on Saturday night!
 
 
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