The Poems of Emma Lazarus - Vol. II. (of II.), Jewish Poems: Translations
by Emma Lazarus
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MUSE. Be calm! I beg thee, I implore! I shudder, hearing of thy pain. O dearest friend, thy wound once more Is opening to bleed again. Is it so very deep, alas! How slowly do the traces pass Of this world's troubles! Thou, my son, Forget her! let thy memory shun Even to this woman's very name, My pitying lips refuse to frame.

POET. Shame upon her, who first Treason and falsehood taught! With grief and wrath accurst, Who set my brain distraught. Shame, woman baleful-eyed, Whose fatal love entombed In shadows of thy pride My April ere it bloomed. It was thy voice, thy smile, Thy poisoned glances bright, Which taught me to revile The semblance of delight. Thy grace of girlish years Murdered my peace, my sleep. If I lose faith in tears, 'T is that I saw thee weep. I yielded to thy power A child's simplicity. As to the dawn the flower, So oped my heart to thee. Doubtless this helpless heart Was thine without defence. Were 't not the better part To spare its innocence? Shame! thou who didst beget My earliest, youngest woe. The tears are streaming yet Which first thou madest flow. Quenchless this source is found Which thou hast first unsealed. It issues from a wound That never may be healed. But in the bitter wave I shall be clean restored, And from my soul shall lave Thy memory abhorred!

MUSE. Poet, enough! Though but one single day Lasted thy dream of her who faithless proved, That day insult not; whatsoe'er thou say, Respect thy love, if thou would be beloved. If human weakness find the task too great Of pardoning the wrongs by others done, At least the torture spare thyself of hate, In place of pardon seek oblivion. The dead lie peaceful in the earth asleep, So our extinguished passions too, should rest. Dust are those relics also; let us keep Our hands from violence to their ashes blest. Why, in this story of keen pain, my friend, Wilt thou refuse naught but a dream to see? Does Nature causeless act, to no wise end? Think'st thou a heedless God afflicted thee? Mayhap the blow thou weepest was to save. Child, it has oped thy heart to seek relief; Sorrow is lord to man, and man a slave, None knows himself till he has walked with grief,— A cruel law, but none the less supreme, Old as the world, yea, old as destiny. Sorrow baptizes us, a fatal scheme; All things at this sad price we still must buy. The harvest needs the dew to make it ripe, And man to live, to feel, has need of tears. Joy chooses a bruised plant to be her type, That, drenched with rain, still many a blossom bears. Didst thou not say this folly long had slept? Art thou not happy, young, a welcome guest? And those light pleasures that give life its zest, How wouldst thou value if thou hadst not wept? When, lying in the sunlight on the grass, Freely thou drink'st with some old friend—confess, Wouldst thou so cordially uplift thy glass, Hadst thou not weighed the worth of cheerfulness? Would flowers be so dear unto thy heart, The verse of Petrarch, warblings of the bird, Shakespeare and Nature, Angelo and Art, But that thine ancient sobs therein thou heard? Couldst thou conceive the ineffable peace of heaven, Night's silence, murmurs of the wave that flows, If sleeplessness and fever had not driven Thy thought to yearn for infinite repose? By a fair woman's love art thou not blest? When thou dost hold and clasp her hand in thine, Does not the thought of woes that once possessed, Make all the sweeter now her smile divine? Wander ye not together, thou and she, Midst blooming woods, on sands like silver bright? Does not the white wraith of the aspen-tree In that green palace, mark the path at night? And seest thou not, within the moon's pale ray, Her lovely form sink on thy breast again? If thou shouldst meet with Fortune on thy way, Wouldst thou not follow singing, in her train? What hast thou to regret? Immortal Hope Is shaped anew in thee by Sorrow's hand. Why hate experience that enlarged thy scope? Why curse the pain that made thy soul expand? Oh pity her! so false, so fair to see, Who from thine eyes such bitter tears did press, She was a woman. God revealed to thee, Through her, the secret of all happiness. Her task was hard; she loved thee, it may be, Yet must she break thy heart, so fate decreed. She knew the world, she taught it unto thee, Another reaps the fruit of her misdeed. Pity her! dreamlike did her love disperse, She saw thy wound—nor could thy pain remove. All was not falsehood in those tears of hers— Pity her, though it were,—for thou canst love!

POET. True! Hate is blasphemy. With horror's thrill, I start, This sleeping snake to see, Uncoil within my heart. Oh Goddess, hear my cries, My vow to thee is given, By my beloved's blue eyes, And by the azure heaven, By yonder spark of flame, Yon trembling pearl, the star That beareth Venus' name, And glistens from afar, By Nature's glorious scheme, The infinite grace of God, The planet's tranquil beam That cheers the traveler's road, The grass, the water-course, Woods, fields with dew impearled, The quenchless vital force, The sap of all the world,— I banish from my heart This reckless passion's ghost, Mysterious shade, depart! In the dark past be lost! And thou whom once I met As friend, while thou didst live, The hour when I forget, I likewise should forgive. Let me forgive! I break The long-uniting spell. With a last tear, oh take, Take thou, a last farewell. Now, gold-haired, pensive Muse, On to our pleasures! Sing— Some joyous carol choose, As in the dear old Spring. Mark, how the dew-drenched lawn Scents the auroral hour. Waken my love with dawn, And pluck her garden's flower. Immortal nature, see! Casts slumber's veil away. New born with her are we In morning's earliest ray.


The life and character of Paulus de Santa Maria are thus described by Dr. Graetz:—

"Among the Jews baptized in 1391, no other wrought so much harm to his race as the Rabbi Solomon Levi of Burgos, known to Christians as Paulus Burgensis, or de Santa Maria (born about 1351-52, died 1435) who rose to very high ecclesiastical and political rank.... He had no philosophical culture; on the contrary, as a Jew, he had been extremely devout, observing scrupulously all the rites, and regarded as a pillar of Judaism in his own circle.... Possessed by ambition and vanity, the synagogue where he had passed a short time in giving and receiving instruction, appeared to him too narrow and restricted a sphere. He longed for a bustling activity, aimed at a position at court, in whatever capacity, began to live on a grand scale, maintained a sumptuous equipage, a spirited team, and a numerous retinue of servants. As his affairs brought him into daily contact with Christians and entangled him in religious discussions, he studied ecclesiastical literature in order to display his erudition. The bloody massacre of 1391 robbed him of all hope of reaching eminence as a Jew, in his fortieth year, and he abruptly resolved to be baptized. The lofty degree of dignity which he afterwards attained in Church and State, may even then have floated alluringly before his mind. In order to profit by his apostasy, the convert Paulus de Santa Maria gave out that he had voluntarily embraced Christianity, the theological writings of the Scholiast Thomas of Aquinas having taken hold of his inmost convictions. The Jews, however, mistrusted his credulity, and knowing him well, they ascribed this step to his ambition and his thirst for fame. His family, consisting of a wife and son, renounced him when he changed his faith.... He studied theology in the University of Paris, and then visited the papal court of Avignon, where Cardinal Pedro de Juna had been elected papal antagonist to Benedict XIII. of Rome. The church feud and the schism between the two Popes offered the most favorable opportunity for intrigues and claims. Paulus, by his cleverness, his zeal, and his eloquence, won the favor of the Pope, who discerned in him a useful tool. Thus he became successively Archdeacon of Trevinjo, Canon of Seville, Bishop of Cartagena, Chancellor of Castile, and Privy Councillor to King Henry III. of Spain. With tongue and pen he attacked Judaism, and Jewish literature provided him with the necessary weapons. Intelligent Jews rightly divined in this convert to Christianity their bitterest enemy, and entered into a contest with him....

"The campaign against the malignity of Paul de Santa Maria was opened by a young man who had formerly sat at his feet, Joshua ben Joseph Ibn Vives, from the town of Lorca or Allorqui, a physician and Arabic scholar. In an epistle written in a tone of humility as from a docile pupil to a revered master, he deals his apostate teacher heavy blows, and under the show of doubt he shatters the foundations of Christianity. He begins by saying that the apostasy of his beloved teacher to whom his loyal spirit had formerly clung, has amazed him beyond measure and aroused in him many serious reflections. He can only conceive four possible motives for such a surprising step. Either Paulus has been actuated by ambition, love of wealth, pomp, and the satisfaction of the senses, or else by doubt of the truth of Judaism upon philosophic grounds, and has renounced therefore the religion which afforded him so little freedom and security; or else he has foreseen through the latest cruel persecutions of the Jews in Spain, the total extinction of the race; or, finally, he may have become convinced of the truth of Christianity. The writer enters therefore into an examination based upon his acquaintance with the character of his former master, as to which of these four motives is most likely to have occasioned the act. He cannot believe that ambition and covetousness prompted it, "For I remember when you used to be surrounded by wealth and attendants, you sighed regretfully for your previous humble station, for your retired life and communion with wisdom, and regarded your actual brilliant position as an unsatisfactory sham happiness. Neither can Allorqui admit that Paulus had been disturbed by philosophic scepticism, for to the day of his baptism he had observed all the Jewish customs and had only accepted that little kernel of philosophy which accords with faith, always rejecting the pernicious outward shell. He must also discard the theory that the sanguinary persecution of the Jews could have made Paulus despair of the possible continuation of the Jewish race, for only a small portion of the Jews dwelt among Christians, while the majority lived in Asia and enjoyed a certain independence. There remains only the conclusion that Paulus has tested the new dogmas and found them sufficient.... Allorqui therefore begs him to communicate his convictions and vanquish his pupil's doubts concerning Christianity. Instead of the general spread of divine doctrine and everlasting peace which the prophets had associated with the advent of the Messiah, only dissension and war reigned on earth. Indeed, after Jesus' appearance, frightful wars had but increased.... And even if Allorqui conceded the Messiahship of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection, and all incomprehensible miracles, he could not reconcile himself to the idea of God becoming a man. Every enlightened conception of the Deity was at variance with it."

[Page 77 et seq. Volume 8, Second half, Graetz' History of the Jews.]

Marrano..—See Verse xix., Line 7th of "Epistle."

The enforced recipients of baptism who remained in Spain formed a peculiar class, outwardly Christians, inwardly Jews. They might have been called Jewish-Christians. They were looked upon with suspicion by the Christian population, and shunned with a still more intense hatred by the loyal Jews who gave them the name of Marranos, the accursed. [Page 73.]

"Master, if thou to thy prides' goal should come, Where wouldst thou throne—at Avignon or Rome?" Verse xxviii. 7, 8.

This sentence occurs in another Epistle to Paulus by Profiat Duran.

Verses 29 and 30 are paraphrases from an epistle to Paulus by Chasdai Crescas.

"These are burning questions, from which the fire of the stake may be kindled. Christianity gives itself out as a new revelation in a certain sense completing and improving Judaism. But the revelation has so little efficacy, that in the prolonged schism in the Church, a new divine message is already needed to scatter the dangerous errors. Two Popes and their partisans fulminate against each other bulls of excommunication and condemn each other to profoundest hell. Where is the truth and certainty of revelation?" [Graetz' History of the Jews.]


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