Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
Ode to Zion
By Judah Ha-Levi (Trans. Alice Lucas)
(Hymn for the Fast of Ab)

ART thou not, Zion, fain
  To send forth greetings from thy sacred rock
Unto thy captive train,
  Who greet thee as the remnants of thy flock?
Take thou on every side,        5
East, west, and south and north, their greetings multiplied.
Sadly he greets thee still,
  The prisoner of hope who, day and night,
Sheds ceaseless tears, like dew on Hermon’s hill.
  Would that they fell upon thy mountain’s height!        10
Harsh is my voice, when I bewail thy woes.
  But when in fancy’s dream
I see thy freedom, forth its cadence flows,
  Sweet as the harps, that hung by Babel’s stream.
My heart is sore distressed        15
For Bethel ever blessed,
For Peniel and each ancient, sacred place.
  The holy presence there
  To me is present, where
Thy Maker opes thy gates, the gates of heaven to face.        20
The glory of the Lord will ever be
  Thy sole and perfect light;
No need hast thou then, to illumine thee,
  Of sun by day, or moon and stars by night.
I would that, where God’s spirit was of yore        25
  Poured out upon thy holy ones, I might
There, too, my soul outpour.
  The house of kings and throne of God wert thou,
  How comes it then that now
Slaves fill the throne where sat thy kings before?        30
Oh, who will lead me on
  To seek the spots where, in far distant years,
The angels in their glory dawned upon
  Thy messengers and seers?
Oh, who will give me wings        35
  That I may fly away,
And there, at rest from all my wanderings,
  The ruins of my heart among thy ruins lay?
I’ll bend my face unto thy soil, and hold
Thy stones as precious gold.        40
  And when in Hebron I have stood beside
My father’s tombs, then will I pass in turn
  Thy plains and forest wide;
Until I stand on Gilead and discern
  Mount Hor and Mount Abarim ’neath whose crest        45
  Thy luminaries twain, thy guides and beacons rest.
Thy air is life unto my soul, thy grains
  Of dust are myrrh, thy streams with honey flow;
Naked and barefoot, to thy ruined fanes
  How gladly would I go        50
To where the ark was treasured, and in dim
Recesses dwelt the holy cherubim.
I rend the beauty of my locks, and cry
  In bitter wrath against cruel fate
That bids thy holy Nazirites to lie        55
  In earth contaminate.
How can I make of meat or drink my care?
  How can mine eyes enjoy
The light of day, when I see ravens tear
  Thy eagle’s flesh, and dogs thy lion’s whelps destroy?        60
Away, thou cup of sorrow’s poisoned gall!
  Scarce can my soul thy bitterness sustain,
When I Aholah unto mind recall.
I taste the venom; and when once again
Upon Aholibah I muse, thy dregs I drain.        65
Perfect in beauty, Zion, how in thee
  Do love and grace unite!
The souls of thy companions tenderly
  Turn unto thee; thy joy was their delight,
And weeping they lament thy ruin now.        70
  In distant exile, for thy sacred height
They long, and towards thy gates in prayer they bow.
  Thy flocks are scattered o’er the barren waste,
Yet do they not forget thy sheltering fold,
  Unto thy garments’ fringe they cling, and haste        75
The branches of the palms to seize and hold.
Shinar and Pathros! come they near to thee?
  Naught are they by thy light and right divine.
To what can be compared the majesty
  Of thy anointed line?        80
To what the singers, seers, and the Levites thine?
  The rule of idols fails and is cast down;
  Thy power eternal is, from age to age Thy crown.
The Lord desires thee for His dwelling-place
  Eternally, and bless’d        85
Is he whom God has chosen for the grace
  Within thy courts to rest.
Happy is he that watches, drawing near,
  Until he sees thy glorious lights arise,
And over whom thy dawn breaks full and clear        90
  Set in the orient skies.
But happiest he who, with exultant eyes,
  The bliss of thy redeemed ones shall behold,
  And see thy youth renewed as in days of old.

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