5 Maccabees Chapter 00.03 (from The Five Books of Maccabees) The Prayer of Eleazar, occurring in Book I. Chapter vi.

It will be at once perceived and allowed, that both the imagery and language of this prayer are highly poetical, although the words themselves have never yet been submitted to the strict rules of a metrical arrangement.

p. 39 / p. 40


p.40 The words of the foregoing prayer fall almost naturally into English blank verse ; the following translation being,for the most part, no more than a mere verbal rendering of the Greek, as it stands at present. 

Monarch most powerful ! highest, mightiest God ! 
Whose mercies all creation ever guide — 
Lo ! Abraham’s seed—lo ! Jacob’s sacred race —
Thy sanctified inheritance—thy lot —
What wrongs we suffer in a stranger-land.

Thou—when stern Pharaoh, Egypt’s mighty lord,
Spread forth his chariot-band in proud array,
And with high-swelling boasts defied thy power;
Him and his host, beneath the boiling wave
Of his own sea didst whelm ; while with mild ray
O’er Israel’s rescued sons thy mercy shone.

p. 41 Thou—when Sennacherib, Assyria’s chief,
The self-styled conqueror of a little world,
Proud of his countless troops, his battles won,
His cities sack’t, and idol-gods overthrown —
Could not restrain his bursting insolence,
But rashly dar’d thy holy land to invade;
Thou, to the world displaying thy vast might,
The empty threatenings of his idle tongue
Didst in one moment, and for ever, quell.

When the three Hebrew youths in Babel’s court
Sustain’d the trial ; whom nor threats could force,
Nor soft persuasion charm, to bow the knee
In idol-worship;—firm in faith they stood,
Unmov’d, unflinching; while beneath their glance
The courtiers withered, and the baffled king
Champ’t at his favours spurn’d, his power defied.
He ask’d their conscience—and they gave their lives.

But when his angry furnace flame’d on high
With seven-fold fury charg’d, from its huge mouth
Gaping as if for prey, whole sheets of fire
Burst forth beyond controul, and with blind rage
The helpless ministers for victims slew.

Into this lake, of fire and seeming death,
Bound hand and foot, they sank.—But quickly rose,
And walked, unharm’d, and free.—For Thou wert there!

At thy command, above, below, around,
The laughing flames played harmless; and a dew
Heaven-sent,breathed such cool freshness o’er the place,
The tyrant’s Hell became God’s Paradise. —

Thou from the Assyrian lions’ hungry jaws
Didst rescue Daniel, foully doomed to die.
And Jonah, in the huge sea-monster’s maw
Immur’d, beyond all hope of human aid,
To his despairing friends didst sale restore.

And now, most merciful, all-seeing God
Hater of insolence, thyself display
A swift avenger of tin people’s wrongs,
Whom edious heathens lawlessly oppress.

p. 42 And, for those sins, which idly we have wrought
Against thy name in this sad pilgrimage,
We dare not ask forgiveness :—Yet, at least
Save us, we pray, from man’s rude tyranny;
Into Thy hands, O Lord, content we fall.

Let not vain Gentiles with mistaken joy
Thank their false idols for our overthrow;
Nor ask exulting, ” Where lies Israel now ?
” Where is their promise’d aid, their boasted God?”

But Thou, who hast all majesty and might,
Eternal One! look down, behold thy sons
Smarting beneath oppression’s iron rod,
And to a traitor’s abject fate consign’d.

Thou honour’d mighty One ! this very morn
Let heathens own thy power, o’er Israel sav’d.
Our elders pray Thee, and our infant babes
In untaught eloquence of tears implore.

Prove to the world that Thou art with us still,
Thy face still on us sheds its favouring light:
And for thy promise, never to desert
E’en in captivity thy once-lov’d race,
That gracious promise, Lord, this day fulfil.


Original Source: Transcribed from PDF copy of Book "The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations", by HENRY COTTON, D.C.L.(Sir) Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Publication date 1832 | PDF


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