Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
The Jews of Bucharest
By Edward Sydney Tybee
“TAKE heed; the stairs are worn and damp!”
  My soft-tongued southern guardian said,
And held more low his twinkling lamp
  To light my cautious, downward tread.
Where that uncertain radiance fell        5
  The bat in startled circles flew;
Sole tenant of the sunless cell
  Our fathers fashioned for the Jew.
Yet, painted on the aching gloom,
  I saw a hundred dreadful eyes,        10
As out of their forgotten tomb
  Its pallid victims seemed to rise.
With fluttered heart and crisping hair,
  I stood those crowding ghosts amid,
And thought what raptures of despair        15
  The soundless granite walls had hid.
I saw their arsenal of crime:
  The rack, the scourge, the gradual fire,
Where priestly hangmen of old time
  Watched their long-tortured prey expire,        20
Then by dim warders darkling led
  Through many a rocky corridor,
Like one that rises from the dead,
  I passed into the light once more.
And does a careless brother say        25
  We stir this ancient dust in vain,
When palaced Bucharest to-day
  Sees the same devil loose again?
Again her busy highways wake
  To the old persecuting cry        30
Of men who for their Master’s sake
  His chosen kindred crucify.
There oft the midnight hours are loud
  With echoes of pursuing feet;
As fired with bright zeal the crowd        35
  Goes raving down the Ghetto’s street;
The broken shutter’s rending crash
  That lets the sudden riot in,
And shows by those red torches’ flash,
  The shrinking fugitive within.        40
But here are tales of deeper shame!
  Of law insulted and defied.
While Force, usurping Justice’s name,
  Takes boldly the oppressor’s side.
The bread whose bitterness so long,        45
  These sons of hated race have known;
Familiar, oft-repeated wrong
  That turns the living heart to stone.
Still Zion City lies forlorn:
  And still the Stranger in our gates,        50
A servant to the younger born,
  For his long-promised kingdom waits.
O, Brethren of the outer court,
  Entreat him well and speak him fair;
The form that makes your thoughtless sport        55
  Our coming Lord hath deigned to wear.

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