Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
He of Prayer
By J. F.
HIDDEN in the ancient Talmud,
  Slumbereth this legend old,
By the stately Jewish Rabbis
  To the listening people told;
Jacob’s ladder still is standing,        5
  And the angels o’er it go
Up and down from earth to heaven,
  Ever passing to and fro;
Messengers from great Jehovah
  Bringing mortals good or ill,        10
Just as we from laws unchanging,
  Good or evil shall distill.
He of Death, with brow majestic,
  Cometh wreathed with asphodel;
He of life, with smile seraphic,        15
  Softly saying, “All is well.”
He of Pain, with purple pinions,
  He of Joy, all shining bright;
He of Hope, with wings cerulean;
  He of innocence, all white.        20
And the rustling of their pinions,
  With the falling of their feet,
Turneth into notes of music,
  Grand and solemn, soft and sweet.
One—and only one—stands ever        25
  On the ladder’s topmost round,
Just outside the gate celestial,
  List’ning as to catch some sound;
But it is not angel music
  Unto which he bends his ear,        30
’Tis the passing prayer of mortals
  That he patient waits to hear.
By him messengers are flitting,
  But he ever standeth there,
For he is the Great Sandalphon        35
  Who is gathering every prayer.
In his hands they turn to garlands,
  From whose flowers a fragrance floats
Through the open gates celestial,
  Mingled with the angels’ notes.        40
For outside the golden portal
  Of that city of the skies
All the earthly dross and passion
  Of the prayer of mortal dies.
’Tis the heavenly essence only        45
  That can find an entrance there,
Turned into the scent of flowers
  By Sandalphon—Him of Prayer.

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