Saturday, December 15, 2012

Poetry Wednesday: The Feast of Lights



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!


by Emma Lazarus

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