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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Ode to Zion

By Judah Halevi (c. 1075–1141)

Translation of Alice Lucas

ART thou not, Zion, fain

To send forth greetings from thy sacred rock

Unto thy captive train,

Who greet thee as the remnants of thy flock?

Take thou on every side—

East, West, and South, and North—their greetings multiplied.

Sadly he greets thee still,

The prisoner of hope, who, day and night,

Sheds ceaseless tears, like dew on Hermon’s hill—

Would that they fell on thy mountain’s height!

Harsh is my voice when I bewail thy woes,

But when in fancy’s dream

I see thy freedom, forth its cadence flows

Sweet as the harps that hung by Babel’s stream.

My heart is so distressed

For Bethel ever blessed,

For Peniel, and each sacred place.

The Holy Presence there

To thee is present where

Thy Maker opes thy gates, the gates of heaven to face.

Oh! who will lead me on

To seek the spots where, in far distant years,

The angels in their glory dawned upon

Thy messengers and seers?

Oh! who will give me wings

That I may fly away,

And there, at rest from all my wanderings,

The ruins of my heart among thy ruins lay?

I’ll bend my face unto thy soil, and hold

Thy stones as precious gold.

And when in Hebron I have stood beside

My fathers’ tomb, then will I pace in turn

Thy plains and forest wide,

Until I stand in Gilead and discern

Mount Hor and Mount Abarim, ’neath whose crest

The luminaries twain, thy guides and beacons, rest.

Thy air is life unto my soul; thy grains

Of dust are myrrh, thy streams with honey flow;

Naked and barefoot, to thy ruined fanes

How gladly would I go!

To where the ark was treasured, and in dim

Recesses dwelt the holy cherubim.

Perfect in beauty, Zion! how in thee

Do love and grace unite!

The souls of thy companions tenderly

Turn unto thee; thy joy was their delight,

And weeping, they lament thy ruin now.

In distant exile, for thy sacred height

They long, and towards thy gates in prayer they bow.

Thy flocks are scattered o’er the barren waste,

Yet do they not forget thy sheltering fold;

Unto thy garments’ fringe they cling, and haste

The branches of thy palms to seize and hold.

Shinar and Pathros! come they near to thee?

Naught are they by thy light and right Divine.

To what can be compared the majesty

Of thy anointed line?

To what the singers, seers, and Levites thine?

The rule of idols fails and is cast down,—

Thy power eternal is, from age to age thy crown.

The Lord desires thee for his dwelling-place

Eternally; and blest

Is he whom God has chosen for the grace

Within thy courts to rest.

Happy is he that watches, drawing near,

Until he sees thy glorious lights arise,

And over whom thy dawn breaks full and clear

Set in the Orient skies.

But happiest he who with exultant eyes

The bliss of thy redeemed ones shall behold,

And see thy youth renewed as in the days of old.