Before the Statue of Apollo
I come to thee, O god long since forgot,
God of the moons of old and other days.
Lord o'er the vernal passions of mankind,
Their headlong vigor in the flush of youth!
God of a mighty age and giants on earth,
Whose prowess won Olympus of the gods,
That heroes of their race might dwell thereon,
With laurel wreath about their daring brow;
They vanquished their gods and then grew like to them,
Sitting in counsel—rulers of the world;
A race of gods on earth, drunk with life's joy,
Strange to a sickening folk and suffering house.
Glorious youth and god, comely as spring,
Who conquered the sun and mysteries of life,
With pillared clouds of song and secret hues.
Oceans of music and the darkening wave;
God of the joy in life, bounteous and rich,
Of its might and secret artistry of hues.
I come to thee—dost thou know me again?
I am a Jew—our quarrel is of old!
The ocean waters 'twixt the continents,
With their multitude and riot could not fill
The gasping chasm that between us yawns.
Too narrow are the skies or trackless plains
To span the ravines that divide our Law
From the faith of them who magnify thy name.
Thou eyest me astonished! For I have come
Farther than all before me; on the road
Behind me far men wander, chained to death:
I am the first to come to thee again,
This instant, weary of the age-long moan,
I rend the shackles bound about my soul;
My soul is living and it clings to earth.
The people have grown old—their god with them;
Passions stifled by unmanlike folk
Awake in their prison of a thousand years.
“God's light is mine! God's light!” cry all my bones.
“Life, ah, life!” in every limb “God's light!”
I have come to thee.
I come to thee and bow before thine image,
Thine image—symbol of the light in life;
I prostrate me to the exalted and the good,
To things of high estate upon the earth,
To all majestic in creation's bounds,
To all the highest mysteries of art;
I bend the knee to life, to beauty, power,
To every form of grace—these have subdued
Man's body and the seed corrupt of men,
And rule o'er life in place of Tsuree Shaddai,
Lord God of the deserts which no eye hath seen,
Of the conquerors of Canaan in the storm—
But they bound him up in straps—phylacteries.
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