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.
 
“…Whom You Are to Blame”
By P. M. Raskin
 
(Dedicated to “Mentor”)

ONCE in my secluded chamber
  Late at night I read
Israel’s ancient wondrous story;
  How he shone and shed
 
Light around him, in his homeland        5
  Thriving free and great…
Then my thoughts passed to his later
  Treacherous, cruel fate:
 
Israel homeless, footsore, captive
  Into exile goes,        10
And the world has long forgotten
  What to him it owes.
 
“Gentile world! You have polluted
  Springs from which you drank!”
And in bitter, sad reflections,        15
  Tired and weak I sank….
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
Stealthily an old man entered
  My secluded room;
On his breast a cross suspended,
  In his eyes—deep gloom.        20
 
“Fear not,” said he, “vain intruder
  I am not, you’ll find;
You accused me, and I came here,
  Came to speak my mind.
 
“Not defend myself, but tell you        25
  Whom you are to blame
For your homelessness, your downfall,
  For your grief and shame.
 
“No, not I, but you polluted
  Your eternal spring;        30
Home and faith and pride abandoned,
  And to exile cling.
 
“Kneel and pray to alien altars,
  Worship alien gods,
Even like in cast-off garments        35
  Deal in cast-off thoughts.
 
“Gather crumbs at strangers’ tables…
  No, your pride is gone!
For you glory that you have no
  Table of your own….        40
 
“Faith, and truth, and pride—all treasures
  You have prized of old;
For a lentil-pottage long since
  You your birthright sold.
 
“You no longer feel the horror        45
  Of a slave’s disgrace.
Do you want me to respect you,
  Honour such a race?
 
“Once you heroes had and prophets
  Noble, great and true;        50
How much of their daring spirit
  Now is left in you?
 
“Grandsons of the Maccabeans!
  If those heroes came
Saw their servile offsprings—they would        55
  Die again—of shame!
 
“Dead is all your pride and valour,
  Silent is your tongue,
Tongue of bards, and kings and prophets—
  You forsook it long.        60
 
“And your home that waits deserted
  Do you e’er recall?
Where are all your rich and mighty—
  Mammon’s High Priests all?
 
“Like deserters they are sailing        65
  Under foreign flags,
Lackeys that their masters’ mantles
  Wear—to hide their rags.
 
“Crumbs of bread, and night of lodging—
  Dare no more expect!        70
No, a race that lost its self-pride
  No one can respect.
 
“This is all I came to tell you!
  Now, good-bye … I spoke….”
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
“Stay!” I shrieked, “I must reply you,
        75
  Stay”—and I awoke….
 
 
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