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Emma Lazarus

(22 July 1849 – 19 November 1887 / New York City / United States)

Don Pedrillo

Not a lad in Saragossa
Nobler-featured, haughtier-tempered,
Than the Alcalde's youthful grandson,
Donna Clara's boy Pedrillo.

Handsome as the Prince of Evil,
And devout as St. Ignatius.
Deft at fence, unmatched with zither,
Miniature of knightly virtues.

Truly an unfailing blessing
To his pious, widowed mother,
To the beautiful, lone matron
Who forswore the world to rear him.

For her beauty hath but ripened
In such wise as the pomegranate
Putteth by her crown of blossoms,
For her richer crown of fruitage.

Still her hand is claimed and courted,
Still she spurns her proudest suitors,
Doting on a phantom passion,
And upon her boy Pedrillo.

Like a saint lives Donna Clara,
First at matins, last at vespers,
Half her fortune she expendeth
Buying masses for the needy.

Visiting the poor afflicted,
Infinite is her compassion,
Scorning not the Moorish beggar,
Nor the wretched Jew despising.

And-a scandal to the faithful,
E'en she hath been known to welcome
To her castle the young Rabbi,
Offering to his tribe her bounty.

Rarely hath he crossed the threshold,
Yet the thought that he hath crossed it,
Burns like poison in the marrow
Of the zealous youth Pedrillo.

By the blessed Saint Iago,
He hath vowed immortal hatred
To these circumcised intruders
Who pollute the soil of Spaniards.

Seated in his mother's garden,
At high noon the boy Pedrillo
Playeth with his favorite parrot,
Golden-green with streaks of scarlet.

'Pretty Dodo, speak thy lesson,'
Coaxed Pedrillo-'thief and traitor'-
'Thief and traitor'-croaked the parrot,
'Is the yellow-skirted Rabbi.'

And the boy with peals of laughter,
Stroked his favorite's head of emerald,
Raised his eyes, and lo! before him
Stood the yellow-skirted Rabbi.

In his dark eyes gleamed no anger,
No hot flush o'erspread his features.
'Neath his beard his pale lips quivered,
And a shadow crossed his forehead.

Very gentle was his aspect,
And his voice was mild and friendly,
'Evil words, my son, thou speakest,
Teaching to the fowls of heaven.

'In our Talmud it stands written,
Thrice curst is the tongue of slander,
Poisoning also with its victim,
Him who speaks and him who listens.'

But no whit abashed, Pedrillo,
'What care I for curse of Talmud?
'T is no slander to speak evil
Of the murderers of our Saviour.

'To your beard I will repeat it,
That I only bide my manhood,
To wreak all my lawful hatred,
On thyself and on thy people.'

Very gently spoke the Rabbi,
'Have a care, my son Pedrillo,
Thou art orphaned, and who knoweth
But thy father loved this people?'

'Think you words like these will touch me?
Such I laugh to scorn, sir Rabbi,
From high heaven, my sainted father
On my deeds will smile in blessing.

'Loyal knight was he and noble,
And my mother oft assures me,
Ne'er she saw so pure a Christian,
'T is from him my zeal deriveth.'

'What if he were such another
As myself who stand before thee?'
'I should curse the hour that bore me,
I should die of shame and horror.'

'Harsher is thy creed than ours;
For had I a son as comely
As Pedrillo, I would love him,
Love him were he thrice a Christian.

'In his youth my youth renewing
Pamper, fondle, die to serve him,
Only breathing through his spirit-
Couldst thou not love such a father?'

Faltering spoke the deep-voiced Rabbi,
With white lips and twitching fingers,
Then in clear, young, steady treble,
Answered him the boy Pedrillo:

'At the thought my heart revolteth,
All your tribe offend my senses,
They're an eyesore to my vision,
And a stench unto my nostrils.

'When I meet these unbelievers,
With thick lips and eagle noses,
Thus I scorn them, thus revile them,
Thus I spit upon their garment.'

And the haughty youth passed onward,
Bearing on his wrist his parrot,
And the yellow-skirted Rabbi
With bowed head sought Donna Clara.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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