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Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport


              1Here, where the noises of the busy town,
              2   The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
              3We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
              4   And muse upon the consecrated spot.

              5No signs of life are here: the very prayers
              6   Inscribed around are in a language dead;
              7The light of the "perpetual lamp" is spent
              8   That an undying radiance was to shed.

              9What prayers were in this temple offered up,
            10   Wrung from sad hearts that knew no joy on earth,
            11By these lone exiles of a thousand years,
            12   From the fair sunrise land that gave them birth!

            13How as we gaze, in this new world of light,
            14   Upon this relic of the days of old,
            15The present vanishes, and tropic bloom
            16   And Eastern towns and temples we behold.

            17Again we see the patriarch with his flocks,
            18   The purple seas, the hot blue sky o'erhead,
            19The slaves of Egypt, -- omens, mysteries, --
            20   Dark fleeing hosts by flaming angels led.

            21A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,
            22   A man who reads Jehovah's written law,
            23'Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,
            24   Unto a people prone with reverent awe.

            25The pride of luxury's barbaric pomp,
            26   In the rich court of royal Solomon --
            27Alas! we wake: one scene alone remains, --
            28   The exiles by the streams of Babylon.

            29Our softened voices send us back again
            30   But mournful echoes through the empty hall:
            31Our footsteps have a strange unnatural sound,
            32   And with unwonted gentleness they fall.

            33The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
            34   All found their comfort in the holy place,
            35And children's gladness and men's gratitude
            36   'Took voice and mingled in the chant of praise.

            37The funeral and the marriage, now, alas!
            38   We know not which is sadder to recall;
            39For youth and happiness have followed age,
            40   And green grass lieth gently over all.

            41Nathless the sacred shrine is holy yet,
            42   With its lone floors where reverent feet once trod.
            43Take off your shoes as by the burning bush,
            44   Before the mystery of death and God.

Notes

1] The Lazarus family had a summer house in fashionable Newport, Rhode Island. Cf. Longfellow's "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport," where Longfellow ends by saying: "And the dead nations never rise again," Lazarus still sees "the burning bush, / Before the mystery of death and God."

7] perpetual lamp: "Ner Talmid," placed before the Ark in the synagogue.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Emma Lazarus, Admetus and Other Poems (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1871): 160-62.
First publication date: 1871
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/21

Composition date: July 1867
Rhyme: abcb


Other poems by Emma Lazarus