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 Little Jew
By Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
 
(A True Story)

WE were at school together,
The little Jew and I,
  He had black eyes, the biggest nose,
  The very smallest fist for blows,
Yet nothing made him cry.        5
 
We mocked him often and often,
Called him all names we knew,—
  “Young Lazarus,” “Father Abraham,”
  “Moses,”—for he was meek as a lamb,
The gentle little Jew.        10
 
But not a word he answered;
Sat in his corner still,
  And worked his sums, and counted his task;
  Would never any favor ask,
Did us nor good nor ill.        15
 
Though sometimes he would lift up
Those great dark Eastern eyes,
  Appealing, when we wronged him much,
  For pity? No! but full of such
A questioning surprise.        20
 
Just like a beast of the forest
Caught in the garden’s bound,—
  Hemmed in by cruel creatures tame
  That seem akin, almost the same,
Yet how unlike are found!        25
 
He did his boyish duty
In play-ground as in school;
  A little put upon, and meek,
  Though no one ever called him “sneak”
Or “coward,” still less “fool.”        30
 
But yet I never knew him,—
Not rightly, I may say,—
  Till one day, sauntering round our square,
  I saw the little Jew boy there,
Slow lingering after play.        35
 
He looked so tired and hungry,
So dull and weary both,
  “Hollo!” cried I, “you ate no lunch.
  Come, here’s an apple; have a munch!
Hey, take it! don’t be loath.”        40
 
He gazed upon the apple,
So large and round and red,
  Then glanced up towards the western sky,—
  The sun was setting gloriously,—
But not a word he said.        45
 
He gazed upon the apple,
Eager as Mother Eve;
  Half held his hand out, drew it back;
  Dim drew his eyes, so big and black;
His breast began to heave.        50
 
“I am so very hungry!
And yet—No, thank you. No.
  “Good-by.” “You little dolt,” said I,
  “Just take your apple. There, don’t cry!
Home with you! Off you go!”        55
 
But still the poor lad lingered,
And pointed to the sky;
  “The sunset is not very late;
  I’m not so hungry—I can wait.
Thank you. Good-by,—good-by!”        60
 
And then I caught and held him
Against the palisade;
  Pinched him and pommelled him right well,
  And forced him all the truth to tell,
Exactly as I bade.        65
 
It was their solemn fast-day,
When every honest Jew
  From sunset unto sunset kept
  The fast. I mocked; he only wept:
“What father does, I do.”        70
 
I taunted him and jeered him,—
The more brute I, I feel.
  I held the apple to his nose;
  He gave me neither words nor blows,—
Firm, silent, true as steel.        75
 
I threw the apple at him;
He stood one minute there,
  Then, swift as hunted deer at bay,
  He left the apple where it lay,
And vanished round the square.        80
 
I went and told my father,—
A minister, you see;
  I thought that he would laugh outright,
  At the poor silly Israelite;
But very grave looked he.        85
 
Then said, “My bold young Christian,
Of Christian parents born,
  Would God that you may ever be
  As faithful unto Him—and me—
As he you hold in scorn!”        90
 
I felt my face burn hotly,
My stupid laughter ceased;
  For father is a right good man,
  And still I please him all I can,
As parent and as priest.        95
 
Next day, when school was over,
I put my nonsense by;
  Begged the lad’s pardon, stopped all strife,
  And—well, we have been friends for life,
The little Jew and I.        100
 
 
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