Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
Hillel and His Guest
By Alice Lucas
A Talmudic Legend

   Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.—Proverbs xxvii. 1.

HILLEL, the gentle, the beloved sage,
Expounded day by day the sacred page
To his disciple in the house of learning;
And day by day, when home at eve returning,
They lingered, clust’ring round him loth to part        5
From him whose gentle rule won every heart.
But evermore, when they were wont to plead
For longer converse, forth he went with speed,
Saying each day; “I go—the hour is late—
To tend the guest who doth my coming wait.”        10
Until at last they said: “The Rabbi jests
When telling us thus daily of his guests
That wait for him.” The Rabbi paused awhile,
And then made answer; “Think you I beguile
You with an idle tale? Not so, forsooth!        15
I have a guest, whom I must tend in truth.
Is not the soul of man indeed a guest,
Who in this body deigns a while to rest,
And dwells with me all peacefully to-day;
To-morrow—may it not have fled away?”        20

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