George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"If I were ever to know the real words, I should still go on in my old way with them," said Mirah, when she had repeated the hymn several times.
"Why not?" said Deronda. "The lisped syllables are very full of meaning."
"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Meyrick. "A mother hears something of a lisp in her children's talk to the very last. Their words are not just what everybody else says, though they may be spelled the same. If I were to live till my Hans got old, I should still see the boy in him. A mother's love, I often say, is like a tree that has got all the wood in it, from the very first it made."
"Is not that the way with friendship, too?" said Deronda, smiling. "We must not let the mothers be too arrogant."
The little woman shook her head over her darning.
"It is easier to find an old mother than an old friend. Friendships begin with liking or gratitude--roots that can be pulled up. Mother's love begins deeper down."
"Like what you were saying about the influence of voices," said Deronda, looking at Mirah. "I don't think your hymn would have had more expression for me if I had known the words. I went to the synagogue at Frankfort before I came home, and the service impressed me just as much as if I had followed the words--perhaps more."
"Oh, was it great to you? Did it go to your heart?" said Mirah, eagerly. "I thought none but our people would feel that. I thought it was all shut away like a river in a deep valley, where only heaven saw--I mean---" she hesitated feeling that she could not disentangle her thought from its imagery.
"I understand," said Deronda. "But there is not really such a separation-- deeper down, as Mrs. Meyrick says. Our religion is chiefly a Hebrew religion; and since Jews are men, their religious feelings must have much in common with those of other men--just as their poetry, though in one sense peculiar, has a great deal in common with the poetry of other nations. Still it is to be expected that a Jew would feel the forms of his people's religion more than one of another race--and yet"--here Deronda hesitated in his turn--"that is perhaps not always so."
"Ah no," said Mirah, sadly. "I have seen that. I have seen them mock. Is it not like mocking your parents?--like rejoicing in your parents' shame?"
"Some minds naturally rebel against whatever they were brought up in, and like the opposite; they see the faults in what is nearest to them," said Deronda apologetically.
"But you are not like that," said Mirah, looking at him with unconscious fixedness.
"No, I think not," said Deronda; "but you know I was not brought up as a Jew."
"Ah, I am always forgetting," said Mirah, with a look of disappointed recollection, and slightly blushing.
Deronda also felt rather embarrassed, and there was an awkward pause, which he put an end to by saying playfully--
"Whichever way we take it, we have to tolerate each other; for if we all went in opposition to our teaching, we must end in difference, just the same."
"To be sure. We should go on forever in zig-zags," said Mrs. Meyrick. "I think it is very weak-minded to make your creed up by the rule of the contrary. Still one may honor one's parents, without following their notions exactly, any more than the exact cut of their clothing. My father was a Scotch Calvinist and my mother was a French Calvinist; I am neither quite Scotch, nor quite French, nor two Calvinists rolled into one, yet I honor my parents' memory."
"But I could not make myself not a Jewess," said Mirah, insistently, "even if I changed my belief."
"No, my dear. But if Jews and Jewesses went on changing their religion, and making no difference between themselves and Christians, there would come a time when there would be no Jews to be seen," said Mrs. Meyrick, taking that consummation very cheerfully.
"Oh, please not to say that," said Mirah, the tears gathering. "It is the first unkind thing you ever said. I will not begin that. I will never separate myself from my mother's people. I was forced to fly from my father; but if he came back in age and weakness and want, and needed me, should I say, 'This is not my father'? If he had shame, I must share it. It was he who was given to me for my father, and not another. And so it is with my people. I will always be a Jewess. I will love Christians when they are good, like you. But I will always cling to my people. I will always worship with them."
As Mirah had gone on speaking she had become possessed with a sorrowful passion--fervent, not violent. Holding her little hands tightly clasped and looking at Mrs. Meyrick with beseeching, she seemed to Deronda a personification of that spirit which impelled men after a long inheritance of professed Catholicism to leave wealth and high place and risk their lives in flight, that they might join their own people and say, "I am a Jew."
"Mirah, Mirah, my dear child, you mistake me!" said Mrs. Meyrick, alarmed. "God forbid I should want you to do anything against your conscience. I was only saying what might be if the world went on. But I had better have left the world alone, and not wanted to be over-wise. Forgive me, come! we will not try to take you from anybody you feel has more right to you."
"I would do anything else for you. I owe you my life," said Mirah, not yet quite calm.
"Hush, hush, now," said Mrs. Meyrick. "I have been punished enough for wagging my tongue foolishly--making an almanac for the Millennium, as my husband used to say."
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