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Mrs. Henry Lucas' new volume of metrical translations 
from the devotional writings of mediaeval Hebrew poets \ 
is the first successful attempt to supply a collection of hymns 
" for the use of English Jews." Curiously enough, just at 
the moment when Hebrew is again becoming the living 
language of the Jews of Palestine, a new and better group 
of translators is making the Hebrew soul live again in an 
English body. On the one side, there is progress towards 
the nationalization of Hebrew in the East. The secular 
songs of Europe are turned into Hebrew, and in the little 
colony at Moza I heard Schubert's Serenade sung in 
Judah Leo Gordon's Hebrew version. I saw Mr. David 
Yellin's admirable Hebrew translation of the Vicar of 
Wakefield in the hands of several Palestinian Jews. These 
are but two incidents indicative of the enthusiasm of 
Palestinian Jews for Hebrew : a language prattled by the 
little girls in the playground at Jaffa, and used (with more 
or less fluency) at public meetings in Jerusalem. But 
it cannot be denied that, concurrently with this movement, 
Hebrew is becoming a stranger tongue every day to the 
mass of Jews in England and America. It would be unfair, 
however, to attribute the need of Mrs. Lucas' book to 
ignorance of ordinary Hebrew. The Hebrew of the 
mediaeval Jewish hymns is so difficult that a Hebraist 
good enough to get his First at a Semitic Tripos in the 
University might find himself unable to construe a stanza 

1 The Jewish Year, a Collection of Devotional Poems for Sabbaths and Holidays 
throughout the Year, translated and composed by Alice Lucas (Macmillan 
& Co., London, 1898}. 


of Kalir or even of Jehuda Halevi. Yet these poets 
deserved a better fate than has befallen them in England. 
It is not too much to say that English translators have, 
on the whole, so mutilated and caricatured their originals 
that they have robbed them both of poetry and prayerful- 
ness. By her Songs of Zion, and her fuller and more 
adequate Jewish Year, Mrs. Lucas has restored some at 
least of these mediaeval hymns to English synagogues 
and homes. 

Jews indeed have succeeded far better as translators into 
than from the Hebrew. Salkinson's Hebrew Paradise Lost 
and Othello, to name no others, are masterpieces of trans- 
lation. One country, however, has enjoyed a happier fate 
than the rest. The German Jews were fortunate enough 
to have as the translators of the Hebrew hymns writers 
who were at once scholars and men of taste. German 
translations of the mediaeval Jewish hymns are as old as 
the nineteenth century. Not the least of Zunz's services 
to modern Judaism was his warm rebuke of the indifference 
displayed by his brethren to this branch of their literature, 
and his remonstrance roused even Heine to enthusiastic 
eulogy of Jehuda Halevi. Zunz himself, prince of biblio- 
graphers, was no mean translator, and the specimens given 
by him in his Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters (1855) 
are among the best of their kind. Somewhat earlier 
than Zunz. Steinschneider (an author better known as 
a bibliographer than as a litterateur) had published some 
translations in his Manna (1847). Far more than both 
of these the Rabbi-scholar, Michael Sachs, effected in his 
Die religiose Poesie der Juden in Spanien. But Sachs did 
not rest content with this vindication of the Spanish-Jewish 
hymnologists. He felt that justice had to be done also 
to the poetanim (Gk. voajTai) of the extra-Spanish school. 
His famous edition of the Machzor or festival prayer-book 
(1856- 1 857) was a plea in behalf of Kalir and his like 
against the harsh judgment of critics from the day of Abraham 
ibn Ezra in the twelfth century to Professor Graetz in the 



nineteenth. Graetz was a fervid admirer of the Spanish- 
Jewish poets, with their symmetrical form, their smooth 
artifices. For Kalir and his imitators Graetz had no 
appreciation. Kalir deserves all that Graetz urges against 
him 1 . He did violence to the Hebrew language, and "in 
place of word-pictures" gave his bewildered readers 
"obscure riddles." But the Kalirian poetanim were often 
inspired, and Sachs proved that, especially in their Selichoth 
(penitentiaiy hymns), they sometimes reached the emotional 
intensity even of Solomon Gabirol when he sang of the 
soul's communion with God, and the tragic pathos of 
Jehuda Halevi when he mourned for the desolation 
of Zion. 

It was, however, a simpler matter to convince the public 
of the merits of the two last-named Spanish poets, and 
most of the efforts of German translators have been reserved 
for them and their school. Though he weighted his work 
by including the obsolete astronomy of Gabirol, and by 
reproducing his equally obsolete puns upon Bible texts, 
Ludwig Stein's Konigs-Krone (1838) was a not unworthy 
rendering of Gabirol's masterpiece. Stein's translation 
deserves special mention, not only because of its early date, 
but also for its completeness. A greater place among 
German translators of Hebrew hymns must be assigned 
to Abraham Geiger(i8io-i874). This great reformer acted 
as the intermediary between S. D. Luzzatto and the general 
public, for if the former "discovered" Jehuda Halevi, the 
latter gave his discovery vogue and popularity. It is 
a strange anomaly that, though reform ha? more or less taken 
the direction of the exclusion of the piyutim (mediaeval 
Hebrew poems) from the synagogue liturgy, the reformer 
Geiger's works on Jehuda Halevi (1 85 1 ) and Solomon Gabirol 
(1867) were devoted to the glorification of the poetanim from 
the religious as well as the secular standpoint. Not the least 
merit of Geiger's translations was indirect. Geiger inspired 

1 Graetz, History of the Jews, English Translation, vol. Ill, ch. iv. 


the gifted American Jewess, Emma Lazarus, to some of her 
noblest strains, until her early death robbed Judaism of one 
of its brightest ornaments. Her translations, like those 
of many others, were made from the German rather than 
from the Hebrew ; but Geiger was a safe guide. Geiger, 
it should be remembered, owed much of his interest in the 
poetanim to the famous grammarian, "Wolf Heidenheim, 
the first to attempt a German (prose) translation of the 
Machzor (1800- 1805). Heidenheim's commentary on the 
piyutim remains the only serviceable one. The other great 
Jewish liturgical work of the century (Baer's, Landshut's, 
and Senior Sachs' excepted) has dealt, like Julian's 
Hymnology, not with the poems themselves, but with 
bibliographical details ; with the hymns as landmarks in 
history, not as living witnesses to faith. 

Little would be gained by coutinuing a mere list of the 
German translations of the Hebrew hymns 1 . Of works 
known to me, the best are Max Letteris' Oestliche Rosen 
(Prag, 1850), Moritz Rappoport's Hebraische Gesange 
(Leipzig, i860), A. Sulzbach's Dichtungen aus Spaniens 
bessern Tagen (Frankfort a. M., 1873, a book which is dis- 
tinguished for its appreciation of the merits of Joseph 
Zabara's Book of Delight), David Rosin's Reime und Gedichte 
des Abraham ibn Ezra (Breslau, 1 885-1 894), and the 
works of S. Kaempf (1818-1892) and Seligmann Heller 
(1831-1890). Kaempf's Die ersten Makamen des Tach- 
kemoni (1855) an d Nichtandalusische Poesien andalu- 
sischer Dichter (1859) recall Zunz in their combination 
of literary style with critical erudition. Kaempf was 
mainly concerned with the secular work of Charizi, but 
he rendered many hymns into German. He possessed 
the power of uniting close literalness with artistic form. 
Seligmann Heller has no claim to this merit, but his 
posthumous collection, Die echten hebraischen Poesien 

1 Much information is given by Dr. M. Kayserling in Winter & Wunsche's 
Die Jiidische Litteratur (Trier, 1896), vol. Ill, p. 824 sq. and p. 885 sq. 

F 2 


(edited by Professor Kaufmann in 1893), will be the most 
remembered of the works of this versatile teacher, journalist, 
poet, and dramatic critic. A man of similar versatility, 
Gustav Karpeles, has also edited a series of translations 
by various hands under the title of Die Zionsharfe (1889), 
and the Berlin Society for Jewish Literature issued in 
1893 a capital book, Divan des Jehuda Halevi, with an 
introduction by the editor of Die Zionsharfe. 

So far as English translations are concerned, it was only 
at a comparatively late date that the use of metre was 
thought of. The earliest version of the Zemirotk (or table 
hymns for the Sabbath), strangely enough, occurs in a work 
(1656) by a Christian "A. R."\ a fact paralleled by the 
curiosity that the oldest translation of the synagogue 
hymn, Adon Olam, is to be found in a mediaeval Christian 
drama. This version of A. R's was melodious, though 
unmetrical and unrhymed. It is, moreover, in good, 
nervous English ; and a like remark applies, in the main, 
to the prose translation of Isaac Pinto (New York, 1766), 
and, to a lesser degree, to a MS. translation (date 1729) 
described by Mr. Singer in the essay referred to in the 
last footnote. Unfortunately, however, the translations on 
which the Anglo-Jewish public has been nurtured were 
compiled by men like the Alexanders (latter part of 
eighteenth century), who had no knowledge, whether 
of Hebrew or of English, or who, like David Levi, had 
little Hebrew and less taste. Mr. Singer justly holds that 
David Levi's "insight, diligence, and conscientiousness merit 
far greater appreciation than they have yet deserved." But 
the sins of David Levi are too great for a favourable verdict 
to be entered in his behalf. As to Alexander, it will suffice 
to quote a verse from his "metrical" translation of the 
Pizmon (song or psalm) appointed in the Spanish ritual 
for the New Year's Day. 

1 S. Singer, Early Translations and Translators of the Jewish Liturgy in 
England (vol. Ill, Trans. Jewish Hist. Soc. of England). 


It is even now that heaven's gates open, mercy to descend : 
It is the day that my hands unto the Lord I do extend. 
remember unto me this chastening day and ever after, 
The merits of the binder binded, and the holy altar. 

Space cannot be spared for many specimens of this 
nonsense. Yet one or two quotations from David Levi 
must be given. The well-known hymn, " Lo, as the clay 
in the potter's hand," opens thus in Levi's version : — 

behold, as the clay is in the hand of the potter, who when he 
pleases extends it, and when he pleases circumscribes it, thus are 
we in thy hand, most gracious Preserver. 

Apart from the blunder in the last phrase, this translation 
utterly destroys the beauty of the original. Here is the far 
better version of Miss Elsie Davis *, which is as poetical 
as it is accurate : — 

Lo ! as the potter mouldeth plastic clay, 
To forms his varying fancy doth display ; 
So in thy hand, God of grace, are we : 
Thy bond regard, let sin be veiled from thee. 

Here the last clause is not quite happy, for the idea is 
not that sin shall be veiled from God, but that he, in his 
mercy, shall pay no regard to man's sin, but only to his 
own divine covenant of grace. 

Mrs. Lucas 2 gives the verse thus : — 

Lo, as the potter moulds his clay, 

Shaping and forming it from day to day, 

Thus in thy hand, Lord, are we. 

thou whose mercies never pass away, 

Forgive our sins once more, 

And keep thy covenant as in days of yore. 

Or take again David Levi's rendering of the Selicha, 
" I am the suppliant." A Selicha is a hymn of penitence, 
and is in essence an expansion of the text, "But thou 
(O Lord) art righteous in all that is come upon us; thou 
hast acted truthfully, but we have wrought unrighteous- 
ness." The Selicha (prayer for forgiveness of sin) differs 

1 Jewish Quarterly Review, VIII, p. 77. 
3 The Jewish Year, p. 109. 


from the Kinah (lament for Zion, appropriated to the Fast 
of Ab) in that the Sdicha is a means to an end, while the 
Kinah is an end in itself; the Sdicha is universal, the Kinah 
national ; the Selicha has a hopefulness of near pardon, 
while the Kinah at most ends in a remote yearning for the 
rebuilding of Zion. To return to this fine Selicha, " I am 
the suppliant/' David Levi begins with this trivial 
sentence : — 

My sighs are many, when I consider how I shall turn my heart 
to God, who is the rock of my salvation. 

It is a fact, scarcely credible as the statement seems, that 
the literal, accurate meaning of the original is the following ; 
I cite Miss Nina Davis' translation x : — 

Amid the walls of hearts that stand around, 
My hitter sighs swell up and mount the sky ; 

Ah ! how my heart doth pant, with ceaseless bound 
For God, my Kock on high. 

The same magnificent hymn dies off in Levi's version 
in this futile fashion : — 

view my degradation and have compassion on my congregation, 
and as for my precious soul, it is better that I surrender it to thee. 
Purchase thy son Israel the second time. open thine eyes, and 
behold ; hide not thine ears to my cry and supplication. 

Miss Davis' rendering closes : — 

Behold me fallen low from whence I stood, 
And mine assembly with compassion see; 

And this my soul, mine only one, 'tis good 
To give it unto thee. 

Take back thy son once more, and draw him near, 
Hide not from him the radiance of thine eye, 

Turn not away, but lend a favouring ear 
Unto my plaint, my cry. 

Little wonder is it, that knowing the piyutim solely 
from such " translations " as David Levi's, the Anglo- Jewish 
public has grown up with a feeling towards these hymns 

1 Jewish Quarterly Review, loc. cit., p. 78. 


which halts between contempt and disgust 1 . Mrs. Lucas' 
new book, with its accurate versions, and its strong, full 
echo of the beauty and poetry of the original, should do 
something to modify this prejudice. Though less catholic 
in her taste than her German predecessors, Mrs. Lucas 
is more literal and more natural. She will at least afford 
English readers an opportunity of judging for themselves 
the literary and devotional merits of a representative 
selection of the piyutim. 

Apart altogether from certain limitations which the 
authoress has placed on her selection — limitations which 
will be considered below — The Jewish Year contains of 
necessity but a small selection from these Hebrew hymns. 
The authors of these hymns form a vast array of names, even 
though we exclude the Tannaites (or Mishnaic authorities), to 
whom popular fancy assigned some piyutim, and the Apostle 
Peter, who, according to an eleventh-century myth, wrote 
a favourite synagogue meditation. The piyutim themselves, 
which began in the ninth century and are still written at 
the present day, are numbered by the thousand, and masses 
of unknown hymns have of late been recovered from 
Yemen and Egypt. There is not a stream of piyutim: 
there is an avalanche. To the majority of the piyutim 
may be applied the jibe in Hudibras, that Hebrew roots 
are "found to flourish most in barren ground." They 
are exercises in rhyming and alliteration, in the con- 
struction of acrostics rather than hymns or poems. They 
are discords rather than harmonies. There is scarce a gem 
among the mass of new-found piyutim, ; lost for centuries, 
they deserved to be lost for ever. To understand many 
of the piyutim, the reader must be a scholar of many parts; 

1 There have been several later attempts to give metrical English 
translations of some of the Hebrew hymns of the Synagogue. Those 
of Miss Davis are excellent. Few of the others, however, attain even 
mediocrity; in most of them the "verse" is sheer doggerel. Some 
accurate prose renderings, marred by their poverty of style, are given 
in Treasures of Oxford (London, 1881). 


he must be familiar with the rarest Hebrew and Aramaic 
words and forms ; he must have the Talmud and Midrash 
at his finger's end. He must respond to the slightest 
touch of allusion ; he must be callous to all grotesqueness 
of language and thought, however gross. He must keep 
his countenance while the Leviathan disports itself; he 
must retain his devoutness (if he can) while the angels 
multiply themselves, enlarge their wings, and humorize 
their functions. He must pray with one eye on the text 
and the other on the commentary. But it must be remem- 
bered in extenuation that a large body of these piyutim 
were scarcely designed for devotional use. The synagogue 
was an adjunct of the school ; and the piyut, regarded as 
a versified treatment of the learned themes prevalent in the 
schools, deserves a higher place in the critic's regard. It 
was a species of scholarly exercise for the scholar, and the 
layman had no right to complain of their difficulty seeing 
that they were not invariably intended for him. They may 
be found, it is true, in vast numbers in MSS. and in printed 
editions of the liturgy. But this was often done for mere 
convenience, or to provide thoughtful literature for study 
between whiles in the synagogue service, and to fill up 
gaps in the long waits on the fast-days. Moreover, only 
a small selection was used on any one day ; it was left for 
the modern synagogue to so accumulate piyut on piyut 
in one and the same service, that the weary worshipper 
retaliated (as in many synagogues he has done) by ejecting 
all but the best from the liturgy. 

But, further, the severe strictures which it was my plain 
duty to make above have no application to a residuum 
of piyutim, a residuum so large that it can hardly fall 
short of the hymns of the mediaeval church in extent. 
It is to the credit of Jewish taste that the best of the 
piyutim have always been the most popular. Mrs. Lucas 
has shown the same taste in her selections. If, as mentioned 
later on, she has drawn too scantily from certain types, 
yet she has included some of the cream of these adjuncts 


to the liturgy. Solomon ibn Gabirol, Jehuda Halevi, 
Abraham and Moses ibn Ezra are all well represented. 
These are true poets, instinct with melody, gifted with what 
Mrs. Lucas calls 1 "a whole-hearted faith, a supreme sense 
of God's love." They are not always simple, but scholars 
though they were, they set a plain man's common sense 
against the pedant's pride. Their hymns are a good second 
to the Psalms, and they would have approached their 
model more closely had the writers fully appreciated the 
spirit of the Biblical rhythm, that unrhymed parallelism 
of line which is much more in keeping with the genius 
of Hebrew poetry than the tricks of rhyme and metre 
imitated from the mediaeval Arabs. Chaucer's lament 
of the unsuitability of rhyme to English applies with 
tenfold force to Hebrew. Like the Psalms in Temple times, 
the best-loved piyutim gained an additional hold on the 
mediaeval Jew's heart by the melodies to which they were 
set 2 . Like the Psalms, too, the piyutim gained a set and 
fixed place in the liturgy. I mean that they were composed 
in cycles, in close relation to the regular prayers — cycles 
which recall the hymnology of the church. The piyutim 
derived their names from their position in the service : the 
Yozer (praise of God as Creator of light), the Ofan (the 
angelic chorus of threefold praise of the Highest), the Zulath 
(uniqueness of God), the Geullah (redemption), were all 
associated with the passages preceding and following the 
Shema (Deut. vi. 4-9, xi. 13-21 ; Num. xv. 37-41) 3 . Then 
in the Amidah came, as piyutim,, the Kerobah (offering), 
Kedusha (sanctification), and Silluk (conclusion). These 
forms were common to all the festivals, and a similar remark 
applies to the Maarabith, reserved for the evening prayer 
on feast-days. In addition to these there were special 
types of hymns for special days, some of which will be 

1 The Jewish Year, p. xix. 

3 See the admirable essay of Dr. A. Ackermann in Die Judische Liiteratur, 
III, p. 477 sq. 

3 Authorized Daily Prayer Book, ed. S. Singer, p. 40. 


mentioned below. Mrs. Lucas has followed another ar- 
rangement ; she has indiscriminately selected from all these 
types, and it must be freely confessed that the hymns 
have only occasionally lost by this method; only at rare 
intervals is the sense affected by the displacement. Even 
in such cases, a footnote would have removed all ambiguity. 

Mrs. Lucas' book is " meant as an adjunct to the prayer- 
book, to be used at home, in the Sabbath school, perhaps 
occasionally in Synagogue, as an aid to religious meditation, 
derived in a great measure from the prayer-book itself 1 ." 

She has given a poem for every Sabbath of the year, and 
a good collection for the feasts and fasts. Some of these 
are original, and their fervent simplicity shows that the 
author has no mean gift for hymn-writing. As to the merits 
of the hymns that she has selected for translation, the 
reader of her book will be able to form his own judgment. 
But I shall be surprised if the general verdict is aught 
but favourable to the master-products of the Jewish poetanic 

But it will at once be asked, Can a fair judgment be 
made from a translation ? In her preface Mrs. Lucas says 2 : 
" I have endeavoured to make my translations as accurate 
as possible ; but, though I trust that some of the devotional 
spirit of the originals has been retained even in an English 
version, I am regretfully conscious that I have not suc- 
ceeded in giving them that glow of intense religiousness 
which these liturgical poems possess in the Hebrew. 
Uncouth and laboured as that Hebrew sometimes is, it is 
never commonplace, and never aught but spiritually 
forcible." It is undoubtedly true that much of the charm 
of the best piyutim is derived from the use in them of the 
Hebrew language, just as so many of the mediaeval 
Christian hymns owe their quaint effectiveness to their 
Latin dress. Translation loses or clouds the graces of style 
which, when turned into English, become mere tricks and 

1 The Jewish Year, p. xvi. 2 Ibid., p. xvii. 



jingles which are almost as comic in their effects as they 
are in the originals of the worst piyutim 1 . Mrs. Lucas has 
done well to avoid any attempt at reproducing the acrostics 
on the authors' names, the alphabetical arrangements, the 
plays and puns on Scriptural phrases, the successive use 
in different lines of the words of a consecutive Biblical 
passage 2 . All these devices are found in the majority 
of piyutim, whether by Spanish or Kalirian poets. Now, 
it is possible indeed to retain all these peculiarities in 
a translation, witness Mr. Israel Zangwill's careful rendering 
of a well-known hymn for the eve of the Atonement 3 . 
I cite the first two and two of the last three stanzas : — 

Ay 'tis thus 
By thy grace 

Cast scorn o'er 
Dear God, deign 

Voice that moans, 
Weigh not flaws, 

Yea, oft-rolled, 
Zion's folk, 

Evil us 
guilt efface 

and abhor 
this refrain 

tears and groans, 
plead my cause, 

as foretold, 
free of yoke 

hath in bond 
and respond 

" Forgiven ! " 
th' informer's word ; 
to make heard 

" Forgiven ! " 

do not spurn ; 
and return, 

clouds impure, 

" Forgiven ! ', 

As a tour deforce this is magnificent. It closely imitates 
the metre of the Hebrew, the rhyme scheme, the alpha- 
betical arrangement. But it retains little of the devotional 
beauty of this strikingly fine hymn, and the English is far 
harder to construe than the Hebrew, which is admirably 

1 Of one of GabiroFs poems, published in Treasures of Oxford, the editor, 
M. H. Bresslau, says (p. 40): — "This Hymn cannot be rendered intoEnglish, 
though exquisitely beautiful in the original, so as to convey any tolerable 
notion of its excellence, as it abounds so largely in paronomasia, or plays 
upon words, that however admirable to the Hebrew student, have no 
corresponding phraseology in any other language." A defter hand than 
Mr. Bresslau's was needed to grapple with such difficulties. 

4 The editors hope to publish shortly a special paper by Mr. A. Feldman, 
dealing with the use of the Bible in the mediaeval Hebrew poems. 

3 p D3n». Jews of Angevin England, p. 109. 


simple. Moreover, literal as it is in the main, there is no 
Hebrew for some of the English lines. In Mrs. Lucas' 
translations there is very little " padding," and her English 
is usually simpler than the Hebrew originals. " Involved 
and obscure " are the terms which she applies to some of 
these, and the epithets, as has been said above, are just. 
But there is always a tendency towards obscurity and 
inversion in hymns, whether of Church or Synagogue, 
towards the introduction of remote historical or Biblical 
allusions or of dogmatic niceties. The Church hymns, as 
represented by Hymns Ancient and Modern, are not free 
from these peculiarities: "Thrones and dominations," 
" Seals assuring, guards securing," " 'Midst the doctors 
sitting round," " Raise the Trisagion ever and aye," 
" Bishop of the souls of men," " Consubstantial, co-eternal," 
" Each in his office wait," — these 1 and many other phrases 
remind one forcibly of the defects of the Hebrew piyutim. 
Mrs. Lucas has given little indication of these faults in her 
translations, and to that extent the reader may form 
a better opinion of the piyutim than they deserve. In 
some of the dogmatic hymns, however, Mrs. Lucas has but 
caught the exact spirit of the Hebrew ; for if the dogma 
is simply and devoutly presented in the English, so is it in 
the original. Here is a verse from the Adon Olam 2 : — 

And he is one, his powers transcend, 
Supreme, unfathomed, depth and height, 
Without beginning, without end, 
His are dominion, power, and might. 

So, too, with the more rigidly dogmatic Yigdal 3 : — 

The living God we praise, exalt, adore ! 
He was, he is, he will be evermore. 

1 Hymns Ancient and Modern, Nos. 306, 498, 473, 423, 408, 396, 268. 

2 27ie Jewish, Year, p. 184. Another English version of the Adon Olam, 
originally by Mr. Van Oven, has been current since the beginning of the 
century. It has undoubted merits. 

3 The Jewish Year, p. 186. A German translation, superior to that of 
Sachs, is given by Oskar Waldek in the second part of his Biblisches Lesebuch. 


No unity like unto his can be, 
Eternal, inconceivable is he. 

With love and grace doth he the righteous bless, 
He metes out evil unto 'wickedness. 

He at the last will his anointed send, 

Those to redeem, who hope, and wait the end. 

God will the dead to life again restore, 
Praised be his glorious name for evermore. 

These are good renderings, which can only fail to please 
perfectly a Jewish ear because the Hebrew originals are 
among the most familiar, and therefore the least translatable, 
hymns in the liturgy of the Synagogue. They are indeed 
the only two metrical hymns in constant daily use among 
Jews. Some of the others, however, are sung every 
Sabbath, and Mrs. Lucas attains a considerable measure 
of success with these. The beautiful invocation for the eve 
of the Sabbath is, in the original, somewhat marred by its 
allusiveness : by its use of a childish piece of Talmudical 
exegesis (which Mrs. Lucas retains), and by its periphrastic 
reference to the Messiah as "the son of Perez" (which 
Mrs. Lucas omits). But the author, Solomon Alkabetz, 
was not the " dull, spiritless writer " whom Graetz queerly 
declares to have been less famous himself than his song 
of welcome to the Sabbath bride 1 . Alkabetz lived in the 
sixteenth century in Safed, then the home of mysticism, 
and in his wonderful hymn there is a note of personal 
emotion, such as is only found in the writings of the 
mystics : — 

Crown of thy husband, come in peace, 

Come, bidding toil and trouble cease, 

With joy and cheerfulness abide 

Among thy people true and tried, 

Thy faithful people — come, bride ! 

Come forth, my friend, the bride to meet, 
Come, my friend, the Sabbath greet 2 ! 

1 Graetz, History of the Jews, English Translation, vol. IV, ch. xvi. 
i The Jewish Year, p. 168. 


Just as Mrs. Lucas is more successful with Yigdal than 
is Sachs, whose rendering has too little dignity, so is she 
more true to the original than the popular German 
version of the Sabbath hymn by J. Schwanthaler l . She 
is a little less happy with the Zemiroth (table-hymns), a 
curious species of Hebrew song which precedes the grace 
after meals on the Sabbath. There is hardly the abandon 
of the original in the following lines 2 : — 

His flock our Shepherd feeds 
With graciousness divine, 
He satisfies our needs 
With gifts of bread and wine. 
Therefore with one accord 
We will his name adore, 
Proclaiming evermore 
None holy as the Lord. 

Our Bock, with loving care, 

According to his word, 

Bids all his bounty share ; 

Then let us bless the Lord. 

There is more of the haunting melody of the Hebrew 
in Mrs. Lucas' version of another table-hymn, of which 
the first verse runs thus 3 : — 

To Israel this day is joy ever blessed, 

Is light and is gladness, a Sabbath of rest. 

Thou Sabbath of rest, 

To a people distressed, 

To sorrowful souls, 

A strong soul hast given. 

Prom souls tempest-driven 

Thou takest their sighing; 

Thou takest their sighing, 

Thou Sabbath of rest. 

This is entirely true to the spirit of the Hebrew. So, too, 

1 In the prayer-book published by J. Kauffmann (Frankfurt a. M.). 
The refrain is in Schwanthaler weakened into this by " padding" : — 

Komme, Geliebter, entgegen der Braut! 
Empfangt den Sabbath, lieb und traut ! 

2 The Jewish Tear, p. 178. 3 Ibid., p. 180. 


is her original hymn "Offerings "* true to the Jewish spirit. 
This yearning not to bring to God that which has cost 
naught is the chief motif of the table-hymns. But 
Mrs. Lucas is obviously more fully inspired when there 
is no secular element in the hymn that she is translating. 
Mrs. Lucas says of her selections that " they are intended 
for devotional purposes, and it is entirely from this point 
of view that I have regarded my material 2 ." This is a 
justifiable but incomplete view of the liturgical piyutim. 
Mrs. Lucas, for instance, entirely excludes Wedding Odes 
from her collection. Yet these Odes were characteristically 
Jewish. They were sung in Synagogue, and brought God 
and the community into the individual's joy. As I have 
shown elsewhere 3 , they often had a devotional " tag " ; but 
even where this was not the case they were religious 
hymns in the sense that to the Jew marriage was, in sober 
and literal fact, a divine institution and a religious duty. 
A Hebrew epithalamium (like the great canonical exemplar, 
the Song of Songs) might be a sensuous love-song, and yet 
interpretable as a mystical expression of God's relation 
to the individual soul pictured forth in the favourite symbol 
of the mystics — the mutual love of bridegroom and bride. 
It has been well said, that until you have made a god 
of your beloved or a beloved of your God, there is little 
comfort in your prayers. So, too, with another class of 
piyut which Mrs. Lucas has excluded. The translator 
asserts, with much justice, that hymns are often criticized 
as monotonous, and adds a fear (which is more or less 
groundless, however) that a similar complaint may be made 
against her own book. As regards one reason for this 
monotony, Mrs. Lucas writes 4 : " A further reason for the 
tendency to monotony in this collection may be found 
in the fact that hymns of what we may call historic 
interest, which have reference to such passing events as 

1 The Jewish Year, p. 42. 2 Ibid., p. xvi. 

* Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (Macmillan, 1896), oh. x. 

* The Jewish Year, p. xviii. 


the founding of a new congregation, or the migration of an 
old one, the death of a famous Rabbi, or, too often, a more 
than usually grievous persecution, have been omitted from 
these pages, as having but little devotional value to the 
present-day reader." The last assertion is true, in the main, 
of readers who will require translations of the piyutim, 
but it does not apply to all piyutim of the class excluded. 
Such an exclusion obscures one of the chief glories of 
these poems, viz. their ready and throbbing responsiveness 
to the incidents of Israel's life among the nations. And 
is there no inspiration in such a hymn as the following, 
written in the heat of the first crusade? I cite it in 
a translation made, unfortunately, not from the Hebrew 
of Kalonymos ben Jehuda, but from the German of Zunz, 
by E. H. Plumptre 1 . Some English translations from the 
same chapter in Zunz may also be found in a publication 
of the Hebrew Literature Society 2 . Dr. Lowy's versions 
are, of course, scholarly, but they are unrhythmical. Let 
us listen now to Mr. Plumptre's version of a hymn called 
forth by the Crusades 3 ; in its English form it trips along 
too jauntily, but it shows how these elegies, intolerant 
though they were, helped the suffering Jew to be strong 
unto death: — 

Yes, they slay us and they smite, 
Vex our souls with sore affright; 
All the closer cleave we, Lord, 
To thine everlasting word. 
Not a word of all their Mass 
Shall our lips in homage pass; 
Though they curse, and bind, and kill, 
The living God is with us still. 
Yes, they fain would make us now, 
Baptized, at Baal's altar bow ; 

1 Written in Mayence : translated from Zunz's Synagogale Poesie des 

1 Miscellany, Second Series. 

3 I quote from Isabel E. Cohen's Headings and, Recitations (Philadelphia : 
The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1895), p. 179. 


On their raiment, wrought with gold, 

See the sign we hateful hold; 

And, with words of foulest shame, 

They outrage, Lord, the holiest name. 

We still are thine, though limbs are torn; 

Better death than life forsworn. 

Noblest matrons seek for death, 

Rob their children of their breath ; 

Fathers, in their fiery zeal, 

Slay their sons with murderous steel; 

And in heat of holiest strife, 

For love of thee, spare not their life. 

The fair and young lie down to die 

In witness of thy Unity ; 

From dying lips the accents swell, 

"Thy God is One, Israel"; 

And bridegroom answers unto bride, 

" The Lord is One, and none beside " ; 

And, knit with bonds of holiest faith, 

They pass to endless life through death. 

The high-water mark of this class of hymn is reached 
by the man of sorrows and renown, Meir ben Baruch of 
Rothenburg. There is surely eternal sph-itual woi'th in his 
sublime elegy on a passing grief, the burning of some 
scrolls of the Law in the middle of the thirteenth century *. 
How ably Mrs. Lucas can render such poems is shown 
by her masterly translation of Jehuda Halevi's "Ode to 
Zion," a poem on which Meir of Rothenburg's elegy was 
clearly modelled. The loss of Jewish independence was a 
bigger event, no doubt, than a local persecution in mediaeval 
Germany ; but it may be doubted whether, to the Jew, the 
burning of a scroll of the Law was not a more serious 
sorrow than the burning of the Temple itself. Mrs. Lucas' 
version of the " Ode to Zion " has, since its appearance in 

1 See the excellent German version by Geiger in Jild. Dichtungen der 
span, und ital. Schuie (Leipzig, 1856), and the fine English translation by 
Miss Nina Davis in the Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. VIII, p. 426. 
The elegy has become one of the liturgical Kinoth of the German and 
Polish rite. 



this Review *, become a classic. It has been printed and 
reprinted, at every fresh publication has charmed a new 
circle of readers, and has won for Mrs. Lucas a place among 
the consummate translators. 

Perfect in beauty, Zion, how in thee 

Do love and grace unite! 

The souls of thy companions tenderly 

Turn unto thee: thy joy was their delight, 

And weeping, they lament thy ruin now. 

In distant exile, for thy sacred height 

They long; and towards thy gates in prayer they bow. 

Thy flocks are scattered o'er the barren waste, 

Yet do they not forget thy sheltering fold; 

Unto thy garments' fringe they cling, and haste 

The branches of thy palms to seize and hold. 

I have selected this verse from the Ode because of its 
poetical use of ceremonial. In this branch again Mrs. Lucas' 
Jewish Year is weak, because probably she does not admit 
spiritual beauty in a mere didactic presentment of the details 
of Biblical and Rabbinical law. In this she is right. There 
is a whole class of liturgical compositions (one can hardly 
term them hymns) appropriated to the Temple ceremonies 
of the Day of Atonement (Aboclah), and another to the 
Feast of Weeks, the traditional anniversary of the Revela- 
tion on Mount Sinai. These latter poems, termed Azharoth 
(Exhortations), consist sometimes of mere catalogues of 
the 613 precepts into which the Law was distributed, but 
in the hands of Solomon Gabirol the Azhara becomes 
a vehicle of devout meditation. Much cannot be said in 
praise of the liturgical summaries of the ceremonial 
observed on the various festivals ; these are mainly 
obsolete, arid, and spiritless, full of recondite reference 
and straining after effect, and Mrs. Lucas has shown 
excellent taste in ignoring them. This has carried with 
it, however, an almost complete rejection of Kalir, who is 
represented in Mrs. Lucas' volume by one slight piece, 
though his contributions to the prayer-book are numbered 
1 Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. V, p. 652. 


by scores. There can be little question that Kalir has little 
to tell us to-day 1 , but I think that place might have been 
found for some more of his piyutim, among them for his 
Passover verses on the Dew, which I cite in Sachs' version. 
I make this citation for the further reason, that it would 
be a sin against justice to omit, from an article on transla- 
tions of the piyutim, a specimen of Sachs' manner in 
rendering Kalir's difficult yet devout, forced yet forceful 
stanzas : — 

milden Thau gieb fur Dein Land zum Heil ! 
Durch Deine Huld sei Segen unser Theil. 
Gewahrst Du Most und Korn im reichen Segen, 
Richt' auf die Stadt, die liebend Du willst hegen. 
sende Thau, das Jahr mit Heil zu kronen. 
Des Feldes Frucht— lass sie gedeih'n verschonen ! 
sei die Stadt, die 6d' und ausgeleert, 
In Deiner Hand ein Diadem voll Werth. 
weh' herab den Thau auf Segensland. 
Dein Gut in Fulle sei herabgesandt. 
Lass aus der Nacht in hellem Glanze prangen 
Die Theure, die Dir nachzog voll Verlangen. 
Der Thau durchdufte, was auf Bergen spriesst. 
Durch Deine Macht sei Kostliches versusst. 
Deine Lieben rett' aus Drangsals Haft, 
Dann t6nt Dir Lob und Dank in lauter Kraft. 
Der Thau mit Fulle unsere Speicher tranke, 
Uns zu verjiingen Deine Huld uns schenke. 
Fur ewig, Herr ! lass unsera Namen blflh'n, — 
Wie Fluren durch die SegensstrOme zieh'n! 
sende Thau zum Segen unsrer Zehrung, 
schiitze Fulle vor der Noth Verheerung. 
Die einst gleich einer Heerde Du geleitet, 
sei ihr Huld und Gnade stets bereitet. 

A similar beauty may be detected in the Hoshaanoth 
(Hosannas), or hymns sung during the Procession of the 
Palms on the Feast of Tabernacles. Mrs. Lucas has avoided 

1 Little, that is, religiously ; but to the student Kalir is a mine of 
Hagadic lore. His citations from Midrashim sometimes preserve other- 
wise forgotten traditions and exegesis. 

G a 


the hymns based on ceremonial from design, and not from 
inability to cope with them. This is quite evident from 
her beautiful rendering of Ibn Gabirol's "Happy he who 
saw of old 1 ," a poem entirely inspired by the priestly 
ceremonial in the Temple of Jerusalem on the Day of 
Atonement, as poetically set forth by the son of Sirach. 
It is a triumph of the translator's art, just as Gabirol's 
alternations of joy — "Happy he who saw of old" — and 
sorrow — " But to hear of it afflicts our soul " — are a triumph 
of poetic pathos. It is an added affliction to the Day 
of Atonement : the hearing of glories that eyes once 
actually beheld. I cannot refrain from giving this trans- 
lation in full, for this and the " Ode to Zion " are, to my 
mind, the gems of Mrs. Lucas' collection. Her own original 
conclusion is exquisite in feeling. 

Happy he who saw of old 

The high priest, with gems and gold 

All adorned from crown to hem, 

Tread thy courts, Jerusalem, 

Till he reached the sacred place 

Where the Lord's especial grace 

Ever dwelt, the centre of the whole : 

Happy he whose eyes 

Saw at last the cloud of glory rise, 

But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Happy he that day who saw 

How, with reverence and awe 

And with sanctity of mien, 

Spoke the priest : "Ye shall be clean 

From your sins before the Lord " ; 

Echoed long the holy word, 

While around the fragrant incense stole : 

Happy he whose eyea 

Saw at last the cloud of glory rise, 

But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Happy he who saw the crowd, 
That in adoration bowed, 
As they heard the priest proclaim, 
" One, Ineffable, the Name " ; 
1 The Jewish Year, p. 67. 


And they answered, "Blessed be 

God, the Lord eternally, 

He whom all created worlds extol": 

Happy he whose eyes 

Saw at last the cloud of glory rise, 

But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Happy he who saw the priest 

Turn towards the shining east, 

And, with solemn gladness thrilled, 

Read the doctrine, that distilled 

As the dew upon the plain, 

And as showers of gentle rain, 

While he raised on high the sacred scroll. 

Happy he whose eyes 

Saw at last the cloud of glory rise, 

But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Happy he who saw the walls 
Of the temple's radiant halls, 
Where the golden cherubim 
Hide the ark's recesses dim, 
Heard the singer's choral song, 
Saw the Levites' moving throng, 
Saw the golden censer and the bowl. 
Happy he whose eyes 
Saw at last the cloud of glory rise, 
But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Ever thus the burden rang 

Of the pious songs, that sang 

All the glories past and gone 

Israel once did gaze upon — 

Glories of the sacred fane, 

Which they mourned and mourned again, 

With a bitterness beyond control : 

Happy he whose eyes 

Saw (they said) the cloud of glory rise, 

But to hear of it afflicts our soul. 

Singers of a bygone day, 

Who from earth have passed away, 

Now ye see the glories shine 

Of that distant land divine, 

And no more (entranced by them) 

Mourn this world's Jerusalem. 


Happy ye who, from that heavenly goal, 
See, with other eyes 
Far than ours, such radiant visions rise, 
That to hear of them delights our soul. 

Mrs. Lucas has yielded to a more comprehensive con- 
ception of what belongs to the literature of devotion by 
admitting a few Talmudical parables ; here she has well 
prospered. " The Mission of Moses/' " Simeon ben Migdal," 
"Hillel and his Guest," "The Commandment of Forget- 
fulness V are all good, the last particularly so. The Kabbi 
had always lamented that he could not fulfil the law to 
forget a sheaf in the field (Deut. xxiv. 19), because when he 
remembered to perform this duty he eo ipso failed in it. 

But when autumn came, 
And waves of corn glowed 'neath the sunset's flame, 
It chanced at evening, that, his labours o'er, 
He stood and gazed upon his garnered store, 
And suddenly to him his little son 
Came, saying : " Father, see what thou hast done ! 
Three sheaves in yonder field I have espied 
Forgotten ! " " Oh ! " the pious' Rabbi cried, 
"Blessed art thou, Lord, whose gracious will 
Enables me thy bidding to fulfil, 
Even through some oversight." And with the day 
Unto the house of God he took his way, 
And oflFered of his flocks and herds the best, 
For joy to have obeyed the Lord's behest. 

I have already exceeded the limits of fair quotation 
in a review, and yet have so far done little justice to many 
of the best features of the hymns in Mrs. Lucas' book. 
It will surprise some who are accustomed to the con- 
ventional charge against Judaism of "Pharisaic" self- 
righteousness to find how often the note of humility is 
struck by the poetanim. 

Man cannot by his works alone 

His load of guilt annul ; 

Let him with prayers besiege the throne 

Of heaven most merciful. 

1 Pp. 28, 62, 88, 105. 


To those who seek him earnestly, 
In penitent humility, 
The Lord our God will multiply 
Mercy and Pardon. 

So sings Chiya 1 . 

The faithful men have perished one by one, 

And there remaineth none 

With ceaseless prayer to seek thine aid, 

Pleading for pardon, even as he, 

The faithful of thy house, who prayed 

By day and night incessantly : 

Yet, as in days of old, 

Have mercy on us, Lord, with mercies manifold — 

is the conclusion of another hymn 2 , which is one of the 
favourite Sdichoth. 

Another note frequently struck is the note of resignation. 
Abraham ibn Ezra was perhaps as much buffeted on the 
waves of misfortune as any mediaeval bard, yet this is how 
he requites the bitter blows of his fate 3 : — 

Hope for the salvation of the Lord, 
In him I trust, when fears my being thrill ; 

Come life, come death, according to his word, 
He is my portion still. 

Him will I serve, his am I as of old ; 

I ask not to be free. 

Sweet is ev'n sorrow coming in his name, 
Nor will I seek its purpose to explore ; 

His praise will I continually proclaim, 
And bless him evermore. 

The greatness of God is, indeed, constantly set in contrast 
to the impotency of man, not, however, to make God more 
transcendent, but to glorify his grace in responding to the 
lowly cry of humanity. 

1 P. 160. * P. 9. 3 P. 60 ; compare p. 53. 


Evil seed our sins have sown, 
Evil fruit from them has grown ; 
Seek we, then, to end our woes, 
Him who knows our frame, and knows 
That dust are we. 

Thus Jehuda Halevi 1 . 

The God of Israel, as conceived in these hymns, has a 
home not afar, but near in the very heart of the worshipper. 

And though thou seekest out my sin, 
Prom thee to thee I fly to win 
A place of refuge, and within 
Thy shadow from thy anger hide 2 . 

This is one of the sublimest, the most original thoughts 
in the devotional literature of all the churches in the 
Middle Ages. Israel, in some of these hymns, occupies 
a special relation to God ; but so surely does the Christian, 
who as often hymns his special hopes through Jesus. In 
another point the parallel may be drawn between Church 
and Synagogue : the intensity of pathos poured out in the 
hymns of the Crucifixion has its like in the poetanic heart- 
pouring over the sacrifice of Isaac (the Akeda piyut of 
which, inadvertently, Mrs. Lucas gives no specimen). So, 
again, some of the best thoughts of the church hymns have 
their Jewish parallel in the mystic Hymn of Glory 3 : — 

They saw in thee both youth and age, 
The man of war, the hoary sage, 
But ever Israel's heritage. 

thou whose word is truth alway, 
Thy people seek thy face this day, 
be thou near them when they pray. 

let my praises, heavenward sped, 
Be as a crown unto thy head, 
My prayer an incense offered ! 

may my words of blessing rise 

To thee, who, throned above the skies, 

Art just and mighty, great and wise ! 

1 P. 55. 3 P. 148. ' P. 120. 


And -when thy glory I declare, 

Do thou incline thee to my prayer, 

As though sweet spice my offering were. 1 

My meditation day and night, 
May it be pleasant in thy sight, 
For thou art all my soul's delight. 

In these hymns, then, as in the Jewish prose liturgy, 
there is an exaltation of prayer into the place once partly 
occupied by ritual. 

Seek ye his presence, and implore 
His countenance for evermore ; 
Then shall your prayers accepted be, 
As offerings brought continually. 

This hymn of Solomon ben Abun 1 may be compared 
to the oft-recited piyut based on Hosea xiv. %, which 
Jewish exegesis rendered, " We will pay the former offerings 
by our present prayers." 

The clouds of incense fail, 

Gone is our altar, rent the golden veil, 

Naught but our prayers remain — 

Forgive, then, our transgressions once again, 

As when the appointed one 

Led forth the scapegoat to the desert lone : 

Have mercy, Lord, and hear us when we pray, 

And with our lips the steers we will repay 2 . 

And as prayer becomes the only means of bringing man 
nearer to God, so the psalmists' mystic yearning for com- 
munion of the human soul with the divine' is luxuriantly 
developed in the piyutim. The poetan, however, like many 
a church hymnologist, weakly attempted a syncretism 
which has no place in a mystic hymn. He would address 
God in one and the same poem as his soul's Beloved and 
as Mighty King ; he would combine the language of love 
and of homage, to the destruction of poetical unity. But, 
when all this is allowed, Mrs. Lucas has translated many 
verses about the soul which might claim a place in the 

1 P- 45- ! P. 59. 


most exclusive anthology of the world's greatest thoughts 
on the spiritual life. To quote in proof of this assertion 
would be to reproduce more than is fair of the gems of 
Mrs. Lucas' volume. The reader will find the illustrations 
ready to his hand, and if the translator sometimes falls 
short of the sure and vigorous sweep, the bold and glowing 
colour of the originals, her version lacks nothing of their 
grace, their sublimity, their inspiration. 

Here I must take leave of this remarkable book. The 
hymns which it contains, " written in the dark ages of 
Jewish life, are illuminated by a divine optimism which 
may well serve to strengthen our own often wavering faith, 
and lead us too to find in our religion that peace and 
happiness which blessed the singers of those days in the 
midst of sorrow and persecution V This, after all, is the 
true purpose and value of a hymnology. All the hymns 
of all the churches add very little from the spiritual or 
literary point of view to the psalms. But they do add 
the testimony of spiritual experience. As the world grows 
older it is something to know that men in all ages have 
been able to echo in their lips and in their lives the 
optimism, the trust, the devotion of the psalmists. And 
there is one thing more. In the great hunting after the 
blessings of the world there seems no place for unalloyed 
thanksgiving, and the tendency becomes daily stronger 
to " end our gloria in a whining petition." The hymns 
of Synagogue and Church come in here as a corrective. 
They bid men praise God, and live by praising him ; for 
a pure, unselfish praise may help the heart of the eulogist 
towards purity and unselfishness. Mrs. Lucas has given 
to Jews a new and powerful aid towards attaining this 
ideal. She has earned the gratitude of many not merely 
by her talents, her scholarship, her graces of style, but 
chiefly by the noble end she has aimed at, and in a large 
measure has attained. It is even conceivable that Mrs. Lucas' 

1 P. xvii. 


book may induce a stray reader here and there to go to the 
original Hebrew sources in order to drink more deeply of 
poetanie faith and love. What though the source be hard 
of access, and the waters more than a little troubled ? In 
Keble's lines 1 : — 

Dim or unheard, the words may fall, 

And yet the heaven-taught mind 
May learn the sacred air, and all 

The harmony unwind. 

I. Abeahams. 

1 The Christian Year, " Catechism."