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.
 
How Long, O Lord?
By Elias Lieberman
 
IN the weary night they come to me,
  The tears that I left unshed,
When I trudged the thorny wilderness
  With the sun-flame overhead.
I lie awake in the friendly night,        5
  My soul too numb to pray,
Enjoying the cool of its velvet black
  In the dread of the coming day.
 
For the day must come and the sting of it,
  As I bend to the endless road,        10
The light must come and the pain of it—
  The bite of the lashing goad.
But this I know as I reel along
  To the nations’ hue and cry,
A burning truth in the hand of God;        15
  I know that I must not die.
 
They say my soul is twisted and warped,
  My ways are cringing and mean,
That I worship the bulk of the calf of gold,
  That my hands are not white and clean;        20
They say—but a thousand reasons hold
  To stalk the quarry then
When the lust for blood is hunger-felt
  By the beast that dwells in men.
 
When Kindness is taught at the end of a rope,        25
  And Love to the music of groans;
When Charity masks in a cloak of flame,
  And Mercy in falling stones—
What wonder the balm for the spirit fails
  When the wounds are kept so fresh        30
Through countless years of active hate
  In the rack of the tortured flesh?
 
I have ceased to long for the clasp of Love,
  To dream of the smile of a friend,
I grip my trusty wander-staff        35
  In a journey without an end.
My faith is strong as the primal rocks,
  And deep as my tearless woes;
I am Job of the nations—heir of wrongs,
  But why—Jehovah knows.        40
 
 
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