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Hebrew Elegies on English Monarchs

Elkan N. Adler

<plain_text><page sequence="1">HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONARCHS. .-?? A PAPER By ELKAN N. ADLER, M.A. Less than half-a-centiiry after their restoration to England,1 the Jews had become thoroughly English, even as chauvinistically so, as the most loyal of their fellow-citizens. It is accordingly not surprising to find that when Queen Mary died, the Jews mourned her tragic end very sincerely and very deeply. Everybody remembers the fine passage in Macaulay's History in which her fatal illness is described, the heroism with which she received the intimation of her danger?how she " gave orders that every lady of her bedchamber, every maid of honour, nay, every menial servant, who had not had the small-pox, should instantly leave Kensington House," and how when she died " her virtues were celebrated in almost every parish church of the capital, and in almost every great meeting of Nonconformists." Among these last, though the historian does not say so, the Jews were evidently included, if we are to believe the little manuscript which I have the honour to submit to your notice. This contains two elegies on the death of Queen Mary, in 1694 ; one on that of William III., in 1702; and one, in 1700, on that of the young Duke of Gloucester, the son of Queen Anne, and heir to the throne, failing whom the succession has passed to the reigning House of Hanover. 1 The date assigned by I. Nieto for the return of the Jews to England is given as 5410 (1650) in the chronological table appended to his Orden de las Oraciones de Ros-Ashanah y Kipur nuevamente traduzidas per I. Nieto. [Biblio theca Anglo-Judaica, 1513.]</page><page sequence="2">142 HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONARCHS. The following is the Hebrew text with the author's introduction :?? : nthn wxn v vjn tvjnn j mn nypn ibd jik ishdh : ro Dnnyn h^d *a irn 1:6 t m im ^a*o i^ip n? mpwn id^d jfoan ja? npsp }3 ^pi* A i*np&gt; ib&gt;k mi im ^bn rmnan maw? maws nrp *w bn pan b ^S? 1. ppnoi ivod Kin m Tin m* n:iw Dip^ nvna *d W d^y ij^D 2. nwnn pan tfn }n D^I? D^ nD? n^aj npnv 1? rra ana toa^D ijS? 3. n^a it: naten *nn jaa n^a *?ip *?a dh* n?r ^ t : * ?rcu ion man 4. iroate Ktswn Hin on* DJ^? npn np!?n py jm</page><page sequence="3">HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONARCHS. 143 iTlD rwp1?"A BITTER DIRGE." If you perchance should ask, Of whom this mournful task: Behold an Hebrew born, I that so sorely mourn. And the name by which they call me is Joseph Ben Jacob AbendanoN, an exile from Belgrade, and presently teacher of little children in the royal city of London. A DIRGE. The King, whose word creation fills, He spake, who makes alive and kills, " A lily from my garden take, Bring Miriam from the camp," He spake. Groping, 0 Lord, in sunless night, Who findeth favour in Thy sight ? " Miriam, Thine handmaid," she replies, Her righteous soul gives up and dies. The King of kings His vine cuts down, Our Queen, her husband's fitting crown, Wherefore we all lamenting cry " Miriam, our Queen, must Miriam die ? " Oh King of Glory, mercy's Lord ! Comfort our king, bereft, alone, Exalt his kingdom, raise his throne, In Eden, Miriam 1 thy reward 1 In an attempt to render into English the former of the two elegies, it is difficult to retain the two leading ideas of the original?the antithesis between God, the King of kings, and the earthly king, and the allusion to the Queen's Biblical namesake?Miriam?and especially to the episode of her plague and consequent seclusion from the camp of Israel. The comparison, though unflattering, especially in the ears of those unacquainted with the sweet character ascribed to Miriam by the Midrash, is not inappropriate. But it must be confessed that it savours of the Jacobin impoliteness which saw in the date and details of the Queen's death a judgment on her for her unfilial conduct to her father ? James the Second. 1"KinahMara" an obvious pun on the Queen's name?feeble enough, I am afraid, to be not uneharaeteristic of the author.</page><page sequence="4">144 HEBREW ELEGIES OH ENGLISH MONAROTIS. A colophon to tho elegy states that the Queen died on Thursday night, the 20th Tebeth, and was buried on Tuesday, the 28th Adar, So great an interval would seem unlikely, but the accuracy of the MS. is confirmed by Macaulay, who says that she died in Christmas week, and was buried with much pomp the first week in March. The elegy on the death of William III. is more commonplace, but the prominence the author gives to the King's justice, tolerance, and wisdom, is not unstatesmaniike. It almost seems as though the author had read Milton and profited by his reading. The Hebrew original runs thus :? hsidi myo ten m $m D'nnP! i. nSili^K *ate teb Dm tea *jte niD te isyao ny ididd nh)y *isp ten ynu )vv : my teD 12 mm mmm imna nnte nm nnni Dite b?k m ninnte 2, impn hs? DKTi vnivyn rvteo b?k m^D )W ten1? m isnn ityaa n^a t in^no nat y^inb vtei nnn mia d^n iDipni nnen innte m *6 dji ^ Kin 3, iDy te5? iidh ^nn*? vnniN Dy n^pnn*? irus n^n ton ten ov nnten mono te : my an ny ten *pD mi ran in sn tivnn nvm aaynn^ anpa l^tf 4. inu pte ewn )b) d^nten n*on csy ipn^ r:Efr itei ny1? pte niton 1^03 : ipe^n &gt;an pyn*i )h n?w Dite w</page><page sequence="5">HEBREW ELEGIES OH ENGLISH MONARCHS. 145 nw -pan nniDjn fi^?fil 5. material hm db6 mi ^11 d^s ni*r6 notf noni ray fen t hd?&gt; W 310 31d3 ima* hps* It may be rendered thus :? AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF KING WILLIAM THE THIRD. O'er bills our voice we raised in weeping sore, As great King William to the grave we bore, His glorious name throughout the world is known, His might and wisdom were from God alone. Warlike, yet peaceful, truth he ever spake ; Godfearing, wise, the counsels he did take. To save his people dear, his life he gave, But crushed his enemies our forts to save. Unresting, watchful, day by day they stood, His friends, in council for his people's good. With God he ever walked ; on Him his stay, In Him confiding, trusting, till his day. Now he is summon'd, Paradise to grace, 'Mid virtuous monarchs, his the foremost place, Whose peaceful soul goes righteousness before. May true delights be his for evermore ! The Queen?To glory great exalt our Queen, And children's children let by her be seen ! May she with England be by joy caress'd, United, prospering, their mem'ry blest. Through the courtesy of the Rev. Dr. Gaster, I have been able to consult what is apparently an autograph work of Abendanon, the author of all these Elegies. It is called nvfyw 1?D, " The Book of the Three Vine Branches." Dr. Gaster's MS. was written in Amsterdam early in 1690, but writing inside the cover shows that it came to London, soon after,?"Este libro es de Joseph Abendanon en Bde Hesvanano Londres guarde Deos 5454" (i.e., 1703). The cover also contains the names of Samuel Moses Refael Farini and VOL. II. L</page><page sequence="6">146 HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONAROHS. Joseph Sarphati "Alhaze " and " Sulima," and u Moses Abendanon Dos La Hagasa." The preface to the book gives an account of Abendanon's wanderings from Belgrade to Nicolsburg, Bohemia, and thence to Kremsyr, Prague and Amsterdam. His grandfather was Rabbi of Belgrade, and his master, R. Joseph ben R. Isaac Almosnino from Jerusalem, in whose house he lived many years, and for whom he wrote out Rabbinical Responsa (n"l"B&gt;) and a work ^DliTO Jiny 1BD, which was much appreciated by the learned of Constantinople, Salonica, and Jerusalem. At the siege of Belgrade, in 1688, " when the Lord over? threw the city," Almosnino lost almost all his books, and most of his own compositions were burnt. He migrated to Nicolsburg, and Abendanon went with him ; and when his master died, the poor man and his wife and their only child Moses were homeless. They managed to get away to Kremsyr, and after ten months' wandering, supported by the benevolent as they went, they reached Prague, where they enjoyed hospitality and honour for four months, and were so well sped on their way that they were able to get to Amsterdam without breaking their journey. In that mighty city Abendanon finds favour in the eyes of the rich and those learned in the law, especially one man, Joseph ben Nathaniel Sarphati (from a descendant of whom the Sarphati Straat takes its name). To Sarphati he told the tit-bits and " gleich w?rtelich " of his Rebbe, and his conversation would seem to have pleased his patron, to judge by the smug and comfortable and almost dainty manner in which Abendanon was able to write a book in his house. For the rest, the book does not seem to me to possess much literary merit. The com? position is full of verbosity and euphuism, especially the endless preface. It abounds in Scriptural tags twisted into feeble puns or extended into pompous parables. The work dilates on the beauties of the Oral Law, and is in some sort a history of Hebrew literature. It is not altogether unscientific, for it questions the identity of Kalir with the Tannai R. Eliezer ben R. Simeon. Several anecdotes about the later D^16?fcO are given, and R. Moses Isserles seems to be the latest authority mentioned. The D*anB&gt; nvhw are preceded by a formidable list of errata (JIUIW W) to apparently the Amsterdam edition of Maimonides nptnn T. These errata were written in 1673. A second copy of the DWlB&gt; 7\?hw would seem to have been in the Goldsmid library, but Sir Julian</page><page sequence="7">HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONARCHS. 147 G-oldsmid tells me that he has not now got it. I have to-night ascer? tained that it was sold with the books at St. John's Lodge some years since, and is now in the possession of Mr. Asher I. Myers.1 Abendanon would seem to have come to London towards the end of the 17th century, and to have become a Melammed with perhaps a Cheder of his own, just as a Russian refugee, who was a Hebraist, and little more, might do in our own time. Mr. Lucien Wolf informs me that he has frequently come across the name of Abendanon in contemporary wills as the recipient of small legacies from grateful English parents. So much for Abendanon. But curiously enough the scribe, the copyist of his poems, is, in this instance, a much more interesting personality than the author himself. The little book of " collectanea," from which I have extracted two poems, was written by Solomon, the son of Isaac da Costa Athias (C^JOtty), in London, in 1717, in the month of Adar.1 He was then a bachelor, for he styles himself 11113, but in another MS., very much like that from which I quote, Athias tells us that his eldest son Isaac was born on 1 rfl, 1718, so that he must have been trembling on the brink of matrimony when he wrote it. Anyhow, he seems to have been a slow but careful writer with some amount of self-consciousness, for in each of our little MSS. he signs his name at least three times. His brother, Samson da Costa Athias, lived in Amsterdam, and was by way of being a poet, for he wrote a very pretty acrostic to celebrate the birth of his nephew, little Isaac da Costa. Solomon da Costa Athias, or rather Solomon da Costa, for he apparently dropped the surname Athias, preserved his taste for Hebrew literature a long time, for more than forty years after he wrote these little manuscripts, we find him, in the same neat minuscular handwriting, pen a very pretty dedicatory letter to the Trustees of the British Musuem, to whom in 1759, the year of its opening, he presented a collection of three Hebrew MSS. and 180 printed books which formed the nucleus of the magni? ficent Hebrew Library at Bloomsbury.2 These books Da Costa catalogued in Hebrew and English, and the original autographs in 1 Mr. Myers' copy of the OWE? is also in the handwriting of Isaac da Costa Athias. 2 Vide Introduction to Zedner's Catalogue and the 6d. Museum Handbook. L 2</page><page sequence="8">148 HEBREW ELEGIES ON ENGLISH MONARCHS. duplicate are bound up in one volume. Mr. Margoliouth, the last of the Catalogists, as Da Costa was the first, preserves them in his room with great care and reverence. In his Dedicatory Epistle, Da Costa tells how that his father had come to England from Amsterdam a refugee from Spain, and that for four-and-fifty years he himself had lived in this great city of London without let or hindrance, without fear or trembling. He extols England's magnificent tolerance to the Jews, and begs the nation to accept his thanksgiving offering. The books, he says, had belonged to King Charles II., and had been bought by him in his youth, and now on the 5th of Sivan, 5519, he gives them to the British nation. I gather that the donor was not a native Englishman, as he says he was only 54 years here. If born in 1705, he could hardly have had a son in 1719. Still he must have been an infant when his father brought him over from Amsterdam, for his handwriting in 1759 is too firm for an old man. He is stated to have been a merchant, and his literary tastes, though remarkably good, were not too good for a business man. I daresay he would have been eligible as a Maecabasan, but your worthy President will doubtless be able to supplement the scant information about him which I have been able to give you. The two little manuscripts I have brought to your notice are full of tit-bits, poems, riddles, epitaphs, &amp;c, which are of interest?especially some of the family and occasional poems about the Nietos, the Seniors, the Perez, &amp;c, and an Attack upon Ashkenazi " Chazones," an ultra loyal Prayer for the Royal Family, and so on. They were both pre? sented to my father by the late Dayan R. Aaron Levy?one as a Purim gift in 1853?and were bequeathed by my father to my brothers and myself. But I will not trespass any longer on your attention, especially as one of the collectanea, the DWttn TlK or u Speaker's Guide," by R. Jacob Zahalon, of Rome, in the course of some very shrewd and valuable hints about public speaking, lays most emphatic stress on the virtues of brevity. There seems, however, sufficient interest to Anglo Judaism, not only in the dirges themselves, but also in the author and the copyist, to justify drawing to them the attention of this Society. And not the less so that they are further evidence of what I believe to be the fact, that it is to the Dutch King William, rather than to Cromwell, that we owe the firm resettlement of the Jews in this country.</page></plain_text>