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Poetical Address

By Henry Morrison, Esq.

Mr. H. Morrison has kindly furnished us with the manuscript poem spoken by him at the Consecration of our New Synagogue in Wooster Street; its insertion in your valuable periodical in the next month will afford satisfaction to a number of your subscribers, and more especially  to yours, H. J. HART.

I approach this sacred spot, this holy altar place,
   Confiding in the One in whose presence we are all,
Our God unto whom we dedicate this house;—His grace
   I ask before I address his people: I do call
For His support, whilst I, a stranger to the altar,
   Raising no ordained servant’s hand, now ask his aid
In this most holy service; let not my voice falter;
   Tho’ I appear not here in priestly garbs array’d.

The Mussulman still holds, in the plight of his sway,
   The land of Israel, Judah’s sacred domain;
Hush’d are the echoes which answered the lay
   Of the daughters of Zion, once heard on the plain;
There a stranger is dwelling on the Hebrew’s hearth.
   To ashes have, fallen both temple and throne,
The winds have scatter’d their dust o’er the wand’rer’s path,
   And no vestige remains of the empire o’erthrown.
Base is the rule, sacrilegious the power
   Of the strangers’ yoke o’er the land of our pride;
God frown’d on the land as they triumph’d that hour
   O’er the graves of our fathers as they lay side by side.
Upon that hallow’d spot few offsprings descendant
   Linger o’er those shrines long, long since forsaken,
Scatter’d far and wide Israel wanders dependant­—
   Each form a living monument, doom’d to awaken
The memory of Heaven’s high wrath and decree,
   Which clings to the Jew in the land of the Gentile,
To his house and his lot wherever they be;
   Marking God’s punished race, yet his chosen the while.

When the Roman conqueror defeated and crush’d
   Israel's power, Judah’s highly prized empire;
When the Roman cohorts, then eagerly rush’d
   To their spoils o’er the form of the child and his sire:
The mothers of Israel wailed in their wo,
   And the cries of the vanquished fearfully rose
O’er the slain as they lay, down trodden and low,
  That e’en the dead were denied their hallow’d repose.
Jerusalem! as thy temple in ashes fell,
   Then thy departing pride and greatness descended.
Forth wandered thy people, as thy chronicles tell,
   Stricken in anger by a God much offended.
Then it was that o’er hill, o’er mountain and plain
   Thy children, Father! doom’d to wander far and wide,
Betook themselves in sorrow, till pleasing Thee again
   They return, on that soil to prosper and abide.

Where is Israel now? where the north wind keen
   Sweeps its angry way o’er the snow-crowned land,
Bearing in its path the rude blast, I ween
   To force the wreck’d mariner’s bark to the strand.
Beneath the hot sun and its tropical ray,
   Where the slave and his master wearied recline,
To pause from their toil and the heat of the day,
   That vex those in the land of the orange and pine.
Where the drowsy Turk, in his oriental repose,
   Slumbers ‘mid perfumes of aromatics and spice;
Where his white grain the dark Hindoo contentedly sows,
   Patiently awaiting his crops and his rice.
There where the golden acres, and the welcome wheat
   Teem in abundance; and commerce, enterprising,
Presses its eager way along the crowded street,
   Marking the sway and course of empire arising.
In the north, in the south, in the east, and the west,
   The sons and the daughters of Abraham are found;
Beneath every soil they repose in their rest;
   In ev’ry land they’ve mingled their clay with the ground;
In the garb of ev’ry people and clime they’re array’d;
   With their wares and their traffic they throng ev’ry mart;
Ev’ry prince have they serv’d, ev’ry power obey’d,
   Ev’ry nation has humbl’d their pride and their heart.
Their pride and their soul have been harrassed with scorn,
   Their rights have been spurn’d by every prince in his might;
Like the rock by the gushing waters wasted and worn,
   Thus Israel has wept in her darkness and night;
Her salt tears have moistened the desert’s sand,
   They’ve mingled with the waters of many a stream
Meandering the plain, to nourish the land
   O’er which Israel’s sigh has broke forth in her dream.
Israel’s lyre hush’d, in sorrow Judah’s heart bow’d low;
   Her children wand’rers, her pride a record of the past;
Her heritage had vanish’d from her, as the snow
   Scatters before the wind, disappears before the blast.
Powerless she rov’d, she wandered as she wept,
   Spurn’d in her course still, she wandered; still
Pressing onward, her dark prophecy she kept,
Atoning for her wrongs, as decreed by holy will.

Have ye not read—and reading have ye not sighed—
   O’er the dark deeds of strife which in history’s page,
Are recorded with the blood of those who’ve died
   Of the wrongs they’ve suffer’d in the blindness and rage
Of sectarian feuds, which have swept thro’ the land,
   Shedding blood on its soil from one end to the other?
It was then the bigot heart and bigot hand
   Of Christian, was turn’d against a Christian brother;
Then the stake with the fagot, not fiercer it burn’d
   Than the bosom of man, in his hatred and strife;
When the cry for mercy went up, to be spurned
   As the martyr forth yielded his blood, and his life;
Then, in solernn mockery, a prayer to his God
   Mutter’d the slayer, as o’er his, victim he bended,
Ere the steel gleamed in the air, to crimson the sod
   With the life’s stream that flow’d as the spirit ascended.
Then away to the scaffold, then forth to the rack,
   The fanatic throng pressed in their fanatic zeal,
As the cry of their victim echoing, rang back
   On their souls to tell the anguish, the throes he must feel.
Then impious man in the name of Heavenly grace,
   His faith to teach with the fagot and the flame did seek;
Desecrating God’s temple and his altar place,
   Aiming to spread with the sword the faith of the meek.
If thus they were arrayed, Gentile against Gentile,
   Could Israel hope the oppressor’s hand to stay—
If Christian ashes were by the flaming pile
   Mingled with its embers as they died away?

A brighter day was dawning for Gentile and for Jew,—
   On the deep there sails a brave adventurous band,
Now around their pilot’s form gather his eager crew,
   As in silence they approach this new-discover’d land.
His prophecy is true, Columbus return’d again,
   There spreads throughout the world the fame of what has been,
Honour to that wise sailor, honour to old Spain,
   But the continent found, honour the Florentine.
To the new world are borne Spaniard, Russian,
   Gaul,Swiss, Swede, Italian, all are on the main;
The swarthy Portuguese,  Saxon, the Prussian,
   The Pole, Austrian, Hibernian, and the Dane.
The settler’s axe is busy, his plough turns the clod,
   The Indian has vanish’d from his hunting ground;
Cities are on the plain, which once the red man trod,
   In silent solitude to roam his forest round.
Among a motley group, which yearns to reach the strand,
   Mark a Hebrew form, which lands upon our shore;
The first of the covenant borne unto our land,
   First who on this soil the mark of Abraham bore.
Pioneer of his race! Oh! would I knew his name,
   With him Israel a new epoch then began.
Israel had a resting-place, her sons could claim
   Place ‘mong all nations here, room for fellow-man.

‘Tis an oft-told story, yet ‘tis a noble tale,
   How a band of pilgrim wanderers found their way
To these auspicious shores, ‘spite of storm and gale,
   Which swept their devious course ere they reached the bay,
On whose welcome waters they floated to the rock,
   Which stands a proud memorial to mark the place
Whereon the sires of New England’s valiant stock,
   Those pious Puritans, first bowed their weeping face.
Then the Christian tears, which fell upon the soil,
   Were the emigrant’s first offering to his God,
Ere in his wilderness he commenced to toil,
   And with his sweat sow’d his bread in the upturn’d sod.
’Tis oft told, too, how those sorrowing sons exil’d,
   Were driven from home for adherence to their belief;
How they sought an asylum in the forest wild,
   Here to raise their altars, here to seek relief.
Some pin’d in want and died, but oh! some prospered too,
   Increas’d and prospering, on from their loins there sprang
A race in whose breasts were cherish’d and fostered too,
   A flame to kindle deeds with which the world has rang;
For when the mother land from which that race’s sires fled,
   Presum’d to raise the tyrant, not the parent hand,
Against her children in the West, their blood to shed
   On their own soil, to arms they flew throughout the land.
’Twas then, “Westward ho! the course of empire took its sway,”
   Not New England alone appeal’d to arms in vain,
For with her sister spirits rose, to strike away
   The yoke that bound them, as a slave’s bound by his chain.
An infant nation struggled into life that day,
   E’en in infancy with giant strength there arose
A nation and a name, to keep the world at bay,
   America in her birth, mighty ‘midst her foes.
Empire of the West! Great republic of the world!
   Thus thy course began; and ev’ry state, station,
Nay all creeds, as o’er them thy banner was unfurled,
   Like a panoply, claimed thee for their nation.
Here the child of the oppressor and the oppress’d,
   Forgot post wrongs, all bow’d before one country’s shrine:
Israel rejoiced to share one nation’s breast,
   And proudly called herself a loual child of thine.

Toleration here is not of grace, but right—
   Immutable for all, controls all creeds the same,
Before our altars here, intolerance takes flight,
   Persecution’s past, bigotry’s but a name.
Deem ye not who hear me,—in gratitude I speak,—
   Who boasts of tolerance here is himself a slave?
We claim our rights, not them in subservience seek,
   As Americans we take, not in mercy crave.
I say to him who has begged a passport from his kind,
   To land upon these shores his fortunes to essay,—
To banish from his breast every fear he may bring,
   That his faith he must deny, lest to scorn it betray.
Gentile, my God is thy God, all cal him Father,
   The Catholic, Protestant, Mussulman, and Hebrew;
Ay, too, the Heathen in his soul’s impulse, rather
   Than have no Master, worships the image for one true.
To heaven each one deems his faith to be the way,
   All are weary wayfarers to that sacred goal;
Some meet in churches, some in tabernacles pray,
   For one purpose all gather there—to save a soul.

I will return again, to speak with willing tongue,
   Of Israel’s thrall broken in this land of ours;
I have spoken of our race’s tears, of their hearts wrung
   By wrongs and scorn suffered in their darkest hours,
In other scenes, where now Judah has ceased to sign,
   For tho’ this land’s the first, ‘tis not the only one,
Where Israel weeps no more her dark prophecy,
   More leniently allow’s in peace her course to run.
’Tis true, yet the Russian’s hand, unrelenting,
   Is rais’d in persecution against our race,
While other powers are by degrees consenting,
   The Jew to render justice, honour, and a place.
European senates slowly have extended
   Immunities, rights, and emancipation
To those of our creed; where the sire’s head was bended,
   The child exalted is, to rank and station.

Here, in this land, no tardy enactments us admit
   By favour within the social pale, or must
Religious tests to apostacy us submit,
   Ere we become invested with out country’s trust.
In our council chambers here, is heard Judah’s voice,
   Judah’s form rises in the forum ‘midst her peers,
Israel’s son here represents a freeman’s choice,
   Advocating freeman’s rights, to attentive ears,
Impartially, upon the judgment seat here,
   Sits Israel, too, with patience, as he listens
To the proofs of an erring brother’s crime, and where
   He dooms, weeps in mercy, as the tear-drop glistens;
Israel’s hand and voice is here upraised the while,
   He pleads before a Christian judge, our just laws,
Demanding in their name the rights, the life of Gentile,—
   Here, too, in turn, the Gentile pleads for Jacob’s cause.
Yes, Israel have prospered on this happy soil,
   And that they are content with their lot in this land,
That to their country they are faithful and loyal,
   I here appeal to this sacred shrine where I stand.
In this great city, emporium of the West,
   On Hudson’s bank, where the broad stream’s flowing by—
Judah, this hour, to God, of their increase give test
   Dedicating this holy house to Him on high.

“Gates of prayer!” from this day, consecrated pile!
   Sacred edifice! as I view thy portals wide,
This vast assemblage of my race, my heart, the while,
   Beats proudly with Jewish blood, as it swells with pride.
Here Abraham’s sons are gathered all around,
   Bearing on their front, ay, proudly bearing, too,
The stamp of their descent, among whom none are found
   Recreant to their faith, all, every inch a Jew.—
Stands in the centre the place, where, God-ordained,
   Reads he forth the prayer, during holy service time,
One whose is the honour of having first explained
   Our laws and faith to us, in the language of our clime.
Here’s the repository of the sacred scroll,
   So esteemed by God, that one of old, ‘tis said,
When touching, impiously, the symbol, his soul
   Then fled that instant from the clay, as he fell dead.
On that eminence stands the recording table,
   Bearing on its face the commands of God, the Ten
Given unto our prophet, whom God on Sinai met,
   Amid the thunder cloud, when He descended; then
These tall pillars, uprising here above, support
   This holy superstructure, towering on high,
And as I raise my voice, responsively report
  Th’ echoes, that reach the lofty roof, rising to the sky.
Hallow’d shrine, we have watched thee with anxious pride,
   Stone by stone, rearing thy sacred altitude to God.
Let peace be in thy wall, here let harmony abide
   Within thy holy precincts, this sacred abode.
Sisters of my faith, dark eyed caughters of my race!
   Ye, too, with pride I mark, gather’d here around.
Ye of spotless virtue, and proverbial grace,
   Adorning Judah’s destinies, ever are ye found,
Here gather’d, as in days of yore, about our shrine,
   To worship Him, whose blessings we call down this day.
God, henceforth, in this holy residence of thine
   Guard us with thy grace, receive us as we pray.
Ye gentiles, too, ye who at other altars bend,
   Join us in praise of our Father and Sovereign,
Who smiles on all mankind, and will his hand extend
   To shield and save; for none implore his aid in vain.

Henry Morrison.