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.
Marion Hartog was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1821, and educated at home, where her father read widely to her and her siblings. In 1838, Hartog and her sister Celia published an anthology of their poems, Early Efforts (Whittaker & Co.), by subscription and soon moved to London, where they worked as teachers and continued to write. In 1840, the sisters published a three-volume short story collection, The Romance of Jewish History (Saunders and Otley), again by subscription, and followed that collection three years later with the three-volume Tales of Jewish History (Miller & Field, 1843).
In 1845, she married a French tutor named Alphonse Hartog, and she, Hartog, and Celia founded a girls’ boarding school at their home. Both sisters continued writing, publishing their work in such periodicals as The Occident and American Jewish Advocate.
In 1854, Marion Hartog founded the Jewish Sabbath Journal, the first Jewish women’s journal in history, which contained stories about successful women, reflections on women’s relationships in the Jewish community, satires, and sermons she had written herself. Though her journal was popular among female Jewish readers, it was short-lived; after a chief rabbi and notable editor of a Jewish community newspaper derided the journal, claiming it promoted “un-Jewish” doctrines, it suffered from a loss of subscriptions, and Hartog discontinued the journal just months after she founded it.
Hartog continued running her boarding school until 1884, and for the rest of her lifetime, she published only sporadically. She died on October 29, 1907, in England.
Date Published: 2017-11-29
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/chanukah