A hymn composed by an early medieval writer named Shephatiah (Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 235), and forming the pizmon, or chief responsory verses, in the seliḥot of one of the mornings in the week preceding the New-Year festival. It is chanted on the Monday in the Polish use and on the Tuesday in the, German. The initial verse is employed also in the Ne'ilah service of the former ritual. The melody is of particular interest as one of the few metrical airs of medieval German origin which were constructed in scales of an Eastern character. Such were more familiar to those Jews resident in the region of the Greek Church, who came under the influence of the Byzantine rather than of the Roman plain-song. The melody exists in four parallel variants. In the English tradition the singing of the first verse in the closing service of the Day of Atonement has led to the modification of the concluding phrases of the tune by attraction into the melody employed for several other hymns similarly used in that service (comp. Ne'ilah [Hymn Tunes] and see "The Voice of Prayer and Praise," No. 286, London, 1899). Of the other traditional forms of the air, that used in northern Germany appears nearest to the original. It falls in the key of the dominant of the minor scale, recalling the fourth Byzantine mode (in the variety entitled λέγετος; comp. Bourgault-Ducoudray, "Etudes sur la Musique Ecclésiastique Grècque"). In the Polish and South-Russian traditions the consistent sharpening of the leading note of the minor, so familiar in Hungarian Gypsy melody, brings the tonality with a form of the Oriental chromatic mode (see Music, Synagogal) and lends the air the wailing plaintiveness favored by the Jews of north-eastern Europe.

A. F. L. C.
Images of pages