Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
By Annette Kohn
DOWN by the shining sea,
Its swelling waves in sight—
A bare unvarnished hall,
Without, the working world
Its daily tasks did fill;        5
I stood within, and heard
And watched the passing scene.
It was that day of days,
The birthday of the Law.
An altar, rude of wood,        10
Stood plainly fashioned forth,
But pious hands had placed
A silken curtain there,
And ’neath its heavy folds
In ’broidered velvet wound,        15
And hung with silver chains,
There stood the sacred Law,
The parchment scroll of old,
With its strange Hebrew script.
The sunlight clear and strong        20
That through the window shone,
Like the Shekinah old,
Looked just a sacred fire
That burned about the ark,
And seemed to write God’s name.        25
A man of humble mien,
And humbler still in garb,
Stood forth and said the prayers,
And read the scrolled Law;
Tho poor and mean he was,        30
Yet great and grand he seemed,
All garmented and robed
In a strange majesty;
The ancient praying-shawl
About his shoulders wrapt,        35
And on his brow that look
Of very priest of God—
And presently there rose
The people reverently,
And stood with heads all bowed,        40
While in a tone of awe,
And in its ancient tongue,
The Decalogue was read.
Then solemnly “Amen”
Was said, as said of old,        45
While candles slim and white
Burned bright on either side,
And two most reverent men
A guard of honor stood.
The mean hall fell away—        50
The people disappeared—
The sounds all hushed and died;
But round about me closed
The sunlight shining full
Like spirit of the Lord.        55
I saw the lightning’s flash,
I heard the thunder roll;
The strange, lone mountain peak
In Eastern desert sand
Rose plain before my eyes;        60
I felt the heaving earth
About Mount Sinai’s feet,
While trembling slaves made free
Stood ready to be men,
And vowed their sacred oath        65
To take the righteous Law;
To teach it to all men,
Through ages that might roll.
And so this poor mean room
That held me in a spell,        70
Swelled to a grandeur vast,
A temple great and rich,
With altar of pure gold,
That held a jewel rare
And single in its worth.        75
The men before me seemed
To grow in statured height,
To put an air and mien
Of greatness and of power,
Attendants on a Lord,        80
Who owned the Jewel there—
Who felt and knew that they
Were guardians safe and true,
With privilege to bear
The Treasure of the Lord.        85

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