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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, January 20, 2006

Emma Lazarus -- A Poem of Zion

Emma Lazarus was an American Jewish poetess of the late 19th century. Robert Browning, John Whittier, and George Washington Cable eulogized her at her death. Her most quoted lines are from the poem The New Colossus, engraved at the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. See several verses from The New Colossus below the poem of Zion.

The Banner of the Jew

Wake, Israel, wake! Recall today
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 in 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.

O 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!
New York 1882

The fourth, fifth, and sixth lines of the first stanza refer to the five sons of Mattityahu [whom she calls "the sire"; his name is Mattathias in Greek, Latin, and English]. The next to the last stanza alludes to the Biblical book of Ezra. Mizpeh is believed to be a mountain not far northwest of Jerusalem, the highest mountain in the Jerusalem area, topped now by a village known as Nabi Samwil, or Prophet Samuel. A previous blog entry has discussed the traditional tomb of the Prophet Samuel at this location as a focus of Jewish pilgrimage and Arab efforts to usurp and dispossess the Jews.
Here are several lines from The New Colossus:

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. . .

An edition of her work with an introduction containing a biographical sketch and appreciations of her work appeared in 1944: Emma Lazarus: Selections from Her Poetry and Prose, Morris U. Schappes, ed., (New York 1944).
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Coming: quotes from the eulogies for Emma Lazarus, another Lazarus poem, more on Jews in Jerusalem before Herzl wrote The Jewish State, etc.

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