James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 29

To Carmen Sylva

By Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)

  • Under the name of “Carmen Sylva” the Queen of Roumania has published both prose and poetry of great merit. She was born on Dec. 29, 1843.

  • OH, that the golden lyre divine

    Whence David smote flame-tones were mine!

    Oh, that the silent harp which hung

    Untuned, unstrung,

    Upon the willows by the river,

    Would throb beneath my touch and quiver

    With the old song-enchanted spell

    Of Israel!

    Oh, that the large prophetic Voice

    Would make my reed-piped throat its choice!

    All ears should prick, all hearts should spring,

    To hear me sing

    The burden of the isles, the word

    Assyria knew, Damascus heard,

    When, like the wind, while cedars shake,

    Isaiah spake.

    For I would frame a song to-day

    Winged like a bird to cleave its way

    O’er land and sea that spread between,

    To where a Queen

    Sits with a triple coronet.

    Genius and Sorrow both have set

    Their diadems above the gold—

    A Queen three-fold!

    To her the forest lent its lyre,

    Hers are the sylvan dews, the fire

    Of Orient suns, the mist-wreathed gleams

    Of mountain streams.

    She, the imperial Rhine’s own child,

    Takes to her heart the wood-nymph wild,

    The gypsy Pelech, and the wide,

    White Danube’s tide.

    She who beside an infant’s bier

    Long since resigned all hope to hear

    The sacred name of “Mother” bless

    Her childlessness,

    Now from a people’s sole acclaim

    Receives the heart-vibrating name,

    And “Mother, Mother, Mother!” fills

    The echoing hills.

    Yet who is he who pines apart,

    Estranged from that maternal heart,

    Ungraced, unfriended, and forlorn,

    The butt of scorn?

    An alien in his land of birth,

    An outcast from his brethren’s earth,

    Albeit with theirs his blood mixed well

    When Plevna fell?

    When all Roumania’s chains were riven,

    When unto all his sons was given

    The hero’s glorious reward,

    Reaped by the sword,—

    Wherefore was this poor thrall, whose chains

    Hung heaviest, within whose veins

    The oldest blood of freedom streamed,

    Still unredeemed?

    O Mother, Poet, Queen in one!

    Pity and save—he is thy son.

    For poet David’s sake, the king

    Of all who sing;

    For thine own people’s sake who share

    His law, his truth, his praise, his prayer;

    For his sake who was sacrificed—

    His brother—Christ!