A Jewish Family

(In a small valley opposite St. Goar, upon the Rhine)

Genius of Raphael! if thy wings
     Might bear thee to this glen,
With faithful memory left of things
     To pencil dear and pen,
Thou wouldst forego the neighbouring Rhine,
     And all his majesty—
A studious forehead to incline
     O’er this poor family.

The Mother—her thou must have seen,
     In spirit, ere she came
To dwell these rifted rocks between,
     Or found on earth a name ;
An image, too, of that sweet Boy,
     Thy inspirations give—
Of playfulness, and love, and joy,
     Predestined here to live.

Downcast, or shooting glances far,
     How beautiful his eyes,
That blend the nature of the star
     With that of summer skies !
I speak as if of sense beguiled ;
     Uncounted months are gone,
Yet am I with the Jewish Child,
     That exquisite Saint John.

I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
     The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
     The holiness within ;
The grace of parting Infancy
     By blushes yet untamed ;
Age faithful to the mother’s knee,
     Nor of her arms ashamed.

Two lovely Sisters, still and sweet
     As flowers, stand side by side ;
Their soul-subduing looks might cheat
     The Christian of his pride :
Such beauty hath the Eternal poured
     Upon them not forlorn,
Though of a lineage once abhorred,
     Nor yet redeemed from scorn.

Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite
     Of poverty and wrong,
Doth here preseve a living light,
     From Hebrew fountains sprung ;
That gives this ragged group to cast
     Around the dell a gleam
Of Palestine, of glory past,
     And proud Jerusalem!

William Wordsworth, composed 1828, published 1835.

Jews in the Nineteenth Century

Some remarkable circumstances attest, without a prolonged detail of their miseries, that they have been a people everywhere peculiarly oppressed. The first unequivocal attempt at legislation in France was an ordinance against the Jews. And towards them alone one of the noblest charters of liberty on earth — Magna Charta, the Briton’s boast — legalized an act of injustice (Articles xii, xiii). For many ages after their dispersion, they found no resting-place in Europe, Asia, or Africa, but penetrated, in search of one, to the extremities of the world. In Mahometan countries they have ever been subject to persecution, contempt, and every abuse. They are in general confined to one particular quarter of every city, (as they formerly were to old Jewry in London) ; they are restricted to a peculiar dress ; and in many places are shut up at stated hours. In Hamadan, as in all parts of Persia, “they are an abject race, and support themselves by driving a peddling trade ;—they live in a state of great miser, pay a monthly tax to the government, and are not permitted to cultivate the ground, or to have landed possessions” (Morier’s Travels in Persia, p. 379). They cannot appear in public, much less perform their religious ceremonies, without being treated with scorn and contempt (Sir J. Malcolm’s History of Persia, vol. ii, p. 425). The revenues of the prince of Bohara are derived from a tribute paid by five hundred families of Jews, who are assessed according to the means of each. In Zante they exist in miserable indigence, and are exposed to considerable oppression (Hughes’ Travels, vol. i. p. 150). At Tripolit, when any criminal is condemned to death, the first Jew who happens to be at hand is compelled to become the executioner ; a degradation to the children of Israel to which no Moor is ever subjected (Lyon’s Travels, p. 16). In Egypt they are despised and persecuted incessantly (Denon’s Travels in Egypt, vol. i. p. 213). In Arabia they are treated with more contempt than in Turkey (Niebuhr’s Travels, vol. i. p. 408). The remark is common to the most recent travellers both in Asia and Africa (Morier’s Travels in Persia, p. 266. Lyon’s Travels in Africa, p. 32), that the Jews themselves are astonished, and the natives indignant, at any act of kindness, or even of justice, that is performed towards any of this “despised nation” and persecuted people.

Rev Alexander Keith, 1854