The Feast of Lights

Emma Lazarus

 
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!
 

Poems by This Author

1492 by Emma Lazarus
Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate
Age and Death by Emma Lazarus
Come closer, kind, white, long-familiar friend
By the Waters of Babylon by Emma Lazarus
The Spanish noon is a blaze of azure fire
By the Waters of Babylon [V. Currents] by Emma Lazarus
Vast oceanic movements, the flux and reflux of immeasurable tides, oversweep our continent
Chopin by Emma Lazarus
A dream of interlinking hands, of feet
Critic and Poet by Emma Lazarus
No man had ever heard a nightingale
Echoes by Emma Lazarus
Late-born and woman-souled I dare not hope
In Exile by Emma Lazarus
In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport by Emma Lazarus
Here, where the noises of the busy town
Long Island Sound by Emma Lazarus
I see it as it looked one afternoon
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
The New Year by Emma Lazarus
The South by Emma Lazarus
Night, and beneath star-blazoned summer skies
To R.W.E. by Emma Lazarus
As when a father dies, his children draw
Venus of the Louvre by Emma Lazarus
Down the long hall she glistens like a star


Further Reading

Poems About Chanukah
Light breaks where no sun shines
by Dylan Thomas
Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays
by Charles Reznikoff
Notes on the Spring Holidays, III, [Hanukkah]
by Charles Reznikoff
The Coming of Light
by Mark Strand