Morris Rosenfeld

(1862-1923 / Poland)

Sephirah - Poem by Morris Rosenfeld

I asked of my Muse, had she any objection
To laughing with me,--not a word for reply!
You see, it is Sfere, our time for dejection,--
And can a Jew laugh when the rule is to cry?

You laughed then, you say? 'tis a sound to affright one!
In Jewish delight, what is worthy the name?
The laugh of a Jew! It is never a right one,
For laughing and groaning with him are the same.

You thought there was zest in a Jewish existence?
You deemd that the star of a Jew could be kind?
The Spring calls and beckons with gracious insistence,--
Jew,--sit down in sackcloth and weep yourself blind!

The garden is green and the woodland rejoices:
How cool are the breezes, with fragrance how blent!
But Spring calls not _you_ with her thousand sweet voices!--
With you it is Sfere,--sit still and lament!

The beautiful summer, this life's consolation,
In moaning and sighing glides quickly away.
What hope can it offer to one of my nation?
What joy can he find in the splendors of May?

Bewildered and homeless, of whom whoso passes
May fearlessly stop to make sport at his ease,--
Say, is it for him to seek flowers and grasses,
For him to be thinking on meadows and trees?

And if for a moment, forgetting to ponder
On grief and oppression, song breaks out anew,
I hear in his lay only: 'Wander and wander!'
And ev'ry note tells me the singer's a Jew.

A skilful musician, and one who is versed
In metre and measure, whenever he hears
The pitiful song of the Jewish dispersed,
It touches his heart and it moves him to tears.

The blast of the Ram's-horn that quavers and trembles,--
On this, now, alone Jewish fancy is bent.
To grief and contrition its host it assembles,
And causes the stoniest heart to relent.

The wail that went up when the Temple was shattered,--
The song of Atonement, the Suppliant's psalm,--
These only he loves, since they took him--and scattered,--
Away from the land of the balsam and balm.

Of all the sweet instruments, shiver'd and broken,
That once in the Temple delighted his ear,
The Ram's-horn alone has he kept, as a token,
And sobs out his soul on it once in the year.

Instead of the harp and the viol and cymbal,
Instead of the lyre, the guitar and the flute,
He has but the dry, wither'd Ram's-horn, the symbol
Of gloom and despondence; the rest all are mute.

He laughs, or he breaks into song, but soon after,
Tho' fain would he take in man's gladness a part,
One hears, low resounding athwart the gay laughter,
The Suppliant's psalm, and it pierces the heart.

I asked of my Muse, had she any objection
To laughing with me,--not a word for reply!
You see, it is Sfere, our time for dejection,--
And can a Jew laugh when the rule is to cry?


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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