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.
 
Kalich, Inheritor of Tragedy
By Ripley D. Saunders
 
KALICH, thou of the dark and brooding face,
Born unto Tragedy by birthright of race,
The sorrows of uncounted years arise
And plead for utterance in thy mournful eyes,
And on thy lips, so poignant sweet with pain,        5
God’s stamp of suffering marks thy calling plain.
 
So stood Rachel, of thy blood, in her day,
So Bernhardt, of that blood, holds now her sway.
And thou, full sister of these mighty two,
The same blood-heritage claimeth as thy due.        10
 
Valid thy claim. The centuries’ seal is set
Upon its warrant. Tears and blood have wet
Its ancient and its modern countersigns.
Sorrow unspeakable breathes between its lines,
Where, down to Kishinev’s cruel days, is told        15
A nation’s woe that dates from Egypt old.
 
To thee descended—Lo, how dread the cry
That rises from thy throat! How tense and high
With strain of agony! Not alone the part
That now thou playest thus doth wring thy heart,        20
But all thy people’s grief, accumulate,
Sounds in thy voice, till, with race anguish great,
Thou speakest not even one little, broken word,
But Tragedy’s supremest note is heard.
 
This, then, the price of glory to thy name—        25
How dire the cost, how bitter high the game,
O, Kalich, on whose soul the forfeit lies
Of genius born from world-old sacrifice!
We yield us to the magic of thy spell,
With our applause the playhouse echoes swell,        30
We sound the praises of thy tragic power—
Yet still how bare, how empty, thy full hour!
 
What wonder, then that even at Fame’s full flood,
Thy eyes still bear mute witness to thy blood,
Sombre with persecution—its wan sign        35
Still resting on those piteous lips of thine,
O, Kalich, thou in whom all Israel’s woe,
Concentrate, makes the Genius-Gift we know!
 
 
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