The Crowing of the Red Cock

Original Text: 
The Poems of Emma Lazarus, 2 vols. (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1889): II, 3-4.
2   The flicker of a blood-red dawn,
5A million burning rooftrees light
6The world-wide path of Israel's flight.
7Where is the Hebrew's fatherland?
8   The folk of Christ is sore bestead;
9The Son of Man is bruised and banned,
10   Nor finds whereon to lay his head.
11His cup is gall, his meat is tears,
12His passion lasts a thousand years.
13Each crime that wakes in man the beast,
14   Is visited upon his kind.
15The lust of mobs, the greed of priest,
16   The tyranny of kings, combined
17To root his seed from earth again,
18His record is one cry of pain.
19When the long roll of Christian guilt
20   Against his sires and kin is known,
21The flood of tears, the life-blood spilt,
22   The agony of ages shown,
23What oceans can the stain remove,
24From Christian law and Christian love?
25Nay, close the book; not now, not here,
26   The hideous tale of sin narrate,
27Reëchoing in the martyr's ear,
28   Even he might nurse revengeful hate,
29Even he might turn in wrath sublime,
30With blood for blood and crime for crime.
31Coward? Not he, who faces death,
32   Who singly against worlds has fought,
33For what? A name he may not breathe,
34   For liberty of prayer and thought.
35The angry sword he will not whet,
36His nobler task is -- to forget.

Notes

1] From 1879 to 1881, pogroms (the Russian term for "devastation") -- systematic anti-semitic riots and expulsions -- killed thousands in Russia and led to massive Jewish emigration from eastern Europe, principally to America. Wilhelm Marr had coined the term "antisemite" with the founding of the League of Antisemites in Germany in 1879. In 1882 the first modern Zionist movement, Hovevei Zion, began. Century (24: 48-56) published Lazarus' article "Russian Christianity versus Modem Judaism" in May 1882. Back to Line
3] clarion cock: on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus said to Peter, who would found the Christian church, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times" (Matthew 26.34). Back to Line
4] sword of Christ: Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1882
Publication Notes: 
Songs of a Semite (New York: Office of The American Hebrew, 1882).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001
Rhyme: