Judas Maccabaeus.

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Old 31-Jul-2010
Judas Maccabaeus.


The Citadel of Antiochus at Jerusalem.


O Antioch, my Antioch, my city!
Queen of the East! my solace, my delight!
The dowry of my sister Cleopatra
When she was wed to Ptolemy, and now
Won back and made more wonderful by me!
I love thee, and I long to be once more
Among the players and the dancing women
Within thy gates, and bathe in the Orontes,
Thy river and mine. O Jason, my High-Priest,
For I have made thee so, and thou art mine,
Hast thou seen Antioch the Beautiful?

Never, my Lord.

Then hast thou never seen
The wonder of the world. This city of David
Compared with Antioch is but a village,
And its inhabitants compared with Greeks
Are mannerless boors.

They are barbarians,
And mannerless.

They must be civilized.
They must be made to have more gods than one;
And goddesses besides.

They shall have more.

They must have hippodromes, and games, and baths,
Stage-plays and festivals, and most of all
The Dionysia.

They shall have them all.

By Heracles! but I should like to see
These Hebrews crowned with ivy, and arrayed
In skins of fawns, with drums and flutes and thyrsi,
Revel and riot through the solemn streets
Of their old town. Ha, ha! It makes me merry
Only to think of it!--Thou dost not laugh.

Yea, I laugh inwardly.

The new Greek leaven
Works slowly in this Israelitish dough!
Have I not sacked the Temple, and on the altar
Set up the statue of Olympian Zeus
To Hellenize it?

Thou hast done all this.

As thou wast Joshua once and now art Jason,
And from a Hebrew hast become a Greek,
So shall this Hebrew nation be translated,
Their very natures and their names be changed,
And all be Hellenized.

It shall be done.

Their manners and their laws and way of living
Shall all be Greek. They shall unlearn their language,
And learn the lovely speech of Antioch.
Where hast thou been to-day? Thou comest late.

Playing at discus with the other priests
In the Gymnasium.

Thou hast done well.
There's nothing better for you lazy priests
Than discus-playing with the common people.
Now tell me, Jason, what these Hebrews call me
When they converse together at their games.

Antiochus Epiphanes, my Lord;
Antiochus the Illustrious.

O, not that;
That is the public cry; I mean the name
They give me when they talk among themselves,
And think that no one listens; what is that?

Antiochus Epimanes, my Lord!

Antiochus the Mad! Ay, that is it.
And who hath said it? Who hath set in motion
That sorry jest?

The Seven Sons insane
Of a weird woman, like themselves insane.

I like their courage, but it shall not save them.
They shall be made to eat the flesh of swine,
Or they shall die. Where are they?

In the dungeons
Beneath this tower.

There let them stay and starve,
Till I am ready to make Greeks of them,
After my fashion.

They shall stay and starve.--
My Lord, the Ambassadors of Samaria
Await thy pleasure.

Why not my displeasure?
Ambassadors are tedious. They are men
Who work for their own ends, and not for mine
There is no furtherance in them. Let them go
To Apollonius, my governor
There in Samaria, and not trouble me.
What do they want?

Only the royal sanction
To give a name unto a nameless temple
Upon Mount Gerizim.

Then bid them enter.
This pleases me, and furthers my designs.
The occasion is auspicious. Bid them enter.


Approach. Come forward; stand not at the door
Wagging your long beards, but demean yourselves
As doth become Ambassadors. What seek ye?

An audience from the King.

Speak, and be brief.
Waste not the time in useless rhetoric.
Words are not things.

AMBASSADOR (reading). "To King Antiochus,
The God, Epiphanes; a Memorial
From the Sidonians, who live at Sichem."


Ay, my Lord.

Go on, go on!
And do not tire thyself and me with bowing!

AMBASSADOR (reading).
"We are a colony of Medes and Persians."

No, ye are Jews from one of the Ten Tribes;
Whether Sidonians or Samaritans
Or Jews of Jewry, matters not to me;
Ye are all Israelites, ye are all Jews.
When the Jews prosper, ye claim kindred with them;
When the Jews suffer, ye are Medes and Persians:
I know that in the days of Alexander
Ye claimed exemption from the annual tribute
In the Sabbatic Year, because, ye said,
Your fields had not been planted in that year.

AMBASSADOR (reading).
"Our fathers, upon certain frequent plagues,
And following an ancient superstition,
Were long accustomed to observe that day
Which by the Israelites is called the Sabbath,
And in a temple on Mount Gerizim
Without a name, they offered sacrifice.
Now we, who are Sidonians, beseech thee,
Who art our benefactor and our savior,
Not to confound us with these wicked Jews,
But to give royal order and injunction
To Apollonius in Samaria.
Thy governor, and likewise to Nicanor,
Thy procurator, no more to molest us;
And let our nameless temple now be named
The Temple of Jupiter Hellenius."

This shall be done. Full well it pleaseth me
Ye are not Jews, or are no longer Jews,
But Greeks; if not by birth, yet Greeks by custom.
Your nameless temple shall receive the name
Of Jupiter Hellenius. Ye may go!


My task is easier than I dreamed. These people
Meet me half-way. Jason, didst thou take note
How these Samaritans of Sichem said
They were not Jews? that they were Medes and Persians,
They were Sidonians, anything but Jews?
'T is of good augury. The rest will follow
Till the whole land is Hellenized.

My Lord,
These are Samaritans. The tribe of Judah
Is of a different temper, and the task
Will be more difficult.

Dost thou gainsay me?

I know the stubborn nature of the Jew.
Yesterday, Eleazer, an old man,
Being fourscore years and ten, chose rather death
By torture than to eat the flesh of swine.

The life is in the blood, and the whole nation
Shall bleed to death, or it shall change its faith!

Hundreds have fled already to the mountains
Of Ephraim, where Judas Maccabaeus
Hath raised the standard of revolt against thee.

I will burn down their city, and will make it
Waste as a wilderness. Its thoroughfares
Shall be but furrows in a field of ashes.
It shall be sown with salt as Sodom is!
This hundred and fifty-third Olympiad
Shall have a broad and blood-red sea upon it,
Stamped with the awful letters of my name,
Antiochus the God, Epiphanes!--
Where are those Seven Sons?

My Lord, they wait
Thy royal pleasure.

They shall wait no longer!


The Dungeons in the Citadel.

SCENE I. -- THE MOTHER of the SEVEN SONS alone, listening.

Be strong, my heart!
Break not till they are dead,
All, all my Seven Sons; then burst asunder,
And let this tortured and tormented soul
Leap and rush out like water through the shards
Of earthen vessels broken at a well.
O my dear children, mine in life and death,
I know not how ye came into my womb;
I neither gave you breath, nor gave you life,
And neither was it I that formed the members
Of every one of you. But the Creator,
Who made the world, and made the heavens above us,
Who formed the generation of mankind,
And found out the beginning of all things,
He gave you breath and life, and will again
Of his own mercy, as ye now regard
Not your own selves, but his eternal law.
I do not murmur, nay, I thank thee, God,
That I and mine have not been deemed unworthy
To suffer for thy sake, and for thy law,
And for the many sins of Israel.
Hark! I can hear within the sound of scourges!
I feel them more than ye do, O my sons!
But cannot come to you. I, who was wont
To wake at night at the least cry ye made,
To whom ye ran at every slightest hurt,
I cannot take you now into my lap
And soothe your pain, but God will take you all
Into his pitying arms, and comfort you,
And give you rest.

A VOICE (within).
What wouldst thou ask of us?
Ready are we to die, but we will never
Transgress the law and customs of our fathers.

It is the Voice of my first-born! O brave
And noble boy! Thou hast the privilege
Of dying first, as thou wast born the first.

THE SAME VOICE (within).
God looketh on us, and hath comfort in us;
As Moses in his song of old declared,
He in his servants shall be comforted.

I knew thou wouldst not fail!--He speaks no more,
He is beyond all pain!

ANTIOCHUS. (within).
If thou eat not
Thou shalt be tortured throughout all the members
Of thy whole body. Wilt thou eat then?

SECOND VOICE. (within).

It is Adaiah's voice. I tremble for him.
I know his nature, devious as the wind,
And swift to change, gentle and yielding always.
Be steadfast, O my son!

THE SAME VOICE (within).
Thou, like a fury,
Takest us from this present life, but God,
Who rules the world, shall raise us up again
Into life everlasting.

God, I thank thee
That thou hast breathed into that timid heart
Courage to die for thee. O my Adaiah,
Witness of God! if thou for whom I feared
Canst thus encounter death, I need not fear;
The others will not shrink.

THIRD VOICE (within).
Behold these hands
Held out to thee, O King Antiochus,
Not to implore thy mercy, but to show
That I despise them. He who gave them to me
Will give them back again.

O Avilan,
It is thy voice. For the last time I hear it;
For the last time on earth, but not the last.
To death it bids defiance and to torture.
It sounds to me as from another world,
And makes the petty miseries of this
Seem unto me as naught, and less than naught.
Farewell, my Avilan; nay, I should say
Welcome, my Avilan; for I am dead
Before thee. I am waiting for the others.
Why do they linger?

FOURTH VOICE (within).
It is good, O King,
Being put to death by men, to look for hope
From God, to be raised up again by him.
But thou--no resurrection shalt thou have
To life hereafter.

Four! already four!
Three are still living; nay, they all are living,
Half here, half there. Make haste, Antiochus,
To reunite us; for the sword that cleaves
These miserable bodies makes a door
Through which our souls, impatient of release,
Rush to each other's arms.

FIFTH VOICE (within).
Thou hast the power;
Thou doest what thou wilt. Abide awhile,
And thou shalt see the power of God, and how
He will torment thee and thy seed.

O hasten;
Why dost thou pause? Thou who hast slain already
So many Hebrew women, and hast hung
Their murdered infants round their necks, slay me,
For I too am a woman, and these boys
Are mine. Make haste to slay us all,
And hang my lifeless babes about my neck.

SIXTH VOICE (within).
Think not,
Antiochus, that takest in hand
To strive against the God of Israel,
Thou shalt escape unpunished, for his wrath
Shall overtake thee and thy bloody house.

One more, my Sirion, and then all is ended.
Having put all to bed, then in my turn
I will lie down and sleep as sound as they.
My Sirion, my youngest, best beloved!
And those bright golden locks, that I so oft
Have curled about these fingers, even now
Are foul with blood and dust, like a lamb's fleece,
Slain in the shambles.--Not a sound I hear.
This silence is more terrible to me
Than any sound, than any cry of pain,
That might escape the lips of one who dies.
Doth his heart fail him? Doth he fall away
In the last hour from God? O Sirion, Sirion,
Art thou afraid? I do not hear thy voice.
Die as thy brothers died. Thou must not live!


Are they all dead?

Of all thy Seven Sons
One only lives. Behold them where they lie
How dost thou like this picture?

God in heaven!
Can a man do such deeds, and yet not die
By the recoil of his own wickedness?
Ye murdered, bleeding, mutilated bodies
That were my children once, and still are mine,
I cannot watch o'er you as Rispah watched
In sackcloth o'er the seven sons of Saul,
Till water drop upon you out of heaven
And wash this blood away! I cannot mourn
As she, the daughter of Aiah, mourned the dead,
From the beginning of the barley-harvest
Until the autumn rains, and suffered not
The birds of air to rest on them by day,
Nor the wild beasts by night. For ye have died
A better death, a death so full of life
That I ought rather to rejoice than mourn.--
Wherefore art thou not dead, O Sirion?
Wherefore art thou the only living thing
Among thy brothers dead? Art thou afraid?

O woman, I have spared him for thy sake,
For he is fair to look upon and comely;
And I have sworn to him by all the gods
That I would crown his life with joy and honor,
Heap treasures on him, luxuries, delights,
Make him my friend and keeper of my secrets,
If he would turn from your Mosaic Law
And be as we are; but he will not listen.

My noble Sirion!

Therefore I beseech thee,
Who art his mother, thou wouldst speak with him,
And wouldst persuade him. I am sick of blood.

Yea, I will speak with him and will persuade him.
O Sirion, my son! have pity on me,
On me that bare thee, and that gave thee suck,
And fed and nourished thee, and brought thee up
With the dear trouble of a mother's care
Unto this age. Look on the heavens above thee,
And on the earth and all that is therein;
Consider that God made them out of things
That were not; and that likewise in this manner
Mankind was made. Then fear not this tormentor
But, being worthy of thy brethren, take
Thy death as they did, that I may receive thee
Again in mercy with them.

I am mocked,
Yea, I am laughed to scorn.

Whom wait ye for?
Never will I obey the King's commandment,
But the commandment of the ancient Law,
That was by Moses given unto our fathers.
And thou, O godless man, that of all others
Art the most wicked, be not lifted up,
Nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, uplifting
Thy hand against the servants of the Lord,
For thou hast not escaped the righteous judgment
Of the Almighty God, who seeth all things!

He is no God of mine; I fear him not.

My brothers, who have suffered a brief pain,
Are dead; but thou, Antiochus, shalt suffer
The punishment of pride. I offer up
My body and my life, beseeching God
That he would speedily be merciful
Unto our nation, and that thou by plagues
Mysterious and by torments mayest confess
That he alone is God.

Ye both shall perish
By torments worse than any that your God,
Here or hereafter, hath in store for me.

My Sirion, I am proud of thee!

Be silent!
Go to thy bed of torture in yon chamber,
Where lie so many sleepers, heartless mother!
Thy footsteps will not wake them, nor thy voice,
Nor wilt thou hear, amid thy troubled dreams,
Thy children crying for thee in the night!

O Death, that stretchest thy white hands to me,
I fear them not, but press them to my lips,
That are as white as thine; for I am Death,
Nay, am the Mother of Death, seeing these sons
All lying lifeless.--Kiss me, Sirion.


The Battle-field of Beth-horon.

SCENE I. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS in armor before his tent.

The trumpets sound; the echoes of the mountains
Answer them, as the Sabbath morning breaks
Over Beth-horon and its battle-field,
Where the great captain of the hosts of God,
A slave brought up in the brick-fields of Egypt,
O'ercame the Amorites. There was no day
Like that, before or after it, nor shall be.
The sun stood still; the hammers of the hail
Beat on their harness; and the captains set
Their weary feet upon the necks of kings,
As I will upon thine, Antiochus,
Thou man of blood!--Behold the rising sun
Strikes on the golden letters of my banner,
Be Elohim Yehovah! Who is like
To thee, O Lord, among the gods!--Alas!
I am not Joshua, I cannot say,
"Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon, and thou Moon,
In Ajalon!" Nor am I one who wastes
The fateful time in useless lamentation;
But one who bears his life upon his hand
To lose it or to save it, as may best
Serve the designs of Him who giveth life.


Who and what are ye, that with furtive steps
Steal in among our tents?

O Maccabaeus,
Outcasts are we, and fugitives as thou art,
Jews of Jerusalem, that have escaped
From the polluted city, and from death.

None can escape from death. Say that ye come
To die for Israel, and ye are welcome.
What tidings bring ye?

Tidings of despair.
The Temple is laid waste; the precious vessels,
Censers of gold, vials and veils and crowns,
And golden ornaments, and hidden treasures,
Have all been taken from it, and the Gentiles
With revelling and with riot fill its courts,
And dally with harlots in the holy places.

All this I knew before.

Upon the altar
Are things profane, things by the law forbidden;
Nor can we keep our Sabbaths or our Feasts,
But on the festivals of Dionysus
Must walk in their processions, bearing ivy
To crown a drunken god.

This too I know.
But tell me of the Jews. How fare the Jews?

The coming of this mischief hath been sore
And grievous to the people. All the land
Is full of lamentation and of mourning.
The Princes and the Elders weep and wail;
The young men and the maidens are made feeble;
The beauty of the women hath been changed.

And are there none to die for Israel?
'T is not enough to mourn. Breastplate and harness
Are better things than sackcloth. Let the women
Lament for Israel; the men should die.

Both men and women die; old men and young:
Old Eleazer died: and Mahala
With all her Seven Sons.

At every step thou takest there is left
A bloody footprint in the street, by which
The avenging wrath of God will track thee out!
It is enough. Go to the sutler's tents;
Those of you who are men, put on such armor
As ye may find; those of you who are women,
Buckle that armor on; and for a watchword
Whisper, or cry aloud, "The Help of God."


Hail, Judas Maccabaeus!

Hail!--Who art thou
That comest here in this mysterious guise
Into our camp unheralded?

A herald
Sent from Nicanor.

Heralds come not thus.
Armed with thy shirt of mail from head to heel,
Thou glidest like a serpent silently
Into my presence. Wherefore dost thou turn
Thy face from me? A herald speaks his errand
With forehead unabashed. Thou art a spy sent by Nicanor.

No disguise avails!
Behold my face; I am Nicanor's self.

Thou art indeed Nicanor. I salute thee.
What brings thee hither to this hostile camp
Thus unattended?

Confidence in thee.
Thou hast the nobler virtues of thy race,
Without the failings that attend those virtues.
Thou canst be strong, and yet not tyrannous,
Canst righteous be and not intolerant.
Let there be peace between us.

What is peace?
Is it to bow in silence to our victors?
Is it to see our cities sacked and pillaged,
Our people slain, or sold as slaves, or fleeing
At night-time by the blaze of burning towns;
Jerusalem laid waste; the Holy Temple
Polluted with strange gods? Are these things peace?

These are the dire necessities that wait
On war, whose loud and bloody enginery
I seek to stay. Let there be peace between
Antiochus and thee.

What is Antiochus, that he should prate
Of peace to me, who am a fugitive?
To-day he shall be lifted up; to-morrow
Shall not be found, because he is returned
Unto his dust; his thought has come to nothing.
There is no peace between us, nor can be,
Until this banner floats upon the walls
Of our Jerusalem.

Between that city
And thee there lies a waving wall of tents,
Held by a host of forty thousand foot,
And horsemen seven thousand. What hast thou
To bring against all these?

The power of God,
Whose breath shall scatter your white tents abroad,
As flakes of snow.

Your Mighty One in heaven
Will not do battle on the Seventh Day;
It is his day of rest.

Silence, blasphemer.
Go to thy tents.

Shall it be war or peace?

War, war, and only war. Go to thy tents
That shall be scattered, as by you were scattered
The torn and trampled pages of the Law,
Blown through the windy streets.

Farewell, brave foe!

Ho, there, my captains! Have safe-conduct given
Unto Nicanor's herald through the camp,
And come yourselves to me.--Farewell, Nicanor!


The hour is come. Gather the host together
For battle. Lo, with trumpets and with songs
The army of Nicanor comes against us.
Go forth to meet them, praying in your hearts,
And fighting with your hands.

Look forth and see!
The morning sun is shining on their shields
Of gold and brass; the mountains glisten with them,
And shine like lamps. And we who are so few
And poorly armed, and ready to faint with fasting,
How shall we fight against this multitude?

The victory of a battle standeth not
In multitudes, but in the strength that cometh
From heaven above. The Lord forbid that I
Should do this thing, and flee away from them.
Nay, if our hour be come, then let us die;
Let us not stain our honor.

'T is the Sabbath.
Wilt thou fight on the Sabbath, Maccabaeus?

Ay; when I fight the battles of the Lord,
I fight them on his day, as on all others.
Have ye forgotten certain fugitives
That fled once to these hills, and hid themselves
In caves? How their pursuers camped against them
Upon the Seventh Day, and challenged them?
And how they answered not, nor cast a stone,
Nor stopped the places where they lay concealed,
But meekly perished with their wives and children,
Even to the number of a thousand souls?
We who are fighting for our laws and lives
Will not so perish.

Lead us to the battle!

And let our watchword be, "The Help of God!"
Last night I dreamed a dream; and in my vision
Beheld Onias, our High-Priest of old,
Who holding up his hands prayed for the Jews.
This done, in the like manner there appeared
An old man, and exceeding glorious,
With hoary hair, and of a wonderful
And excellent majesty. And Onias said:
"This is a lover of the Jews, who prayeth
Much for the people and the Holy City,--
God's prophet Jeremias." And the prophet
Held forth his right hand and gave unto me
A sword of gold; and giving it he said:
"Take thou this holy sword, a gift from God,
And with it thou shalt wound thine adversaries."

The Lord is with us!

Hark! I hear the trumpets
Sound from Beth-horon; from the battle-field
Of Joshua, where he smote the Amorites,
Smote the Five Kings of Eglon and of Jarmuth,
Of Hebron, Lachish, and Jerusalem,
As we to-day will smite Nicanor's hosts
And leave a memory of great deeds behind us.

The Help of God!

Be Elohim Yehovah!
Lord, thou didst send thine Angel in the time
Of Esekias, King of Israel,
And in the armies of Sennacherib
Didst slay a hundred fourscore and five thousand.
Wherefore, O Lord of heaven, now also send
Before us a good angel for a fear,
And through the might of thy right arm let those
Be stricken with terror that have come this day
Against thy holy people to blaspheme!


The outer Courts of the Temple at Jerusalem.


Behold, our enemies are discomfited.
Jerusalem is fallen; and our banners
Float from her battlements, and o'er her gates
Nicanor's severed head, a sign of terror,
Blackens in wind and sun.

O Maccabaeus,
The citadel of Antiochus, wherein
The Mother with her Seven Sons was murdered,
Is still defiant.


Its hateful aspect
Insults us with the bitter memories
Of other days.

Wait; it shall disappear
And vanish as a cloud. First let us cleanse
The Sanctuary. See, it is become
Waste like a wilderness. Its golden gates
Wrenched from their hinges and consumed by fire;
Shrubs growing in its courts as in a forest;
Upon its altars hideous and strange idols;
And strewn about its pavement at my feet
Its Sacred Books, half burned and painted o'er
With images of heathen gods.

Woe! woe!
Our beauty and our glory are laid waste!
The Gentiles have profaned our holy places!

(Lamentation and alarm of trumpets.)

This sound of trumpets, and this lamentation,
The heart-cry of a people toward the heavens,
Stir me to wrath and vengeance. Go, my captains;
I hold you back no longer. Batter down
The citadel of Antiochus, while here
We sweep away his altars and his gods.


Lurking among the ruins of the Temple,
Deep in its inner courts, we found this man,
Clad as High-Priest.

I ask not who thou art.
I know thy face, writ over with deceit
As are these tattered volumes of the Law
With heathen images. A priest of God
Wast thou in other days, but thou art now
A priest of Satan. Traitor, thou art Jason.

I am thy prisoner, Judas Maccabaeus,
And it would ill become me to conceal
My name or office.

Over yonder gate
There hangs the head of one who was a Greek.
What should prevent me now, thou man of sin,
From hanging at its side the head of one
Who born a Jew hath made himself a Greek?

Justice prevents thee.

Justice? Thou art stained
With every crime against which the Decalogue
Thunders with all its thunder.

If not Justice,
Then Mercy, her handmaiden.

When hast thou
At any time, to any man or woman,
Or even to any little child, shown mercy?

I have but done what King Antiochus
Commanded me.

True, thou hast been the weapon
With which he struck; but hast been such a weapon,
So flexible, so fitted to his hand,
It tempted him to strike. So thou hast urged him
To double wickedness, thine own and his.
Where is this King? Is he in Antioch
Among his women still, and from his windows
Throwing down gold by handfuls, for the rabble
To scramble for?

Nay, he is gone from there,
Gone with an army into the far East.

And wherefore gone?

I know not. For the space
Of forty days almost were horsemen seen
Running in air, in cloth of gold, and armed
With lances, like a band of soldiery;
It was a sign of triumph.

Or of death.
Wherefore art thou not with him?

I was left
For service in the Temple.

To pollute it,
And to corrupt the Jews; for there are men
Whose presence is corruption; to be with them
Degrades us and deforms the things we do.

I never made a boast, as some men do,
Of my superior virtue, nor denied
The weakness of my nature, that hath made me
Subservient to the will of other men.

Upon this day, the five and twentieth day
Of the month Caslan, was the Temple here
Profaned by strangers,--by Antiochus
And thee, his instrument. Upon this day
Shall it be cleansed. Thou, who didst lend thyself
Unto this profanation, canst not be
A witness of these solemn services.
There can be nothing clean where thou art present.
The people put to death Callisthenes,
Who burned the Temple gates; and if they find thee
Will surely slay thee. I will spare thy life
To punish thee the longer. Thou shalt wander
Among strange nations. Thou, that hast cast out
So many from their native land, shalt perish
In a strange land. Thou, that hast left so many
Unburied, shalt have none to mourn for thee,
Nor any solemn funerals at all,
Nor sepulchre with thy fathers.--Get thee hence!

(Music. Procession of Priests and people,
with citherns, harps, and cymbals. JUDAS
MACCABAEUS puts himself at their
head, and they go into the inner courts.)

SCENE III. -- JASON, alone.

Through the Gate Beautiful I see them come
With branches and green boughs and leaves of palm,
And pass into the inner courts. Alas!
I should be with them, should be one of them,
But in an evil hour, an hour of weakness,
That cometh unto all, I fell away
From the old faith, and did not clutch the new,
Only an outward semblance of belief;
For the new faith I cannot make mine own,
Not being born to it. It hath no root
Within me. I am neither Jew nor Greek,
But stand between them both, a renegade
To each in turn; having no longer faith
In gods or men. Then what mysterious charm,
What fascination is it chains my feet,
And keeps me gazing like a curious child
Into the holy places, where the priests
Have raised their altar?--Striking stones together,
They take fire out of them, and light the lamps
In the great candlestick. They spread the veils,
And set the loaves of showbread on the table.
The incense burns; the well-remembered odor
Comes wafted unto me, and takes me back
To other days. I see myself among them
As I was then; and the old superstition
Creeps over me again!--A childish fancy!--
And hark! they sing with citherns and with cymbals,
And all the people fall upon their faces,
Praying and worshipping!--I will away
Into the East, to meet Antiochus
Upon his homeward journey, crowned with triumph.
Alas! to-day I would give everything
To see a friend's face, or to hear a voice
That had the slightest tone of comfort in it!


The Mountains of Ecbatana.


Here let us rest awhile. Where are we, Philip?
What place is this?

Ecbatana, my Lord;
And yonder mountain range is the Orontes.

The Orontes is my river at Antioch.
Why did I leave it? Why have I been tempted
By coverings of gold and shields and breastplates
To plunder Elymais, and be driven
From out its gates, as by a fiery blast
Out of a furnace?

These are fortune's changes.

What a defeat it was! The Persian horsemen
Came like a mighty wind, the wind Khamaseen,
And melted us away, and scattered us
As if we were dead leaves, or desert sand.

Be comforted, my Lord; for thou hast lost
But what thou hadst not.

I, who made the Jews
Skip like the grasshoppers, am made myself
To skip among these stones.

Be not discouraged.
Thy realm of Syria remains to thee;
That is not lost nor marred.

O, where are now
The splendors of my court, my baths and banquets?
Where are my players and my dancing women?
Where are my sweet musicians with their pipes,
That made me merry in the olden time?
I am a laughing-stock to man and brute.
The very camels, with their ugly faces,
Mock me and laugh at me.

Alas! my Lord,
It is not so. If thou wouldst sleep awhile,
All would be well.

Sleep from mine eyes is gone,
And my heart faileth me for very care.
Dost thou remember, Philip, the old fable
Told us when we were boys, in which the bear
Going for honey overturns the hive,
And is stung blind by bees? I am that beast,
Stung by the Persian swarms of Elymais.

When thou art come again to Antioch
These thoughts will be as covered and forgotten
As are the tracks of Pharaoh's chariot-wheels
In the Egyptian sands.

Ah! when I come
Again to Antioch! When will that be?
Alas! alas!


May the King live forever!

Who art thou, and whence comest thou?

My Lord,
I am a messenger from Antioch,
Sent here by Lysias.

A strange foreboding
Of something evil overshadows me.
I am no reader of the Jewish Scriptures;
I know not Hebrew; but my High-Priest Jason,
As I remember, told me of a Prophet
Who saw a little cloud rise from the sea
Like a man's hand and soon the heaven was black
With clouds and rain. Here, Philip, read; I cannot;
I see that cloud. It makes the letters dim
Before mine eyes.

PHILIP (reading).
"To King Antiochus,
The God, Epiphanes."

O mockery!
Even Lysias laughs at me!--Go on, go on.

PHILIP (reading).
"We pray thee hasten thy return. The realm
Is falling from thee. Since thou hast gone from us
The victories of Judas Maccabaeus
Form all our annals. First he overthrew
Thy forces at Beth-horon, and passed on,
And took Jerusalem, the Holy City.
And then Emmaus fell; and then Bethsura;
Ephron and all the towns of Galaad,
And Maccabaeus marched to Carnion."

Enough, enough! Go call my chariot-men;
We will drive forward, forward, without ceasing,
Until we come to Antioch. My captains,
My Lysias, Gorgias, Seron, and Nicanor,
Are babes in battle, and this dreadful Jew
Will rob me of my kingdom and my crown.
My elephants shall trample him to dust;
I will wipe out his nation, and will make
Jerusalem a common burying-place,
And every home within its walls a tomb!

(Throws up his hands, and sinks into the
arms of attendants, who lay him upon
a bank.)

Antiochus! Antiochus! Alas,
The King is ill! What is it, O my Lord?

Nothing. A sudden and sharp spasm of pain,
As if the lightning struck me, or the knife
Of an assassin smote me to the heart.
'T is passed, even as it came. Let us set forward.

See that the chariots be in readiness
We will depart forthwith.

A moment more.
I cannot stand. I am become at once
Weak as an infant. Ye will have to lead me.
Jove, or Jehovah, or whatever name
Thou wouldst be named,--it is alike to me,--
If I knew how to pray, I would entreat
To live a little longer.

O my Lord,
Thou shalt not die; we will not let thee die!

How canst thou help it, Philip? O the pain!
Stab after stab. Thou hast no shield against
This unseen weapon. God of Israel,
Since all the other gods abandon me,
Help me. I will release the Holy City.
Garnish with goodly gifts the Holy Temple.
Thy people, whom I judged to be unworthy
To be so much as buried, shall be equal
Unto the citizens of Antioch.
I will become a Jew, and will declare
Through all the world that is inhabited
The power of God!

He faints. It is like death.
Bring here the royal litter. We will bear him
In to the camp, while yet he lives.

O Philip,
Into what tribulation am I come!
Alas! I now remember all the evil
That I have done the Jews; and for this cause
These troubles are upon me, and behold
I perish through great grief in a strange land.

Antiochus! my King!

Nay, King no longer.
Take thou my royal robes, my signet-ring,
My crown and sceptre, and deliver them
Unto my son, Antiochus Eupator;
And unto the good Jews, my citizens,
In all my towns, say that their dying monarch
Wisheth them joy, prosperity, and health.
I who, puffed up with pride and arrogance,
Thought all the kingdoms of the earth mine own,
If I would but outstretch my hand and take them,
Meet face to face a greater potentate,
King Death--Epiphanes--the Illustrious!

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