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 Passover
By R. E. S.
 
’TIS night, dark night! a solemn stillness reigns
  O’er Egypt’s land; the midnight hour is come,
Whilst Pharaoh’s disobedience still detains
  Against God’s will his people; such a doom
Ne’er fell on land, and ne’er will fall again,        5
  These were the words divine, which Moses gave
To Egypt’s king and court; but all in vain.
  His heart is hardened, nothing now can save
The land from desolation; for ’twas He,
  The Immutable, who gave this dread command,        10
Death in his stead shall reign; Eternity
  Shall swallow up the first-born of the land.
But hard and harder grew the tyrant’s heart;
  No fear of God had ever entered there;
  With Israel’s children; how could man so dare,        15
Not love but tyranny, forbade him part
Against high Heaven’s designs, his own to place,
  In competition! (what, but want of fear
Of that high Power, could with unblushing face
  Have made him tempt Omnipotence, and rear        20
His haughty head? but God in wisdom knew,
  In wisdom infinite divinely planned;
Th’ Eternal mind already had in mind
  Glorious redemption—infinitely planned
Oh great deliverance! what love too great,        25
  What gratitude of ours can e’er repay
The mercy which released us from that state
  Of servile bondage and tyrannic sway?
In every house is silence most profound,
  Th’ Egyptians sleep—not so the chosen race        30
Who, all prepared, now wait without a sound,
  Whilst anxious hope is pictured on each face.
Now suddenly along the midnight air
  A low and piteous wailing first is borne,
Then loud and fearful shrieks of sad despair        35
  Echo from house to house, where death has gone.
Swiftly upon the sable wing of night,
  The angel has gone forth; upon his brow
No pity can be traced; for in his sight
  The prince and meanest slave are equalled now.        40
Then Pharaoh’s voice amid the general cry,
  In grief and haste for Moses loudly called,
Moses and Aaron he implored to fly,
  For death surrounds him, he stands appalled.
Then did the Israelites come forth as one,        45
  Their wives, their children—cattle in arrear
In silence and in haste their flight began;
  They marched triumphant, for their God was near.
He was their only guide by night and day,
  A cloud by day—a pillar of fire by night        50
Thus gloriously He led them on their way.
  And thus He ever keeps us in His sight.
Now scarce encamped besides the sea, they view,
  With dread and horror Pharaoh and his host,
His chariots and his horsemen all pursue        55
  To overtake them ere they reach the coast.
But what are human plans if God oppose,
  “Fear not,” then Moses said, “but wait and see
Salvation of the Lord; for these our foes
  Will never more on earth be seen by thee.”        60
He scarce had said, when at the voice of God
  The sea divides—they walk upon dry land,
Then, at the voice Divine, he lifts his rod—
  Two upright walls of sea majestic stand.
The cloud, which until now, had gone before,        65
  Suddenly changes its resplendent light,
The Israelites now crossed—the sea once more
  Resumes its place, but in the Egyptians’ sight
The light is darkness now; for all is seen
  Dark on that side, where Pharaoh’s horsemen dash        70
On with rapid speed; while still between
  That cloud remains. A loud and fearful crash,
Another and another quick succeed,
  ’Tis God who fights against them; vain the thought
To flee from Israel’s face; for whence proceeds        75
  Such wond’rous power, if not from God who fought
On Israel’s side? who safe had reached the shore
  Ere morning’s faintest blush began to spread,
They saw the Egyptians sink to rise no more,
  Not one that was not numbered with the dead.        80
Then all the multitude, with one accord
  Joined Moses in a loud and heartfelt cry
Of gratitude and praises to the Lord;
  “They sang to Him who triumphed gloriously.”
 
 
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