Down-trodden ’neath the Syrian heel
Did Zion’s sceptre lie;
Her shrine, where once God’s glory flung
Its radiance, now wildly rung
With pagan revelry.
And in the Temple’s secret place,
Where once the High Priest bowed
In homage to the King of kings,
The vilest of all earthly things
Was worshipped by the crowd.
And still the flaming altar smoked,
The priest was at his post,
Commanding Israel’s sons to pray
To images of stone and clay,
Or swell the holocaust.
Seven glorious brethren there had stood,
Unflinching, side by side,
And, sooner than yield up their faith,
Had dared the faggot’s burning breath,
And willing martyrs died.
Not unavenged and not in vain
Fell that undaunted race;
For Judas, with his patriot band,
Drove the oppressors from the land,
And cleansed the holy place.
Then the Menorah once again
Illumed the holy shrine,
One little flask of sacred oil,
Saved unpolluted from the spoil
Supplied the light divine.
Full twenty centuries have rolled
The gulf of Time adown,
Since those heroic Maccabees,
The victims of Epiphanes,
Assumed the martyr’s crown.
And still the Festival of Lights
Recalls those deeds of yore
That make our history’s page sublime
And live for evermore.
This poem is in the public domain.