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Awestruck Ben Isaac stood. The desert wind
Blew his long mantle backward, laying bare
The mournful secret of his shirt of hair.
“I too, O friend, if not in act,” he said,
“In thought have verily sinned. Hast thou not read,
‘Better the eye should see than that desire Should wander?
’ Burning with a hidden fire
That tears and prayers quench not, I come to thee
For pity and for help, as thou to me.
Pray for me, O my friend!” But Nathan cried,
‘Pray thou for me, Ben Isaac!’
Side by side
In the low sunshine by the turban stone
They knelt; each made his brother's woe his own,
Forgetting, in the agony and stress
Of pitying love, his claim of selfishness;
Peace, for his friend besought, his own became;
His prayers were answered in another's name;
And, when at last they rose up to embrace,
Each saw God's pardon in his brother's face!
Long after, when his headstone gathered moss,
Traced on the targum-marge of Onkelos
In Rabbi Nathan's hand these words were read:
“Hope not the cure of sin till Self is dead;
Forget it in love's service, and the debt
Thou canst not pay the angels shall forget;
Heaven's gate is shut to him who comes alone;
Save thou a soul, and it shall save thy own!”
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