Chaim Nachman Bialik
translated by P.M. Raskin
from which thy tortured brethren drew
in evil days their strength of soul
to meet their doom, stretch out their necks
to each uplifted knife and axe,
in flames, on stakes to die with joy,
and with a whisper "God is One"
to close their lips?
And shouldst thou wish to find the Spring
from which thy banished brethren drew,
'midst fear of death and fear of life,
their comfort, courage, patience, trust,
an iron will to bear the yoke,
to live bespattered and despised,
and suffer without end?
If thou, my brother, knowest not
this mother, spring and lap and fort,
then enter thou the House of God,
the House of Study old and gray
throughout the sultry summer days,
throughout the gloomy winter nights,
at morning, midday or at eve;
perchance there is a remnant yet,
perchance the eye may still behold
in some dark corner hid from view
a cast-off shadow of the past,
the profile of some pallid face,
upon an ancient folio bent,
who seeks to drown unspoken woes
in the Talmudic boundless waves;
and then thy heart shall guess the truth
that thou hast touched the sacred ground
of thy great nation's House of Life,
and that thy eyes do gaze upon
the treasure of thy nation's soul.
And know that this is but a spark
that by a miracle escaped
of that bright light, that sacred flame
thy forbears kindled long ago
on altars high and pure.