The STORY of Jacob and Rachel attempted.
To the same.
1 Thou! to whom nature variously imparts,
2 The gift of conq'ring, and of keeping hearts,
3 Smile on the lay — nor deem the Tale too long,
4 Which, but for Thee, had yet remain'd unsung.
5 So may some chosen Youth hereafter view
6 All Rachel's Graces bloom in Thee anew,
7 And love, like Jacob, tenderly and true. [Page 123]
8 Far in the East, as Sacred Writ records,
9 Dwelt Laban, rich in sundry flocks and herds;
10 Near Haran's famous Well was his abode,
11 There smoak'd his altars to his Houshold-God.
12 His dwellings large, and fertile was his land,
13 And num'rous servants waited his command;
14 The fruitful lawn, the hill, the levell'd down,
15 Far as the eye could stretch, were all his own:
16 Throughout the East extended Laban's fame,
17 And where he journey'd, there he left a name.
18 Two only Daughters to his age remain'd,
19 And Leah one, and one was Rachel nam'd.
20 Time had from Leah rifled ev'ry grace —
21 But blooming beauty, dwelt on Rachel's face.
22 Well-favour'd, graceful, in the bloom of life,
23 She led the flocks, or tript it to the fife
24 When summer suns burnt fiercely o'er their heads,
25 She drove the wantons frisking to the shades;
26 Or when the merry pipe rejoic'd the vale,
27 Led up the dance, or told the jocund tale;[Page 124]
28 Chearful and blythe she pass'd the day along,
29 And ev'ry valley echo'd with her song.
30 She was each shepherd's theme, each swain's delight,
31 Their talk by day, their vision in the night;
32 Whene'er they feasted on their homely cheer,
33 No mirth was heard, if Rachel was not there:
34 'Mongst all their rural sports She still was seen,
35 And foremost at the feast, as on the green.
36 Her Fame and Charms soon reach'd young Jacob's ear,
37 Rebekah's best belov'd, and Isaac's Heir:
38 But ere his friends and family he leaves,
39 His Father's Blessing on his head he craves.
40 To Padan-aram now his course he steers,
41 His hopes succeeded by a thousand fears;
42 The mingled passions take up all his soul,
43 And vast events within his bosom roll.
44 As on he journey'd far into the East,
45 Fatigued himself, his camels wanting rest,[Page 125]
46 Not far away, with pleasure he beheld
47 A spacious well, amidst a fruitful field;
48 Where with their flocks the sun-burnt shepherds came,
49 Panting and faint, to quaff the limpid stream.
50 Of these he ask'd their country and their name:
51 "From Haran (they reply'd) thy servants came."
52 And know ye Laban? lives he, can ye tell?
53 "He lives, my Lord; thy servants know him well:
54 His num'rous flocks in yonder valley stray,
55 And with them, lo! his daughter comes this way."
56 When Jacob saw the Maid, his beating breast
57 The pow'r of Love and radiant eyes confest.
58 Quick thro' his veins the gen'rous pleasure flow'd,
59 His bosom with unusual fervours glow'd;
60 Around his heart the soft'ning passions crept,
61 He gaz'd he sigh'd, he wonder'd, and he wept;
62 Then seiz'd her hand, and kiss'd her rosy cheek,
63 And trembling from his lips the accents break. [Page 126]
64 When Rachel heard his family and name,
65 Their common stock, the tribe from whence she came;
66 With decent haste, exulting o'er the plain,
67 She, with the tidings, to her Father ran.
68 Meanwhile her harmless flock neglected stray,
69 Or round the Well in expectation lay:
70 These Jacob water'd, could he well do less?
71 He lov'd the sheep, but more the Shepherdess.
72 When Laban heard the tidings, forth he went
73 To meet, and welcome Jacob to his tent.
74 "My joy (cry'd Laban) let my actions speak;
75 A kind embrace, and friendly welcome take,
76 — This for Rebekah — this for Isaac's sake."
77 Now mirth and feasting thro' the house were found,
78 The damsels tript it to the tabret's sound,
79 And the brisk bowl to Jacob's health went round.
80 Each in the gen'ral joy affects his share,
81 And none seem'd pensive, but the Patriarch's Heir. [Page 127]
82 He oft on Rachel gazes, oft approves,
83 And much he muses, for as much he loves:
84 All night her pleasing image sooth'd his mind;
85 He found her fair, and hop'd to prove her kind.
86 Soon as the rosy morn unveil'd the light,
87 And with her splendor chas'd the gloom of night;
88 Jacob arose, and blest the new-born day,
89 Then sought the flock, where Rachel led the way.
90 And now he guides 'em to the flow'ry hill,
91 Or drives 'em skipping to the distant rill:
92 At noon secures 'em from the scorching heat;
93 With Rachel near him, Jacob's toil is sweet.
94 If on the reed his skilful fingers move,
95 He pours the song to harmony and Love.
96 Oft on the trees imprints her much-lov'd name,
97 Or sighs his passion to the murm'ring stream;
98 To deck her hair the flow'ry wreath prepares,
99 The flow'ry wreath for Jacob's sake she wears:
100 Jacob! whom now she views with partial eye,
101 Nor pass'd his slighest deeds unnotic'd by. [Page 128]
102 Nor were their thoughts to Love alone confin'd,
103 To mutual vows instructive talk they join'd.
104 As how the stars in beauteous order stood,
105 And each the splendid witness of a God! —
106 Their signs and seasons they observe with care,
107 And mark their influence on the earth and air:
108 Which threats their flocks, or which destroys their vines,
109 And which with good, or baleful aspect shines.
110 Thus pass'd their time. When Laban now beheld
111 His flocks increase, his vines more clusters yield;
112 Pleas'd with his growing wealth, he strait prepares
113 To offer some reward for Jacob's cares.
114 Jacob, whose heart nor gold nor gems could move,
115 Look'd with disdain on all — but Rachel's Love;
116 And thus reply'd. "If gracious Laban means
117 " Or to reward my past, or future pains;
118 Bless, with a bounteous hand, bless all my life,
119 And give me lovely Rachel for a Wife. [Page 129]
120 I ask no dow'r my fortunes to improve,
121 Rich in possession of my Rachel's Love.
122 Let sordid swains, whom thirst of gain invites
123 To woo the Fair-One to the nuptial rites,
124 Bargain for Love, and sell their vows for gold;
125 But let not Rachel, like her sheep, be sold.
126 Rachel! whose beauty softens ev'ry breast,
127 Whose worth outweighs the treasures of the East!
128 Full sev'n long years I'll serve thee for the Maid;
129 The toil looks pleasing, when so well repaid. "
130 Laban consents, and Jacob joys to find
131 The Sire as courteous as the Daughter kind,
132 Nor e'er suspects the depths of Laban's mind.
133 His upright heart, as yet, no guile could see;
134 He thought men honest, as they seem'd to be.
135 But when the long-expected day appears,
136 That Rachel should reward her Jacob's cares,
137 When with united hearts they join to bless
138 The first fair dawnings of their mutual peace;
139 Laban prepares a banquet, and invites
140 The neighb'ring swains to grace the nuptial rites. [Page 130]
141 In num'rous crouds they came from distant lands,
142 To hail the Bride; with presents in their hands;
143 Rich sparkling wines, or firstlings of the flock,
144 Or swelling clusters from the pendent rock.
145 A flowing mantle lovely Rachel wore,
146 Emboss'd with gems, with gold embroider'd o'er;
147 In wanton ringlets wav'd her aubourn hair,
148 Succinct her robe, her buskin'd legs half bare.
149 She gave the health, She welcom'd ev'ry guest,
150 And seem'd to all the Mistress of the Feast.
151 But when the sun withdrew his kindling beams,
152 And the last ray danc'd faintly on the streams;
153 The guileful Laban, whose long-frozen breast
154 No more the youthful pow'r of Love confest,
155 Observ'd how Leah often look'd askance,
156 And cast on Rachel many an envious glance,
157 Himself the willing wayward damsel led
158 To Rachel's Place, and seiz'd the bridal bed.
159 But when the morn appear'd, and by his side
160 Jacob beheld his unexpected Bride;[Page 131]
161 Enrag'd, he smote his breast, his clothes he rent,
162 And sorrowing sought the faithless Laban's tent,
163 And thus upbraids "What hast thou done? Why led
164 The tasteless Leah to my nuptial bed?
165 Did I serve thee for Her? ungentle fair! —
166 And dost thou thus reward my honest care?
167 Little wast Thou, thou know'st it, ere I came;
168 How God has blest thee since, let Me proclaim.
169 What time I've serv'd thee, have I done thee wrong?
170 Have or thy Ews or Goats once cast their Young?
171 That which was torn of beasts I brought thee not,
172 I bare the loss, nor hast thou suffer'd aught.
173 Thus, thus I was; for Thee my sleep I lost,
174 Endur'd the summer's sun, and winter's frost.
175 Unrighteous Man! is this then my return?
176 I serv'd for Rachel — but for Leah mourn."
177 Laban reply'd, "What tho', young man, I led
178 " My first-born Leah to thy arms, and bed;
179 Know, 'tis our country's custom: 'twere a crime
180 To give the younger first — yet both are thine,[Page 132]
181 If, with thy boasted fondness, thou canst bear
182 Sev'n added years of servitude and care. "
183 Ill-fated Jacob! who must now embrace
184 These hard conditions of his happiness,
185 Or lose his lovely Maid, his much-lov'd Fair!
186 Source of his woes, and partner of his care —
187 Twice sev'n long years! 'twas hard for Love to bear.
188 Yet all his trials well did he sustain,
189 And Rachel shar'd, or soften'd ev'ry pain,
190 Till Heav'n at length confirm'd Her all his own;
191 When, to their mutual joy, She bare a son,
192 And thence enjoy'd his Love unrival'd, and alone.