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.
 
In Exile
By Emma Lazarus
 
TWILIGHT is here, soft breezes bow the grass,
  Day’s sounds of various toil break slowly off,
The yoke-freed oxen low, the patient ass
  Dips his dry nostril in the cool, deep trough.
Up from the prairie the tanned herdsmen pass        5
  With frothy pails, guiding with voices rough
Their udder-lightened kine. Fresh smells of earth,
The rich, black furrows of the glebe send forth.
 
After the Southern day of heavy toil,
  How good to lie, with limbs relaxed, brows bare        10
To evening’s fan, and watch the smoke-wreaths coil
  Up from one’s pipe-stem through the rayless air.
So deem these unused tillers of the soil,
  Who stretched beneath the shadowing oak-tree, stare
Peacefully on the star-unfolding skies,        15
And name their life unbroken paradise.
 
The hounded stag that has escaped the pack,
  And pants at ease within a thick-leaved dell;
The unimprisoned bird that finds the track
  Through sun-bathed space, to where his fellows dwell;        20
The martyr, granted respite from the rack,
  The death-doomed victim pardoned from his cell,—
Such only know the joy these exiles gain,—
Life’s sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.
 
Strange faces theirs, where through the Orient sun        25
  Gleams from the eyes and glows athwart the skin.
Grave lines of studious thought and purpose run
  From curl-crowned forehead to dark-bearded chin.
And over all the seal is stamped thereon
  Of anguish branded by a world of sin,        30
In fire and blood through ages on their name,
Their seal of glory and the Gentiles’ shame.
 
Freedom to love the law that Moses brought,
  To sing the songs of David, and to think
The thoughts Gabirol to Spinoza taught,        35
  Freedom to dig the common earth, to drink
The universal air—for this they sought
  Refuge o’er wave and continent, to link
Egypt with Texas in their mystic chain,
And truth’s perpetual lamp forbid to wane.        40
 
Hark! through the quiet evening air, their song
  Floats forth with wild sweet rhythm and glad refrain.
They sing the conquest of the spirit strong,
  The soul that wrests the victory from pain;
The noble joys of manhood that belong        45
  To comrades and to brothers. In their strain
Rustle of palms and Eastern streams one hears,
And the broad prairie melts in mist of tears.
 
 
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