THE POEMS of EMMA LAZARUS
By Emma Lazarus
in Two Volumes
Jewish Poems: Translation
As a convenience to the reader I have included in this volume the biographical sketch of Emma Lazarus which originally appeared only in Vol. I. of these works. Further, the sketch contains references to passages contained in this volume.—D.L.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF EMMA LAZARUS.
THE NEW YEAR. THE CROWING OF THE RED COCK. IN EXILE. IN MEMORIAM—REV. J. J. LYONS. THE VALLEY OF THE BACA. THE BANNER OF THE JEW. THE GUARDIAN OF THE RED DISK. THE NEW EZEKIEL. THE CHOICE. THE WORLD'S JUSTICE. THE SUPREME SACRIFICE. THE FEAST OF LIGHT GIFTS. BAR KOCHBA. 1492. THE BIRTH OF MAN. RASCHI IN PRAGUE. THE DEATH OF RASCHI. AN EPISTLE.
BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON: LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE. I. The Exodus. II. Treasures. III. The Sower. IV. The Test. V. Currents. VI. The Prophet. VII. Chrysalis.
TO CARMEN SYLVA. THE DANCE TO DEATH.
FROM SOLOMON BEN JUDAH GABIROL. Night-Piece. Night-Thoughts. Meditations. Hymn. To a Detractor. Fragment. Stanzas. Wine and Grief. Defiance. A Degenerate Age.
FROM ABUL HASSAN JUDAH BEN HA-LEVI.
A Letter to his Friend Isaac. Admonition. Love-Song. Separation. Longing for Jerusalem. On the Voyage to Jerusalem. To the West Wind.
FROM MOSES BEN ESRA.
Extracts from the Book of Tarshish, or "Necklace of Pearls." In the Night. Love Song of Alcharisi.
A TRANSLATION AND TWO IMITATIONS.
I. Donna Clara. II. Don Pedrillo. III. Fra Pedro.
TRANSLATIONS FROM PETRARCH.
In Vita, LXVII. In Vita, LXXVI. In Vita, CV. In Vita, CIX. In Morte, II. On the Death of Cardinal Colonna and Laura. In Morte, XLIII. In Vita. Canzone XI. Fragment. Canzone XII. Fragment. Trionfo d'Amore. Fragment. Trionfo della Morte.
TRANSLATIONS FROM ALFRED DE MUSSET.
The May Night. The October Night.
NOTES TO "EPISTLE" OF JOSHUA IBN VIVES OF ALLORQUI.
Most of the poems in this volume were originally printed in "The American Hebrew."
Publisher's note: Thanks are due to the Editors of "The Century," Lippincott's Magazine, and "The Critic," for their courtesy in allowing the poems published by them to be reprinted in these pages.
EMMA LAZARUS. (Written for "The Century Magazine")
Born July 22, 1849; Died November 19, 1887.
One hesitates to lift the veil and throw the light upon a life so hidden and a personality so withdrawn as that of Emma Lazarus; but while her memory is fresh, and the echo of her songs still lingers in these pages, we feel it a duty to call up her presence once more, and to note the traits that made it remarkable and worthy to shine out clearly before the world. Of dramatic episode or climax in her life there is none; outwardly all was placid and serene, like an untroubled stream whose depths alone hold the strong, quick tide. The story of her life is the story of a mind, of a spirit, ever seeking, ever striving, and pressing onward and upward to new truth and light. Her works are the mirror of this progress. In reviewing them, the first point that strikes us is the precocity, or rather the spontaneity, of her poetic gift. She was a born singer; poetry was her natural language, and to write was less effort than to speak, for she was a shy, sensitive child, with strange reserves and reticences, not easily putting herself "en rapport" with those around her. Books were her world from her earliest years; in them she literally lost and found herself. She was eleven years old when the War of Succession broke out, which inspired her first lyric outbursts. Her poems and translations written between the ages of fourteen and seventeen were collected, and constituted her first published volume. Crude and immature as these productions naturally were, and utterly condemned by the writer's later judgment, they are, nevertheless, highly interesting and characteristic, giving, as they do, the keynote of much that afterwards unfolded itself in her life. One cannot fail to be rather painfully impressed by the profound melancholy pervading the book. The opening poem is "In Memoriam,"—on the death of a school friend and companion; and the two following poems also have death for theme. "On a Lock of my Mother's Hair" gives us reflections on growing old. These are the four poems written at the age of fourteen. There is not a wholly glad and joyous strain in the volume, and we might smile at the recurrence of broken vows, broken hearts, and broken lives in the experience of this maiden just entered upon her teens, were it not that the innocent child herself is in such deadly earnest. The two long narrative poems, "Bertha" and "Elfrida," are tragic in the extreme. Both are dashed off apparently at white heat: "Elfrida," over fifteen hundred lines of blank verse, in two weeks; "Bertha," in three and a half. We have said that Emma Lazarus was a born singer, but she did not sing, like a bird, for joy of being alive; and of being young, alas! there is no hint in these youthful effusions, except inasmuch as this unrelieved gloom, this ignorance of "values," so to speak, is a sign of youth, common especially among gifted persons of acute and premature sensibilities, whose imagination, not yet focused by reality, overreached the mark. With Emma Lazarus, however, this sombre streak has a deeper root; something of birth and temperament is in it—the stamp and heritage of a race born to suffer. But dominant and fundamental though it was, Hebraism was only latent thus far. It was classic and romantic art that first attracted and inspired her. She pictures Aphrodite the beautiful, arising from the waves, and the beautiful Apollo and his loves,—Daphne, pursued by the god, changing into the laurel, and the enamored Clytie into the faithful sunflower. Beauty, for its own sake, supreme and unconditional, charmed her primarily and to the end. Her restless spirit found repose in the pagan idea,—the absolute unity and identity of man with nature, as symbolized in the Greek myths, where every natural force becomes a person, and where, in turn, persons pass with equal readiness and freedom back into nature again.
In this connection a name would suggest itself even if it did not appear,—Heine, the Greek, Heine the Jew, Heine the Romanticist, as Emma Lazarus herself has styled him; and already in this early volume of hers we have trace of the kinship and affinity that afterwards so plainly declared itself. Foremost among the translations are a number of his songs, rendered with a finesse and a literalness that are rarely combined. Four years later, at the age of twenty-one, she published her second volume, "Admetus and Other Poems," which at once took rank as literature both in America and England, and challenged comparison with the work of established writers. Of classic themes we have "Admetus" and "Orpheus," and of romantic the legend of Tannhauser and of the saintly Lohengrin. All are treated with an artistic finish that shows perfect mastery of her craft, without detracting from the freshness and flow of her inspiration. While sounding no absolutely new note in the world, she yet makes us aware of a talent of unusual distinction, and a highly endowed nature,—a sort of tact of sentiment and expression, an instinct of the true and beautiful, and that quick intuition which is like second-sight in its sensitiveness to apprehend and respond to external stimulus. But it is not the purely imaginative poems in this volume that most deeply interest us. We come upon experience of life in these pages; not in the ordinary sense, however, of outward activity and movement, but in the hidden undercurrent of being. "The epochs of our life are not in the visible facts, but in the silent thoughts by the wayside as we walk." This is the motto, drawn from Emerson, which she chooses for her poem of "Epochs," which marks a pivotal moment in her life. Difficult to analyze, difficult above all to convey, if we would not encroach upon the domain of private and personal experience, is the drift of this poem, or rather cycle of poems, that ring throughout with a deeper accent and a more direct appeal than has yet made itself felt. It is the drama of the human soul,—"the mystic winged and flickering butterfly," "flitting between earth and sky," in its passage from birth to death.
A golden morning of June! "Sweet empty sky without a stain." Sunlight and mist and "ripple of rain-fed rills." "A murmur and a singing manifold."
"What simple things be these the soul to raise To bounding joy, and make young pulses beat With nameless pleasure, finding life so sweet!"
Such is youth, a June day, fair and fresh and tender with dreams and longing and vague desire. The morn lingers and passes, but the noon has not reached its height before the clouds begin to rise, the sunshine dies, the air grows thick and heavy, the lightnings flash, the thunder breaks among the hills, rolls and gathers and grows, until
Behold, yon bolt struck home, And over ruined fields the storm hath come."
Now we have the phases of the soul,—the shock and surprise of grief in the face of the world made desolate. Loneliness and despair for a space, and then, like stars in the night, the new births of the spirit, the wonderful outcoming from sorrow: the mild light of patience at first; hope and faith kindled afresh in the very jaws of evil; the new meaning and worth of life beyond sorrow, beyond joy; and finally duty, the holiest word of all, that leads at last to victory and peace. The poem rounds and completes itself with the close of "the long, rich day," and the release of
"The mystic winged and flickering butterfly, A human soul, that drifts at liberty, Ah! who can tell to what strange paradise, To what undreamed-of fields and lofty skies!"
We have dwelt at some length upon this poem, which seems to us, in a certain sense, subjective and biographical; but upon closer analysis there is still another conclusion to arrive at. In "Epochs" we have, doubtless, the impress of a calamity brought very near to the writer, and profoundly working upon her sensibilities; not however by direct, but reflex action, as it were, and through sympathetic emotion—the emotion of the deeply-stirred spectator, of the artist, the poet who lives in the lives of others, and makes their joys and their sorrows his own.
Before dismissing this volume we may point out another clue as to the shaping of mind and character. The poem of "Admetus" is dedicated "to my friend Ralph Waldo Emerson." Emma Lazarus was between seventeen and eighteen years of age when the writings of Emerson fell into her hands, and it would be difficult to over-estimate the impression produced upon her. As she afterwards wrote: "To how many thousand youthful hearts has not his word been the beacon—nay, more, the guiding star—that led them safely through periods of mental storm and struggle!" Of no one is this more true than herself. Left, to a certain extent, without compass or guide, without any positive or effective religious training, this was the first great moral revelation of her life. We can easily realize the chaos and ferment of an over-stimulated brain, steeped in romantic literature, and given over to the wayward leadings of the imagination. Who can tell what is true, what is false, in a world where fantasy is as real as fact? Emerson's word fell like truth itself, "a shaft of light shot from the zenith," a golden rule of thought and action. His books were bread and wine to her, and she absorbed them into her very being. She felt herself invincibly drawn to the master, "that fount of wisdom and goodness," and it was her great privilege during these years to be brought into personal relations with him. From the first he showed her a marked interest and sympathy, which became for her one of the most valued possessions of her life. He criticised her work with the fine appreciation and discrimination that made him quick to discern the quality of her talent as well as of her personality, and he was no doubt attracted by her almost transparent sincerity and singleness of soul, as well as by the simplicity and modesty that would have been unusual even in a person not gifted. He constituted himself, in a way, her literary mentor, advised her as to the books she should read and the attitude of mind she should cultivate. For some years he corresponded with her very faithfully; his letters are full of noble and characteristic utterances, and give evidence of a warm regard that in itself was a stimulus and a high incentive. But encouragement even from so illustrious a source failed to elate the young poetess, or even to give her a due sense of the importance and value of her work, or the dignity of her vocation. We have already alluded to her modesty in her unwillingness to assert herself or claim any prerogative,—something even morbid and exaggerated, which we know not how to define, whether as over-sensitiveness or indifference. Once finished, the heat and glow of composition spent, her writings apparently ceased to interest her. She often resented any allusion to them on the part of intimate friends, and the public verdict as to their excellence could not reassure or satisfy her. The explanation is not far, perhaps, to seek. Was it not the "Ewig- Weibliche" that allows no prestige but its own? Emma Lazarus was a true woman, too distinctly feminine to wish to be exceptional, or to stand alone and apart, even by virtue of superiority.
A word now as to her life and surroundings. She was one of a family of seven, and her parents were both living. Her winters were passed in New York, and her summers by the sea. In both places her life was essentially quiet and retired. The success of her book had been mainly in the world of letters. In no wise tricked out to catch the public eye, her writings had not yet made her a conspicuous figure, but were destined slowly to take their proper place and give her the rank that she afterwards held.
For some years now almost everything that she wrote was published in "Lippincott's Magazine," then edited by John Foster Kirk, and we shall still find in her poems the method and movement of her life. Nature is still the fount and mirror, reflecting, and again reflected, in the soul. We have picture after picture, almost to satiety, until we grow conscious of a lack of substance and body and of vital play to the thought, as though the brain were spending itself in dreamings and reverie, the heart feeding upon itself, and the life choked by its own fullness without due outlet. Happily, however, the heavy cloud of sadness has lifted, and we feel the subsidence of waves after a storm. She sings "Matins:"—
"Does not the morn break thus, Swift, bright, victorious, With new skies cleared for us Over the soul storm-tost? Her night was long and deep, Strange visions vexed her sleep, Strange sorrows bade her weep, Her faith in dawn was lost.
"No halt, no rest for her, The immortal wanderer From sphere to higher sphere Toward the pure source of day. The new light shames her fears, Her faithlessness and tears, As the new sun appears To light her god-like way."
Nature is the perpetual resource and consolation. "'T is good to be alive!" she says, and why? Simply,
"To see the light That plays upon the grass, to feel (and sigh With perfect pleasure) the mild breeze stir Among the garden roses, red and white, With whiffs of fragrancy."
She gives us the breath of the pines and of the cool, salt seas, "illimitably sparkling." Her ears drink the ripple of the tide, and she stops
"To gaze as one who is not satisfied With gazing at the large, bright, breathing sea."
"Phantasies" (after Robert Schumann) is the most complete and perfect poem of this period. Like "Epochs," it is a cycle of poems, and the verse has caught the very trick of music,—alluring, baffling, and evasive. This time we have the landscape of the night, the glamour of moon and stars,—pictures half real and half unreal, mystic imaginings, fancies, dreams, and the enchantment of "faerie," and throughout the unanswered cry, the eternal "Wherefore" of destiny. Dawn ends the song with a fine clear note, the return of day, night's misty phantoms rolled away, and the world itself, again green, sparkling and breathing freshness.
In 1874 she published "Alide," a romance in prose drawn from Goethe's autobiography. It may be of interest to quote the letter she received from Tourgeneff on this occasion:—
"Although, generally speaking, I do not think it advisable to take celebrated men, especially poets and artists, as a subject for a novel, still I am truly glad to say that I have read your book with the liveliest interest. It is very sincere and very poetical at the same time; the life and spirit of Germany have no secrets for you, and your characters are drawn with a pencil as delicate as it is strong. I feel very proud of the approbation you give to my works, and of the influence you kindly attribute to them on your own talent; an author who write as you do is not a pupil in art any more; he is not far from being himself a master."
Charming and graceful words, of which the young writer was justly proud.
About this time occurred the death of her mother, the first break in the home and family circle. In August of 1876 she made a visit to Concord, at the Emersons', memorable enough for her to keep a journal and note down every incident and detail. Very touching to read now, in its almost childlike simplicity, is this record of "persons that pass and shadows that remain." Mr. Emerson himself meets her at the station, and drives with her in his little one-horse wagon to his home, the gray square house, with dark green blinds, set amidst noble trees. A glimpse of the family,—"the stately, white-haired Mrs. Emerson, and the beautiful, faithful Ellen, whose figure seems always to stand by the side of her august father." Then the picture of Concord itself, lovely and smiling, with its quiet meadows, quiet slopes, and quietest of rivers. She meets the little set of Concord people: Mr. Alcott, for whom she does not share Mr. Emerson's enthusiasm; and William Ellery Channing, whose figure stands out like a gnarled and twisted scrub-oak,—a pathetic, impossible creature, whose cranks and oddities were submitted to on account of an innate nobility of character. "Generally crabbed and reticent with strangers, he took a liking to me," says Emma Lazarus. "The bond of our sympathy was my admiration for Thoreau, whose memory he actually worships, having been his constant companion in his best days, and his daily attendant in the last years of illness and heroic suffering. I do not know whether I was most touched by the thought of the unique, lofty character that had inspired this depth and fervor of friendship, or by the pathetic constancy and pure affection of the poor, desolate old man before me, who tried to conceal his tenderness and sense of irremediable loss by a show of gruffness and philosophy. He never speaks of Thoreau's death," she says, "but always 'Thoreau's loss,' or 'when I lost Mr. Thoreau,' or 'when Mr. Thoreau went away from Concord;' nor would he confess that he missed him, for there was not a day, an hour, a moment, when he did not feel that his friend was still with him and had never left him. And yet a day or two after," she goes on to say, "when I sat with him in the sunlit wood, looking at the gorgeous blue and silver summer sky, he turned to me and said: 'Just half of the world died for me when I lost Mr. Thoreau. None of it looks the same as when I looked at it with him.'... He took me through the woods and pointed out to me every spot visited and described by his friend. Where the hut stood is a little pile of stones, and a sign, 'Site of Thoreau's Hut,' and a few steps beyond is the pond with thickly-wooded shore,—everything exquisitely peaceful and beautiful in the afternoon light, and not a sound to be heard except the crickets or the 'z-ing' of the locusts which Thoreau has described. Farther on he pointed out to me, in the distant landscape, a low roof, the only one visible, which was the roof of Thoreau's birthplace. He had been over there many times, he said, since he lost Mr. Thoreau, but had never gone in,—he was afraid it might look lonely! But he had often sat on a rock in front of the house and looked at it." On parting from his young friend, Mr. Channing gave her a package, which proved to be a copy of his own book on Thoreau, and the pocket compass which Thoreau carried to the Maine woods and on all his excursions. Before leaving the Emersons she received the proof-sheets of her drama of "The Spagnoletto," which was being printed for private circulation. She showed them to Mr. Emerson, who had expressed a wish to see them, and, after reading them, he gave them back to her with the comment that they were "good." She playfully asked him if he would not give her a bigger word to take home to the family. He laughed, and said he did not know of any; but he went on to tell her that he had taken it up, not expecting to read it through, and had not been able to put it down. Every word and line told of richness in the poetry, he said, and as far as he could judge the play had great dramatic opportunities. Early in the autumn "The Spagnoletto" appeared,—a tragedy in five acts, the scene laid in Italy, 1655.
Without a doubt, every one in these days will take up with misgiving, and like Mr. Emerson "not expecting to read it through," a five-act tragedy of the seventeenth century, so far removed apparently from the age and present actualities,—so opposed to the "Modernite," which has come to be the last word of art. Moreover, great names at once appear; great shades arise to rebuke the presumptuous new-comer in this highest realm of expression. "The Spagnoletto" has grave defects that would probably preclude its ever being represented on the stage. The denoument especially is unfortunate, and sins against our moral and aesthetic instinct. The wretched, tiger-like father stabs himself in the presence of his crushed and erring daughter, so that she may forever be haunted by the horror and the retribution of his death. We are left suspended, as it were, over an abyss, our moral judgment thwarted, our humanity outraged. But "The Spagnoletto" is, nevertheless, a remarkable production, and pitched in another key from anything the writer has yet given us. Heretofore we have only had quiet, reflective, passive emotion: now we have a storm and sweep of passion for which we were quite unprepared. Ribera's character is charged like a thunder-cloud with dramatic elements. Maria Rosa is the child of her father, fired at a flash, "deaf, dumb, and blind" at the touch of passion.
"Does love steal gently o'er our soul?"
"What if he come, A cloud, a fire, a whirlwind?"
and then the cry:
"O my God! This awful joy in mine own heart is love."
"While you are here the one thing real to me In all the universe is love."
Exquisitely tender and refined are the love scenes—at the ball and in the garden—between the dashing prince-lover in search of his pleasure and the devoted girl with her heart in her eyes, on her lips, in her hand. Behind them, always like a tragic fate, the somber figure of the Spagnoletto, and over all the glow and color and soul of Italy.
In 1881 appeared the translation of Heine's poems and ballads, which was generally accepted as the best version of that untranslatable poet. Very curious is the link between that bitter, mocking, cynic spirit and the refined, gentle spirit of Emma Lazarus. Charmed by the magic of his verse, the iridescent play of his fancy, and the sudden cry of the heart piercing through it all, she is as yet unaware or only vaguely conscious of the of the real bond between them: the sympathy in the blood, the deep, tragic, Judaic passion of eighteen hundred years that was smouldering in her own heart, soon to break out and change the whole current of thought and feeling.
Already, in 1879, the storm was gathering. In a distant province of Russia at first, then on the banks of the Volga, and finally in Moscow itself, the old cry was raised, the hideous mediaeval charge revived, and the standard of persecution unfurled against the Jews. Province after province took it up. In Bulgaria, Servia, and, above all, Roumania, where, we were told, the sword of the Czar had been drawn to protect the oppressed, Christian atrocities took the place of Moslem atrocities, and history turned a page backward into the dark annals of violence and crime. And not alone in despotic Russia, but in Germany, the seat of modern philosophic thought and culture, the rage of Anti-Semitism broke out and spread with fatal ease and potency. In Berlin itself tumults and riots were threatened. We in America could scarcely comprehend the situation or credit the reports, and for a while we shut our eyes and ears to the facts; but we were soon rudely awakened from our insensibility, and forced to face the truth. It was in England that the voice was first raised in behalf of justice and humanity. In January, 1881, there appeared in the "London Times" a series of articles, carefully compiled on the testimony of eye-witnesses, and confirmed by official documents, records, etc., giving an account of events that had been taking place in southern and western Russia during a period of nine months, between April and December of 1880. We do not need to recall the sickening details. The headings will suffice: outrage, murder, arson, and pillage, and the result,—100,000 Jewish families made homeless and destitute, and nearly $100,000,000 worth of property destroyed. Nor need we recall the generous outburst of sympathy and indignation from America. "It is not that it is the oppression of Jews by Russia," said Mr. Evarts in the meeting at Chickering Hall Wednesday evening, February 4; "it is that it is the oppression of men and women, and we are men and women." So spoke civilized Christendom, and for Judaism,—who can describe that thrill of brotherhood, quickened anew, the immortal pledge of the race, made one again through sorrow? For Emma Lazarus it was a trumpet call that awoke slumbering and unguessed echoes. All this time she had been seeking heroic ideals in alien stock, soulless and far removed; in pagan mythology and mystic, mediaeval Christianity, ignoring her very birthright,—the majestic vista of the past, down which, "high above flood and fire," had been conveyed the precious scroll of the Moral Law. Hitherto Judaism had been a dead letter to her. Of Portuguese descent, her family had always been members of the oldest and most orthodox congregation of New York, where strict adherence to custom and ceremonial was the watchword of faith; but it was only during her childhood and earliest years that she attended the synagogue, and conformed to the prescribed rites and usages which she had now long since abandoned as obsolete and having no bearing on modern life. Nor had she any great enthusiasm for her own people. As late as April, 1882, she published in "The Century Magazine" an article written probably some months before, entitled "Was the Earl of Beaconsfield a Representative Jew?" in which she is disposed to accept as the type of the modern Jew the brilliant, successful, but not over-scrupulous chevalier d'industrie. In view of subsequent, or rather contemporaneous events, the closing paragraph of the article in question is worthy of being cited:—
"Thus far their religion [the Jewish], whose mere preservation under such adverse conditions seems little short of a miracle, has been deprived of the natural means of development and progress, and has remained a stationary force. The next hundred years will, in our opinion be the test of their vitality as a people; the phase of toleration upon which they are only now entering will prove whether or not they are capable of growth."
By a curious, almost fateful juxtaposition, in the same number of the magazine appeared Madame Ragozin's defense of Russian barbarity, and in the following (May) number Emma Lazarus's impassioned appeal and reply, "Russian Christianity versus Modern Judaism." From this time dated the crusade that she undertook in behalf of her race, and the consequent expansion of all her faculties, the growth of spiritual power which always ensues when a great cause is espoused and a strong conviction enters the soul. Her verse rang out as it had never rung before,—a clarion note, calling a people to heroic action and unity, to the consciousness and fulfillment of a grand destiny. When has Judaism been so stirred as by "The Crowing of the Red Cock" and
THE BANNER OF THE JEW.
Wake, Israel, wake! Recall to-day The glorious Maccabean rage, The sire heroic, hoary-gray, His five-fold lion-lineage; The Wise, the Elect, the Help-of-God, The Burst-of-Spring, the Avenging Rod.
From Mizpeh's mountain ridge they saw Jerusalem's empty streets; her shrine Laid waste where Greeks profaned the Law With idol and with pagan sign. Mourners in tattered black were there With ashes sprinkled on their hair.
Then from the stony peak there rang A blast to ope the graves; down poured The Maccabean clan, who sang Their battle anthem to the Lord. Five heroes lead, and following, see Ten thousand rush to victory!
Oh for Jerusalem's trumpet now, To blow a blast of shattering power, To wake the sleeper high and low, And rouse them to the urgent hour! No hand for vengeance, but to save, A million naked swords should wave.
Oh, deem not dead that martial fire, Say not the mystic flame is spent! With Moses' law and David's lyre, Your ancient strength remains unbent. Let but an Ezra rise anew, To lift the BANNER OF THE JEW!
A rag, a mock at first,—erelong When men have bled and women wept, To guard its precious folds from wrong, Even they who shrunk, even they who slept, Shall leap to bless it and to save. Strike! for the brave revere the brave!
The dead forms burst their bonds and lived again. She sings "Rosh Hashanah" (the Jewish New Year) and "Hanuckah" (the Feast of Lights):—
"Kindle the taper like the steadfast star Ablaze on Evening's forehead o'er the earth, And add each night a lustre till afar An eight-fold splendor shine above thy hearth. Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre, Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn; Chant psalms of victory till the heart take fire, The Maccabean spirit leap new-born."
And "The New Ezekiel:"—
"What! can these dead bones live, whose sap is dried By twenty scorching centuries of wrong? Is this the House of Israel whose pride Is as a tale that's told, an ancient song? Are these ignoble relics all that live Of psalmist, priest, and prophet? Can the breath Of very heaven bid these bones revive, Open the graves, and clothe the ribs of death? Yea, Prophesy, the Lord hath said again: Say to the wind, come forth and breathe afresh, Even that they may live, upon these slain, And bone to bone shall leap, and flesh to flesh. The spirit is not dead, proclaim the word. Where lay dead bones a host of armed men stand! I ope your graves, my people, saith the Lord, And I shall place you living in your land."
Her whole being renewed and refreshed itself at its very source. She threw herself into the study of her race, its language, literature, and history.
Breaking the outward crust, she pierced to the heart of the faith and "the miracle" of its survival. What was it other than the ever-present, ever-vivifying spirit itself, which cannot die,—the religious and ethical zeal which fires the whole history of the people, and of which she herself felt the living glow within her own soul? She had come upon the secret and the genius of Judaism,—that absolute interpenetration and transfusion of spirit with body and substance which, taken literally, often reduces itself to a question of food and drink, a dietary regulation, and again, in proper splendor, incarnates itself and shines out before humanity in the prophets, teachers, and saviors of mankind.
Those were busy, fruitful years for Emma Lazarus, who worked, not with the pen alone, but in the field of practical and beneficent activity. For there was an immense task to accomplish. The tide of immigration had set in, and ship after ship came laden with hunted human beings flying from their fellow-men, while all the time, like a tocsin, rang the terrible story of cruelty and persecution,—horrors that the pen refuses to dwell upon. By the hundreds and thousands they flocked upon our shores,—helpless, innocent victims of injustice and oppression, panic-stricken in the midst of strange and utterly new surroundings.
Emma Lazarus came into personal contact with these people, and visited them in their refuge on Ward Island. While under the influence of all the emotions aroused by this great crisis in the history of her race, she wrote the "Dance of Death," a drama of persecution of the twelfth century, founded upon the authentic records,—unquestionably her finest work in grasp and scope, and, above all, in moral elevation and purport. The scene is laid in Nordhausen, a free city in Thuringia, where the Jews, living, as the deemed, in absolute security and peace, were caught up in the wave of persecution that swept over Europe at that time. Accused of poisoning the wells and causing the pestilence, or black death, as it was called, they were condemned to be burned.
We do not here intend to enter upon a critical or literary analysis of the play, or to point out dramatic merits or defects, but we should like to make its readers feel with us the holy ardor and impulse of the writer and the spiritual import of the work. The action is without surprise, the doom fixed from the first; but so glowing is the canvas with local and historic color, so vital and intense the movement, so resistless, the "internal evidence," if we may call it thus, penetrating its very substance and form, that we are swept along as by a wave of human sympathy and grief. In contrast with "The Spagnoletto," how large is the theme and how all-embracing the catastrophe! In place of the personal we have the drama of the universal. Love is only a flash now,—a dream caught sight of and at once renounced at a higher claim.
"Have you no smile to welcome love with, Liebhaid? Why should you tremble? Prince, I am afraid! Afraid of my own heart, my unfathomed joy, A blasphemy against my father's grief, My people's agony!
"What good shall come, forswearing kith and God, To follow the allurements of the heart?"
asks the distracted maiden, torn between her love for he princely wooer and her devotion to the people among whom her lot has been cast.
"O God! How shall I pray for strength to love him less Than mine own soul! No more of that, I am all Israel's now. Till this cloud pass, I have no thought, no passion, no desire, Save for my people."
Individuals perish, but great ideas survive,—fortitude and courage, and that exalted loyalty and devotion to principle which alone are worth living and dying for.
The Jews pass by in procession—men, women, and children—on their way to the flames, to the sound of music, and in festal array, carrying the gold and silver vessels, the roll of the law, the perpetual lamp and the seven branched silver candle-stick of the synagogue. The crowd hoot and jeer at them.
"The misers! they will take their gems and gold Down to the grave!"
"Let us rejoice"
sing the Jewish youths in chorus; and the maidens:—
"Our feet stand within thy gates, O Zion! Within thy portals, O Jerusalem!"
The flames rise and dart among them; their garments wave, their jewels flash, as they dance and sing in the crimson blaze. The music ceases, a sound of crashing boards is heard and a great cry,—"Hallelujah!" What a glory and consecration of the martyrdom! Where shall we find a more triumphant vindication and supreme victory of spirit over matter?
"I see, I see, How Israel's ever-crescent glory makes These flames that would eclipse it dark as blots Of candle-light against the blazing sun. We die a thousand deaths,—drown, bleed, and burn. Our ashes are dispersed unto the winds. Yet the wild winds cherish the sacred seed, The fire refuseth to consume.
. . . . . . . . .
Even as we die in honor, from our death Shall bloom a myriad heroic lives, Brave through our bright example, virtuous Lest our great memory fall in disrepute."
The "Dance to Death" was published, along with other poems and translations from the Hebrew poets of mediaeval Spain, in a small column entitled "Songs of a Semite." The tragedy was dedicated, "In profound veneration and respect to the memory of George Eliot, the illustrious writer who did most among the artists of our day towards elevating and ennobling the spirit of Jewish nationality."
For this was the idea that had caught the imagination of Emma Lazarus, —a restored and independent nationality and repatriation in Palestine. In her article in "The Century" of February, 1883, on the "Jewish Problem," she says:—
"I am fully persuaded that all suggested solutions other than this are but temporary palliatives.... The idea formulated by George Eliot has already sunk into the minds of many Jewish enthusiasts, and it germinates with miraculous rapidity. 'The idea that I am possessed with,' says Deronda, 'is that of restoring a political existence to my people; making them a nation again, giving them a national centre, such as the English have, though they, too, are scattered over the face of the globe. That task which presents itself to me as a duty.... I am resolved to devote my life to it. AT THE LEAST, I MAY AWAKEN A MOVEMENT IN OTHER MINDS SUCH HAS BEEN AWAKENED IN MY OWN.' Could the noble prophetess who wrote the above words have lived but till to- day to see the ever-increasing necessity of adopting her inspired counsel,...she would have been herself astonished at the flame enkindled by her seed of fire, and the practical shape which the movement projected by her poetic vision is beginning to assume."
In November of 1882 appeared her first "Epistle to the Hebrews,"—one of a series of articles written for the "American Hebrew," published weekly through several months. Addressing herself now to a Jewish audience, she sets forth without reserve her views and hopes for Judaism, now passionately holding up the mirror for the shortcomings and peculiarities of her race. She says:—
"Every student of the Hebrew language is aware that we have in the conjugation of our verbs a mode known as the 'intensive voice,' which, by means of an almost imperceptible modification of vowel-points, intensifies the meaning of the primitive root. A similar significance seems to attach to the Jews themselves in connection with the people among whom they dwell. They are the 'intensive form' of any nationality whose language and customs they adopt.... Influenced by the same causes, they represent the same results; but the deeper lights and shadows of the Oriental temperament throw their failings, as well as their virtues, into more prominent relief."
In drawing the epistles to a close, February 24, 1883, she thus summarizes the special objects she has had in view:—
"My chief aim has been to contribute my mite towards arousing that spirit of Jewish enthusiasm which might manifest itself: First, in a return to varied pursuits and broad system of physical and intellectual education adopted by our ancestors; Second, in a more fraternal and practical movement towards alleviating the sufferings of oppressed Jews in countries less favored than our own; Third, in a closer and wider study of Hebrew literature and history and finally, in a truer recognition of the large principals of religion, liberty, and law upon which Judaism is founded, and which should draw into harmonious unity Jews of every shade of opinion."
Her interest in Jewish affairs was at its height when she planned a visit abroad, which had been a long-cherished dream, and May 15, 1883, she sailed for England, accompanied by a younger sister. We have difficulty in recognizing the tragic priestess we have been portraying in the enthusiastic child of travel who seems new-born into a new world. From the very outset she is in a maze of wonder and delight. At sea she writes:—
"Our last day on board ship was a vision of beauty from morning till night,—the sea like a mirror and the sky dazzling with light. In the afternoon we passed a ship in full sail, near enough to exchange salutes and cheers. After tossing about for six days without seeing a human being, except those on our vessel, even this was a sensation. Then an hour or two before sunset came the great sensation of—land! At first, nothing but a shadow on the far horizon, like the ghost of a ship; two or three widely scattered rocks which were the promontories of Ireland, and sooner than we expected we were steaming along low-lying purple hills."
The journey to Chester gives her "the first glimpse of mellow England,"—a surprise which is yet no surprise, so well known and familiar does it appear. Then Chester, with its quaint, picturesque streets, "like the scene of a Walter Scott novel, the cathedral planted in greenness, and the clear, gray river where a boatful of scarlet dragoons goes gliding by." Everything is a picture for her special benefit. She "drinks in, at every sense, the sights, sounds, and smells, and the unimaginable beauty of it all." Then the bewilderment of London, and a whirl of people, sights, and impressions. She was received with great distinction by the Jews, and many of the leading men among them warmly advocated her views. But it was not alone from her own people that she met with exceptional consideration. She had the privilege of seeing many of the most eminent personages of the day, all of whom honored her with special and personal regard. There was, no doubt, something that strongly attracted people to her at this time,—the force of her intellect at once made itself felt, while at the same time the unaltered simplicity and modesty of her character, and her readiness and freshness of enthusiasm, kept her still almost like a child.
She makes a flying visit to Paris, where she happens to be on the 14th of July, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastile, and of the beginning of the republic; she drives to Versailles, "that gorgeous shell of royalty, where the crowd who celebrate the birth of the republic wander freely through the halls and avenues, and into the most sacred rooms of the king.... There are ruins on every side in Paris," she says; "ruins of the Commune, or the Siege, or the Revolution; it is terrible—it seems as if the city were seared with fire and blood."
Such was Paris to her then, and she hastens back to her beloved London, starting from there on the tour through England that has been mapped out for her. "A Day in Surrey with William Morris," published in "The Century Magazine," describes her visit to Merton Abbey, the old Norman monastery, converted into a model factory by the poet-humanitarian, who himself received her as his guest, conducted her all over the picturesque building and garden, and explained to her his views of art and his aims for the people.
She drives through Kent, "where the fields, valleys, and slopes are garlanded with hops and ablaze with scarlet poppies." Then Canterbury, Windsor, and Oxford, Stratford, Warwick, the valley of the Wye, Wells, Exeter, and Salisbury,—cathedral after cathedral. Back to London, and then north through York, Durham, and Edinburgh, and on the 15th of September she sails for home. We have merely named the names, for it is impossible to convey an idea of the delight and importance of this trip, "a crescendo of enjoyment," as she herself calls it. Long after, in strange, dark hours of suffering, these pictures of travel arose before her, vivid and tragic even in their hold and spell upon her.
The winter of 1883-84 was not especially productive. She wrote a few reminiscences of her journey and occasional poems on the Jewish themes, which appeared in the "American Hebrew;" but for the most part gave herself up to quiet retrospect and enjoyment with her friends of the life she had had a glimpse of, and the experience she had stored,—a restful, happy period. In August of the same year she was stricken with a severe and dangerous malady, from which she slowly recovered, only to go through a terrible ordeal and affliction. Her father's health, which had long been failing, now broke down completely, and the whole winter was one long strain of acute anxiety, which culminated in his death, in March, 1885. The blow was a crushing one for Emma. Truly, the silver cord was loosed, and the golden bowl broken. Life lost its meaning and charm. Her father's sympathy and pride in her work had been her chief incentive and ambition, and had spurred her on when her own confidence and spirit failed. Never afterwards did she find complete and spontaneous expression. She decided to go abroad as the best means of regaining composure and strength and sailed once more in May for England, where she was welcomed now by the friends she had made, almost as to another home. She spent the summer very quietly at Richmond, an ideally beautiful spot in Yorkshire, where she soon felt the beneficial influence of her peaceful surroundings. "The very air seems to rest one here," she writes; and inspired by the romantic loveliness of the place, she even composed the first few chapters of a novel, begun with a good deal of dash and vigor, but soon abandoned, for she was still struggling with depression and gloom.
"I have neither ability, energy, nor purpose," she writes. "It is impossible to do anything, so I am forced to set it aside for the present; whether to take it up again or not in the future remains to be seen."
In the autumn she goes on the Continent, visiting the Hague, which "completely fascinates" her, and where she feels "stronger and more cheerful" than she has "for many a day." Then Paris, which this time amazes her "with its splendor and magnificence. All the ghosts of the Revolution are somehow laid," she writes, and she spends six weeks here enjoying to the full the gorgeous autumn weather, the sights, the picture galleries, the bookshops, the whole brilliant panorama of the life; and early in December she starts for Italy.
And now once more we come upon that keen zest of enjoyment, that pure desire and delight of the eyes, which are the prerogative of the poet,—Emma Lazarus was a poet. The beauty of the world,—what a rapture and intoxication it is, and how it bursts upon her in the very land of beauty, "where Dante and Petrarch trod!" A magic glow colours it all; no mere blues and greens anymore, but a splendor of purple and scarlet and emerald; "each tower, castle, and village shining like a jewel; the olive, the fig, and at your feet the roses, growing in mid-December." A day in Pisa seems like a week, so crowded is it with sensations and unforgettable pictures. Then a month in Florence, which is still more entrancing with its inexhaustible treasures of beauty and art; and finally Rome, the climax of it all,—
"wiping out all other places and impressions, and opening a whole new world of sensations. I am wild with the excitement of this tremendous place. I have been here a week, and have seen the Vatican and the Capitoline Museums, and the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's, besides the ruins on the streets and on the hills, and the graves of Shelley and Keats.
"It is all heart-breaking. I don't only mean those beautiful graves, overgrown with acanthus and violets, but the mutilated arches and columns and dumb appealing fragments looming up in the glowing sunshine under the Roman blue sky."
True to her old attractions, it is pagan Rome that appeals to her most strongly,—
"and the far-away past, that seems so sad and strange and near. I am even out of humor with pictures; a bit of broken stone or a fragment of a bas-relief, or a Corinthian column standing out against this lapis-lazuli sky, or a tremendous arch, are the only things I can look at for the moment,— except the Sistine Chapel, which is as gigantic as the rest, and forces itself upon you with equal might."
Already, in February, spring is in the air; "the almond-trees are in bloom, violets cover the grass, and oh! the divine, the celestial, the unheard-of beauty of it all!" It is almost a pang for her, "with its strange mixture of longing and regret and delight," and in the midst of it she says, "I have to exert all my strength not to lose myself in morbidness and depression."
Early in March she leaves Rome, consoled with the thought of returning the following winter. In June she was in England again, and spent the summer at Malvern. Disease was no doubt already beginning to prey upon her, for she was oppressed at times by a languor and heaviness amounting almost to lethargy. When she returned to London, however, in September, she felt quite well again, and started for another tour in Holland, which she enjoyed as much as before. She then settled in Paris, to await the time when she could return to Italy. But she was attacked at once with grave and alarming symptoms, that betokened a fatal end to her malady. Entirely ignorant, however, of the danger that threatened her, she kept up courage and hope, made plans for the journey, and looked forward to setting out at any moment. But the weeks passed and the months also; slowly and gradually the hope faded. The journey to Italy must be given up; she was not in condition to be brought home, and she reluctantly resigned herself to remain where she was and "convalesce," as she confidently believed, in the spring. Once again came the analogy, which she herself pointed out now, to Heine on his mattress-grave in Paris. She, too, the last time she went out, dragged herself to the Louvre, to the feet of the Venus, "the goddess without arms, who could not help." Only her indomitable will and intense desire to live seemed to keep her alive. She sunk to a very low ebb, but, as she herself expressed it, she "seemed to have always one little window looking out into life," and in the spring she rallied sufficiently to take a few drives and to sit on the balcony of her apartment. She came back to life with a feverish sort of thirst and avidity. "No such cure for pessimism," she says, "as a severe illness; the simplest pleasures are enough,—to breathe the air and see the sun."
Many plans were made for leaving Paris, but it was finally decided to risk the ocean voyage and bring her home, and accordingly she sailed July 23rd, arriving in New York on the last day of that month.
She did not rally after this; and now began her long agony, full of every kind of suffering, mental and physical. Only her intellect seemed kindled anew, and none but those who saw her during the last supreme ordeal can realize that wonderful flash and fire of the spirit before its extinction. Never did she appear so brilliant. Wasted to a shadow, and between acute attacks of pain, she talked about art, poetry, the scenes of travel, of which her brain was so full, and the phases of her own condition, with an eloquence for which even those who knew her best were quite unprepared. Every faculty seemed sharpened and every sense quickened as the "strong deliveress" approached, and the ardent soul was released from the frame that could no longer contain it.
We cannot restrain a feeling of suddenness and incompleteness and a natural pang of wonder and regret for a life so richly and so vitally endowed thus cut off in its prime. But for us it is not fitting to question or repine, but rather to rejoice in the rare possession that we hold. What is any life, even the most rounded and complete, but a fragment and a hint? What Emma Lazarus might have accomplished, had she been spared, it is idle and even ungrateful to speculate. What she did accomplish has real and peculiar significance. It is the privilege of a favored few that every fact and circumstance of their individuality shall add lustre and value to what they achieve. To be born a Jewess was a distinction for Emma Lazarus, and she in turn conferred distinction upon her race. To be born a woman also lends a grace and a subtle magnetism to her influence. Nowhere is there contradiction or incongruity. Her works bear the imprint of her character, and her character of her works; the same directness and honesty, the same limpid purity of tone, and the same atmosphere of things refined and beautiful. The vulgar, the false, and the ignoble,—she scarcely comprehended them, while on every side she was open and ready to take in and respond to whatever can adorn and enrich life. Literature was no mere "profession" for her, which shut out other possibilities; it was only a free, wide horizon and background for culture. She was passionately devoted to music, which inspired some of her best poems; and during the last years of her life, in hours of intense physical suffering, she found relief and consolation in listening to the strains of Bach and Beethoven. When she went abroad, painting was revealed to her, and she threw herself with the same ardor and enthusiasm into the study of the great masters; her last work (left unfinished) was a critical analysis of the genius and personality of Rembrandt.
And now, at the end, we ask, Has the grave really closed over all these gifts? Has that eager, passionate striving ceased, and "is the rest silence?"
Who knows? But would we break, if we could, that repose, that silence and mystery and peace everlasting?
THE NEW YEAR.
Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled, And naked branches point to frozen skies,— When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold, The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn A sea of beauty and abundance lies, Then the new year is born.
Look where the mother of the months uplifts In the green clearness of the unsunned West, Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts, Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light; Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest Profusely to requite.
Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all. The red, dark year is dead, the year just born Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob, To what undreamed-of morn?
For never yet, since on the holy height, The Temple's marble walls of white and green Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world's light Went out in darkness,—never was the year Greater with portent and with promise seen, Than this eve now and here.
Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent Hath been enlarged unto earth's farthest rim. To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went, Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave, For freedom to proclaim and worship Him, Mighty to slay and save.
High above flood and fire ye held the scroll, Out of the depths ye published still the Word. No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul: Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths, Lived to bear witness to the living Lord, Or died a thousand deaths.
In two divided streams the exiles part, One rolling homeward to its ancient source, One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart. By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled, Each separate soul contains the nation's force, And both embrace the world.
Kindle the silver candle's seven rays, Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers, The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove How strength of supreme suffering still is ours For Truth and Law and Love.
THE CROWING OF THE RED COCK.
Across the Eastern sky has glowed The flicker of a blood-red dawn, Once more the clarion cock has crowed, Once more the sword of Christ is drawn. A million burning rooftrees light The world-wide path of Israel's flight.
Where is the Hebrew's fatherland? The folk of Christ is sore bestead; The Son of Man is bruised and banned, Nor finds whereon to lay his head. His cup is gall, his meat is tears, His passion lasts a thousand years.
Each crime that wakes in man the beast, Is visited upon his kind. The lust of mobs, the greed of priest, The tyranny of kings, combined To root his seed from earth again, His record is one cry of pain.
When the long roll of Christian guilt Against his sires and kin is known, The flood of tears, the life-blood spilt The agony of ages shown, What oceans can the stain remove, From Christian law and Christian love?
Nay, close the book; not now, not here, The hideous tale of sin narrate, Reechoing in the martyr's ear, Even he might nurse revengeful hate, Even he might turn in wrath sublime, With blood for blood and crime for crime.
Coward? Not he, who faces death, Who singly against worlds has fought, For what? A name he may not breathe, For liberty of prayer and thought. The angry sword he will not whet, His nobler task is—to forget.
"Since that day till now our life is one unbroken paradise. We live a true brotherly life. Every evening after supper we take a seat under the mighty oak and sing our songs."—Extract from a letter of a Russian refugee in Texas.
Twilight is here, soft breezes bow the grass, Day's sounds of various toil break slowly off, The yoke-freed oxen low, the patient ass Dips his dry nostril in the cool, deep trough. Up from the prairie the tanned herdsmen pass With frothy pails, guiding with voices rough Their udder-lightened kine. Fresh smells of earth, The rich, black furrows of the glebe send forth.
After the Southern day of heavy toil, How good to lie, with limbs relaxed, brows bare To evening's fan, and watch the smoke-wreaths coil Up from one's pipe-stem through the rayless air. So deem these unused tillers of the soil, Who stretched beneath the shadowing oak tree, stare Peacefully on the star-unfolding skies, And name their life unbroken paradise.
The hounded stag that has escaped the pack, And pants at ease within a thick-leaved dell; The unimprisoned bird that finds the track Through sun-bathed space, to where his fellows dwell; The martyr, granted respite from the rack, The death-doomed victim pardoned from his cell,— Such only know the joy these exiles gain,— Life's sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.
Strange faces theirs, wherethrough the Orient sun Gleams from the eyes and glows athwart the skin. Grave lines of studious thought and purpose run From curl-crowned forehead to dark-bearded chin. And over all the seal is stamped thereon Of anguish branded by a world of sin, In fire and blood through ages on their name, Their seal of glory and the Gentiles' shame.
Freedom to love the law that Moses brought, To sing the songs of David, and to think The thoughts Gabirol to Spinoza taught, Freedom to dig the common earth, to drink The universal air—for this they sought Refuge o'er wave and continent, to link Egypt with Texas in their mystic chain, And truth's perpetual lamp forbid to wane.
Hark! through the quiet evening air, their song Floats forth with wild sweet rhythm and glad refrain. They sing the conquest of the spirit strong, The soul that wrests the victory from pain; The noble joys of manhood that belong To comrades and to brothers. In their strain Rustle of palms and Eastern streams one hears, And the broad prairie melts in mist of tears.
IN MEMORIAM—REV. J. J. LYONS.
The golden harvest-tide is here, the corn Bows its proud tops beneath the reaper's hand. Ripe orchards' plenteous yields enrich the land; Bring the first fruits and offer them this morn, With the stored sweetness of all summer hours, The amber honey sucked from myriad flowers, And sacrifice your best first fruits to-day, With fainting hearts and hands forespent with toil, Offer the mellow harvest's splendid spoil, To Him who gives and Him who takes away.
Bring timbrels, bring the harp of sweet accord, And in a pleasant psalm your voice attune, And blow the cornet greeting the new moon. Sing, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord, Who killeth and who quickeneth again, Who woundeth and who healeth mortal pain, Whose hand afflicts us, and who sends us peace. Hail thou slim arc of promise in the West, Thou pledge of certain plenty, peace, and rest. With the spent year, may the year's sorrows cease.
For there is mourning now in Israel, The crown, the garland of the branching tree Is plucked and withered. Ripe of years was he. The priest, the good old man who wrought so well Upon his chosen globe. For he was one Who at his seed-plot toiled through rain and sun. Morn found him not as one who slumbereth, Noon saw him faithful, and the restful night Stole o'er him at his labors to requite The just man's service with the just man's death.
What shall be said when such as he do pass? Go to the hill-side, neath the cypress-trees, Fall midst that peopled silence on your knees, And weep that man must wither as the grass. But mourn him not, whose blameless life complete Rounded its perfect orb, whose sleep is sweet, Whom we must follow, but may not recall. Salute with solemn trumpets the New Year, And offer honeyed fruits as were he here, Though ye be sick with wormwood and with gall.
THE VALLEY OF BACA.
A brackish lake is there with bitter pools Anigh its margin, brushed by heavy trees. A piping wind the narrow valley cools, Fretting the willows and the cypresses. Gray skies above, and in the gloomy space An awful presence hath its dwelling-place.
I saw a youth pass down that vale of tears; His head was circled with a crown of thorn, His form was bowed as by the weight of years, His wayworn feet by stones were cut and torn. His eyes were such as have beheld the sword Of terror of the angel of the Lord.
He passed, and clouds and shadows and thick haze Fell and encompassed him. I might not see What hand upheld him in those dismal ways, Wherethrough he staggered with his misery. The creeping mists that trooped and spread around, The smitten head and writhing form enwound.
Then slow and gradual but sure they rose, Those clinging vapors blotting out the sky. The youth had fallen not, his viewless foes Discomfited, had left the victory Unto the heart that fainted not nor failed, But from the hill-tops its salvation hailed.
I looked at him in dread lest I should see, The anguish of the struggle in his eyes; And lo, great peace was there! Triumphantly The sunshine crowned him from the sacred skies. "From strength to strength he goes," he leaves beneath The valley of the shadow and of death.
"Thrice blest who passing through that vale of Tears, Makes it a well,"—and draws life-nourishment From those death-bitter drops. No grief, no fears Assail him further, he may scorn the event. For naught hath power to swerve the steadfast soul Within that valley broken and made whole.
THE BANNER OF THE JEW.
Wake, Israel, wake! Recall to-day The glorious Maccabean rage, The sire heroic, hoary-gray, His five-fold lion-lineage: The Wise, the Elect, the Help-of-God, The Burst-of-Spring, the Avenging Rod.*
From Mizpeh's mountain-ridge they saw Jerusalem's empty streets, her shrine Laid waste where Greeks profaned the Law, With idol and with pagan sign. Mourners in tattered black were there, With ashes sprinkled on their hair.
Then from the stony peak there rang A blast to ope the graves: down poured The Maccabean clan, who sang Their battle-anthem to the Lord. Five heroes lead, and following, see, Ten thousand rush to victory!
Oh for Jerusalem's trumpet now, To blow a blast of shattering power, To wake the sleepers high and low, And rouse them to the urgent hour! No hand for vengeance—but to save, A million naked swords should wave.
Oh deem not dead that martial fire, Say not the mystic flame is spent! With Moses' law and David's lyre, Your ancient strength remains unbent. Let but an Ezra rise anew, To lift the BANNER OF THE JEW!
A rag, a mock at first—erelong, When men have bled and women wept, To guard its precious folds from wrong, Even they who shrunk, even they who slept, Shall leap to bless it, and to save. Strike! for the brave revere the brave!
*The sons of Mattathias—Jonanthan, John, Eleazer, Simon (also called the Jewel), and Jonas, the Prince
THE GUARDIAN OF THE RED DISK.
Spoken by a Citizen of Malta—1300.
A curious title held in high repute, One among many honors, thickly strewn On my lord Bishop's head, his grace of Malta. Nobly he bears them all,—with tact, skill, zeal, Fulfills each special office, vast or slight, Nor slurs the least minutia,—therewithal Wears such a stately aspect of command, Broad-checked, broad-chested, reverend, sanctified, Haloed with white about the tonsure's rim, With dropped lids o'er the piercing Spanish eyes (Lynx-keen, I warrant, to spy out heresy); Tall, massive form, o'ertowering all in presence, Or ere they kneel to kiss the large white hand. His looks sustain his deeds,—the perfect prelate, Whose void chair shall be taken, but not filled. You know not, who are foreign to the isle, Haply, what this Red Disk may be, he guards. 'T is the bright blotch, big as the Royal seal, Branded beneath the beard of every Jew. These vermin so infest the isle, so slide Into all byways, highways that may lead Direct or roundabout to wealth or power, Some plain, plump mark was needed, to protect From the degrading contact Christian folk.
The evil had grown monstrous: certain Jews Wore such a haughty air, had so refined, With super-subtile arts, strict, monkish lives, And studious habit, the coarse Hebrew type, One might have elbowed in the public mart Iscariot,—nor suspected one's soul-peril. Christ's blood! it sets my flesh a-creep to think! We may breathe freely now, not fearing taint, Praise be our good Lord Bishop! He keeps count Of every Jew, and prints on cheek or chin The scarlet stamp of separateness, of shame.
No beard, blue-black, grizzled or Judas-colored, May hide that damning little wafer-flame. When one appears therewith, the urchins know Good sport's at hand; they fling their stones and mud, Sure of their game. But most the wisdom shows Upon the unbelievers' selves; they learn Their proper rank; crouch, cringe, and hide,—lay by Their insolence of self-esteem; no more Flaunt forth in rich attire, but in dull weeds, Slovenly donned, would slink past unobserved; Bow servile necks and crook obsequious knees, Chin sunk in hollow chest, eyes fixed on earth Or blinking sidewise, but to apprehend Whether or not the hated spot be spied. I warrant my Lord Bishop has full hands, Guarding the Red Disk—lest one rogue escape!
THE NEW EZEKIEL.
What, can these dead bones live, whose sap is dried By twenty scorching centuries of wrong? Is this the House of Israel, whose pride Is as a tale that's told, an ancient song? Are these ignoble relics all that live Of psalmist, priest, and prophet? Can the breath Of very heaven bid these Bones revive, Open the graves and clothe the ribs of death?
Yea, Prophesy, the Lord hath said. Again Say to the wind, Come forth and breathe afresh, Even that they may live upon these slain, And bone to bone shall leap, and flesh to flesh. The Spirit is not dead, proclaim the word, Where lay dead bones, a host of armed men stand! I ope your graves, my people, saith the Lord, And I shall place you living in your land.
I saw in dream the spirits unbegot, Veiled, floating phantoms, lost in twilight space; For one the hour had struck, he paused; the place Rang with an awful Voice: "Soul, choose thy lot! Two paths are offered; that, in velvet-flower, Slopes easily to every earthly prize. Follow the multitude and bind thine eyes, Thou and thy sons' sons shall have peace with power. This narrow track skirts the abysmal verge, Here shalt thou stumble, totter, weep and bleed, All men shall hate and hound thee and thy seed, Thy portion be the wound, the stripe, the scourge. But in thy hand I place my lamp for light, Thy blood shall be the witness of my Law, Choose now for all the ages!" Then I saw The unveiled spirit, grown divinely bright, Choose the grim path. He turned, I knew full well The pale, great martyr-forehead shadowy-curled, The glowing eyes that had renounced the world, Disgraced, despised, immortal Israel.
THE WORLD'S JUSTICE.
If the sudden tidings came That on some far, foreign coast, Buried ages long from fame, Had been found a remnant lost Of that hoary race who dwelt By the golden Nile divine, Spake the Pharaoh's tongue and knelt At the moon-crowned Isis' shrine— How at reverend Egypt's feet, Pilgrims from all lands would meet!
If the sudden news were known, That anigh the desert-place Where once blossomed Babylon, Scions of a mighty race Still survived, of giant build, Huntsmen, warriors, priest and sage, Whose ancestral fame had filled, Trumpet-tongued, the earlier age, How at old Assyria's feet Pilgrims from all lands would meet!
Yet when Egypt's self was young, And Assyria's bloom unworn, Ere the mythic Homer sung, Ere the gods of Greece were born, Lived the nation of one God, Priests of freedom, sons of Shem, Never quelled by yoke or rod, Founders of Jerusalem— Is there one abides to-day, Seeker of dead cities, say!
Answer, now as then, THEY ARE; Scattered broadcast o'er the lands, Knit in spirit nigh and far, With indissoluble bands. Half the world adores their God, They the living law proclaim, And their guerdon is—the rod, Stripes and scourgings, death and shame. Still on Israel's head forlorn, Every nation heaps its scorn.
THE SUPREME SACRIFICE.
Well-nigh two thousand years hath Israel Suffered the scorn of man for love of God; Endured the outlaw's ban, the yoke, the rod, With perfect patience. Empires rose and fell, Around him Nebo was adored and Bel; Edom was drunk with victory, and trod On his high places, while the sacred sod Was desecrated by the infidel. His faith proved steadfast, without breach or flaw, But now the last renouncement is required. His truth prevails, his God is God, his Law Is found the wisdom most to be desired. Not his the glory! He, maligned, misknown, Bows his meek head, and says, "Thy will be done!"
THE FEAST OF LIGHTS.
Kindle the taper like the steadfast star Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth, And add each night a lustre till afar An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth. Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre, Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn; Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire, The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.
Remember how from wintry dawn till night, Such songs were sung in Zion, when again On the high altar flamed the sacred light, And, purified from every Syrian stain, The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung, With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine, Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung From one heroic stock, one seed divine.
Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem, The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan, Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem, Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod, Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king, Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God, Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."
They who had camped within the mountain-pass, Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky, Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie Disfigured and polluted—who had flung Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue, Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,
Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame, Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men, They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame, Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten. Now is their mourning into dancing turned, Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight, Week-long the festive torches shall be burned, Music and revelry wed day with night.
Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm, The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word. Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm? Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord? Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre, Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn, Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire, The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!
"O World-God, give me Wealth!" the Egyptian cried. His prayer was granted. High as heaven, behold Palace and Pyramid; the brimming tide Of lavish Nile washed all his land with gold. Armies of slaves toiled ant-wise at his feet, World-circling traffic roared through mart and street, His priests were gods, his spice-balmed kings enshrined, Set death at naught in rock-ribbed charnels deep. Seek Pharaoh's race to-day and ye shall find Rust and the moth, silence and dusty sleep.
"O World-God, give me beauty!" cried the Greek. His prayer was granted. All the earth became Plastic and vocal to his sense; each peak, Each grove, each stream, quick with Promethean flame, Peopled the world with imaged grace and light. The lyre was his, and his the breathing might Of the immortal marble, his the play Of diamond-pointed thought and golden tongue. Go seek the sun-shine race, ye find to-day A broken column and a lute unstrung.
"O World-God, give me Power!" the Roman cried. His prayer was granted. The vast world was chained A captive to the chariot of his pride. The blood of myriad provinces was drained To feed that fierce, insatiable red heart. Invulnerably bulwarked every part With serried legions and with close-meshed Code, Within, the burrowing worm had gnawed its home, A roofless ruin stands where once abode The imperial race of everlasting Rome.
"O Godhead, give me Truth!" the Hebrew cried. His prayer was granted; he became the slave Of the Idea, a pilgrim far and wide, Cursed, hated, spurned, and scourged with none to save. The Pharaohs knew him, and when Greece beheld, His wisdom wore the hoary crown of Eld. Beauty he hath forsworn, and wealth and power. Seek him to-day, and find in every land. No fire consumes him, neither floods devour; Immortal through the lamp within his hand.
Weep, Israel! your tardy meed outpour Of grateful homage on his fallen head, That never coronal of triumph wore, Untombed, dishonored, and unchapleted. If Victory makes the hero, raw Success The stamp of virtue, unremembered Be then the desperate strife, the storm and stress Of the last Warrior Jew. But if the man Who dies for freedom, loving all things less, Against world-legions, mustering his poor clan; The weak, the wronged, the miserable, to send Their death-cry's protest through the ages' span— If such an one be worthy, ye shall lend Eternal thanks to him, eternal praise. Nobler the conquered than the conqueror's end!
Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate, Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword, The children of the prophets of the Lord, Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate. Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state, The West refused them, and the East abhorred. No anchorage the known world could afford, Close-locked was every port, barred every gate. Then smiling, thou unveil'dst, O two-faced year, A virgin world where doors of sunset part, Saying, "Ho, all who weary, enter here! There falls each ancient barrier that the art Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!" 1883.
THE BIRTH OF MAN.
A Legend of the Talmud.
When angels visit earth, the messengers Of God's decree, they come as lightning, wind: Before the throne, they all are living fire. There stand four rows of angels—to the right The hosts of Michael, Gabriel's to the left, Before, the troop of Ariel, and behind, The ranks of Raphael; all, with one accord, Chanting the glory of the Everlasting. Upon the high and holy throne there rests, Invisible, the Majesty of God. About his brows the crown of mystery Whereon the sacred letters are engraved Of the unutterable Name. He grasps A sceptre of keen fire; the universe Is compassed in His glance; at His right hand Life stands, and at His left hand standeth Death.
Lo, the divine idea of making man Had spread abroad among the heavenly hosts; And all at once before the immortal throne Pressed troops of angels and of seraphim, With minds opposed, and contradicting cries: "Fulfill, great Father, thine exalted thought! Create and give unto the earth her king!" "Cease, cease, Almighty God! create no more!" And suddenly upon the heavenly sphere Deep silence fell; before the immortal throne The angel Mercy knelt, and thus he spoke: "Fulfill, great Father, thine exalted thought! Create the likeness of thyself on earth. In this new creature I will breathe the spirit Of a divine compassion; he shall be Thy fairest image in the universe." But to his words the angel Peace replied, With heavy sobs: "My spirit was outspread, Oh God, on thy creation, and all things Were sweetly bound in gracious harmony. But man, this strange new being, everywhere Shall bring confusion, trouble, discord, war." "Avenger of injustice and of crime," Exclaimed the angel Justice, "he shall be Subject to me, and peace shall bloom again. Create, oh Lord, create!" "Father of truth," Implored with tears the angel Truth, "Thou bring'st Upon the earth the father of all lies!" And over the celestial faces gloomed A cloud of grief, and stillness deep prevailed. Then from the midst of that abyss of light Whence sprang the eternal throne, these words rang forth: "Be comforted, my daughter! Thee I send To be companion unto man on earth." And all the angels cried, lamenting loud: "Thou robbest heaven of her fairest gem. Truth! seal of all thy thoughts, Almighty God, The richest jewel that adorns thy crown." From the abyss of glory rang the voice: "From heaven to earth, from earth once more to heaven, Shall Truth, with constant interchange, alight And soar again, an everlasting link Between the world and sky." And man was born.
RASCHI IN PRAGUE.
Raschi of Troyes, the Moon of Israel, The authoritative Talmudist, returned From his wide wanderings under many skies, To all the synagogues of the Orient, Through Spain and Italy, the isles of Greece, Beautiful, dolorous, sacred Palestine, Dead, obelisked Egypt, floral, musk-breathed Persia, Laughing with bloom, across the Caucasus, The interminable sameness of bare steppes, Through dark luxuriance of Bohemian woods, And issuing on the broad, bright Moldau vale, Entered the gates of Prague. Here, too, his fame, Being winged, preceded him. His people swarmed Like bees to gather the rich honey-dew Of learning from his lips. Amazement filled All eyes beholding him. No hoary sage, He who had sat in Egypt at the feet Of Moses ben-Maimuni, called him friend; Raschi the scholiast, poet, and physician, Who bore the ponderous Bible's storied wisdom, The Mischna's tangled lore at tip of tongue, Light as a garland on a lance, appeared In the just-ripened glory of a man. From his clear eye youth flamed magnificent; Force, masked by grace, moved in his balanced frame; An intellectual, virile beauty reigned Dominant on domed brow, on fine, firm lips, An eagle profile cut in gilded bronze, Strong, delicate as a head upon a coin, While, as an aureole crowns a burning lamp, Above all beauty of the body and brain Shone beauty of a soul benign with love. Even as a tawny flock of huddled sheep, Grazing each other's heels, urged by one will, With bleat and baa following the wether's lead, Or the wise shepherd, so o'er the Moldau bridge Trotted the throng of yellow-caftaned Jews, Chattering, hustling, shuffling. At their head Marched Rabbi Jochanan ben-Eleazar, High priest in Prague, oldest and most revered, To greet the star of Israel. As a father Yearns toward his son, so toward the noble Raschi Leapt at first sight the patriarch's fresh old heart. "My home be thine in Prague! Be thou my son, Who have no offspring save one simple girl. See, glorious youth, who dost renew the days Of David and of Samuel, early graced With God's anointing oil, how Israel Delights to honor who hath honored him." Then Raschi, though he felt a ball of fire Globe itself in his throat, maintained his calm, His cheek's opaque, swart pallor while he kissed Silent the Rabbi's withered hand, and bowed Divinely humble, his exalted head Craving the benison. For each who asked He had the word of counsel, comfort, help; For all, rich eloquence of thanks. His voice, Even and grave, thrilled secret chords and set Plain speech to music. Certain folk were there Sick in the body, dragging painful limbs, To the physician. These he solaced first, With healing touch, with simples from his pouch, Warming and lulling, best with promises Of constant service till their ills were cured. And some, gray-bearded, bald, and curved with age, Blear-eyed from poring over lines obscure And knotty riddles of the Talmud, brought Their problems to this youth, who cleared and solved, Yielding prompt answer to a lifetime's search. Then, followed, pushed by his obsequious tribe, Who fain had pedestaled him on their backs, Hemming his steps, choking the airs of heaven With their oppressive honors, he advanced, Midst shouts, tumultuous welcomes, kisses showered Upon his road-stained garments, through Prague's streets, Gaped at by Gentiles, hissed at and reviled, But no whit altering his majestic mien For overwhelming plaudits or contempt. Glad tidings Raschi brought from West and East Of thriving synagogues, of famous men, And flourishing academies. In Rome The Papal treasurer was a pious Jew, Rabbi Jehiel, neath whose patronage Prospered a noble school. Two hundred Jews Dwelt free and paid no tributary mark. Three hundred lived in peace at Capua, Shepherded by the learned Rabbi David, A prince of Israel. In Babylon The Jews established their Academy. Another still in Bagdad, from whose chair Preached the great rabbi, Samuel Ha-levi, Versed in the written and the oral law, Who blindfold could repeat the whole vast text Of Mischna and Gemara. On the banks Of Eden-born Euphrates, one day's ride From Bagdad, Raschi found in the wilderness, Which once was Babylon, Ezekiel's tomb. Thrice ten perpetual lamps starred the dim shrine, Two hundred sentinels held the sleepless vigil, Receiving offerings. At the Feast of Booths Here crowded Jews by thousands, out of Persia, From all the neighboring lands, to celebrate The glorious memories of the golden days. Ten thousand Jews with their Academy Damascus boasted, while in Cairo shone The pearl, the crown of Israel, ben-Maimuni, Physician at the Court of Saladin, The second Moses, gathering at his feet Sages from all the world. As Raschi spake, Forgetting or ignoring the chief shrine, The Exile's Home, whereunto yearned all hearts, All ears were strained for tidings. Some one asked: "What of Jerusalem? Speak to us of Zion." The light died from his eyes. From depths profound Issued his grave, great voice: "Alas for Zion! Verily is she fallen! Where our race Dictated to the nations, not a handful, Nay, not a score, not ten, not two abide! One, only one, one solitary Jew, The Rabbi Abraham Haceba, flits Ghostlike amid the ruins; every year Beggars himself to pay the idolaters The costly tax for leave to hold a-gape His heart's live wound; to weep, a mendicant, Amidst the crumbled stones of palaces Where reigned his ancestors, upon the graves Where sleep the priests, the prophets, and the kings Who were his forefathers. Ask me no more!"
Now, when the French Jew's advent was proclaimed, And his tumultuous greeting, envious growls And ominous eyebeams threatened storm in Prague. "Who may this miracle of learning be? The Anti-Christ! The century-long-awaited, The hourly-hoped Messiah, come at last! Else dared they never wax so arrogant, Flaunting their monstrous joy in Christian eyes, And strutting peacock-like, with hideous screams, Who are wont to crawl, mute reptiles underfoot." A stone or two flung at some servile form, Liveried in the yellow gaberdine (With secret happiness but half suppressed On features cast for misery), served at first For chance expression of the rabble's hate; But, swelling like a snow-ball rolled along By mischief-plotting boys, the rage increased, Grew to a mighty mass, until it reached The palace of Duke Vladislaw. He heard With righteous wrath his injured subjects' charge Against presumptuous aliens: how these blocked His avenues, his bridges; bared to the sun The canker-taint of Prague's obscurest coigne; Paraded past the churches of the Lord One who denied Him, one by them hailed Christ. Enough! This cloud, no bigger than one's hand, Gains overweening bulk. Prague harbored, first, Out of contemptuous ruth, a wretched band Of outcast paupers, gave them leave to ply Their money-lending trade, and leased them land On all too facile terms. Behold! to-day, Like leeches bloated with the people's blood, They batten on Bohemia's poverty; They breed and grow; like adders, spit back hate And venomed perfidy for Christian love. Thereat the Duke, urged by wise counsellors— Narzerad the statesman (half whose wealth was pledged To the usurers), abetted by the priest, Bishop of Olmutz, who had visited The Holy Sepulchre, whose long, full life Was one clean record of pure piety— The Duke, I say, by these persuasive tongues, Coaxed to his darling aim, forbade his guards To hinder the just anger of his town, And ordered to be led in chains to him The pilgrim and his host.
At noontide meal Raschi sat, full of peace, with Jochanan, And the sole daughter of the house, Rebekah, Young, beautiful as her namesake when she brought Her firm, frail pitcher balanced on her neck Unto the well, and gave the stranger drink, And gave his camels drink. The servant set The sparkling jar's refreshment from his lips, And saw the virgin's face, bright as the moon, Beam from the curled luxuriance of black locks, And cast-back linen veil's soft-folded cloud, Then put the golden ear-ring by her cheek, The bracelets on her hands, his master's pledge, Isaac's betrothal gift, whom she should wed, And be the mother of millions—one whose seed Dwells in the gates of those which hate them. So Yearned Raschi to adorn the radiant girl Who sat at board before him, nor dared lift Shy, heavy lids from pupils black as grapes That dart the imprisoned sunshine from their core. But in her ears keen sense was born to catch, And in her heart strange power to hold, each tone O' the low-keyed, vibrant voice, each syllable O' the eloquent discourse, enriched with tales Of venturous travel, brilliant with fine points Of delicate humor, or illustrated With living portraits of world-famoused men, Jews, Saracens, Crusaders, Islamites, Whose hand he had grasped—the iron warrior, Godfrey of Bouillon, the wise infidel Who in all strength, wit, courtesy excelled The kings his foes—imperial Saladin. But even as Raschi spake an abrupt noise Of angry shouts, of battering staves that shook The oaken portal, stopped the enchanted voice, The uplifted wine spilled from the nerveless hand Of Rabbi Jochanan. "God pity us! Our enemies are upon us once again. Hie thee, Rebekah, to the inmost chamber, Far from their wanton eyes' polluting gaze, Their desecrating touch! Kiss me! Begone! Raschi, my guest, my son"—But no word more Uttered the reverend man. With one huge crash The strong doors split asunder, pouring in A stream of soldiers, ruffians, armed with pikes, Lances, and clubs—the unchained beast, the mob. "Behold the town's new guest!" jeered one who tossed The half-filled golden wine-cup's contents straight In the noble pure young face. "What, master Jew! Must your good friends of Prague break bolts and bars To gain a peep at this prodigious pearl You bury in your shell? Forth to the day! Our Duke himself claims share of your new wealth; Summons to court the Jew philosopher!" Then, while some stuffed their pokes with baubles snatched From board and shelf, or with malignant sword Slashed the rich Orient rugs, the pictured woof That clothed the wall; others had seized and bound, And gagged from speech, the helpless, aged man; Still others outraged, with coarse, violent hands, The marble-pale, rigid as stone, strange youth, Whose eye like struck flint flashed, whose nether lip Was threaded with a scarlet line of blood, Where the compressed teeth fixed it to forced calm. He struggled not while his free limbs were tied, His beard plucked, torn and spat upon his robe— Seemed scarce to know these insults were for him; But never swerved his gaze from Jochanan. Then, in God's language, sealed from these dumb brutes, Swiftly and low he spake: "Be of good cheer, Reverend old man. I deign not treat with these. If one dare offer bodily hurt to thee, By the ineffable Name! I snap my chains Like gossamer, and in his blood, to the hilt, Bathe the prompt knife hid in my girdle's folds. The Duke shall hear me. Patience. Trust in me." Somewhat the authoritative voice abashed, Even hoarse and changed, the miscreants, who feared Some strong curse lurked in this mysterious tongue, Armed with this evil eye. But brief the spell. With gibe and scoff they dragged their victims forth, The abused old man, the proud, insulted youth, O'er the late path of his triumphal march, Befouled with mud, with raiment torn, wild hair And ragged beard, to Vladislaw. He sat Expectant in his cabinet. On one side His secular adviser, Narzerad, Quick-eyed, sharp-nosed, red-whiskered as a fox; On the other hand his spiritual guide, Bishop of Olmutz, unctuous, large, and bland. "So these twain are chief culprits!" sneered the Duke, Measuring with the noble's ignorant scorn His masters of a lesser caste. "Stand forth! Rash, stubborn, vain old man, whose impudence Hath choked the public highways with thy brood Of nasty vermin, by our sufferance hid In lanes obscure, who hailed this charlatan With sky-flung caps, bent knees, and echoing shouts, Due to ourselves alone in Prague; yea, worse, Who offered worship even ourselves disclaim, Our Lord Christ's meed, to this blaspheming Jew— Thy crimes have murdered patience. Thou hast wrecked Thy people's fortune with thy own. But first (For even in anger we are just) recount With how great compensation from thy store Of hoarded gold and jewels thou wilt buy Remission of the penalty. Be wise. Hark how my subjects, storming through the streets, Vent on thy tribe accursed their well-based wrath." And, truly, through closed casements roared the noise Of mighty surging crowds, derisive cries, And victims' screams of anguish and affright. Then Raschi, royal in his rags, began: "Hear me, my liege!" At that commanding voice, The Bishop, who with dazed eyes had perused The grieved, wise, beautiful, pale face, sprang up, Quick recognition in his glance, warm joy Aflame on his broad cheeks. "No more! No more! Thou art the man! Give me the hand to kiss That raised me from the shadow of the grave In Jaffa's lazar-house! Listen, my liege! During my pilgrimage to Palestine I, sickened with the plague and nigh to death, Languished 'midst strangers, all my crumbling flesh One rotten mass of sores, a thing for dogs To shy from, shunned by Christian as by Turk, When lo! this clean-breathed, pure-souled, blessed youth, Whom I, not knowing for an infidel, Seeing featured like the Christ, believed a saint, Sat by my pillow, charmed the sting from pain, Quenched the fierce fever's heat, defeated Death; And when I was made whole, had disappeared, No man knew whither, leaving no more trace Than a re-risen angel. This is he!" Then Raschi, who had stood erect, nor quailed From glances of hot hate or crazy wrath, Now sank his eagle gaze, stooped his high head, Veiling his glowing brow, returned the kiss Of brother-love upon the Christian's hand, And dropping on his knees implored the three, "Grace for my tribe! They are what ye have made. If any be among them fawning, false, Insatiable, revengeful, ignorant, mean— And there are many such—ask your own hearts What virtues ye would yield for planted hate, Ribald contempt, forced, menial servitude, Slow centuries of vengeance for a crime Ye never did commit? Mercy for these! Who bear on back and breast the scathing brand Of scarlet degradation, who are clothed In ignominious livery, whose bowed necks Are broken with the yoke. Change these to men! That were a noble witchcraft simply wrought, God's alchemy transforming clods to gold. If there be one among them strong and wise, Whose lips anoint breathe poetry and love, Whose brain and heart served ever Christian need— And there are many such—for his dear sake, Lest ye chance murder one of God's high priests, Spare his thrice-wretched tribe! Believe me, sirs, Who have seen various lands, searched various hearts, I have yet to touch that undiscovered shore, Have yet to fathom that impossible soul, Where a true benefit's forgot; where one Slight deed of common kindness sown yields not As now, as here, abundant crop of love. Every good act of man, our Talmud says, Creates an angel, hovering by his side. Oh! what a shining host, great Duke, shall guard Thy consecrated throne, for all the lives Thy mercy spares, for all the tears thy ruth Stops at the source. Behold this poor old man, Last of a line of princes, stricken in years, As thy dead father would have been to-day. Was that white beard a rag for obscene hands To tear? a weed for lumpish clowns to pluck? Was that benignant, venerable face Fit target for their foul throats' voided rheum? That wrinkled flesh made to be pulled and pricked, Wounded by flinty pebbles and keen steel? Behold the prostrate, patriarchal form, Bruised, silent, chained. Duke, such is Israel!" "Unbind these men!" commanded Vladislaw. "Go forth and still the tumult of my town. Let no Jew suffer violence. Raschi, rise! Thou who hast served the Christ—with this priest's life, Who is my spirit's counselor—Christ serves thee. Return among thy people with my seal, The talisman of safety. Let them know The Duke's their friend. Go, publish the glad news!" Raschi the Saviour, Raschi the Messiah, Back to the Jewry carried peace and love. But Narzerad fed his venomed heart with gall, Vowing to give his fatal hatred vent, Despite a world of weak fantastic Dukes And heretic bishops. He fulfilled his vow.