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.
 
The Jewish Martyr
By Moss Marks
 
“BRING forth the Jew!” Ben Hassim said, “the caitiff of his creed,
Who has reviled our holy faith, and triumphed in the deed;
Blaspheming great Mahomet’s name—by Allah! he shall die;
Upon his own accursed head the blasphemy shall lie.
Woe unto thee, thou Jewish dog! if thou fail to clear the guilt        5
That is preferred against thee—deny it, if thou wilt!
But decided proof of innocence must in clearest light be shown
Or, by Medina’s holy shrine, the flame shall have her own.
How say you, son of Israel, to the charge that’s now preferr’d?
By Mecca! ’tis the gravest that was ever told or heard;        10
Be cautious, then, and have a mind you add not lie to lie,
If truth is not found uppermost the bowstring’s strength we’ll try.”
 
“I am not guilty of the charge—’tis foul and falsely made;
’Tis jealousy and malice in dreadful form convey’d—
Convey’d to suit the purpose of those who bring me here;        15
They’re fellow-merchants with myself—we’ve traded many a year.
I never even thought the words, the blasphemy, you name,
I swear by Heaven I’m innocent! I’ll ever swear the same;
It is against our holy creed, which teaches us to love
Each and all our fellow men—’tis true, as God’s above!—        20
And not revile, or lightly speak, whate’er their creed may be;
As this is taught, so have I learnt—the guilt is not with me.”
 
“Upon the Koran’s holy book the solemn truth is seal’d,
The accusation’s verified—your guilt is now reveal’d.
Thy star has set, thy doom is fix’d; before the setting sun        25
Shall light the tops of yonder hills, know that thy course is run;
For death awaits, with greedy hand, so great a gain as thou,
And what avails thy holy soul in such a time as now?
That boasted zeal that warms your youth, that burns within your breast,
Mayhap we’ll try; your courage, too, shall also feel the test.        30
A Mufti waits, in solemn guise, say, wilt thou join his band,
And with him swell the numbers that overrun the land,
Who believe in our holy Prophet—Mahomet, blest be he?
Wilt thou a Mussulman become? If so, thou shalt be free.
You’ll not, and say, you’d rather die—by my faith, indeed you’re true;        35
First hear the roar and see the blaze—you know not what you do.”
*    *    *    *    *
The faggots flame in fiery wreath; behold a funeral pyre;
Before its glowing embers fierce shall blanch, shall wane, expire—
A sacrifice of human blood, of human flesh and bone,
Must drop and crackle in that blaze—’tis there no mercy’s shown.        40
Yet there he stands a martyr, unerring, true to God,
So earnest in his dire resolve—so firm he pac’d the sod;
Undaunted by the quiv’ring thought of the death that did await—
A death of bitter agony, of pain and anguish great.
With arms across his stricken breast, and eyes serenely set,        45
Calm was his gaze, so full of hope that speaking eye of jet;
Upon that brow all dignified, sat piety resigned—
A piety all hallow’d, with hope and trust combin’d.
His was the hope, the vital hope, the hope that never dies,
The light that even torture with its deadliest throes defies;        50
The solemn, grand, and heavenly thought, of devotion—constant, true,
That had mark’d his young and pious life, now gave him life anew;
And through the bitter vale of tears, the vale that leads to death,
The unity of Israel’s God he prais’d with sacred breath;
“O Lord! receive my soul,” he cried; “I am resign’d to die;        55
Blest be Thy name, the terror’s past, the horror I defy.
The devouring flames may crackle, and sere the thews of youth,
But mine it is the triumph—I die for faith and truth.”
 
 
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