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64 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
"THE JEWISH YEAR"
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}.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 65
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
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
VOL. XI. F
66 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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
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 JEWISH YEAR" 67
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.
68 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
(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).
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 69
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.
70 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAK 71
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).
72 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 73
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.
74 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
THE JEWISH YEAR
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,
tears and groans,
plead my cause,
free of yoke
hath in bond
" Forgiven ! "
th' informer's word ;
to make heard
" Forgiven ! "
do not spurn ;
" 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.
76 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAE 77
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.
78 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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,
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.
"THE JEWISH ^TEAR 79
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.
80 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 8l
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
VOL. XI. G
82 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 83
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.
84 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 85
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.
86 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 87
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
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.
88 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 89
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.
90 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.
"THE JEWISH YEAR" 9 1
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.
1 The Christian Year, " Catechism."