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 Tent of Abraham
By Charles Swain
 
THE SHADOWS of an Eastern day
Lengthened along the sandy way,
  When, toiling faint and lone,
An aged wanderer crossed the plain,
As if his every step were pain,        5
  His every breath a groan!
Till Abraham’s tent appeared in view,
And slowly towards his rest he drew.
 
And Abraham met his wayworn look
With pity, for the old man shook        10
  With years at every tread;
For he the wrinkled impress bore
Of full one hundred years or more
  Upon his silver head;
Then Abraham washed his aching feet,        15
Assuaged their pain, and brought him meat.
 
You should have known the burning glare
Of soil and sun, and sultry air,
  To tell how sweet the draught
That blessed those lips so parched and old;        20
Oh! water—not a world of gold
  Could buy that joy he quaffed!
You should have toiled the burning waste,
To taste how sweetly food can taste!
 
But Abraham saw with deep amaze        25
The old man’s strange and godless ways;
  For ere he bent to eat,
Nor praise nor thanks he uttered there,
Nor raised his grateful eyes in prayer
  To God who sent him meat;        30
Sudden he sat, in eager mood,
And called no blessing on the food!
 
“Ownest thou not the God of Heaven,
That unto thee these things hath given?”
  Said Abraham in his ire;        35
He answered, “Five-score years I’ve trod,
Yet worshipped but one only God,—
  The eternal God of Fire!”
And Abraham, wroth, his anger spent,
And thrust him, storming, from his tent.        40
 
An Eastern night is dread to bear—
There’s fever in the sickly air,
  And evils few can speak
Save those whose wandering lives have known
The perils ’mid the desert thrown,        45
  Or heard the tempest’s shriek;
Yet pitiless, from out his sight,
Stern Abraham cast him to the night.
 
Then there was sudden awe on Night—
The pale West quivered with wild light—        50
  The stars apart were thrown;
And all the air around the sky
Seemed like a glory hung on high,—
  A gleam of worlds unknown;
And from that glory high installed,        55
A voice—God’s voice—to Abraham called:
 
“Why went this stranger from thy board?”
And Abraham answered, “Know, O Lord,
  That he denied Thy name;
Neither would worship Thee, nor bless;        60
So forth, unto the wilderness,
  I drove him, in his shame!”
And God said, “If I still allow
Peace to his errors, couldst not thou?
 
“If I, these hundred years, have borne        65
The wanderer’s sin, neglect, and scorn,
  Yet ne’er did vengeance seek,
How is’t that thou, for one poor night,
Couldst bear him not within thy sight?
  Look up to Me, and speak!”        70
Then towards the Voice, with trembling steps he trod,
And Abraham stood rebuked before his God.
 
 
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