Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
During the Crusades (“Cruel foes with hate inflamed”)
By Hillel Ben Jacob
CRUEL foes with hate inflamed,
Aimed at us their fatal blow;
Guileless was the man they seized;
And when savagely they slew him,
Angels came and bade him welcome;        5
Took his soul in charge, and blessed it.
O’er him Zion’s daughter weepeth,
Israel for Elijah mourneth,
With the Holy One communing.
“Throughout the kingdom of the nations,        10
Who can be equalled to Thy people?
They followed Thee through flame and flood
As none on earth have followed Thee.”
Alas! our hearts within us melted,
And all our pride sank into ashes.        15
Elijah rose in fire to heaven,
And round the pile the congregation
Gazed with amazement at the hero.
The pride of Israel, precious gems,
Were given over to the brute,        20
As undefended by their chief,
Baptizing tyrants seized on those
Who were the noblest of my race.
It was the month when blossoms fresh
Are ripening into golden fruit:        25
My flowers had their perfume spread,
When wicked men with fiery rage
Did carry off the helpless prey.
They all, as one, resolved to die.
No ransom would the priest accept,        30
But harshly pressed them with his creed.
They all who pined in prison’s night
Were vainly tortured all the day;
As once, at Sinai, one in mind,
They swore allegiance to their faith.        35
Well would they die, but not rebel;
They dreaded none, but Judah’s God.
“To Him,” said they, “our troth is pledged,
Away with gods, the works of stone!”
To test the fearless heroes’ strength        40
There stood prepared the funeral pile;
And they with joy awaited death,
Like those whose bridal-day has dawned.

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