Morris Rosenfeld

(1862-1923 / Poland)

On The Bosom Of The Ocean - Poem by Morris Rosenfeld

THE terrible wind, the dangerous storm, is
wrestling with a ship on the ocean ; it is trying
to break her, but she in distress cuts through the
deep, groaning heavily.

The mast cracks, the sail trembles, frightful is
the depth of the roaring waters ; the wind struggles
desperately with the ship in a life and death com-
bat.

Now she must lie down, now again she must rise,
now she is driven back, now forward ; the ship
is a plaything of the waves that swallow her up and
spit her out again.

The ocean roars, the billows rise, and lash, and
thunder in awful terror, the murderous storm wants
to destroy everything, the abyss opens up its
closed jaws.

There are heard sighs and prayers. Great is the
danger and dreadful the calamity, and everybody
prays to his God that He may save and liberate
the people from sure death.

Children weep, women wail ; the people cry and
confess their sins ; souls flutter, bodies tremble in
terror of the angry, destructive wind.

But below, in the steerage, two men sit quietly ;
no pain assails them ; they seek no salvation, they
make no plans, just as if all were safe and calm
about them.

The water roars, the billows foam; the wind
whines and howls insanely; the boiler gasps, the
chimney buzzes, but the men below, behold,
they are silent now !

They look coolly into the eyes of Death; the
dangerous might of the storm touches them not;
it seems as though Death had reared the two in
terror and dark night.

' Who are you, wretched ones, tell me, that you
can suppress the most terrible sufferings, that you
have no sighs and no tears even at the awful gates
of Death?

' Say, have, indeed, graves brought you forth ?
Do you leave behind you no parents, no wife, no
child who will lament you when you are lost here
in the deep and dreadful abyss?

' How ? Have you no one to be sorry for you, to
long for you, or shed a tear, when the wet ceme-
tery will cover you, when you will no more return
to this earth?

' How ? Have you no fatherland, no country, no
home where to go to, no friendly house, that you
bear such a contempt for life, and are waiting for
the dark grave ?

' Have you no one in heaven above to whom to
cry when you are in trouble ? Have you no nation,
have you no faith? Miserable ones, what is your
destiny?'

The abyss yawns, the waves bellow, the ship-
ladders crack, the storm rages madly, the winds
whistle, and finally one said in tears :

'The black cemetery is not our mother, the
grave has not been our cradle ; a good angel has
borne us, a dear mother, endowed with love.

'A mother has fondled us, a tender, warm,
friendly breast has nurtured us ; a father, too, has
stroked us and looked into our eyes, and kissed us
tenderly.

' We have a house, but it has been destroyed, and
our holy things have been burned ; our dearest and
best have been turned into bones, and those who
survive have been driven away with fettered hands.

' You know our country ; it is easily recognized
by its unceasing baiting and beating, by its cruel
riots, its ruthless destruction, and dealing death to
the wretched Jew.

' Yes, we are Jews, miserable Jews, without friends
or joys, without hopes of happiness. Oh, ask us
no more, ask no more, oh, leave us in peace !
America drives us back to Russia,

' To Russia, whence we have run away, to Russia,
because we have no money. What is there left for
us to expect, to hope for? Of what good is life,
and the gloomy world to us ?

' You have something to weep for ; you have rea-
son to murmur and to be afraid of death ! You
have, no doubt, a home where to go to, and you
have left America not from necessity.

' But we are forlorn and alone like a rock : Earth
is too mean to give us a resting place; we are
voyaging, but, unfortunately, no one waits for us.
Explain to me, pray, whither we are bound !

' Let storm the wind, let it howl in anger : let the
deep seethe, and boil, and roar ! However it be,
we Jews are lost, the ocean alone can allay our
burning wound. . . .'


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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