Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
The Two Friends
By John Godfrey Saxe
A Rabbinical Tale

GOOD Rabbi Nathan had rejoiced to spend
A social se’nnight with his ancient friend,
The Rabbi Isaac. In devout accord
They read the Sacred Books, and praised the Lord
For all His mercies unto them and theirs;        5
Until, one day, remembering some affairs
That asked his instant presence, Nathan said,
“Too long, my friend (so close my soul is wed
To thy soul), has the silent lapse of days
Kept me thy guest; although with prayer and praise        10
The hours were fragrant. Now the time has come
When, all-reluctant, I must hasten home,
To other duties than the dear delights
To which thy gracious friendship still invites.”
“Well, be it so, if so it needs must be.”        15
The host made answer; “be it far from me
To hinder thee in aught that Duty lays
Upon thy pious conscience. Go thy ways
And take my blessing!—but, O friend of mine,
In His name, whom thou servest, give me thine!”        20
“Already,” Nathan answered, “had I sought
Some fitting words to bless thee; and I thought
About the palm-tree, giving fruit and shade;
And in my grateful heart, O friend, I prayed
That Heaven be pleased to make thee even so!        25
O idle benediction! Well I know
Thou lackest nothing of all perfect fruit
Of generous souls, or pious deeds that suit
With pious worship. Well I know thine alms
In hospitable shade exceed the palm’s;        30
And, for rich fruitage, can that noble tree,
With all her opulence, compare with thee?
Since, then, O friend, I cannot wish thee more,
In thine own person, than thy present store
Of Heaven’s best bounty, I will even pray        35
That, as the palm-tree, though it pass away,
By others, of its seed, is still replaced,
So thine own stock may evermore be graced
With happy sons and daughters, who shall be,
In wisdom, strength, and goodness, like to thee!”        40

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