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Joseph Friedlander, comp. The Standard Book of Jewish Verse. 1917.

By John Godfrey Saxe

The Two Friends

A Rabbinical Tale

GOOD Rabbi Nathan had rejoiced to spend

A social se’nnight with his ancient friend,

The Rabbi Isaac. In devout accord

They read the Sacred Books, and praised the Lord

For all His mercies unto them and theirs;

Until, one day, remembering some affairs

That asked his instant presence, Nathan said,

“Too long, my friend (so close my soul is wed

To thy soul), has the silent lapse of days

Kept me thy guest; although with prayer and praise

The hours were fragrant. Now the time has come

When, all-reluctant, I must hasten home,

To other duties than the dear delights

To which thy gracious friendship still invites.”

“Well, be it so, if so it needs must be.”

The host made answer; “be it far from me

To hinder thee in aught that Duty lays

Upon thy pious conscience. Go thy ways

And take my blessing!—but, O friend of mine,

In His name, whom thou servest, give me thine!”

“Already,” Nathan answered, “had I sought

Some fitting words to bless thee; and I thought

About the palm-tree, giving fruit and shade;

And in my grateful heart, O friend, I prayed

That Heaven be pleased to make thee even so!

O idle benediction! Well I know

Thou lackest nothing of all perfect fruit

Of generous souls, or pious deeds that suit

With pious worship. Well I know thine alms

In hospitable shade exceed the palm’s;

And, for rich fruitage, can that noble tree,

With all her opulence, compare with thee?

Since, then, O friend, I cannot wish thee more,

In thine own person, than thy present store

Of Heaven’s best bounty, I will even pray

That, as the palm-tree, though it pass away,

By others, of its seed, is still replaced,

So thine own stock may evermore be graced

With happy sons and daughters, who shall be,

In wisdom, strength, and goodness, like to thee!”