Commentary Magazine


The Khazar Poet

The Khazars, a pagan people who lived between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, were converted to Judaism about 740 c.e., following the lead of their king, Bulan II. History says that the king examined Christian, Moslem, and Jewish scholars before choosing the mother religion. The Khazars were wiped out by the Count of Kiev in the 10th century.

We are a nation of Jews; of Jews, I repeat,
converted by the harmful views of a
demented king
who for himself seeks no wing of bird or
libation.
An odd man, froward, wayward, dignified,
intellectual;
not deified (as I’ve already said) in the way
of his forebears,
but tears an idol worshipper to shreds
and would flay a fool sooner than a regicide.
Be my lovely bride, he drooled to the
witches’ Sabbath.
And the land really stood still far and wide!
Even the court poets stopped to chant chill
hymns, the mealy-mouthed, wary sons of bitches!

Don’t believe the slick story that he asked
three men of the cloth
to state their case and then chose to cleave
to the one
that the others would have as their very own.
That tale has grown with the years, flavored
and spiced;
yet to me a baleful one that savors of a poet’s
enticing plot
to justify the ways of kings to sots.
He merely chose an abstract God, an
intellectual triumph,
unseen, unheard, unheralded, shod of all
intermediaries,
bereft of all issue, no saints, no ikons, no
living tissue,
nothing that a peasant’s hand or a poet’s
mind sees and can touch;
fettered only in phylacteries.

He also chose the hind pursued by the
wolves of the world.
Even now the rude Count is at the gate,
bloody battle flag unfurled.
Is it self-hate, self-laceration—
that he should choose to mingle his fate with the game and not with the hunter?

Let us have a scientific name for this odd
pleasure.
With these Jews it’s such a common state.

______________

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