Heine's poem Disputation, about a battle of logic between a Rabbi and a Franciscan monk, to decide whether Christianity or Judaism is the more legitimate religion. The defeated will take on the religion of his adversary. (excerpted from p. 131 - 135 of Jewish Stories and Hebrew Melodies)
Underneath a golden awning
Where the courtiers swarm and swirl,
There the king and queen are sitting –
She is like a little girl.
There's a Gallic little snub nose,
Roguish giggles on her face,
And enchanting are her lips where
Smiling rubies glow with grace.
Beautiful and fragile flower –
May God shield her from all pain!–
Hapless girl, to be transplanted
From the gay banks of the Seine
To the stiff and starchy circles
Of Castile's highborn grandees;
Once called Blanche of Bourbon, now it's
Donna Blanca, if you please.
Pedro is the king's name – he is
Called "the Cruel" by his foes;
But today his mood is milder
Than this appellation shows.
He behaves with high good humor
Midst the courtiers en bloc;
For the Jews and Moors he also
Has civilities in stock.
These foreskinless knights are special
Favored flunkeys of the king's:
They command his armies, and they
Run finance and suchlike things.
Now a sudden drum roll rumbles
And the trumpets loud proclaim
That the oral contest's starting
With two athletes in the game.
The Franciscan head, commencing
In a pious rage, combines
Both a tone of vulgar bluster
With a trick of noisome whines.
In the name of Father, Son and
Holy Ghost, he exorcises
Both the rabbi and all Jacob's
Cursed seed in all its guiese;
For in such debates one finds that
Little devils often hide
In the Jews, and give them sharpened
Wits and arguments beside.
Having thus expelled the devils
By the might of exorcism,
Now the monk takes up dogmatics
And fires off the catechism.
He explains that in the Godhead
There are three personae – three –
Who, however, when convenient
Turn into a Unity.
It's a mystery that only
Can be grasped if you dispense
With the reason's mental shackles
And the prison house of sense.
He explains that God was born at
Bethlehem, conceived in fact
By the Virgin, who kept always
Her virginity intact;
How the Lord lay in the manger,
Calf and heifer at his side
Standing by devout and pious –
Two dumb cattle, oxen-eyed.
He explained the Lord fled Herod's
Myrmidons, to the domain
Of old Egyptland, and later
Suffered death's most cruel pain
Under Pilate who agreed to
Sign the sentence, so to please
All the Jews who drove him to it,
The hardhearted Pharisees.
He explained how God had risen
From his grave of rayless night
On the third day of his death, and
Up to Heaven took his flight;
And how, comes the time, however,
He'll return with awesome tread
To Jehoshaphat for judgement
Of the living and the dead.
To be continued!