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 Jewish May
By Morris Rosenfeld
 
MAY has come from out the showers,
  Sun and splendor in her train.
All the grasses and the flowers
  Waken up to life again.
Once again the leaves do show        5
And the meadow’s blossoms blow,
Once again through hills and dales
Rise the songs of nightingales.
 
Wheresoe’er on field and hillside,
  With her paint-brush Spring is seen        10
In the valley, by the rillside,
  All the earth is decked with green.
Once again the sun beguiles—
Moves the drowsy world to smiles.
See! the sun with mother-kiss        15
Wakes her child to joy and bliss.
 
Now each human feeling presses
  Flower like, upward to the sun,
Softly through the heart’s recesses
  Steal sweet fancies one by one.        20
Golden dreams their wings outshaking
Now are making
Realms celestial
  All of azure
New life waking        25
  Bringing treasure
  Out of measure
  For the soul’s delight and pleasure.
Who then, tell me, old and sad,
  Nears us with a heavy tread        30
On the sward in verdure clad,
Lonely is the strange newcomer;
  Wearily he walks and slow,
His sweet springtime and his summer
  Faded long and long ago.        35
 
Say, who is it yonder walks
  Past the hedgerows decked anew,
While a fearful spectre stalks
  By his side thy woodland through—
’Tis our ancient friend the Jew!        40
No sweet fancies hover round him,
Naught but terror and distress;
  Wounds unhealed
  Where lie revealed
Ghosts of former recollections,        45
Corpses, corpses, old affections,
Buried youth and happiness.
 
Bier and blossom bow to meet him
  In derision round his path;
Gloomily the hemlocks greet him        50
  And the crow screams out in wrath.
Strange the birds and strange the flowers,
  Strange the sunshine seems and dim,
Folk on earth and heavenly powers!—
  Lo, the May is strange to him.        55
 
Little flowers, it were meeter,
  If ye made not quite so bold;
Sweet ye are, but oh, far sweeter
  Knew he in the days of old.
Oranges by thousands blowing        60
  Filled his groves on either hand,
All the plants were God’s own sowing
  In his far-off happy land.
 
Ask the cedars on the mountain,
  Ask them for they know him well!        65
Myrtles green by Sharon’s fountain
  In whose shade he loved to dwell.
Ask the Mount of Olives beauteous,—
  Ev’ry tree by ev’ry stream,
One and all will answer duteous        70
  For the fair and ancient dream.
 
O’er the desert and the pleasance
  Gales of Eden softly blew,
And the Lord His loving Presence
  Evermore declared anew.        75
Angel children at their leisure,
  Played in thousands round His tent
Countless thoughts of joy and pleasure
  Go to His beloved sent.
 
There in bygone days and olden        80
From a wonderous harp and golden
Charmed he music spirit-haunting,
Holy, chaste and soul-enchanting;
Never with the ancient sweetness,
Never in its old completeness        85
Shall it sound; his dream is ended
On a willow bough suspended.
 
Gone that dream so fair and fleeting!
  Yet behold; thou dreamst anew;
Hark a new May gives thee greeting        90
  From afar. Dost hear it Jew?
Weep no more, although with sorrows
  Bow’d e’en to the grave; I see
Happier years and brighter morrows
  Dawning, Israel, for thee!        95
Hear’st thou not the promise ring
Where, like doves on silvery wing,
Thronging cherubs sweetly sing,
New made songs of what shall be?
 
Hark! your olives shall be shaken        100
  And your citrons and your limes
Filled with fragrance. God shall waken,
  Lead you as in olden times;
In the pastures by the river
  Ye once more your flocks shall tend,        105
Ye shall live and live forever
  Happy lives that know no end.
No more wandering, no more sadness;
  Peace shall be your lot and still,
Hero hearts shall throb with gladness        110
  ’Neath Moriah’s silent hill.
 
Nevermore of dread affliction
  Or oppression need ye tell,
Filled with joy and benediction
  In the old home ye shall dwell.        115
To the fatherland returning
  Following the homeward path,
Ye shall find the embers burning
  Still upon the ruined hearth!
 
 
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