Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE YELLOW BADGE, by RUTH SCHECHTER ALEXANDER

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THE YELLOW BADGE, by            
First Line: Hundreds of years agone, my brothers
Last Line: Of the people god called his crown.
Subject(s): History; Jews; Tradition; Historians; Judaism

HUNDREDS of years agone, my brothers,
And yet not so long ago,
They bound on our arms a yellow shame
The seal of their scorn for us of the Name,
And laughed at our deep-sunk woe.

Hundreds of years are past my brothers,
And the world sweeps on to its goal;
We walk the streets with a master's tread
And the fear we lived in is long since dead,
But the badge we wear in our soul.

Aye, the centuries long of cringing, brothers,
Lest worse than the fear might fall,
Have broken the back of our freeman's pride
And the terror of those who were cursed, and died
Lives on in us one and all.

What could they do of old, my brothers?
They killed us like sheep and then?
We waited for death in an ecstasy,
As the unfelt pang that should set us free,
And give us our life again.

Ah! We live easily now, my brothers,
A snug, complacent crew
With wealth and culture at our command
And the friendly glance and the outstretched hand
Of those who mocked us and slew.

And we walk warily now, my brothers,
With an eye cast round to view
Lest the Past that is in us may lift its head,
Betray to the world we love and dread,
"Behold! This is a Jew."

We must love with the times, we say, my brothers,
And the times are broad and free,
We too belong to the Brotherhood
We shout, lest it be not understood:
"Liberal Jews" are we.

Liberal minds, indeed, my brothers,
Hating with petty hate
Each other, our past, and the names we bear,
Quarreling meanly to snatch our share
Of the gold that we think makes great.

O God, the yellow badge, my brothers,
Is graven on Israel's heart;
And we render our language, our symbols, our songs,
Our honor, our martyrs, aye, even our wrongs
For a smile on our neighbour's part.

In our Father's name arise, my brothers,
Let us tear the shame from our souls,
We shall rend ourselves and the wounds will bleed
But the hurt and blood are our right and meed;
They will heal us and make us whole.

Let us turn our eyes to the East, my brothers,
Where under the sunshine lies
The land that is ours in every sod,
The gift of the King, our fathers' God,
To His children and allies.

Then will we live and work, my brothers,
And cleanse away our stain,
The ignoble and base forgot
With the daily frettings of scheme and plot,
We shall stand upright again.

Come, ere it be too late, my brothers,
And our just doom strikes us down,
And naught remain but a pinch of dust,
A flash of gold and a sword a-rust,
Of the people God called His Crown.

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