Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
Israel Forsaken
By Charles Leon Gumpert

AH! ingrate people whom I sought to please!
  Ah! cruel people, scornful, careless men,
And dark, sly women, dreaming of new ease—
  Abandon me! Scowl calmly on me when
You do behold me! You who brought me wine        5
  To drink, fierce-spiced, and pomegranates to eat,
And fat, black grapes, red apricots and fine
  Wheat cakes and glossy olives sweet:
Who gave me smoothly flowing, oily phrase
And guerdon brought me of ecstatic praise:        10
Lo! now because I sit alone forlorn,
Throw me your bitter herbs and crumbs of scorn.
I danced before you in the Satrap’s hall;
  For you I trained my small elastic feet.
I wore your garlands, bowed and carried all        15
  Your flowery offerings. Freely did I eat
Of your rich banquet, cruel people, cold
  And scornful people! Gifts ye cast me now,
Because I sit alone and have grown old
  Of sick’ning lees of wine, no wreaths for brow        20
Not ambergris nor cassia do ye bring,
Nor frankincense, nor any precious thing!
You only laugh and thrust your stinging words
At ’Azubah, stabbing her heart like swords.
Ye fondled once my black, smooth hair, and said,
  “See how her tresses glisten in the light!”
Ashes are now strewn upon my faded head,
  No longer lives in eyes of mine the sprite
  Of joyance. All my face is worn and wan,
  My gold-embroidered raiment is threadbare;        30
The sea-shell color from my cheek hath gone,
  I sit and wrap myself in sack-cloth wear.
“Who cares for ’Azubah?” I say and sigh.
Forsake me cruel people; pass me by;
No pleasance grant me, sing me no joy-song,        35
Too old I am and weak, erst fair and strong.
Ah! surely God shall cause to flow for me
  Some rills of comfort through the wilderness
And cause to grow some balm-exhaling tree
  On the wide desert of my loneliness!        40
I must not sit in hopeless solitude
  List’ning to the merry voices in the street,
Nursing my horrid pain to quietude,
  Envious of sunny faces I may meet.
’Azubah, once all joyless, joys shall glean,        45
The desert shall be fruitful and grow green;—
God whispers me! So feed me with your scorn,
Oh! ingrate people, while I sit forlorn!

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