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Michelene Wandor, from The Music of the Prophets: The Resettlement of the Jews in England, 1655-56

Author's note: The Return of the Jews to England

This poem was written to mark the 350th anniversary of the 'return' of the Jews to England. Although they were officially banished in 1290, we know that they did not disappear completely; some converted to Christianity, some continued to practise secretly. From 1655-1656, the Jews once more became visible; with the tacit support of Oliver Cromwell.

The Music of the Prophets is the third in a triptych of narrative poems which evoke the presence of the Jews in England. The first, York, commemorates the massacre of the Jews in York in 1190. The second, The Marriage of True Minds: Shakespeare and the (Jewish?) Dark Lady of the Sonnets, explores the world of the clandestine Jews in early seventeenth-century London.

All three poems were initially written with musical connections: York was set to music by Malcolm Singer; The Marriage was performed with early seventeenth-century music, by Michelene Wandor's early music group, the Siena Ensemble. The ensemble also performed The Music of the Prophets, with music by Henry Purcell, and John Hingeston, Cromwell's Master of Music.

The Music of the Prophets was written with the help of a grant from the European Association of Jewish Culture.