The Jewish May

A poem by Morris Rosenfeld

May has come from out the showers,
Sun and splendor in her train.
All the grasses and the flowers
Waken up to life again.
Once again the leaves do show,
And the meadow blossoms blow,
Once again through hills and dales
Rise the songs of nightingales.

Wheresoe'er on field or hillside
With her paint-brush Spring is seen,--
In the valley, by the rillside,
All the earth is decked with green.
Once again the sun beguiles
Moves the drowsy world to smiles.
See! the sun, with mother-kiss
Wakes her child to joy and bliss.

Now each human feeling presses
Flow'r like, upward to the sun,
Softly, through the heart's recesses,
Steal sweet fancies, one by one.
Golden dreams, their wings outshaking,
Now are making
Realms celestial,
All of azure,
New life waking,
Bringing treasure
Out of measure
For the soul's delight and pleasure.

Who then, tell me, old and sad,
Nears us with a heavy tread?
On the sward in verdure clad,
Lonely is the strange newcomer,
Wearily he walks and slow,--
His sweet springtime and his summer
Faded long and long ago!

Say, who is it yonder walks
Past the hedgerows decked anew,
While a fearful spectre stalks
By his side the woodland through?
'Tis our ancient friend the Jew!
No sweet fancies hover round him,
Naught but terror and distress.
Wounds unhealed
Where lie revealed
Ghosts of former recollections,
Corpses, corpses, old affections,
Buried youth and happiness.

Brier and blossom bow to meet him
In derision round his path;
Gloomily the hemlocks greet him
And the crow screams out in wrath.
Strange the birds and strange the flowers,
Strange the sunshine seems and dim,
Folk on earth and heav'nly powers!--
Lo, the May is strange to him!

Little flowers, it were meeter
If ye made not quite so bold:
Sweet ye are, but oh, far sweeter
Knew he in the days of old!
Oranges by thousands glowing
Filled his groves on either hand,--
All the plants were God's own sowing
In his happy, far-off land!

Ask the cedars on the mountain!
Ask them, for they know him well!
Myrtles green by Sharon's fountain,
In whose shade he loved to dwell!
Ask the Mount of Olives beauteous,--
Ev'ry tree by ev'ry stream!--
One and all will answer duteous
For the fair and ancient dream....

O'er the desert and the pleasance
Gales of Eden softly blew,
And the Lord His loving Presence
Evermore declared anew.
Angel children at their leisure
Played in thousands round His tent,
Countless thoughts of joy and pleasure
God to His beloved sent.

There in bygone days and olden,
From a wond'rous harp and golden
Charmed he music spirit-haunting,
Holy, chaste and soul-enchanting.
Never with the ancient sweetness,
Never in its old completeness
Shall it sound: his dream is ended,
On a willow-bough suspended.

Gone that dream so fair and fleeting!
Yet behold: thou dreamst anew!
Hark! a new May gives thee greeting
From afar. Dost hear it, Jew?
Weep no more, altho' with sorrows
Bow'd e'en to the grave: I see
Happier years and brighter morrows,
Dawning, Israel, for thee!
Hear'st thou not the promise ring
Where, like doves on silver wing,
Thronging cherubs sweetly sing
Newmade songs of what shall be?

Hark! your olives shall be shaken,
And your citrons and your limes
Filled with fragrance. God shall waken.
Lead you as in olden times.
In the pastures by the river
Ye once more your flocks shall tend.
Ye shall live, and live forever
Happy lives that know no end.
No more wandering, no more sadness:
Peace shall be your lot, and still
Hero hearts shall throb with gladness
'Neath Moriah's silent hill.
Nevermore of dread afflictions
Or oppression need ye tell:
Filled with joy and benedictions
In the old home shall ye dwell.
To the fatherland returning,
Following the homeward path,
Ye shall find the embers burning
Still upon the ruined hearth!

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