The Dying Hebrew by Kimbie

The following poem, a favourite with the late Mr. Edwin Forrest, was composed by a young law student, and first published in Boston in 1858.


 A HEBREW knelt in the dying light,

His eye was dim and cold;

The hairs on his brow were silver white,

And his blood was thin and old!

He lifted his look to his latest sun,

For he knew that his pilgrimage was done;

And as he saw God's shadow there,

His spirit poured itself in prayer!

"I come unto death's second birth

Beneath a stranger air,

A pilgrim on a dull, cold earth,

As all my fathers were!

 

And men have stamped me with a curse,

I feel it is not Thine;

Thy mercy, like yon sun, was made

On me, as them, to shine;

And therefore dare I lift mine eye

Through that to Thee before I die!

In this great temple, built by Thee,

Whose pillars are divine,

Beneath yon lamp, that ceaselessly

Lights up Thine own true shrine,

Oh take my latest sacrifice—

Look down and make this sod

Holy as that where, long ago,

The Hebrew met his God.

I have not caused the widow's tears,

Nor dimmed the orphan's eye;

I have not stained the virgin's years,

Nor mocked the mourner's cry.

The songs of Zion in mine ear

Have ever been most sweet,

And always, when I felt Thee near,

My shoes were off my feet.

I have known Thee in the whirlwind,

I have known Thee on the hill,

I have loved Thee in the voice of birds,

Or the music of the rill;

I dreamt Thee in the shadow,

I saw Thee in the light;

I blessed Thee in the radiant day,

And worshiped Thee at night.

All beauty, while it spoke of Thee,

Still made my soul rejoice,

And my spirit bowed within itself

To hear Thy still, small voice!

I have not felt myself a thing,

Far from Thy presence driven,

By flaming sword or waving wing

Shut off from Thee and heaven.

Must I the whirlwind reap because

My fathers sowed the storm?

 

Or shrink, because another sinned,

Beneath Thy red, right arm?

Oh much of this we dimly scan,

And much is all unknown;

But I will not take my curse from man—

I turn to Thee alone!

Oh bid my fainting spirit live,

And what is dark reveal,

And what is evil, oh forgive,

And what is broken heal.

And cleanse my nature from above,

In the dark Jordan of Thy love!

I know not if the Christian's heaven

Shall be the same as mine;

I only ask to be forgiven,

And taken home to Thine.

I weary on a far, dim strand,

Whose mansions are as tombs,

And long to find the Fatherland,

Where there are many homes.

Oh grant of all yon starry thrones,

Some dim and distant star,

Where Judah's lost and scattered sons

May love Thee from afar.

Where all earth's myriad harps shall meet

In choral praise and prayer,

Shall Zion's harp, of old so sweet,

Alone be wanting there?

Yet place me in Thy lowest seat,

Though I, as now, be there,

The Christian's scorn, the Christian's jest;

But let me see and hear,

From some dim mansion in the sky,

Thy bright ones and their melody."

The sun goes down with sudden gleam,

And—beautiful as a lovely dream

And silently as air—

The vision of a dark-eyed girl,

With long and raven hair,

Glides in—as guardian spirits glide—

 

And lo! is kneeling by his side,

As if her sudden presence there

Were sent in answer to his prayer.

(Oh say they not that angels tread

Around the good man's dying bed?)

His child—his sweet and sinless child—

And as he gazed on her

He knew his God was reconciled,

And this the messenger,

As sure as God had hung on high

The promise bow before his eye—

Earth's purest hopes thus o'er him flung,

To point his heavenward faith,

And life's most holy feeling strung

To sing him into death;

And on his daughter's stainless breast

The dying Hebrew found his rest!