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!