Book I

An Invocation of the Divine Spirit. A Description of the Temple of Moloch, in the Valley of Hinnon, where a Congress of infernal Powers are met to contrive some Method to extirpate the Hebrew Race.

1 CELESTIAL Muse that on the blissful plain
2 Art oft invok'd, to guide th' immortal strain;
3 Inspir'd by thee, the first-born sons of light
4 Hail'd the creation in a tuneful flight:
5 Pleas'd with thy voice, the spheres began their round,
6 The morning stars danc'd to the charming sound;
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7 Yet thou hast often left the crystal tow'rs,
8 To visit mortals in their humble bow'rs.
9 Favour'd by thee the courtly swain of old,
10 Beneath mount Horeb sacred wonders told,
11 Of boundless chaos, and primaeval night,
12 The springs of motion and the seeds of light.
13 The sun stood still, to hear his radiant birth,
14 With the formation of the balanc'd earth.
15 The moon on high check'd her nocturnal car,
16 And list'ning staid, with ev'ry ling'ring star.
17 The hills around, and lofty Sinah heard
18 By whose command their tow'ring heads were rear'd.
19 The flow'rs their gay original attend;
20 Their tufted crowns the groves, adoring, bend.
21 The fountains rose, the streams their course withheld,
22 To hear the ocean's wond'rous source reveal'd.
23 The birds sit silent on the branches near,
24 The flocks and herds their verdant food forbear.
25 The swains forgot their labour while he sung,
26 How, from the dust, their great forefather sprung:
27 A vital call awoke him from the ground,
28 The moving clay obey'd th' almighty sound.
29 Thus sung in lofty strains the noble bard;
30 The heav'ns and earth their own formation heard.
31 But thou, propitious Muse, a gentler fire
32 Didst breathe, and tune to softer notes the lyre,
33 When royal Lebanon heard the am'rous king
34 The beauties of his lov'd Egyptian sing:
35 The sacred lays a mystic sense infold,
36 And things divine in human types were told.
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37 Disdain not, gentle pow'r, my song to grace,
38 While I the paths of heav'nly justice trace;
39 And twine a blooming garland for the youth,
40 Renown'd for honour, and unblemish'd truth.
41 Let others tell of ancient conquests won,
42 And mighty deeds by favour'd heroes done;
43 (Heros enslav'd to pride, and wild desires)
44 A virgin Muse, a virgin theme requires;
45 Where vice and wanton beauty quit the field,
46 And guilty loves to stedfast virtue yield.
47 Jacob, with heav'n's peculiar favour blest,
48 Leaving the fertile regions of the East,
49 (Where Haran, then a noble city, stood,
50 Between fair Tigris, and Euphrates flood)
51 From Laban fled, and by divine command
52 Pursu'd his journey to his native land.
53 Loaded with wealth, his num'rous camels bore
54 His wives, his children, and his household store;
55 Of purchas'd slaves he led an endless train,
56 His flocks and herds engross'd the wide champain.
57 The shepherd's art was all his fathers knew,
58 His sons the same industrious life pursue;
59 The God his pious ancestors ador'd
60 Th' almighty God, at Bethel, he implor'd:
61 An altar there, with grateful vows he rear'd,
62 Where twice the radiant vision had appear'd;
63 The pow'rs of hell the dreadful omen fear'd:
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64 Each demon trembles in his hollow shrine,
65 The raving priests amazing things divine.
66 In Himmon's vale a fane to Moloch stood,
67 Around it rose a consecrated wood;
68 Whose mingled shades excluded noon-day light,
69 And made below uninterrupted night.
70 Pale tapers hung around in equal rows,
71 The mansion of the sullen king disclose;
72 Seven brazen gates its horrid entrance guard;
73 Within the cries of infant ghosts were heard;
74 On seven high altars rise polluted fires,
75 While human victims feed the ruddy spires.
76 The place, Gehenna call'd, resembled well
77 The native gloom and dismal vaults of hell.
78 'Twas night, and goblins in the darkness danc'd,
79 The priests in frantick visions lay entranc'd;
80 While here conven'd the Pagan terrors sat,
81 In solemn council, and mature debate,
82 T'avert the storm impending o'er their state.
83 Th' apostate princes with resentment fir'd,
84 Anxious, and bent on black designs, conspir'd
85 To find out schemes successful to efface
86 Great Heber's name, and crush the sacred race;
87 From whence they knew, the long predicted king,
88 Th' infernal empire's destin'd foe should spring;
89 Who conqu'ror o'er their vanquish'd force should tread,
90 And all their captive chiefs in triumph lead.
91 Th' affair their deepest policy commands,
92 And brought them hither, from remotest lands;
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93 From Ur, Armenia, and Iberia's shores,
94 From Nile, and Ophir rich with golden ores,
95 And where the Adrian wave, and where th' Atlantick roars.
96 Nesroth appears, his amber chariot drawn
97 With snowy steeds: him at the rising dawn
98 The Syrian worships from his airy hills,
99 Whose vales with wealth the fam'd Araxis fills.
100 Belus forsakes his high frequented domes,
101 And o'er the famous plains of Shinah comes:
102 Plegor descends his mount; to him were paid,
103 With impious rites, libations for the dead.
104 Imperious Rimmon came, whose mansion stood
105 On the fair banks of Pharphar's lucid flood.
106 Osiris left his Nile, and thund'ring Baal
107 The rock, whence Arnon's plentous waters fall.
108 Mithra, whom all the East adores, was there;
109 And like his own resplendent planet fair,
110 With yellow tresses, and enchanting eyes
111 Dissembling beauty, would the fiend disguise.
112 Nor fail'd a deity of female name,
113 Astarte, with her silver cressent came:
114 Melita left her Babylonian bow'rs;
115 Where wanton damsels, crown'd with blushing flow'rs,
116 In all the summer's various lustre gay,
117 Detested Orgies to the goddess pay.
118 These various pow'rs, their various schemes propose
119 But none th' assemble pleas'd, till Mithra rose;
120 (Of an alluring mien above the rest)
121 Who thus th' apostate potentates address'd.
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122 Mankind by willing steps to ruin move,
123 Their own wild passions their destruction prove,
124 But the most fatal is forbidden love.
125 Old Jacob boasts a daughter young and fair,
126 Fond Leah's glory and peculiar care:
127 Her eyes inflame the gazing Pagans hearts,
128 Young Shechem has already felt their darts;
129 Who lately saw her with her virgin train,
130 Near Shalem, wand'ring o'er the dewy plain.
131 I'll fill his youthful breast with mad desire,
132 By fraud, or force, his wishes to acquire.
133 The coming day he does a feast prepare,
134 By me instructed how to hide the snare:
135 Fair Dinah is his sister's promis'd guest,
136 Impatient love will soon complete the rest.
137 The damsel's wrongs her brothers will inflame
138 To right, with hostile arms, the Hebrew's shame:
139 By which provok'd, the Canaanites shall join
140 With us t'abolish this detested line.
141 Revenge and bloody faction are my care,
142 Moloch replies; thine be the soft affair:
143 Without Instructions thou canst act thy part,
144 Well-practis'd in the nice alluring art;
145 Euphrates' banks, the Senac's conscious shades,
146 Attest thy freedom with th' Assyrian maids:
147 Thy voice, applauded in the heav'nly groves,
148 Was there devoted to terrestrial loves:
149 Thy sacred lyre to human subjects strung,
150 No more with tiresome Hallelujahs rung;
151 This grac'd thy hand, a quiver hung behind,
152 Nor fail'd thy sparkling eyes to charm the beauteous kind.
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153 The bold example of thy loose amours,
154 Prevail'd on numbers of the heav'nly pow'rs;
155 Who vainly had the first probation stood,
156 Proof to ambition, obstinately good.
157 Long after I, with my associates, fell;
158 Thy friends enlarg'd the monarchy of hell;
159 On softer motives you abhorr'd the skies,
160 Allur'd by women's captivating eyes:
161 The sons of God thus with the race of man
162 Were mingled; hence the giant stock began.
163 Our plot requires us now, and if it fail,
164 I'll, in my turn, the hated tribe assail;
165 Domestic faction may at last prevail.
166 Joseph, his doting father's life and joy,
167 By well-concerted means we must destroy;
168 This youth, above the rest, excites my fear,
169 Divine presages in his face appear;
170 Officious Gabriel's care to him confin'd,
171 Foretels a man for mighty things design'd:
172 His brethren, acted by my pow'rful fire,
173 Against his envy'd life shall all conspire.
174 Joseph remov'd, old Jacob's greatest prop,
175 The race shall mourn, in him, their blasted hope.
176 Here Moloch ceas'd; th' infernal spirits rose,
177 Crowning the double plot with vast applause.

Book II

Jacob's Daughter dishonour'd by Shechem, Prince of the Hivites. Her Brothers revenge the Injury. The Patriarch relates to his Sons Abraham's Conquest over the King of Elam and his Royal Confederates. He rescues Lot. Mel-chisedech meets and blesses Abraham. The intended Sacrifice of Issac.

1 Young Shechem all the night impatient lay;
2 And sought with eager eyes the breaking day;
3 With ardent longings waits the promis'd hour,
4 And fancies all his wishes in his pow'r;
5 Aner, his friend, improves the fatal fire,
6 And sooths, with flatt'ring scenes, his wild desire.
7 Sidonia, guiltless of her brother's snares,
8 To grace her lovely Hebrew guest prepares;
9 Who with her young companions now appears,
10 Too innocent for nice reserves, or fears.
11 Her artless looks, nor tim'rous, nor assur'd,
12 With easy charms the Jebusites allur'd
13 A rosy tincture paints her guiltless face:
14 Her eyes, peculiar to her beauteous race,
15 Sparkle with life, and dart immortal grace.
16 Rich orient bracelets, round her snowy arms,
17 And faultless neck, improve her native charms.
18 The Hivite princess entertains the maid,
19 To Hamor's palace fatally betray'd;
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20 Where, at the pomp of one surprising feast,
21 She meets the luxury of all the East.
22 Her thoughts the proud magnificence admire,
23 The people's customs, and their strange attire;
24 'Till modest rules, and the declining day,
25 With Leah's charge forbid her longer stay:
26 But ah! Too late, she finds herself betray'd
27 To Shechem's pow'r, a lost defenceless maid;
28 A captive in his treach'rous courts retain'd,
29 By fraud seduc'd, and brutal force constrain'd,
30 Her name dishonour'd, and her nation stain'd.
31 In vain with tender sighs he strives to move
32 The injur'd fair to voluntary love;
33 The strictest rules of chastity she knew,
34 With all that to her great descent was due;
35 But what with gentle arts he fails to gain,
36 His wild desires by violence obtain.
37 The hateful tidings reach'd her father's ears,
38 And almost sunk his venerable years:
39 Her brothers rage, and for revenge combine:
40 But guard with secret guile their black design.
41 The town in feasts consum'd the second day,
42 And plung'd at night in fearless riot lay.
43 The restless shepherds ere the ling'ring dawn,
44 Each held his sword, for horrid action drawn:
45 Surpris'd the city like a rising flood,
46 Rag'd thro' the streets, and bath'd their swords in blood.
47 The Hebrews, pleas'd with this successful fate,
48 Sprung furious on, and forc'd the palace gate:
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49 Fierce Simeon thro' the bright apartments flew,
50 And old and young, without distinction, slew.
51 Shechem, with restless passion still inspir'd,
52 Was with the charming Israelite retir'd;
53 And first by mad insulting Levi found,
54 Without a pause he gave the desp'rate wound.
55 Take thy dispatch, curst ravisher, for hell,
56 He said; and down the bleeding victim fell:
57 His fatal mistress turns away her eyes,
58 With horror seiz'd, and trembling with surprise.
59 The swains her roving vanity upbraid,
60 And to their tents the penitent convey'd.
61 Their father, griev'd, reproves the bloody fact;
62 But Judah thus defends the hostile act.
63 Should they, a race uncircumcis'd and vile,
64 With lawless mixtures Abram's flock defile?
65 Our wives and sisters in our sight constrain;
66 While we, regardless of the shameful stain,
67 Stand tamely by, and scarce of wrong complain?
68 They first intrench'd on hospitable trust,
69 And human faith; our vengeance is but just.
70 Such justice never mingle with my fame,
71 Good Israel cries, nor spot my guiltless name!
72 The realms around, who idol Gods revere,
73 Will this black deed with indignation hear;
74 And all their policy and rage unite,
75 To blot our odious mem'ry from the light.
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76 So hell believ'd; but heav'n a sacred dread
77 Of Jacob's sons among the nations spread;
78 While he at Bethel, with a pious flame,
79 Implores the great unutterable Name.
80 From thence to Mamre's peaceful plain retires,
81 Where Kiriath-arba lifts her golden spires:
82 Illustrious Arba built and nam'd the place,
83 The boasted father of the giant race;
84 For them design'd the monstrous plan appear'd,
85 To heav'n the threat'ning battlements were rear'd.
86 In careless joys and plenty here they live,
87 And to the neighb'ring swains protection give.
88 Beneath the hill, on which their city stood,
89 Ascended high a venerable wood;
90 To solemn shades, which gave a secret dread.
91 Conceal'd a vaulted structure for the dead,
92 Machpelah call'd, with wondrous labour wrought;
93 This Abram of the giant nation bought:
94 The cave, the wood, the springs, and bord'ring field,
95 Ephron, their prince, by publick contract seal'd.
96 Here to their purchas'd right the shepherds drive
97 Their fleecy charge, and unmolested live;
98 While frequent thro' the consecrated ground,
99 Inscriptions and old monuments they found.
100 Where'er celestial visions had appear'd,
101 The pious worshippers an altar rear'd;
102 The mystic name to mortals long unknown,
103 Was deeply figur'd on the polish'd stone;
104 By marks engrav'd on arching rocks, 'twas seen,
105 That heavenly pow'rs had there convers'd with men.
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106 Remote from this a lofty pillar stood;
107 This Jacob to the rural concourse shew'd;
108 Here see, he said, the memory retain'd
109 Of Abram's conquest near Damascus gain'd.
110 To distant lands the Eastern rule was spread,
111 And Jordan's banks a yearly tribute paid:
112 The king of Sodom first contemn'd the yoke,
113 Adnah and Zeboim next the treaty broke.
114 At this the royal Elamite enrag'd,
115 The neighb'ring kings, his great allies, engag'd;
116 Arioch and mighty Tidal join their force,
117 Conquest where'er they turn attends their course.
118 The Horims on mount Seir their valour prove,
119 Their troops the Emims from their fortress drove.
120 In Siddim's vale the adverse princes stay,
121 There Shibna, Bera and Shemeber lay.
122 Amraphel early meets his doubtful foes,
123 And for the victory his ranks dispose;
124 But scarce th' encounter could be call'd a fight,
125 So soon the troops of Sodom took their flight:
126 The coward race, unus'd to charge a foe,
127 Their jav'lins, swords and shields at once forego.
128 Some seek the woods, and some a shelt'ring cave;
129 Some in the rocks their breath, inglorious, save;
130 While others, plunging down fair Jordan's tide,
131 From the stern looks of war their faces hide.
132 Th' invaders sheath their swords, and scorn to grace
133 With martial deaths the despicable race.
134 Bera alone and Lot sustain'd the field,
135 But press'd by numbers were compell'd to yield:
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136 These, with the riches of the town, a prey
137 To Paran's hills the conqu'rors bore away.
138 This Abram heard, and gather'd on the plain
139 A valiant band, his own domestic train:
140 His glad assistance Eshcol brings, a youth
141 Of public honour, and unblemish'd truth;
142 With Aner, Mamre, dauntless both and young,
143 Brothers, all three from noble Amor sprung.
144 'Twas night, secure the victor army lies,
145 Scornful of foes, and fearless of surprise;
146 By Heav'n's command a sudden vapour spreads,
147 O'er all the host, and clouds their drowsy heads;
148 To the high throne of sense soft slumber climbs,
149 Slackens their sinews, and benumbs their limbs;
150 The captives eyes alone its force repell'd,
151 Nor to the pleasing violence would yield.
152 Now near the camp the brave Confed'rates draw,
153 And by the glimm'ring fires its posture saw;
154 The foremost rank, the swift invaders slew,
155 And soon the waking pris'ners heard and knew
156 Their active friends, that to their succor flew.
157 Abram his nephew, he the rest unty'd;
158 The sleeping foe avenging swords supply'd:
159 From file to file the fearless brothers pass,
160 And leave them breathless on the purple grass.
161 Th' old patriarch feels new life in ev'ry vein,
162 And scatters wide destruction o'er the plain.
163 The terror grows, the clash of arms, and cries
164 Of wounded men afflict the ambient skies.
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165 Prince Arioch, startled at the noise, awakes,
166 And from his eyes the fatal slumber shakes.
167 At oft-repeated calls his legions arm,
168 And madly haste to meet the loud alarm;
169 But by a force more prevalent out-done,
170 On certain fate with eager steps they run;
171 Disorder'd and amaz'd, they quit the field,
172 And, raving, to their unknown victors yield.
173 The morning rose, and with her blushing light
174 Expos'd their damage, and inglorius flight;
175 The joyful shepherds seize th' abandon'd spoils:
176 And now returning from their martial toils,
177 A royal priest at Salem Abram meets,
178 With presents, and a benediction greets
179 The Hebrew bands: To heav'n he lifts his eyes,
180 And blest be that propitious pow'r, he cries,
181 Who walks the chrystal circuit of the skies;
182 Who hears the boasts of mortals with disdain,
183 Contemns their force, and makes their triumphs vain!
184 His mien was solemn, and his face divine,
185 Refulgent gems around his temples shine:
186 His graceful robe, a bright celestial blue,
187 Trailing behind, a train majestic drew.
188 The tenth of all great Abram gives the priest,
189 The Kings and Amorites divide the rest.
190 All pleas'd, the gen'rous conqu'ror loudly prais'd,
191 And to his fame this lasting column rais'd.
192 The swains were list'ning still, when Jacob cries,
193 To yonder mountains now direct your eyes;
194 For there a brighter scene of glory lies.
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195 'Twas there the wond'ring sun in Abram view'd
196 The noblest height of human fortitude;
197 The pious man in guiltless sleep lay drown'd,
198 When thro' his ears thunder'd this fatal sound.
199 Arise, and Isaac on mine altar lay,
200 With thy own hand the destin'd victim slay.
201 He starts, and cries, who can this thought inspire?
202 Can heav'n this monstrous sacrifice require?
203 The dreadful call again surpriz'd his ears,
204 And lo! the well-known heavenly form appears.
205 He bow'd, and at the purple dawn arose,
206 And with his darling to Moriah goes.
207 Astonish'd long he by the altar stood,
208 Then pil'd with trembling hands the sacred wood;
209 Half dead himself; The wond'ring youth he binds,
210 Who now his sire's severe intention finds.
211 What thoughts, he ask'd, my father, have possest
212 Your soul? what horrid fury fills your breast?
213 Am I to hell a sacrifice design'd?
214 Some cruel demon must your reason blind;
215 Th' unblemish'd skies abhor this bloody deed,
216 No human victims on their altars bleed.
217 'Tis heav'n, the Patriarch said, this fact requires,
218 'Tis heav'n be witness yon ethereal fires!
219 Yet, countless as the stars, from thee must spring
220 Victorious nations, and the mystick King:
221 'Tis past relief yet by himself he swore,
222 Who from the dead thy relicks can restore;
223 What obstacle surmounts almighty pow'r?
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224 This said, the pious youth resign'd his life;
225 Blest Abram shook off all paternal strife,
226 And forward thrust the consecrated knife.
227 As lightning from the skies, an angel broke,
228 And warded with his hand the fatal stroke;
229 When thus a voice streams downward from above,
230 Breathing divine beneficence and love.
231 By my great self I swear, to bless thy race
232 With endless favour and peculiar grace;
233 Thy scepter'd sons the spacious East shall sway,
234 While vanquish'd kings obedient tribute pay.
235 Here Jacob ends, and to his tent retires;
236 Their fleecy charge the parting swains requires.

Book III

The infernal Powers endeavour to raise Factions in Jacob's Family. Joseph's Dreams. His Brothers Jealousy and Malice. He comes to Dothan. They confine him in a Pit while they consult his Ruin. An Angel in a Vision presages to him his future Greatness, and warns him of the Snares of Beauty and unlawful Love. His Brothers spare his Life, and sell him to the Midian Merchants travelling with their spicy Traffick into Egypt. Jacob, obstinate in Grief, refuses all Consolation.

1 MEAN time the Pagan deities, displeas'd
2 To find the public storms so soon appeas'd,
3 Studious attempt by new malicious ways,
4 Among the Hebrews civil jars to raise:
5 Moloch already had provok'd the strife,
6 And kindling mischief threatens Joseph's life.
7 The lovely youth, fair Rachel's boasted son,
8 Completely form'd, his seventeenth year begun;
9 His mother's sparkling eyes, and blooming grace,
10 Mixt with severer strokes, adorn'd his face.
11 Not he that in Sabea's fragrant grove,
12 (As poets sung) inflam'd the queen of love;
13 Nor Hylas, nor Narcissus look'd so gay,
14 When the clear streams his rosy blush display.
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15 In all his conduct something noble shone
16 Which meant him for a greatness yet unknown.
17 Visions had oft' his rising fate foretold:
18 The last to Jacob thus his lips unfold,
19 His brethren by: when sleep had clos'd mine eyes,
20 A corny field before my fancy flies;
21 (Still to my thoughts the yellow crop appears!)
22 My brothers with me reap'd the bending ears;
23 Industrious each a single sheaf had bound,
24 When theirs with sudden motion mine surround,
25 And bow'd with prostrate rev'rence to the ground.
26 But now my mind of rural business clear'd,
27 Above my head a wond'rous scene appear'd;
28 The moon and stars at highest noon shone bright,
29 Unconquer'd by the sun's superior light;
30 Methought I saw the gaudy orbs descend,
31 And at my feet with humble homage bend.
32 The shepherds hear his story with surprise:
33 Must we thy vassals be? proud Ashur cries,
34 With rage and threatning malice in his eyes.
35 At Mamre, Jacob and his fav'rite stay,
36 The rest to Dothan's flow'ry meadows stray;
37 Infernal envy all their bosoms fires,
38 And black resolves and horrid thoughts inspires.
39 At last young Joseph's murder is design'd:
40 Hell with the monstrous treachery combin'd.
41 He comes to Dothan, by his father sent,
42 And heav'n alone his ruin can prevent.
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43 Their guiltless prey he stands, without defence,
44 But inborn worth, and fearless innocence.
45 His brethren's crimes, his father's hoary hairs
46 Were all the subject that alarm'd his fears.
47 The fatal stroke they now prepare to give,
48 When Reuben's arts the hopeless youth retrieve,
49 By thus advising, let your brother live.
50 A thousand easy methods yet remain,
51 To render all his glorious projects vain;
52 But till we have determin'd the design,
53 To yonder pit th'aspiring boy confine.
54 To him they yield, and to their tents retire,
55 The fiends below their own success admire.
56 The night prevails, and draws her sable train,
57 With silent pace, along the ethereal plain.
58 By fits the dancing stars exert their beams;
59 The silver crescent glimmers on the streams;
60 The sluggish waters, with a drowsy roar,
61 And ling'ring motion, roll along the shore;
62 Their murmur answers to the rustling breeze,
63 That faintly whispers thro' the nodding trees;
64 The peaceful echoes, undisturb'd with sound,
65 Lay slumb'ring in the cavern'd hills around;
66 Frenzy and faction, love and envy slept;
67 A still solemnity all nature kept;
68 Devotion only wak'd, and to the skies
69 Directs the pris'ner's pious vows and eyes:
70 To God's high throne a wing'd petition flew,
71 And from the skies commission'd Gabriel drew;
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72 One of the seven, who by appointed turns
73 Before the throne ambrosial incense burns.
74 A sudden day, returning on the night,
75 Vanquish'd the shades, and put the stars to flight;
76 Th' enlighten'd cave receives the shining guest,
77 In all his heav'nly pomp divinely dress'd;
78 He greets the youth, and thus his charge express'd.
79 To-morrow thou must leave rich Jordan's shore.
80 And trace Moriah's sacred hill no more;
81 A great and grateful nation yet unknown,
82 Sav'd by thy care, shall thee their patron own;
83 But let thy breast impenetrable prove
84 To wanton beauty, and forbidden love:
85 This heav'n enjoins. The wond'ring shepherd bow'd;
86 The angel mounted on a radiant cloud.
87 The morning now her lovely face display'd,
88 And with a rosy smile dispell'd the shade.
89 The faction rose, and close in council sat,
90 On means that must determine Joseph's fate;
91 Nor long they sat, for on the neighb'ring road
92 A train of camels with their spicy load,
93 Follow'd by Midian merchants, travell'd by:
94 Heav'n marks the way, the envious brothers cry:
95 Whate'er th' ambitious dreamer's thoughts portend,
96 His hopes with these to foreign lands we'll send.
97 They stop the Midianites, and soon agree,
98 Resolved no more his hated face to see.
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99 With looks, which perfect inward anguish tell,
100 And falling tears, he took this sad farewell.
101 I go to wander on some barb'rous clime,
102 May heav'nly justice ne'er avenge this crime!
103 Be still indulgent to my father's age,
104 His grief for me with flatt'ring hopes asswage.
105 They hear, they see the anguish of his soul,
106 And scarce their struggling pity can control;
107 Touch'd with so sad a scene, they all begin
108 To feel remorse for this unnatural sin,
109 And half repent: but hate and envy prove
110 Their victor passions, and repress their love.
111 They form a specious fraud to hide the deed
112 From their old sire, and in the plot succeed.
113 Their brother's varied coat they still retain'd,
114 And with a bleeding kid the vestment stain'd;
115 With this to Mamre treach'rous Simeon goes,
116 Too well the lost old man the relick knows.
117 After a dismal pause, his sorrow breaks
118 Its violent way, and this sad language speaks.
119 My son! alas, some savage monster's prey!
120 Why have I liv'd to this detested day?
121 Why have I lingred thus? I should have dy'd,
122 When thy more happy mother left my side,
123 My best-lov'd wife: but all my Rachel's face
124 I could in thy resembling features trace.
125 Tormenting thought! O hide me from the light!
126 Its useless rays afflict my feeble sight:
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127 Come lead me to the solitary grave,
128 Despair and woe that dark retirement crave;
129 There shall I, stretch'd upon my dusty bed,
130 Forget the toils of life, and mingle with the dead.
131 In vain his friends attempt to bring relief,
132 In vain persuade inexorable grief;
133 'Tis deep, and intermingled with his soul,
134 Nor time, nor counsel can its force control.

Book IV

A Description of Egypt, with the Pyramids. Joseph sold by the Midian Merchants to a Captain of the Royal Guards. He leads him to his Palace. Shews his Wife the handsome Captive. Her growing Passion for him. A young Assyrian Maid endeavourinq to amuse and divert her Mistress, tells her the Story of Ninus and Semiramis.

1 MEAN while thro' savage woods, and deserts vast,
2 The captive with his Midian masters past.
3 At last rich Egypt's pleasant coasts are seen,
4 The level meads drest with immortal green;
5 Between them fertile Nile directs his course,
6 And nobly flows from his immortal source.
7 Along the borders of the sacred flood,
8 Aspiring groves and stately cities stood:
9 Here ancient Tanais in her height appear'd,
10 Before Amphion's lute the Theban wall had rear'd.
11 The sun's devoted city, radiant On,
12 With roofs emboss'd, and golden foliage shone;
13 Ere skilful Vulcan was at Lemnos nam'd,
14 Or Cynthia's darts, or shields for Pallas fram'd.
15 Distinct from these, on the Pelusian strands,
16 Ansana crown'd with silver turrets stands;
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17 Rais'd to its height, as old tradition tells,
18 By pow'rful magick, and secur'd by spells:
19 Th' Egyptian wizards here themselves immure,
20 Converse with hell, and practice rites impure.
21 Now mighty pyramids the sight surprise,
22 On Masre's plain the spiral tow'rs arise.
23 Redousa here magnificently shrouds
24 Its lofty head among surrounding clouds:
25 By Saurid built, the daring structure stood
26 The fury of the universal flood.
27 Phacat and Samir's pointed tops ascend,
28 And o'er the fields their lengthning shades extend;
29 Their compass sacred to the dead remain,
30 Within eternal night and silence reign;
31 No lightsom ray salutes them from the sky,
32 But glaring lamps depending from on high,
33 With sickly gleams the hollow space supply.
34 Here ancient kings, embalm'd with wond'rous cost,
35 A long exemption from corruption boast:
36 In artful figures some are sitting plac'd,
37 With fruitless pomp, and idle ensigns grac'd;
38 While others stretch'd in sleeping postures lie,
39 On folding carpets of imperial dye:
40 Their hov'ring ghosts, pleas'd with this mimick pride,
41 Among the breathless carcases reside.
42 But what prodigious things within were shewn,
43 Were to the Hebrew stranger yet unknown,
44 Astonish'd at their outward bulk alone.
45 And now arriv'd where Zoan's wall inclos'd
46 Imperial tow'rs, the Midianites expos'd
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47 Their fragrant traffick, with the handsom slave
48 His mind beyond his years compos'd and grave;
49 His aspect something spoke divinely great,
50 Something that mark'd him for a nobler fate.
51 A generous captain, chief of Pharaoh's bands,
52 Admiring much the graceful captive, stands,
53 Then gives the Midianites their full demands.
54 A sudden friendship in his breast he finds,
55 Experienc'd only by unvulgar minds:
56 Some heav'nly being had prepar'd his thought,
57 And on his heart the kind impression wrought.
58 Without regret, young stranger, follow me,
59 Said Potiphar, I now have ransom'd thee;
60 From servitude this moment thou art free.
61 The youth receiv'd the favour with a grace,
62 That answer'd all the promise of his face.
63 Fronting the royal house, a structure crown'd
64 With turrets stood, and palmy groves around;
65 Discoursing, hither thro' the walks they went,
66 Both pleas'd alike, and equally content.
67 The seat they reach'd, when for a costly vest
68 The master call'd; in this the youth they dress'd:
69 No more disparag'd with a slave's attire,
70 His faultless shape and features all admire.
71 His hair, like palest amber, from his crown
72 In floating curls and shining waves fell down.
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73 Young Paris such surprising charms display'd,
74 When first in gold and Tyrian silks array'd,
75 He laid his crook aside, forgot the swain,
76 And bid adieu to Ida's flow'ry plain.
77 Then for his wife the captain bids them send,
78 And shews with boasting joy his purchas'd friend.
79 The fair Sabrina, lately made his bride,
80 Was in her beauty's celebrated pride.
81 Her large black eyes shone with a sprightly fire,
82 And love at ev'ry fatal glance inspire.
83 The swarthy lustre of her charming face
84 The full blown lily and the rose disgrace.
85 Her glossy hair outvy'd the raven's wings,
86 And curl'd about her neck in wanton rings.
87 Affectedly she took a careless view,
88 And to her own apartment soon withdrew.
89 Joseph belov'd and happy long remain'd,
90 And from his lord successive favours gain'd;
91 Who now at home grown prosp'rous, and abroad,
92 Believes his guest some favourable god:
93 He gives him o'er his house the full command,
94 Intrusting all his treasures to his hand.
95 Mean time Sabrina feeds within her breast
96 A secret fire, but shame its rage supprest,
97 When first she saw the charming Hebrew's eyes,
98 She felt, but well dissembled the surprise;
99 But thro' her various arts an inward care
100 The languors of her pensive looks declare.
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101 Cyrena found the change, (a Syrian maid,
102 Well-born, but from her native coasts betray'd:)
103 She saw the change, but led by nicer laws,
104 Was thoughtless still of its reproachful cause.
105 Her voice, her easy wit, her eloquence,
106 Could hold the wildest passion in suspense.
107 Attending oft' her mistress to a grove,
108 Their usual walk with pleasing tales she strove
109 To entertain her thoughts, and charm her grief;
110 Nor fail'd her arts to give a short relief.
111 Her native clime the pleasing subject proves,
112 The Syrian pomp, their customs, and their loves:
113 Among the rest Sabrina hears her name
114 Semiramis, a queen of antient fame,
115 And ask'd her now the story to relate;
116 Repos'd beneath a spreading palm they sat.

Book V

The Story of Semiramis, expos'd, when an Infant, in the Fields; where she is found, (covered with a rich embroidered Mantle) by a Peasant, who carries her to Simma, the Chief of the King's Shepherds, by whom she is married to Menon, the principal Commander of the Asyrian Forces. Menon being called to the Siege of Bactria, she follows him in a martial Disguise. Menon discovers her Sex to the King, who marries her after the Death of Menon.

1 THE maid begins. Where fam'd Coaspes laves
2 Rich Elam's borders with his sacred waves,
3 Along the fields their tents the shepherds spread,
4 By them the king's unnumbered flocks were fed.
5 The silent dawn was misty yet and gray,
6 And hoary moisture on the mountains lay.
7 Intent on rural cares, with early haste,
8 A peasant near a rocky cavern past;
9 Across his path was rais'd a mossy bed,
10 O'er that a rich embroidered mantle spread;
11 This, lifted up, reaveal'd a lovely child,
12 Which fairer than the rosy morning smil'd:
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13 The wond'ring swain forgot his country cares,
14 And back to Simma's house the infant bears.
15 Simma his master was, tho' wealthy, just:
16 The royal lands and flocks were made his trust:
17 He riches still amass'd without an heir,
18 And seeing now the child surpassing fair,
19 He took and bred her with indulgent care;
20 In nothing he controls her growing years,
21 No cost to please her boundless fancy spares.
22 When, by revolving moons, successive time
23 Had brought her beauty to its perfect prime,
24 Her shape was faultless, and in all her mien
25 Presaging marks of majesty were seen:
26 No mortal e'er could boast so fair a face,
27 Such radiant eyes, and so divine a grace.
28 A flow'ry wreath her beauteous temples crown'd,
29 Her snowy vest a crimson girdle bound:
30 Thus dress'd, she walks a goddess o'er the plains,
31 Admir'd and lov'd by all the gazing swains;
32 To her the fragrant tribute of the spring,
33 With am'rous zeal on bended knees they bring.
34 Not distant far from wealthy Simma's seat,
35 Heroick Menon own'd a fair retreat;
36 His rank, and early worth, the high command
37 Of all the fam'd Assyrian force had gain'd:
38 In peaceful times the chief whom all admir'd,
39 To prove a softer happiness, retir'd;
40 'Twas here Semiramis his wishes fir'd,
[Page 34]
41 With ravish'd eyes her heav'nly face he view'd,
42 And for the glorious prize to Simma su'd;
43 Proffer'd with sacred rites his vows to bind:
44 This honour pleas'd the haughty virgin's mind;
45 On meaner terms she had his suit deny'd;
46 With virtue guarded and a noble pride,
47 The lover finds success, but all his joys
48 A sudden summons from the king destroys.
49 Bactria revolts, Ninus the tidings hears,
50 Himself in arms to meet the foe prepares.
51 But three short days ungentle fate allows
52 Sad Menon, for his sighs and parting vows:
53 He curst his martial charge, and publick fame,
54 And loaths th' incumbrance of a glorious name,
55 Which rends him now from all the joys of life,
56 His lov'd Semiramis, his charming wife.
57 She hears the king's command with less surprise,
58 And, Menon, banish all your care, she cries:
59 We cannot 'tis impossible to part,
60 Love with heroick courage fires my heart.
61 To follow you thro' raging seas I'd go,
62 O'er burning desarts, or perpetual snow.
63 By your example led, I shall not fear
64 The flying arrow, or the pointed spear;
65 Pierc'd with a fatal dart, were Menon by,
66 'Twould be a soft, an easy thing, to die.
67 Th' event be what it will, with you I'll run
68 To certain death, nor any danger shun;
69 Be witness to my vows, thou radiant sun!
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70 Nor can th' advent'rous deed my conduct stain,
71 Secure with you the secret shall remain;
72 I boldly can defy all other eyes,
73 In threat'ning armour, and a martial guise.
74 New pleasure fills the hero's breast, to find
75 Such beauty, love, and stedfast virtue join'd.
76 A thousand kind transporting things he said,
77 A thousand vows of lasting passion made:
78 Then for a rich habiliment of war
79 He sent, and dress'd himself the smiling fair.
80 A costly helmet glitter'd on her head,
81 On which a dove its silver pinions spread;
82 A plume of whitest feathers danc'd above,
83 With every trembling breath of air they move.
84 Th' embroidered scarf that o'er her armour flow'd,
85 With dazzling flames of gold and scarlet glow'd.
86 Her hand a javelin shook with mimick pride,
87 A painted quiver rattled by her side.
88 Her height and mien adorn the warlike dress,
89 More vig'rous rays her charming eyes express.
90 The courser, of his beauteous burden proud,
91 With golden trappings bounded thro' the crowd.
92 Menon, of Syrian arms the grace and pride,
93 Kept near the lovely masquerader's side.
94 On Dura's plain the Babylonian force
95 In ranks attend their mighty leader's course.
96 While Ninus, graceful as a martial god,
97 Exalted on his glittering chariot rode.
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98 The Bactrians their approaching foes disdain,
99 Resolv'd their fortress bravely to maintain;
100 And long the town with matchless courage held,
101 And oft' to flight the Armenian troops compell'd:
102 'Till bold Semiramis, who danger sought,
103 And fearless in the foremost ranks had fought,
104 Observ'd a rock, which o'er a castle lean'd;
105 The Bactrians this were careless to defend,
106 Believing it from all access secure:
107 She finds a path among the cliffs obscure;
108 Then with a chosen band intrepid gains
109 The top, and soon th' unguarded fort obtains.
110 The town thus made the fierce besieger's prey,
111 To her they give the conquest of the day.
112 All prais'd the youth, (for such she was believ'd)
113 Her bold address each party had deceiv'd;
114 But Ninus most her fortitude admires,
115 He views her blooming youth, her race enquires.
116 Menon in dotage lost, with foolish pride,
117 No more the fatal secret strives to hide;
118 Nor once imagin'd this unlucky boast,
119 The joy of all his future life must cost.
120 Ninus with other eyes her beauty views,
121 In other terms his gratitude renews.
122 To Babylon return'd, he yet conceal'd
123 His growing flame, by Menon's worth withheld;
124 Too well he with a sad Reflection knows,
125 What to his counsel, and his sword he owes;
126 These gen'rous ties at first his love oppose:
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127 But nothing can th' increasing rage restrain;
128 By gentle means he yet his end would gain.
129 Menon, he said, my wishes to procure,
130 I'll give thee cities, and a boundless store
131 Of gold, and precious gems; and for a bride,
132 A blooming princess to the crown ally'd:
133 All this, and more, to gain her love I'll give;
134 Without Semiramis I cannot live.
135 Resenting Menon, with a handsom pride,
136 Refus'd his offers, and the suit deny'd.
137 The softer sex he next attempts to gain;
138 She too rejects his passion with disdain.
139 What now avail the glories of the East?
140 Nor wealth, nor empire can procure his rest.
141 Tir'd with unheeded sighs, and fruitless pray'r,
142 He tries more rig'rous means to ease his care;
143 And threatens thus: With my desires comply,
144 Or soon prepare to see your hero die.
145 From Menon this she hides, who less severe
146 Observes her to the am'rous king appear:
147 His fondness with the jealous passion grows;
148 No joy, no lightsom interval he knows,
149 The mingled frenzy gives him no repose.
150 She false! he cries, my fair, enchanting wife!
151 And can I yet protract this wretched life?
152 This anxious heart, with hopeless grief oppress'd,
153 In death's cold shade shall find perpetual rest,
[Page 38]
154 He said; then all the hostile stars defy'd,
155 And plung'd the fatal weapon in his side.
156 A long adieu! Semiramis, he cries;
157 With those lov'd accents on his lips he dies;
158 She hears the parting groan, and to his succour flies.
159 Sunk on the floor she sees her lover bleed,
160 Himself the author of the barb'rous deed;
161 But true to love, and virtue's strictest laws,
162 She neither knew, nor could suspect the cause.
163 Seiz'd with a sudden horror and surprise,
164 She faints, and near the breathless carcase lies;
165 Her frighted women to her rescue haste,
166 And wake the doubtful spark of life, at last.
167 A hollow groan ensues; with feeble sight
168 She meets the day, and loaths the flashing light.
169 A stedfast sorrow in her face appears,
170 Above the soft relief of female tears;
171 Silent as death, her words no utt'rance find,
172 To tell the inward anguish of her mind:
173 A fixt, sedate, and rational despair
174 Compos'd her looks, and settled in her air.
175 In such a sullen calm the billows sleep,
176 So smooth an aspect wears the gloomy deep;
177 While treach'rous winds their gath'ring breath refrain,
178 Presaging tempests on the troubled main.
179 Th' impatient prince with just respect attends
180 Her ebbing grief, and long his flame suspends;
181 And long her stedfast thoughts relentless prove
182 To proffer'd empire, and inviting love;
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183 Till fate itself her stubborn heart inclin'd
184 To take a crown, by all the stars design'd,
185 And fill a sphere proportion'd to her mind.
186 Ninus was now of ev'ry wish possest,
187 With sov'reign rule, and brighter pleasure blest:
188 But ah! how short a boast has mortal joy?
189 What sudden storms the flatt'ring calm destroy?
190 What human privilege, what lawless pow'r
191 Can one short day retard th' appointed hour?
192 Thrice thro' the midnight silence, from the ground,
193 The startled monarch hears a warning sound;
194 Thrice Menon's ghost a frowning spectre stands,
195 And seems to beckon with his airy hands.
196 A sudden faintness seiz'd his trembling heart,
197 While hasty life retires from every part;
198 Speechless and pale his eye-balls roll in death,
199 While with reluctant pangs he yields his breath.
200 The mournful princess to his merit just,
201 With wond'rous pomp interr'd the royal dust:
202 High on a mount his sepulchre she plac'd,
203 With marble spires, and pointed arches grac'd.
204 She bids farewell to love's deceitful flame;
205 Resolv'd to leave behind a glorious name,
206 In costly structures of immortal fame.
207 A lofty dome to Belus first she built:
208 The inward roof with dazling silver gilt;
209 The god was fashion'd in a wond'rous mold,
210 With perfect art; his bulk was massy gold;
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211 His sacred utensils were all the same,
212 While fragrant oils in golden sockets flame.
213 Old Babel next with boundless cost she wall'd;
214 And Babylon the spacious city call'd;
215 Its bounds with forts and battlements were crown'd,
216 And compass'd in an endless tract of ground,
217 Valleys and level'd hills the vast extent surround:
218 Where fronting ranks of palaces were seen.
219 With streams, and groves, and painted meads between.
220 Euphrates in its course the town divides,
221 While thro' the midst his stately current glides.
222 Around the place a hundred gates unfold,
223 Thro' which a hundred glitt'ring chariots roll'd;
224 Which all for state attend the queen's commands,
225 When she her progress makes thro' distant lands.
226 Resolv'd to visit now the neighb'ring Medes,
227 Her train she o'er the lofty Sagris leads.
228 At pompous Ecbatana now she staid,
229 And all her own magnificence display'd.
230 Gay projects here employ'd her active mind,
231 Gardens, and seats of pleasure she design'd;
232 Luxurious nature with her art combin'd.
233 Not far from thence a plain extended lay,
234 With stately groves and flow'ry verdure gay;
235 The spreading palm, the cedar, and the pine,
236 Arching above their mingled branches join.
237 Semiramis now turns an ancient flood,
238 With matchless labour, thro' the charming wood;
[Page 41]
239 The plenteous stream in various rills divides,
240 While marble bounds confine the crystal tides.
241 In marble basons of an equal row,
242 Myrtle, and balm, and flow'ry Cassia grow.
243 Prodigious rocks intire were hither brought,
244 Smooth arches thro' their craggy sides were wrought:
245 Here artificial hills their summits rear,
246 For shade retiring grotts around appear.
247 In various bloom the valleys stood below,
248 From far the beauteous Syrian roses glow.
249 All that perfumes the blest Sabaean fields
250 Grows here, with all that sacred Nysa yields.
251 Here breath'd the fragrant Calamus, and Fir,
252 Cinnamon, Frankincense, and weeping Myrrhe.
253 Shrill birds among the spicy branches sing,
254 Their warbling notes along the valleys ring:
255 The winds and waters with a gentle noise
256 Double the sound, and answer ev'ry voice.
257 The queen a while had these diversions prov'd,
258 And then her court to Babylon remov'd:
259 But ah! what heights of happiness are free
260 From fickle chance, or certain destiny?
261 The princess finds a swift decay control
262 The usual force and vigour of her soul;
263 Nor struggling nature could its force repel,
264 While heav'n and earth the publick change foretel.
265 She from the oracle enquires th' event,
266 The flatt'ring priests this pleasing answer sent:
267 That from the Gods she drew her heav'nly race,
268 And shortly must th' immortal number grace.
[Page 42]
269 Pleas'd with the glories of her future state,
270 She yields without reluctance to her fate.
271 Cyrena ends her tale; the closing day
272 Withdrew its splendour, and forbid their stay.

Book VI

Joseph's Mistress at last discovers her criminal Passion to him, but is repuls'd. She complains to her Nurse, who vainly tries the Force of Spells. She is sent by her Mistress to Harpinus. His Cell describ'd. He consults the Planets, and flatters her with Success; till finding the Hebrew Youth inflexible to all her Charms, she falsly accuses him to his Master, by whom he is confined to a Prison.

1 STILL with impatient love Sabrina pines,
2 And now to speak the fatal truth designs;
3 Sooth'd by her own indulgent hopes, which trace
4 A secret passion in the Hebrew's face.
5 He sighs, and when he thinks himself alone,
6 Oft seems some new misfortune to bemoan,
7 In foreign accents, and a tongue unknown.
8 Her vanity an explanation found,
9 And put a sense on every flatt'ring sound,
10 Forgetful of her nuptial vows and fame,
11 She fondly thus betrays her guilty flame.
12 If yet my torments are to thee unknown,
13 If yet my sighs the myst'ry have not shewn,
14 Insensible, let this confession prove
15 The strange excess, and grandeur of my love.
[Page 44]
16 Yet had I still my wild desires suppressed,
17 Had not thine eyes an equal flame confess'd.
18 Let me be punish'd with the last disdain,
19 He said, if e'er I harbour'd thoughts so vain!
20 I ne'er Sabrina's favour so abus'd,
21 Nor once your virtue in my heart accus'd.
22 Should I perfidious (heav'n forbid!) offend
23 My gen'rous master, I might say my friend;
24 Let scandal sink my name, when so unjust
25 I prove, so false to hospitable trust!
26 Thus with a modest turn he would reclaim
27 Her am'rous frenzy, and conceal her shame;
28 Nor waits her leave, but hastily withdrew.
29 Careless her limbs upon a couch she threw,
30 And curst her folly with a thousand tears;
31 Till Iphicle, her artful nurse, appears;
32 Of so much grief she press'd to know the cause,
33 At last the secret from her mistress draws.
34 You wrong, the Beldam cries, your own desert,
35 For you have charms, the youth a human heart.
36 Your beauty might a savage breast inspire,
37 At sight of you the coldest age takes fire.
38 But where's the wonder that a bashful boy,
39 Should, at the first address, be nice and coy?
40 He loves, no doubt, and languishes like you,
41 But fears th' ambitious motive to pursue:
42 Nor shall your utmost wishes want redress,
43 I have a draught that gives divine success;
[Page 45]
44 Nepenthe, which th' immortals quaff above;
45 These sacred drops rewarded Chemis' love.
46 When Totis, by his death, the full command
47 Of Misraim left in fair Charoba's hand,
48 The rich Gebirus from Chaldea came
49 With foreign pomp to seek the royal dame.
50 Chemis adorn'd his train, whose charming face
51 Allur'd a goddess of the wat'ry race;
52 On Nilus' banks the young Chaldean stood,
53 When lo! Merina rising from the flood,
54 Her chariot set with pearl, the wave divides,
55 Softly along the silver stream she glides.
56 Her robes with pearl and sparkling rubies shine,
57 Her brighter eyes express a light divine.
58 Nor from her humid bed the blooming day
59 Has e'er ascended with a clearer ray.
60 Her smiles the raging tempests could appease,
61 Allay the winds, and calm the swelling seas.
62 She leaves her crystal vaults, and coral groves,
63 Her liquid kingdoms, and immortal loves,
64 And o'er the grassy meads with Chemis roves.
65 At parting gave him this celestial spell,
66 Which ev'ry good procures, and can each ill repel.
67 My mother from this youth derives her line,
68 And this she left me, as a gift divine,
69 By all her ancestors preserv'd with care;
70 One heav'nly drop shall banish your despair.
71 Her flatt'ring nurse's charm she vainly tries,
72 For Joseph still her hateful passion flies:
[Page 46]
73 But obstinate in love to gain her ends,
74 To fam'd Asana, Iphicle she sends.
75 Harpinus there an uncouth dwelling own'd,
76 Planted with yew and mournful cyprus round;
77 Whose shadows every pleasing thought control,
78 And fill with deep anxiety the soul.
79 Hither black fiends at dead of night advance,
80 The horned Serim thro' the darkness dance:
81 From earth, from air, and from the briny deep
82 They come, and here nocturnal revels keep.
83 From gloomy Acherusia, and the fen
84 Of Serbon, and the forest of Birdene;
85 From Ophiodes, the serpent isle, they come,
86 And Syrtes, where fantastick spectres roam;
87 From Chabnus, and the wild Psebarian peak,
88 Whose hoary cliffs the clouds long order break.
89 In hellish banquets, and obscene delights,
90 The curst assembly here consume the nights.
91 The sick'ning moon her feeble light withholds,
92 In sable clouds her argent horns she folds;
93 The constellations quench their glimm'ring fire,
94 And frighted far to distant skies retire.
95 Amidst these horrors, in his echoing cells,
96 And winding vaults, the Necromancer dwells:
97 Passing from room to room, the brazen doors
98 Resound, as when exploded thunder roars.
99 The day excluded thence, blue sulphur burns,
100 With frightful splendour, in a thousand urns.
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101 The wizard here employs his mighty spells,
102 And great events by divination tells;
103 Inscribing mystick figures on the ground,
104 And mutt'ring words of an unlawful sound;
105 Which from their tombs the shiv'ring ghosts compel,
106 And force them future secrets to reveal.
107 The stars he knew, when adverse, or benign;
108 When with malignant influence they shine,
109 Or, darting prosp'rous rays, to love incline.
110 The nurse a pleasing answer here obtain'd,
111 And thus Sabrina's drooping thoughts sustain'd.
112 A third succeeding day shall crown your love,
113 And every am'rous star propitious prove.
114 Sabrina feeds the while her guilty flame,
115 And now the third appointed morning came;
116 When for the favour'd youth in haste she sends
117 The message with reluctance he attends.
118 Silent she sits; while waiting her commands,
119 Fix'd at a formal distance long he stands.
120 Her eyes still fix'd on Joseph's beauteous face;
121 A close contempt, and inward hatred trace;
122 Yet desp'rate to compleat her own disgrace.
123 Ungrateful youth! she cries, too well I find
124 By these cold looks, thy unrelenting mind:
125 Thy savage temper, and unconquer'd pride,
126 By words of sacred import thou wouldst hide,
127 Thou talk'st of holy ties, and rules severe,
128 Pretending some avenging God to fear.
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129 What God, alas! does cruelty command?
130 Or human bliss maliciously withstand?
131 Such thoughts as these the heav'nly powers arraign,
132 Efface their goodness, and their justice stain.
133 Would they the gen'rous principle control,
134 Who gave this am'rous bias to the soul?
135 What nature is, they made it: nor can bind
136 With servile laws the freedom of the mind:
137 Were this our lot, happy the brutal kind,
138 That unmolested thro' the forest rove,
139 Licentious in their choice, and unconfin'd in love!
140 Virtue! a meer imaginary thing!
141 Torment it may, but can no pleasure bring.
142 Honour! 'tis nothing but precarious fame,
143 For empty breath, for a fantastick name.
144 Wilt thou my soft intreaties still deny,
145 And see me languish, and unpity'd die?
146 Consent at last to love's enchanting joys,
147 While pleasure calls thee with her tempting voice:
148 These folding curtains shall our bliss conceal,
149 That no intruding eye our theft reveal.
150 Deluded fair! the noble youth replies,
151 Could we some artful labyrinth devise
152 To hide our sin, and far from mortal sight
153 Retire, involv'd in all the shades of night;
154 Yet there, expos'd to heav'n's unclouded view,
155 Its vengeance would our treachery pursue;
156 Distinguish'd plagues would soon our guilt expose,
157 While all your sex's glory you must lose.
158 To Potiphar alone your vows belong,
159 In him a tender lover you must wrong.
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160 For me, where should I hide my hated face,
161 Could I be conscious of a crime so base?
162 No, let me thro' the yawning earth descend,
163 Rather than with such insolence offend
164 The laws of God, and kindness of my friend!
165 My master's favours, endless to recite,
166 When I with such ingratitude requite;
167 When with a thought so horrid and prophane,
168 My faith and spotless loyalty I stain;
169 Let wrathful lightnings flashing round my head,
170 And bolts of raging thunder strike me dead!
171 Let execrations, and eternal shame
172 Destroy my peace, and blast my hated name!
173 These words with such an awful air he spoke,
174 Celestial virtue sparkling in his look,
175 His haughty mistress all her hopes resign'd,
176 And felt a diff'rent frenzy seize her mind:
177 Assisting fiends the hellish thought suggest,
178 And blot the tender passion from her breast.
179 A crimson scarf with ornamental pride
180 Was o'er his graceful shoulders loosely ty'd;
181 This furiously she snatch'd, while from th' embrace
182 He frees himself, and quits the hated place.
183 She call'd aloud, her voice Cyrena hears,
184 And ent'ring saw her well-dissembled tears,
185 A tale of proffer'd violence she feigns,
186 And of the Hebrew's arrogance complains,
187 Alarm'd at her repeated calls, she said,
188 The monster left his curst design, and fled.
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189 His scarf the truth confirm'd: her lord the while
190 Returns; her words his easy faith beguile:
191 Blinded with rage he calls the injur'd youth,
192 And thus upbraids his violated truth.
193 How can'st thou, wretch! belie a mind so base,
194 With that undaunted air, and guiltless face?
195 Hypocrisy so steady and compleat,
196 A villain, cautious as thyself, might cheat;
197 No wonder then thy practis'd saintly shews
198 Should on my honest artless mind impose.
199 My soul entire to thee I did resign;
200 Except my bed, whate'er I had was thine.
201 In fetters let th' ungrateful slave be ty'd,
202 Some gloomy dungeon shall the monster hide.
203 Dungeons he said, and chains I can defy,
204 But would not, curst with your displeasure, die.
205 This sad reflexion aggravates my fate;
206 How shall I bear my gen'rous master's hate?
207 Oh stay! at last my vindication hear,
208 While by th' Unutterable Name I swear,
209 My thoughts are all from this injustice clear.
210 He ceas'd, and still Sabrina's shame conceals,
211 Nor one accusing word her fraud reveals.
212 Now to a damp unwholsom vault convey'd,
213 Joseph in ignominious chains is laid.

Book VII

An Angel visits Joseph in Prison, and in a prophetic Vision shews him his own Advancement, and the future Fate of his Father's Posterity, their Bondage and miraculous Deliverance. The Keeper of the Ward convinc'd of Joseph's Innocence, treats him with great Esteem. The Dreams of his Fellow-Prisoners; and Joseph's Interpretation.

1 'TWAS night, and now advanc'd the solemn hour;
2 The keeper of the prison, from his tow'r,
3 Astonish'd, sees a form divinely bright,
4 Smile thro' the shades, and dissipate the night;
5 With streaming splendor tracing all the way,
6 It enters where the new-come pris'ner lay.
7 Some God, he cries, who innocence defends,
8 Some God in that propitious light descends.
9 This stranger sure, whatever the fact can be
10 Alledg'd against him, from the guilt is free.
11 The sacred vision to the youth appears,
12 His spirits with celestial fragrance chears.
13 His heav'nly smiles would ev'n despair control,
14 And with immortal rapture fill the Soul.
[Page 52]
15 His youthful brows a fair Tiara crown'd,
16 A folding zone his gaudy vestments bound,
17 Embroider'd high with Amaranthus round.
18 Such wings th' Arabian Phoenix never wore,
19 Sprinkled with gold and shading purple o'er.
20 Beneficent his aspect and address,
21 His lips seraphick harmony express;
22 His voice might stay th' invading sleep of death,
23 While these soft words flow with his balmy breath.
24 From the unclouded realms of day above,
25 From endless pleasures, and unbounded love,
26 From painted fields deck'd with immortal flow'rs,
27 From blissful valleys, and ethereal bow'rs,
28 I come, commission'd by peculiar grace,
29 With great presages to thy future race.
30 This Gabriel spoke; the pious Hebrew's breast
31 Prophetick flame and pow'r divine confest;
32 An awful silence, and profound suspence,
33 Clos'd the tumultuous avenues of sense;
34 The heav'nly trance, each wand'ring thought confin'd,
35 Collects the operations of the mind,
36 While Gabriel all the inward scene design'd.
37 Before him, rais'd to high dominion, all
38 His humble brethren in prostration fall;
39 His joyful eyes again his father see,
40 He takes the blessing on his bended knee.
41 Vastly in numbers Jacob's sons increas'd,
42 Poor vassals by th' Egyptians are distress'd,
43 And by a royal tyrant's yoke oppress'd:
[Page 53]
44 To heav'n they cry, an aid that never fails,
45 Heav'n hears the cry, the potent pray'r prevails.
46 A mighty prophet, by divine command;
47 Does bold before the raging monarch stand,
48 And brings his great credentials in his hand.
49 Across the ground his wond'rous rod he throws;
50 The rod transform'd a moving serpent grows,
51 Unfolds his speckled train, and o'er the pavement flows.
52 A dazzling train of miracles ensue,
53 Which speak the prophet and his mission true.
54 The springs, the standing lakes, and running flood
55 His pow'rful word converts to reeking blood;
56 The wounded billows stain the verdant shore,
57 Advancing slowly with a mournful roar.
58 Infernal night her sable wings extends,
59 And from the black unbottom'd deep ascends:
60 The seer denounces plagues on man and beast;
61 Contagious torments soon the air infest;
62 Aloud he bids a sudden tempest rise,
63 On rapid wings the storm obedient flies;
64 Th' extended skies are rent from pole to pole,
65 Blue lightnings flash, and dreadful thunders roll.
66 Nor yet th' obdurate king the God reveres,
67 Whom ev'ry element obsequious fears;
68 Till vengeful strokes of pow'r confess'd divine,
69 With clear, but terrible conviction shine.
[Page 54]
70 The night was cover'd with unusual dread,
71 While ev'ry star malignant influence shed.
72 Pale spectres thro' the streets of Zoan roam,
73 From sepulchres amazing echoes come;
74 While, like a flaming meteor, down the skies,
75 With threat'ning speed the fatal angel flies.
76 Reluctant justice, with a grace severe,
77 Sits in his looks, and triumphs in his air.
78 A crested helmet shades his awful brows;
79 Behind his military vesture flows,
80 And like an ev'ning's ruddy meteor glows.
81 He grasps his sword, unsheath'd for certain fate,
82 Destruction, death, and terror on him wait;
83 Mortal the stroke, invisible the wound,
84 While dying groans with mingled shrieks resound.
85 From house to house the dreadful rumour runs,
86 While wretched fathers mourn their first-born sons.
87 Th' alarm'd Egyptians, at the breaking day,
88 Hurry the sacred multitude away;
89 But Pharaoh soon his daring sin renews,
90 Blaspheming loud the rescu'd slaves pursues;
91 The fearful tribes stand trembling on the shore,
92 The foe behind, a raging sea before.
93 Their glorious chief extends his pow'rful wand,
94 And gives the mighty signal from the strand;
95 Th' obedient waves the mighty signal take,
96 And parting, crowd the distant surges back;
97 On either hand, like crystal hills, they rise;
98 Between, a wide stupendous valley lies:
[Page 55]
99 With joyful shouts the grateful Hebrews pass,
100 Nor does the harden'd foe decline the chace;
101 'Till heav'n's command the watry chain dissolves,
102 And in the whelming deep their pride involves.
103 While Israel thro' the desert takes their way,
104 Led by a cloud which marches on by day;
105 But resting chear'd th' encamping host by night,
106 With lambent flame, and unexampled light.
107 Where lofty Sinah shades the neighb'ring plain,
108 Commanded now the sacred tribes remain;
109 Prepar'd with mystick rites, to hear with awe
110 Their Saviour God pronounce their future law:
111 Close bounds the mountain guard from all approach,
112 That rashly none the hallow'd place might touch.
113 Reluctant see th'appointed morning rise,
114 And fiery splendors glow around the skies.
115 While from th' ethereal summit God descends,
116 Beneath his feet the starry convex bends.
117 His radiant form majestick darkness hides,
118 While on a tempest rapid wings he rides.
119 The trembling earth his awful presence owns,
120 The forest flames, the cleaving desert groans,
121 Each river back his wand'ring current calls,
122 And rushing down the subterranean falls,
123 To the profoundest caves affrighted flies,
124 Reveal'd and bare each sandy channel lies.
125 Their stately heads the ancient mountains sink,
126 And to a level with the vales would shrink;
127 Again secure in their primaeval beds,
128 Beneath the waves would hide their fearful heads.
[Page 56]
129 old Sinah quakes at the tremendous weight,
130 That press'd with awful feet his cloudy height;
131 Obscur'd with blackness, shades, and curling smoke,
132 Prodigious lightnings from the darkness broke;
133 While raging thunders round the welkin fly,
134 Th' ethereal trumpet sounding loud and high.
135 Adoring low the pious nation bend,
136 And now the solemn voice of God attend:
137 The angel shifts the scene, and leaves the rest
138 Inimitable all, and not to be express'd.
139 The curtain'd Tabernacle next he paints,
140 Nor colours for the gay pavilion wants;
141 The golden altar, with attending priests,
142 Their sacred pomp, and instituted vests.
143 Then brings the favour'd tribes where Jordan flows:
144 And all the well-known bord'ring landskip shews.
145 An airy conquest on Beth-horon's plain,
146 The warlike sons of Jacob now obtain:
147 Before the troops a glorious leader stands,
148 A painted jav'lin balanc'd in his hands;
149 He boldly thus the rolling orbs commands.
150 Thou sun! to lengthen this victorious day,
151 With ling'ring beams on lofty Gibeah stay:
152 And thou, fair morn! retard thy hasty flight,
153 And gild the vales of Ajalon at night.
154 This said, the flying army they pursue,
155 And all the Amorean kings o'erthrew.
[Page 57]
156 The promis'd land entirely gain'd, they spread
157 Their peaceful dwellings round Moriah's head.
158 But with the night the pleasing vision flies
159 Gabriel unseal'd the youthful prophet's eyes,
160 His senses from the heav'nly trance releas'd,
161 And all the sacred agitation ceas'd.
162 The thoughtful keeper early to the vault
163 Descends, and thence the injur'd pris'ner brought;
164 Treats him with kindness, and a just regard,
165 And gave him all the freedom of the ward.
166 Of Pharaoh's servants two were here detain'd,
167 The steward, who his table did command,
168 With him that fill'd the royal cup with wine;
169 Suspected both as traitors in design.
170 Joseph, observing a dejected air
171 Sat heavy in their eyes, with friendly care
172 Enquires the cause, which freely both reveal,
173 Mysterious dreams of the past night they tell.
174 And thus the first: Methought a bulky vine
175 Grew up unprop'd; three waving branches shine
176 With purple grapes, and to my hand incline:
177 I press'd the tempting fruit without control,
178 Then gave to Pharaoh's hand the flowing bowl.
179 The next begins: Three canisters replete
180 With royal viands, and luxurious meat,
181 Oppress'd my drooping head, while birds of prey
182 With direful croakings snatch'd the food away.
[Page 58]
183 Unhappy man! thy dream from God was sent,
184 The Hebrew said, and full of black portent:
185 The third returning day shall bring thy doom,
186 When thou a prey to vultures shalt become.
187 Then to the first, these joyful comments sound;
188 Before the sun has twice fulfill'd his round,
189 Thou with thy former honours shalt be crown'd.
190 But in the triumph of thy prosp'rous fate,
191 Kindly remember my unhappy state,
192 Who by the blackest falshood here am stay'd;
193 To this the man a courtier's promise made.


Joseph's Mistress languishes in Sorrow and Remorse for her Treachery; which she confesses in the Agonies of Death. Pharaoh's prophetic Dreams interpreted by Joseph. His Grandeur and Marriage with the Daughter of an Egyptian Priest.

1 BUT now Sabrina's guilty fire returns,
2 Her bosom with the raging passion burns:
3 She with a female tenderness relents,
4 And all her former cruelty repents.
5 By her accus'd, in chains the captive lies,
6 For whom she fondly languishes and dies.
7 Tormented, and enraged, she often curst
8 Her pride, her folly, and revengeful lust.
9 A deep remorse, from conscience of her sin,
10 With constant horrors vex her soul within.
11 Her thoughts ten thousand racking torments feel,
12 Yet in her treach'rous crime obdurate still.
13 Her life and youthful spirits melt away,
14 Her beauty withers with a swift decay:
15 By day she wildly raves, consumes the night
16 In thoughtless watchings, and imagin'd fright:
17 While airy terrors glide before her sight.
18 Pale ghosts with wide distorted eye-balls stare,
19 And burning spectres thro' the darkness glare,
[Page 60]
20 Till forc'd by fate, and torments more intense,
21 To vindicate suspected innocence,
22 To Potiphar the hidden truth she tells,
23 And all the faithless mystery reveals.
24 And now he comes insulting death! she cries,
25 Perpetual darkness swims before my eyes.
26 If there are Gods that human things regard,
27 My monstrous crimes will meet a just reward.
28 Oh sacred virtue! at thine awful name
29 I start, and all my former thoughts disclaim;
30 For thou art no fantastick empty thing,
31 From thee alone unmingled pleasures spring.
32 The world, the boundless universe I'd give,
33 My first unblemish'd honour to retrieve:
34 'Tis vainly wish'd! to some strange realms below,
35 Some dark uncomfortable coasts I go.
36 She spoke, and gasping in the pangs of death,
37 With ling'ring agonies resign'd her breath:
38 While Joseph by the courtier was forgot;
39 Till fate the period of his freedom brought.
40 Th' Aegyptian monarch from a short repose,
41 And troubled visions, with the morning rose.
42 T' explain the doubtful omens in his breast,
43 He summons ev'ry planetary priest:
44 Their orders, which to diff'rent stars belong,
45 Were soon assembled, a surprising throng;
46 Sullen their looks, and varied was their vest,
47 A wild Devotion thro' the whole express'd.
[Page 61]
48 One wore a mantle of a leaden hue,
49 Trailing behind a sweeping length it drew;
50 With Poppies, Aconite, and Hellebore,
51 Mandrake, and Nightshade, strangely figur'd o'er;
52 A treble twist of serpents curling round,
53 With monstrous ornament the foldings bound.
54 With some a verdant forest seem'd to move,
55 Their flowing robes with palmy branches wove.
56 With panthers, bears, and every savage beast
57 Express'd in lively colours, some were dress'd.
58 On others eagles spread their wings; on some
59 Appear'd the ostrich' hieroglyphick plume,
60 While others wore a painted crocodile,
61 With all the monstrous progeny of Nile.
62 Nasar, a youth vow'd to the morning star,
63 With budding roses had adorn'd his hair.
64 His raiment of inestimable cost
65 Glitter'd with pearl, and imitated frost.
66 O'erspread with landskips wrought in miniature,
67 Surprising scenes the ravish'd sight allure:
68 Clear fountains, flow'ry walks, and myrtle groves,
69 Peacocks with gaudy trains, and shining doves.
70 The prince with anxious looks relates his dreams,
71 The doubtful sages search their heav'nly schemes:
72 But all their stars were mute, the meaning flies
73 In trackless darkness, and obscure disguise.
74 The bearer of the cup did now reflect
75 On his past danger, and his base neglect;
[Page 62]
76 And thus his royal master he address'd:
77 Be Pharaoh's bounty, and my guilt confess'd,
78 When with my fellow criminal detain'd,
79 We by thy justice in the ward remain'd,
80 A Hebrew youth, unjustly there confin'd,
81 From nightly omens which perplex'd the mind,
82 With clear conviction did our lot unfold;
83 My honour, and the steward's doom foretold.
84 Amidst the solemn darkness of the night,
85 His cell was glitter'd with ethereal light;
86 For highly favour'd by th' immortal Gods,
87 To visit him they left their bright abodes.
88 Joseph, unfetter'd, they from prison bring,
89 By heav'n inspir'd, he stands before the King;
90 Who thus repeats his dream: Methought I stood
91 On the fair borders of our sacred flood:
92 While, curious, I survey'd the spreading stream,
93 Seven bulky oxen from the river came,
94 Fat and well-favour'd: o'er the verdant mead
95 They proudly rang'd, and on the pasture fed;
96 When just their number rose, of aspect four,
97 Ill-shap'd, and meagre, who the first devour.
98 The scene was chang'd, when springing in my walk,
99 Seven blades of corn adorn'd one bending stalk
100 Ripen'd and full; when lo! a second rears
101 His blasted top, with seven unfruitful ears;
102 This swallow'd greedily the former store,
103 As the lean oxen did the fat before.
104 I woke with great anxiety oppress'd,
105 And for the meaning ev'ry God address'd.
[Page 63]
106 The Almighty God o'er earth and skies supreme,
107 The youthful prophet cries, has sent this dream
108 To Pharaoh, which discovers future things;
109 What changes on the world his pleasure brings.
110 With one intent the sacred vision came,
111 Of both the hidden meaning is the same.
112 Seven plenteous years begin their joyful round,
113 The fields with boundless harvest shall be crown'd;
114 Then seven unprosp'rous years shall these devour,
115 And leave no remnant of the former store.
116 But that the people and the king may live
117 This counsel heav'n commissions me to give,
118 That wasteful luxury should be restrain'd,
119 And wise intendants thro' the realm ordain'd:
120 Let these against the threat'ning ill provide,
121 Lay up the corn, and o'er the stores preside.
122 This youth by some propitious pow'r was sent,
123 The prince replies, our ruin to prevent;
124 Then bids them an imperial vestment bring,
125 And from his finger draws a costly ring:
126 And this, he said, a sacred pledge shall be
127 Of those bright honours I reserve for thee.
128 My pow'r, my kingdom, I to thee resign,
129 The sov'reign title only shall be mine;
130 To thee my noblest favourites shall bow,
131 Our guardian God, our great preserver thou!
132 His second chariot then the king ordains
133 Should be prepar'd: white steeds with scarlet reins
[Page 64]
134 The triumph drew; they champ the golden bit,
135 And spurn the dusty ground with airy feet.
136 On high with princely pomp the youth was plac'd,
137 With marks of pow'r, and regal ensigns grac'd;
138 Gay heralds, Bow the knee, before him cry,
139 The crowd adore him as he passes by:
140 Nor here the royal favours were confin'd,
141 Great Pharaoh's daughter is his bride design'd.
142 The night had twice in sable triumph reign'd,
143 And twice the circling light its empire gain'd:
144 When from his high apartment Joseph sees
145 A lofty temple, through the waving trees,
146 To Isis vow'd: He from the gilded dome,
147 Ravish'd, beheld a beauteous virgin come.
148 An artless modesty improves her face,
149 An elegant reserve, and matchless grace;
150 A rosy tincture in her cheeks appears,
151 Lovely as that the blooming morning wears:
152 Her eyes a sprightly blue; her length of hair
153 Dishevell'd hung, like threads of silver fair.
154 Long strings of jet and pearl, in mingled twists,
155 Adorn'd her well-shap'd neck, and slender wrists.
156 Her robes were heav'nly azure, sprinkled o'er
157 With stars; a crescent on her breast she wore.
158 The wounded Hebrew for the virgin sigh'd,
159 And felt a growing passion yet untry'd:
160 Her lovely image, on his mind impress'd,
161 Had fix'd her empire in his yielding breast.
162 But oh! what anguish did his soul invade,
163 When he was told, the lov'd enchanting maid
[Page 65]
164 At Isis' holy shrine devoutly bow'd,
165 A virgin priestess to the goddess vow'd?
166 This, this, he cry'd, must all my hopes confound,
167 Helpless my grief, incurable my wound!
168 Mean time the fame uncontradicted goes,
169 That he th' Aegyptian princess must espouse.
170 Pain'd and distress'd, he hears the spreading news,
171 And dreads the offer, which he must refuse,
172 Or with dissembled vows the imperial maid abuse
173 Asenah's pow'r (that was the priestess' name)
174 Would in his breast admit no rival flame.
175 The royal maid no less unhappy prov'd,
176 Who long illustrious Orramel had lov'd;
177 An Ethiopian prince, whose faultless face
178 And shape exceeded all the tawny race.
179 His features nobly turn'd, his piercing eyes
180 Sparkl'd like stars amidst the gloomy skies;
181 At once they dazzled, and engag'd the sight
182 With awful lustre, and imperious light.
183 Black as a midnight cloud, his yielding hair
184 In easy curls waves to the gentle air.
185 The princess, pain'd with secret discontent,
186 Her father's purpose labours to prevent;
187 In vain! the king obstructs her young desires,
188 But first the pleasure of the gods enquires.
189 Just Potiphera, an unblemish'd priest,
190 His piety sincere, but ill address'd,
[Page 66]
191 While fragrant incense round the temple smokes,
192 Osiris from the monarch he invokes.
193 The fiends, in hopes to cross the great design
194 And awful will of providence divine,
195 With penalties forbid the king's intent,
196 The Hebrew's future greatness to prevent:
197 Then nam'd the fair Asenah for his bride,
198 And blindly with eternal fate comply'd:
199 Effecting heav'n's predestinated ends,
200 While Joseph's ruin envious hell intends;
201 Nor doubts the young idolatress would prove
202 His snare, and soon seduce him with her love.
203 The priest, yet trembling, near the altar stands,
204 And dreads the sacrilege the god commands.
205 My daughter nam'd! he cries, to Isis vow'd
206 By mystick rites, which no reverse allow'd!
207 It must be so The gods pronounce it fit,
208 The priest his will, the king must his submit.
209 The maid reluctant leaves the holy shrine,
210 But yields obedience to the pow'rs divine.
211 The gift, as heav'n's, the joyful youth regards,
212 Which thus bright virtue crowns, and sacred truth rewards.

Book IX

The seven plenteous Years; with the ensuing Years of Scarcity. Joseph's character as Regent over the Land of Egypt. Jacob distressed with the Famine, sends his Sons thither for Corn. Joseph discovers his Brethren, but is unknown of them: Pretends to suspect them as publick Spies, and keeps them three Days in Prison; at last sends them back, with a Charge to bring their younger Brother with them, and detains Simeon as an Hostage till their Return.

1 THE jocund years with smiling plenty crown'd,
2 In shining circles now advanc'd their round:
3 Unbounded crops reward the reaper's toil,
4 And rustick pleasures chear the banks of Nile.
5 The Hebrew, late advanc'd by royal grace,
6 With dignity and splendour fills his place;
7 Still watchful for the publick good, with care
8 Restrains excess, by penalties severe,
9 While justice, truth, and temp'rate virtue, reign'd
10 Amidst the height of plenty thro' the land:
11 His prudent sway the grateful people bless,
12 In all the calm serenity of peace.
[Page 68]
13 But soon the smiling years their period run,
14 A gloomy aera now its course begun:
15 Pale famine comes, with her malignant train,
16 Dries up the springs, and taints the fertile plain:
17 The trees decay, each flow'r, and balmy plant
18 Pine at their roots, and vital humour want:
19 No pearly moisture on the meadow lies;
20 To fan the air no gentle breezes rise.
21 The languid moon sheds from her silent sphere
22 No cooling dews, the thirsty earth to chear.
23 A sultry night ensues a scorching day;
24 While dismal signs the fiery clouds display.
25 Nor Egypt mourns alone her blasted ground,
26 Pale famine stalks thro' all the regions round:
27 Moriah's plain, and Hermon's flow'ry hill
28 Wither'd and bare, the hot contagion feel:
29 That fertile climate, by peculiar grace,
30 Design'd the lot of Abraham's future race.
31 Where long with peace, and fatal plenty gay,
32 The pagan princes bore imperial sway,
33 Their crimes not full: While Jacob sojourn'd here
34 A stranger, as his great forefathers were:
35 The common fate he shares, with famine press'd,
36 And for his num'rous family distress'd:
37 He sends his sons, by heav'nly conduct led,
38 To Egypt's plenteous granaries for bread:
39 Domestick wants require their utmost haste,
40 And Zoan's regal tow'rs they reach at last.
41 With soft Assyria, now in all her pride
42 Of wealth and grandeur, Pharaoh's palace vy'd:
[Page 69]
43 More honour'd still the rising fav'rite grew,
44 No bounds his royal master's kindness knew:
45 His graceful person, charming to the sight,
46 Majestick, yet more mild than morning light:
47 His virtues, every grateful tongue employ,
48 The people's boast, their wonder, and their joy.
49 All private views were to his soul unknown,
50 He made the kingdom's welfare still his own:
51 Th' oppressor's wrongs are by his power redress'd,
52 He guards the orphan, succours the distress'd;
53 His fame to distant countries flies abroad,
54 While Egypt names him as her guardian god.
55 Assiduous still his officers attend,
56 Where neigh'bring states their num'rous envoys send:
57 Who for themselves, and pining race, implore
58 The food of life from his abundant store.
59 Among the foremost of the suppliant crowd
60 The Hebrew swains with low submission bow'd;
61 With stern regard each kindred face he views,
62 Their sight the late detested scene renews:
63 Their parting malice and inhuman rage
64 To just revenge his swelling thoughts engage.
65 Long silent in a gloomy pause he stands;
66 At last their country, business, name, demands.
67 My lord, thy servants, (with a modest grace,
68 Judah replies) are all of Hebrew race:
69 Twelve brethren late, a joyful father's boast,
70 Till one, by some unhappy chance, was lost;
71 The youngest with his aged sire remains
72 The darling, which his drooping life sustains:
[Page 70]
73 To purchase corn we come, our falling breath,
74 An infant race, to save from ling'ring death.
75 Thy tale (he said) unfolds its own disguise;
76 By Pharaoh's sacred life, you all are spies;
77 Then to the guards with stern command he turns,
78 While yet resentment in his bosom burns;
79 In close confinement be these men retain'd,
80 Till we some knowledge of their plot have gain'd.
81 With just remorse, and secret horror struck,
82 The conscious Hebrews at each other look,
83 In foreign accents, to the guards unknown,
84 Their length of unrepented sin they own;
85 Joseph, not yet withdrawn, their language hears,
86 And hastes away, to hide the gushing tears.
87 Oh! we are guilty of our brother's blood,
88 Tho' heav'n th' intended fratricide withstood:
89 With unrelenting hate, for sordid gold,
90 The gentle youth to Midianites we sold
91 A slave, and such perhaps he still may live;
92 Almighty God, the monstrous crime forgive!
93 Unmov'd we saw the anguish of his breast,
94 In mournful looks, and flowing tears express'd:
95 Unmov'd, and lost to nature, virtue, sense,
96 Unmov'd we heard his tender eloquence.
97 Such beauty, innocence, and blooming grace
98 Would have subdu'd in wilds a savage race.
[Page 71]
99 What caves, what dungeons, should such monsters hide?
100 We stand condemn'd, and Heav'n is justify'd.
101 When Reuben, who the barbarous fact disclaimed,
102 In these sad terms their former malice blam'd,
103 Would Heav'n your flowing tears might wash away
104 The bloody stains of that detested day;
105 Its horror, with eternal grief, I trace;
106 The soft impression of my brother's face
107 Dwells on my heart, the tragic scene I view,
108 The mournful object is for ever new.
109 Methinks I see the anguish, the surprise,
110 The melting sorrow in his lovely eyes,
111 While kneeling, pleading all the tender claims
112 Of kindred blood, he singly call'd your names,
113 And one by one invok'd what power I had,
114 Was all employ'd to save the guiltless lad:
115 His filial love and goodness, free from art,
116 Touch'd every tender motion in my heart,
117 When for his drooping father's hoary age
118 He try'd your soft compassion to engage;
119 I heard his cries, while round his suppliant hands,
120 Without remorse, you ty'd the cruel bands;
121 My soul is wounded with the farewel groan,
122 When to the yawning pit you forc'd him down.
123 What hellish frenzy did your bosoms fire
124 Against such youth and virtue to conspire?
125 What was his mighty crime? a childish dream,
126 A sleeping fancy's visionary scheme:
[Page 72]
127 His blood's aveng'd While here we lie confin'd,
128 Our wretched offspring are with famine pin'd.
129 Their eldest brother's just reproach they own,
130 And humbly now address th' eternal throne,
131 With penitence sincere they inly mourn,
132 While thrice the day and tedious night return.
133 Mean time the thoughtful regent in his breast
134 The first vindictive motions had supprest.
135 When early for the Hebrew train he sends,
136 And kindness in a stern disguise intends;
137 Conducted to his presence, prostrate all
138 (As once their sheaves before his sheaf) they fall.
139 The pow'r that sits above the stars I fear
140 (He said) nor shall you find injustice here:
141 To prove that you have no clandestine view,
142 Nor hostile aim, but are to honour true,
143 One of your kindred number left behind,
144 Th' attending guards shall as an hostage bind;
145 Secure from wrong, the captive shall remain,
146 If at set limits you return again:
147 But be for ever exiles from the place,
148 Nor ever hope again to see my face,
149 Unless you bring your youngest brother here,
150 No more on Egypt's fatal coast appear:
151 Be this a proof your words have no disguise,
152 Or you by Pharaoh's sacred life are spies.
153 Alas, my lord, in tents thy servants sleep,
154 (The swains reply) our herds and bleating sheep
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155 Engross our humble cares, no martial claims
156 Disturb our minds, no wild ambitious aims;
157 Strangers to pompous courts, the flow'ry fields,
158 And tuneful grove, to us their pleasures yield;
159 Unenvy'd there, secure from noise and strife,
160 In harmless ease we spend a peaceful life;
161 Our costliest banquets in some balmy shade,
162 With nature's simple luxury are made;
163 No dreams of grandeur, no aspiring thought,
164 Thy servants to the Memphian limits brought;
165 Distress'd with famine, to this friendly shore
166 We came, your kind assistance to implore.
167 This said, they find themselves dismiss'd at last
168 With full supplies, and to their country haste.
169 When scarce arriv'd before their father's tent,
170 His busy thoughts presag'd some sad event;
171 The captive son was miss'd his fears t'expel,
172 Th' unpleasing truth in soothing words they tell.
173 With temper, every circumstance he hears,
174 Till the fond prop of his declining years,
175 His Benjamin was nam'd that cruel part,
176 In spite of all their well-meant flatt'ring art,
177 With piercing anguish wounds his inmost soul;
178 No pleas of reason can its force control.
179 His hoary head with weighty sorrow press'd,
180 Dejected sunk upon his pensive breast.
181 The careful trav'llers now their sacks unty'd,
182 Surpris'd, their coin restor'd again they spy'd.
183 What can these myst'ries mean, good Jacob said,
184 What fatal storm is breaking o'er my head?
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185 Why is my life prolong'd? of bliss bereft?
186 Joseph is not: My single comfort left,
187 To distant climes an exile you would bear,
188 Against me all these sad events appear;
189 But know, the flame of life shall quit my heart
190 Ere with the lovely blooming youth I part.
191 Content we then must sacrifice our lives,
192 Our guiltless offspring and our tender wives,
193 (Judah replies) condemn'd to perish here,
194 And ne'er again on Egypt's coasts appear:
195 The man, the mighty ruler of the land,
196 With eyes to heav'n address'd, and lifted hand,
197 The man protested with a solemn grace,
198 Not one of us should ever see his face,
199 Nor other proof our innocence should clear,
200 Unless we brought our youngest brother there.
201 And why would you that needless truth make known,
202 Or that you had a younger brother own?
203 The anxious parent said. Alas! could we,
204 Reuben replies, the consequence foresee?
205 Or had the certainty been fully known,
206 Could we, with specious lies, the fact disown?
207 Or straitly question'd, by a man so great,
208 Conceal our publick or domestick state?
209 Indeed he roughly talkt, but still their broke
210 Some secret pity thro' his fiercest look;
211 However dark the past events appear,
212 We've nothing from such clemency to fear;
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213 Where'er with easy state he pass'd along,
214 His virtues echo'd thro' the shouting throng:
215 Then why, my honour'd sire, these vain delays?
216 Paternal cares a thousand scruples raise;
217 Your Simeon bound, a slave unransom'd lies,
218 Our time's elaps'd, and we condemn'd for spies:
219 Commit your darling to my faithful hand,
220 Of me again the sacred pledge demand.
221 Two lovely boys, adorn'd with every grace,
222 Secure I leave as sureties in his place;
223 If any negligence my honour stain,
224 Without compassion let them both be slain.
225 Half yielding now he stands Their houshold straits
226 Judah with artless eloquence repeats.
227 With falt'ring speech, and anguish in his eyes,
228 Then go in peace, the vanquish'd patriarch cries:
229 Celestial providence your steps attend,
230 And angel guards from every ill defend;
231 With doubl'd money for your corn advance,
232 Perhaps the restoration was a chance;
233 But take some grateful present in your hand,
234 The balmy products of your native land:
235 And be th' eternal Majesty implor'd,
236 (The God my great progenitors ador'd)
237 To grant you favour in the ruler's sight,
238 And bring your injur'd innocence to light:
239 But know, if mischief should the lad attend,
240 My hoary hairs down to the grave you send.

Book X

The Hebrews return with their youngest Brother into Egypt. Joseph treats them with great Kindness and a splendid Entertainment; but still he conceals his Relation to them. At last they are dismiss'd with plentiful Supplies of Corn; but the Steward, as commanded by his Lord, secretly conveys a Silver Cup into Benjamin's Sack. After they are gone out of the City, he pursues and charges them with the pretended Theft; and at last he finds it in Benjamin's Sack. They return with great Consternation, when Joseph discovers himself to them.

1 THEIR father's blessing on their knees they take,
2 And now to Memphis quick advances make,
3 Where safe arriv'd, but fearful of their doom,
4 To Joseph's steward hastily they come,
5 Disclose in humble terms their late mistake,
6 And render doubl'd all the money back.
7 Your father's God (he said) your coin restor'd,
8 'Twas justly paid, then leads them to his lord.
9 Their gifts, with prostrate homage, they present;
10 His gracious smiles their rising doubts prevent;
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11 Forgetful of himself, with eager haste,
12 He forward stept, and Benjamin embrac'd:
13 His heart expands with sympathetick joy,
14 While in his arms he folds the wond'ring boy;
15 Fond nature struggles with the vain disguise,
16 A brother sparkles in his radiant eyes:
17 Scarce all his grandeur from the gentle youth
18 (With mutual rapture touch'd) conceals the truth;
19 And half disclos'd the kindred soul appears,
20 Till Joseph flies to hide the swelling tears,
21 That melting love and soft surprise excite,
22 But recollected, soon returns in sight.
23 Conducts them now into a spacious hall,
24 Where well-worn slaves, obsequious to the call,
25 To luxury inur'd, with artful care,
26 A splendid banquet instantly prepare;
27 Embroider'd carpets cover all the ground,
28 While fragrant ointments spread their odours round,
29 Large silver lavers, with officious care,
30 The gay attendants round the circle bear.
31 And now, with costly fare and sparkling wine
32 Of various sorts, the loaded tables shine,
33 Beneath a glitt'ring canopy of state,
34 In Tyrian robes, the graceful regent sat;
35 With all the bounty of a royal feast
36 He nobly entertains each Hebrew guest:
37 Their hostage freed the mutual joy compleats,
38 In order plac'd, they take their destin'd seats:
39 With sprightly wines, and social converse gay,
40 In guiltless mirth they spend the fleeting day.
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41 In calm repose supinely pass the night,
42 Till rising with the morning's rosy light,
43 They haste away, with full provisions stor'd,
44 In every sack (as order'd by his lord)
45 Their coin the steward secretly convey'd;
46 A silver cup in Benjamin's was laid.
47 Secure the suburbs utmost bounds were past,
48 When with a feign'd concern and anxious haste,
49 He overtakes the hindmost of the train,
50 And thus accosts them in an angry strain.
51 How could you thus, ungrateful and unjust,
52 Against the rules of hospitable trust,
53 Combine, the consecrated cup to steal,
54 By which my lord does secret things reveal.
55 With what strange meaning is thy language fraught,
56 Surpris'd, they cry, we're guiltless, even in thought,
57 And by th' immortal God, we dare protest,
58 Such black designs are strangers to our breast.
59 Our coin unask'd exactly we restor'd,
60 How should we then abuse thy injur'd lord,
61 And basely, gold or silver from him steal,
62 While recent favours yet our thanks compel?
63 If such enormous guilt our bosoms stain,
64 Vassals for life thy servants shall remain;
65 The wretch, convicted of a crime so high,
66 Unpity'd here before thy face shall die.
67 Content, he said, and search'd their burdens round;
68 At last, the cup in Benjamin's was found:
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69 With wild despair, their folding vests they rent,
70 And backward to the royal office went.
71 The regent here, but oh! how chang'd they find,
72 No more the mild, beneficent and kind,
73 But fiercely asking, in an alter'd tone,
74 What wrong is this your guilty hands have done?
75 You well might know, where dress and learning shine,
76 A man, like me, must certainly divine.
77 Prostrate they fall, while Judah for the rest,
78 With mingled sighs their mutual grief express'd.
79 What can I say? How shall thy servant speak?
80 In what pathetick words my silence break?
81 What energy of language shall I find,
82 To paint the wild distraction of my mind?
83 Justice divine, with keen revenge begins
84 To reckon up our lengthen'd score of sins;
85 Our secret crimes this rigorous stroke demand;
86 And, self-condemn'd, we here thy vassals stand.
87 No, cries the gracious Regent, only he
88 With whom the cup was found, my slave shall be;
89 Return in peace, your needless fears resign,
90 This youth, a publick criminal, is mine.
91 When Judah thus, (still gently drawing near)
92 Be pleas'd, my lord, to lend a gracious ear,
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93 While I the tender circumstance repeat,
94 And for my father's hoary age intreat.
95 Two lovely boys, the pleasure of his life,
96 And only offspring of a beauteous wife,
97 The elder Branch, by an untimely death,
98 Snatch'd from his arms, long since resign'd his breath.
99 The youngest, who does now his care engage,
100 The single prop of his declining age,
101 The constant theme of every pleasing thought,
102 Your strict command, my lord, has hither brought:
103 Our sire (thy servant) long refus'd to grant
104 The pressing suit, till forc'd by meagre want,
105 And just concern, to clear our injur'd truth,
106 He to my conduct gave the gentle youth.
107 But oh! what killing anguish pierc'd his heart,
108 When thus compell'd with Benjamin to part:
109 With all the eloquence that filial love
110 Could e'er inspire to calm his fears I strove;
111 But all in vain; on dismal thoughts intent,
112 If mischief should his blooming life prevent,
113 My hoary hairs, he said, with grief oppress'd,
114 Must to the gloomy grave descend for rest.
115 And I, unhappy, whither shall I go
116 To shun that dark distracting scene of woe?
117 My father's wretchedness I cannot see,
118 Depriv'd of every future joy by me;
119 For I, with all the arguments I had,
120 Became myself a surety for the lad,
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121 And must again the precious pledge restore,
122 Or see my aged parent's face no more.
123 My lord, you seem to have a tender heart,
124 (Tho' sometimes forc'd to act a rig'rous part)
125 This first, unfortunate offence, forgive,
126 Or let thy servant here a vassal live
127 A bondslave, in my youngest brother's stead,
128 Condemn'd no more my native soil to tread.
129 No longer Joseph could his tears controul,
130 Or hide the soft emotions of his soul,
131 Relenting signs the watchful Hebrews saw,
132 In haste he bids th' attendants all withdraw.
133 I am your brother Joseph, then he cries,
134 With tears and melting goodness in his eyes,
135 That brother you to Midian merchants sold
136 On Dothan's plain Nor need the rest be told.
137 The cruel fact, alas, too well they knew,
138 And, with disorder'd looks, each other view.
139 He then demands How fares my honour'd sire?
140 Confus'd and mute they farther off retire;
141 A guilty shame on every face was spread,
142 Come near, my brethren, then he mildly said,
143 Reflect not on yourselves, with thought severe,
144 It was not you, but God, that sent me here;
145 His goodness rul'd the circumstance and place,
146 To save the stock of Abraham's sacred race;
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147 Five years of cruel famine yet remain,
148 While, destitute of hope, the careful swain
149 Shall neither sow nor reap The burning soil,
150 Untill'd shall lie, or mock his fruitless toil;