Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Marion Hartog's Chanukah poem for Hanukkah

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Remembering feminist trailblazer Marion Hartog at Hanukkah.

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.


— Marion Hartog


Marion Hartog (1821-1907), along with her sister Celia, published a joint volume of poetry in 1838. Their three-volume Tales of Jewish History published in 1843 was among the first fiction ever published by Jewish women. Marion also founded the first Jewish women’s journal in history in 1854, the Jewish Sabbath Journal. When she closed the journal five months later, she closed it with a poem — On the Death of My Beloved Child.