Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
The Massacre of the Jews
By R. A. Levy
A WAIL comes o’er the swelling seas
  From a far land, ’neath eastern skies,
And on the night wind’s solemn dirge,
  We shuddering hear the shrieks, the cries,
Of that devoted band, who fell        5
  To glut the Moslem’s savage hate,
That remnant of Judah’s tribes,
  The victims of remorseless fate!
What was their crime? Had they rebelled
  Against the Sultan’s despot power?        10
Had they with murder in their hearts
  Nursed into bloom the Blood-Red Flower
Of war? Say, was it theirs to throw
  The olive branch of Peace aside,
And see all sweet affections drift        15
  To death on the ensanguined tide?
They ’neath their vines and fig-trees dwelt,
  Pursuing each his peaceful trade,
Chanting at eve their psalms of praise,
  Molesting none, of none afraid!        20
And while the cheerful home fires blazed
  At eve, some Patriarch’s voice was heard,
While little children gathered round
  To list with awe the sacred word!
But hark! what ’larum fills the air!        25
  A mighty roar as tho’ the sea
Had burst its bound engulfing earth,
  And holding fierce, wild revelry!
Wake, Israel! Rouse! Your hour is come!
  The crazed fanatics thirst for blood;        30
A flash!—A glare!—Now ruins mark
  Where late your peaceful dwellings stood!
Demoniac yells! fierce glittering steel!
  The green turf red with many a stain,
The maddened populace rushing on,        35
  Trampling like beasts o’er heaps of slain.
Ah, face the tiger in his lair
  When thirsting-mad for human prey,
But not these zealots in their rage,
  He is more pitiful than they.        40
Their furiest passions all ablaze
  These blood-hounds lust for human game,
Seeming like devils loosed on earth,
  For they are men only in name.
No mercy in that zeal-crazed throng;        45
  The infant from its mother’s breast
Is torn with blood-stained hands and slain,
  Her shrieks enjoyed with fiendish zest,
And from the mother’s faithful heart,
  That would have died her child to save,        50
The life-blood flows, a sabre thrust,
  Yet she could bless the hand that gave.
Better to die than thus to live!
  With bleeding heart and maddened brain,
She sees her husband fall; her sire,        55
  His gray hairs dashed with crimson stain,
Nor age, nor sex were spared. O! God,
  Can such fiends curse thy beauteous earth?
And what their victim’s high offense?
  The only crime of Jewish birth!        60
The crime of following in the path
  Their pious fathers early trod,
Marked by One, who on Sinai’s heights
  Revealed Himself a living God;
True, they knelt not to greet the sun,        65
  Nor made the Moslem’s creed their own,
Nor forced they their belief on man,
  But asked the privilege alone
Of serving their Jehovah—God,
  As Abraham and Moses taught.        70
Their simple worship injured none,
  And they no controversy sought;
O! Israel! People of my God,
  When will thy weary wanderings cease,
O! when by Jordan’s quiet wave,        75
  Thy scattered remnant dwell in peace?
When will base calumny and wrong
  Cease Judah to oppress thee more,
When will the wilderness bloom again
  On Palestina’s sea-girt shore,        80
When will our Hebrew maids once more
  Chant Miriam’s glad triumphant song?
The winds and waves swell with the cry,
  “How long, our Father, O! how long!”

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