excerpt from Disputation, from Jewish Stories and Hebrew Melodies, page 131-133

In the Aula at Toldeo

Fanfares blare, the drumbeat rolls; 

To a spiritual tourney

Crowds of people swarm in shoals.


It's no secular encounter

With steel sabers, hauberks, heaumes –

Here it's words that are the lances,

And they're honed on learned tomes.


Here the champions serve no lady,

They're not gallant paladins–

On this tilting ground the knights are 

Rabbis versus Capuchins.


Not with helmets, but with skullcaps

Or black cowls shall one prevail; 

Scapulars and Arbakanfos

Form their trusty armored mail


Which is the true God? The Hebrews'–

Stern, unbending, fixed afar,

And all One – whose champion here is 

Rabbi Judah of Navarre?


Or perhaps is it the threefold

Christian God of love, instead,

Championed here by Friar José,

The Franciscans' monkish head?


Through the power of cold reason,

Through the links in logic's chain,

And citations from the authors

Whose authority is plain


Will each champion push his rival 

Ad absurdum more or less,

And so prove his God is truly

Immanent with godliness.


And whoever is defeated

In this bout, it's specified,

He shall take on the religion 

Of his adversary's side;


Thus the Jew would take the holy

Sacrament and be baptized,

Or contrariwise the Christian

Would be duly circumcised.


At the side of each contender

Are eleven friends also

Who are bound to share his fortune

Whether it be weal or woe.


Strong in faith, the monks who second

Their Franciscan leader's views

Have the holy-water vessels

Ready to baptize the Jews;


They are waiting for the sprinklers 

And their censer soon arrives–

And meanwhile their adversaries

Whet the circumcision knives.


In the hall, at battle-ready

Both the factions stand around;

The impatient crowd is waiting

For the starting bell to sound.


Find out what happens next tomorrow!