The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Chanukah and Cacti

The Feast of Lights
By Emma Lazarus

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted--who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!


Wednesday dawned so dark and gloomy that I was sure all the clocks in the house had made a mistake by claiming it was morning. The DC area had been hit by storms overnight that were particularly bad during the early rush hour -- thunderstorms, tornado warning -- and even when they ended, there was so much flooding that several major roads were closed, including two lanes of the Beltway. Fortunately, Rockville Pike was moving in my area, though it remained so gloomy outside that all I wanted to do was take my migraine back to bed and curl up with a cat. I went to Bath & Body Works to return the new sheets I bought Tuesday that had a hole in them (no wait, at least, though I had to walk through the rainy parking lot). Then I got to park in the covered lot at White Flint Mall to stop at Borders to get a couple of last minute Chanukah presents. How come no one told me that the awesome Harry Potter double playing card deck, which was on the bargain table, has different photos from Deathly Hallows on each card and has Lucius, Bellatrix, Umbridge, Lupin, et al as well as the usual suspects? I bought myself a Chanukah present with my $5 bonus bucks!

I finally killed my migraine by late afternoon with a combination of the passing of the storms, too much Advil, and a long walk in the damp woods. Paul made latkes and "fried chicken" (the vegetarian variety) for the first night of Chanukah, plus he got donuts for dessert, all of which were yummy. I had gotten us a new menorah from Crate & Barrel -- I had originally bought it to give as a gift, but one of the menorahs the kids made a decade ago had cracked at the end of the last holiday season, so I figured we were entitled to an "adult" one that would be easier to clean than our decorative pre-9/11 New York City menorah. The kids got books they had wanted -- Daniel a Cory Doctorow novel and Adam a book about photography -- Paul got the Rob Gonsalves calendar he wanted, I got the new Loreena McKennit CD (The Wind that Shakes the Barley) that I wanted. We watched Undercovers -- is this the last one? It wasn't my favorite, too much Leo, too little Samantha -- then Orla Fallon's Celtic Christmas concert on PBS (not as good as Loreena but still quite enjoyable, especially since Meav sang with her). Here are photos of some of the cacti at the U.S. Botanic Garden -- arenacea, golden barrel, torch plant, golden rat tail, and one that I suspect isn't a true cactus but I failed to take a photo of its label!


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