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Hannah and her Seven Sons
or, The Test of Faith

by J. Rosenfeld


A time of wo and sorrow once o’er Judea came,
In ruins was that sacred house, that bore God’s holy name,
Jerusalem deserted stood, her children’s courage failed,
Yet within her sacred walls, true faith yet prevailed.


One day the heathen Emperor, with scorn began to speak,
“I wish to test these people’s faith, if yet their God they seek;
Bring me that pious mother, who, I’ve often heard you tell,
Braves me with her seven sons, and loves her God so well.”


And soon that woman is led in, held by ruthless hands,
She now amidst her seven sons, before the tyrant stands.
To the eldest son he speaks, “Behold yon statue, now!
It is the image of my god, before it thou must bow!”


“Holy Writ,” the youth replied, “taught me the Lord’s command;
I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of Egypt’s land,
No other gods thou shalt serve, nor bend in prayer thy knee,
Before any brazen image, but worship only me.”


Thus speaking, he was led away, a martyr’s death to die.
The tyrant then the second son commanded to comply;
But in accents firm he speaks, “the Lord’s word I cherish,
For he that worships other gods, in his sins shall perish.”


Awful death him too awaits, and now the Emperor grim,
To the third son cries, “There’s my god, kneel down and worship him!”
“The Law declares in words distinct,” replies the pious son,
“Oh, Israel, hear, the Lord thy God, the Lord is only One.”


The noble lad his speech thus ends, and shares his brother’s fate,
Whilst to the fourth the tyrant calls, “Before my god prostrate!”
“What!” cries he, “shall I indeed to idols homage pay?
No! God has freed from bondage us—to Him alone I’ll pray.”


In his arms he folds his brother; both the tyrant brave.
In joy they suffer martyrdom, descend in faith the grave.
Now calls the fierce Emperor the sixth son to the throne:
“Kneel down he cries, and homage pay to this God of stone.”


Tranquilly the boy replies, “For ever I shall love
With heart and soul, Him alone, who dwell’th in heaven above.”
But hardly spoken were these words, when his blood was shed;
And before the wrathful tyrant another victim bled.


The Emp’ror now, much amazed, the last son bids appear,
A child so young, with noble face and long clustering hair,
Childlike, pure, innocent and free, without dread or shame,
To the tyrant stern, he looks up, as if to play he came.


Now, assuming friendliness, the tyrant speaks: “I feel,
My dear child, that thou surely wilt before this image kneel.”
“We read in Scripture,” cries the child, “thou must believe and know,
That God alone is Lord above and on the earth below.”


At last the cruel Emp’ror does this pure child entreat,
“Behold, I throw this ring of gold before this idol’s feet,
Kneel down, my child, take it up, and let my people see,
That thou hast knelt before my god, and then thou shalt be free.”


Touched by the Emp’ror’s words, the child to weep began,
“What!” cried he indignantly, “thou art afraid of man?
And wilt that I shall not fear the holy King of kings,
Who this glorious world has made, and who supports all things?”


The tyrant could forbear no more, fire flashed from his eyes;
“Take to the torture him,” he cried, “till he in misery dies!”
The mother folds her darling child in her arms once more,
Gives him a mother’s kiss, the last—resigned, she gives him o’er.


“When you, O children dear,” she cries, “our father Abraham greet,
Tell him, that one son he gave to God as an offering meet,
Whilst I have seven altars built, and sacrificed this day
My seven pious, lovely sons, the Lord thus to obey.”


“I’m sorely tried by my God with this day’s painful wo,
But I have firmly stood the test—this to my God I owe.”
She hushed at last, and cruelly they tore the child away:
Thus perished, with her seven sons, the mother on that day.