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.
 
Autumn Songs
By S. Frug (Trans. Alice Stone Blackwell)
 
THE JEWS, my brothers, will they understand me?
  And all that stirs within a poet’s heart?
Will they believe how deep can be his sadness,
  How burning and incurable the smart?
 
A Jew has learned to think of other matters        5
  Since first from out the mud he raised
And stood upon his feet, and managed shortly
  To look like other people, God be praised!
 
For all eternity he had a teacher,
  On Sabbath days the Scripture to explain        10
And as he listened, full of deep contrition
  He sighed and sobbed; his tears fell down like rain.
 
And then he had a crazy thing, a jester
  A man of brains, a youth sharp-witted, quick,
And in his verse he would find refreshment,        15
  And with his tongue would click.
 
And then sometimes, he brought him of a pedlar
  Or else at fairs, a tale,—upon my word,
It is the very drollest thing that ever
  Was seen or heard.        20
 
One reads and laughs and then a little farther
  One reads and laughs till one is like to split.
One laughs, because to that intent and purpose
  The thing was writ.
 
What then? Is Jewish life so cheerful?        25
  Contains it then so much at which to smile?
Are there so many things away from sadness
  The stricken heart one moment to beguile?
 
And do we then lament so very seldom?
  Let’s reckon now and see if we can tell:        30
We weep throughout the fast-day of Atonement,
  The rich and poor, the young and old as well.
 
We weep o’er Lamentations and Confession,
  We weep the daylight and the darkness through,
And are we not to laugh a little ever?        35
  Go, let us be! why that would never do!
 
They’ve laughed in years gone by, and in the future
  To laugh they will continue, just so long
As there shall live a Jew—then hush, be silent
  My song, my melancholy song.        40
 
 
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