Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #53, Dragoon’s Song

Dragoon;  image colorized and modified by the author, from the public domain book Picturesque Egypt, published 1878, owned by the author.
Dragoon; image colorized and modified by the author, from the public domain book Picturesque Egypt, published 1878, owned by the author.

In this episode the song of us versus them.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Thirteenth Era, Part 3a., 1100 C.E., Tiveria

One morn not long before the Days of Awe* thunders in the air and rumbles in the ground. At first I thought, ‘Some kind of storm.’ Then, ‘an earthquake?’ Sudden alarm. Then it comes. I know this sound too well, as the thunders resolve into drummin’ with a choir inside it — terrified shrieks — as the charge of horses and cavalry whoops and the clatter of armor and the whimper of Death.
* the period from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur

And behind the forward shock of noise the walls of dust that choke your breath and cloak your face in a deathly mask so dragoon and drayman, commando and corpse all looks like carvings in a Roman crypt.

And this the song them dragoons sang:

We are the hollow men born for war.
We are the arrogant dogs of hate.
We are the sons of pagan gods.
And we are the fruit of polluted clods.

March on, march on, man of dust.
Do what you will; do what you must.

Cringe before your conquerors!
Sharp our tongue and sharp our darts.
Cringe as we defy your law.
Bloody hands and bloodless hearts.

March on, march on, hollow men.
Your road is long; who knows its end?

Look on us who scorn the just.
Past? We’ll have no piece of that.
Look on us who mock your trust.
Future? We’ll have no peace in that.

March on, march on, man of clay.
Your road is short so don’t delay.

We are the follow men, up to our waist
In criminal binges and moral disgrace.
Told what to think and led like a flock,
Our souls are as hollow as all of our talk.

March on, march on through waste and dread.
Like Azazel’s goat you are tethered and led.

We are the wallow men, slogging in lies.
We hide our impotence behind our knives.
We hide our envy in a bigot’s abuse,
And express ourselves best with a mob and a noose.

March on, march on, hollow men.
March on, and reap your punishment.

Is this the song I heard them sing? Well, not exactly. I’m interpretin’ with the lens of time to focus it and a lens of Torah for judgin’ it. What they really sung is more like this:

We are good so we walk with God.
And God is good so He walks with us.
And what’s the proof that we are good
And therefore God will walk with us?
That we are strong in conquering;
That cities will fall and kings will flee.
And if we stumble, if we fall,
And if our enemies slaughter us?
Still God is with us and we are good
For our foes have called on demon gods
And God will curse them in time to come.
For us, who are good, God is our cause
And all that we do conforms to His laws.

And I’ve heard it like this in every tongue.

It was over quick. The little Seljuk garrison fled, them as weren’t drugged or dead asleep. The Frankish knights expanded their grip on the Holy Land and once again, Bouillon’s net was cast over me, like a fish in the lake. But Gideon and his holy house cast a tighter and finer woven net over our faces and saved us.

Confrontin’ the captains of the merciless knights that searched out the enemies of their God and their king, Gideon raised his fist and swore:
“We reject them rabbinate guys and their heavy and laborsome yoke of law. Like you, we read the Truth of the Book, and have no use for the excesses of the Jews.”

And them lightless knights, lost in their dream of sword and blood and the god of them, embraced Gideon as a brother in Christ. Though they sniffed around with suspicious snouts they had no use for these impoverished folk. There was little to rob and less to fear. The Seljuk garrisons they commandeered, then busied themselves with their noble works: demolishin’ mosques and synagogues and buildin’ a church where the main mosque stood. Beauteous but for its mortar of hate.

Meanwhile, back on the outskirts of town us rabbinate Jews and Karaites continue our studies, preparin’ our Souls *to stoke the star maker machinery* with heavenly song and earthly deeds.
*-* Joni Mitchell, Free Man in Paris

Skillful hands they say I had and a heart for workin’ an honorable craft, so I *put aside swords and picked up a quill* and enfolded myself in this center of scribes, to train myself in the sofer’s craft. And Batkol, expandin’ on the work of me, took to learnin’ the bookbinder’s art along with gildin’ and color work. All them scrolls and ketubahs* and books and amulets for protectin’ souls, holy and artful — they opens a path for our Lor to descend and inspire us. Or so we imagine, as we starts to learn a callin’ of God to lift our world while reverbin’ the Lor to lift ourselves.
*-* Country Joe and the Fish, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag; * marriage contracts

Christian, Muslim, Karaite, Jew, and the crooked branches that grow from them, and the gnarly roots that feed us all. Plus family, clan, cult, and sect that binds us here and divides us there; herders, farmers, merchants, tradesmen, clergy, chiefs, and government men; Frank and Arab, Turk and Jew and many another in their people-hoods; all breathe the dust of Tiveria.

But cast a pot down on a rock. Collect the shatters. What you have is still your pot but not a pot. Like any person, like any place: fractured pieces. Many of them still hold together, more or less, with many a patch and many a leak, tho sometime it falls into a heap. And each of us, a body’s mind, and a mind’s soul, a fractured pot. We hold together, more or less. Sometimes, those who are fractured least appear most strong, appear most wise. And sometimes those who are fractured least are cold and dull and self absorbed. As if the cracks let in the light and lackin’ cracks are lackin’ life. And sometimes the heavy hammer of time comes arkin’ down, and strong or weak, foolish or wise, don’t matter at all. Shards and tears are all that’s left.


In the next episode a little art history to honor my wife.

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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