On The Voyage To Jerusalem. (Translations From The Hebrew Poets Of Medaeval Spain.)

A poem by Emma Lazarus

I.


My two-score years and ten are over,
Never again shall youth be mine.
The years are ready-winged for flying,
What crav'st thou still of feast and wine?
Wilt thou still court man's acclamation,
Forgetting what the Lord hath said?
And forfeiting thy weal eternal,
By thine own guilty heart misled?
Shalt thou have never done with folly,
Still fresh and new must it arise?
Oh heed it not, heed not the senses,
But follow God, be meek and wise;
Yea, profit by thy days remaining,
They hurry swiftly to the goal.
Be zealous in the Lord's high service,
And banish falsehood from thy soul.
Use all thy strength, use all thy fervor,
Defy thine own desires, awaken!
Be not afraid when seas are foaming,
And earth to her foundations shaken.
Benumbed the hand then of the sailor,
The captain's skill and power are lamed.
Gayly they sailed with colors flying,
And now turn home again ashamed.
The ocean is our only refuge,
The sandbank is our only goal,
The masts are swaying as with terror,
And quivering does the vessel roll.
The mad wind frolics with the billows,
Now smooths them low, now lashes high.
Now they are storming up like lions,
And now like serpents sleek they lie;
And wave on wave is ever pressing,
They hiss, they whisper, soft of tone.
Alack! was that the vessel splitting?
Are sail and mast and rudder gone?
Here, screams of fright, there, silent weeping,
The bravest feels his courage fail.
What stead our prudence or our wisdom?
The soul itself can naught avail.
And each one to his God is crying,
Soar up, my soul, to Him aspire,
Who wrought a miracle for Jordan,
Extol Him, oh angelic choir!
Remember Him who stays the tempest,
The stormy billows doth control,
Who quickeneth the lifeless body,
And fills the empty frame with soul.
Behold! once more appears a wonder,
The angry waves erst raging wild,
Like quiet flocks of sheep reposing,
So soft, so still, so gently mild.
The sun descends, and high in heaven,
The golden-circled moon doth stand.
Within the sea the stars are straying,
Like wanderers in an unknown land.
The lights celestial in the waters
Are flaming clearly as above,
As though the very heavens descended,
To seal a covenant of love.
Perchance both sea and sky, twin oceans,
From the same source of grace are sprung.
'Twixt these my heart, a third sea, surges,
With songs resounding, clearly sung.




II.


A watery waste the sinful world has grown,
With no dry spot whereon the eye can rest,
No man, no beast, no bird to gaze upon,
Can all be dead, with silent sleep possessed?
Oh, how I long the hills and vales to see,
To find myself on barren steppes were bliss.
I peer about, but nothing greeteth me,
Naught save the ship, the clouds, the waves' abyss,
The crocodile which rushes from the deeps;
The flood foams gray; the whirling waters reel,
Now like its prey whereon at last it sweeps,
The ocean swallows up the vessel's keel.
The billows rage - exult, oh soul of mine,
Soon shalt thou enter the Lord's sacred shrine!




III.

TO THE WEST WIND.


O West, how fragrant breathes thy gentle air,
Spikenard and aloes on thy pinions glide.
Thou blow'st from spicy chambers, not from there
Where angry winds and tempests fierce abide.
As on a bird's wings thou dost waft me home,
Sweet as a bundle of rich myrrh to me.
And after thee yearn all the throngs that roam
And furrow with light keel the rolling sea.
Desert her not - our ship - bide with her oft,
When the day sinks and in the morning light.
Smooth thou the deeps and make the billows soft,
Nor rest save at our goal, the sacred height.
Chide thou the East that chafes the raging flood,
And swells the towering surges wild and rude.
What can I do, the elements' poor slave?
Now do they hold me fast, now leave me free;
Cling to the Lord, my soul, for He will save,
Who caused the mountains and the winds to be.

Abul Hassan Judah Ben Ha-Levi. (Born Between 1080-90.)

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