Published on Academy of American Poets (

Legendary Lights

O, the legendary light,
Gleaming goldenly in night
     Like the stars above,
Beautiful, like lights in dream,
Eight, the taper-flames that stream
     All one glory and one love.

In our Temple, magical—
Memories, now tragical—
Holy hero-hearts aflame
With a glory more than fame;
There where a shrine is every sod,
     Every grave, God’s golden ore,
With a paean whose rhyme to God,
     Lit these lamps of yore.

Lights, you are a living dream,
Faith and bravery you beam,
     Youth and dawn and May.
Would your beam were more than dream,
Would the light and love you stream,
     Stirred us, spurred us, aye!

Fabled memories of flame,
Till the beast in man we tame,
Tyrants bow to truth, amain,
Brands and bullets yield to brain,
Guns to God, and shells to soul,
Hounds to heart resign the role,
Pillared lights of liberty,
In your fairy flames, we’ll see
Faith’s and freedom’s Phoenix-might,
The Omnipotence of Right.


This poem is in the public domain.


Alter Abelson

Scholar, poet, and translator Alter Abelson was born in Lithuania on July 17, 1880, and grew up in Manhattan, where he studied John Keats, John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Percy Shelley. In 1903 he received his Master of Hebrew Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary and in 1920 received a law degree from the New Jersey Last School.

Abelson, who served as a rabbi in synagogues in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, also served as a chaplain for the New York Board of Rabbis from 1947 to his retirement in 1960.

Abelson authored four poetry collections, Helen and Shulamith (Whittier Books, 1959), Songs of Labor (Paebar Co. Publishers, 1947), Sonnets of Motherhood (1938), and Sambatyon and Other Poems (The Ariel Publications, 1931), and translated work by the Hebrew poets Judah Halevi and Chaim Nachman Bialik.

He died in 1964 in New York City.

Date Published: 2017-11-29

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