The New Year

- 1849-1887
Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
      And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
      The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
                      Then the new year is born.

Look where the mother of the months uplifts
      In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
      Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
                      Profusely to requite.

Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
      Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
      The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
                      To what undreamed-of morn?

For never yet, since on the holy height,
      The Temple’s marble walls of white and green
Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world’s light
      Went out in darkness,—never was the year
Greater with portent and with promise seen,
                      Than this eve now and here.

Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent
      Hath been enlarged unto earth’s farthest rim.
To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,
      Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave,
For freedom to proclaim and worship Him,
                      Mighty to slay and save.

High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,
      Out of the depths ye published still the Word.
No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:
      Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,
Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,
                      Or died a thousand deaths.

In two divided streams the exiles part,
      One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
      By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
                      And both embrace the world.

Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,
      Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,
The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise
      Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove
How strength of supreme suffering still is ours
                      For Truth and Law and Love.

More by Emma Lazarus

Work

Yet life is not a vision nor a prayer,
    But stubborn work; she may not shun her task.
After the first compassion, none will spare
    Her portion and her work achieved, to ask.
She pleads for respite,—she will come ere long
When, resting by the roadside, she is strong.

Nay, for the hurrying throng of passers-by
    Will crush her with their onward-rolling stream.
Much must be done before the brief light die;
She may not loiter, rapt in the vain dream.
With unused trembling hands, and faltering feet,
She staggers forth, her lot assigned to meet.

But when she fills her days with duties done,
    Strange vigor comes, she is restored to health.
New aims, new interests rise with each new sun,
    And life still holds for her unbounded wealth.
All that seemed hard and toilsome now proves small,
And naught may daunt her,—she hath strength for all.

Long Island Sound

I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,—by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.

The Feast of Lights

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted--who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas?  Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!