Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

The History Of Joseph: A Poem In Ten Books. Book Ii. - Poem by Elizabeth Singer Rowe

Young Shechem all the night impatient lay;
And sought with eager eyes the breaking day;
With ardent longings waits the promis'd hour,
And fancies all his wishes in his pow'r;
Aner, his friend, improves the fatal fire,
And sooths, with flatt'ring scenes, his wild desire.
Sidonia, guiltless of her brother's snares,
To grace her lovely Hebrew guest prepares;
Who with her young companions now appears,
Too innocent for nice reserves, or fears.
Her artless looks, nor tim'rous, nor assur'd,
With easy charms the Jebusites allur'd
A rosy tincture paints her guiltless face:
Her eyes, peculiar to her beauteous race,
Sparkle with life, and dart immortal grace.
Rich orient bracelets, round her snowy arms,
And faultless neck, improve her native charms.
The Hivite princess entertains the maid,
To Hamor's palace fatally betray'd;
Where, at the pomp of one surprising feast,
She meets the luxury of all the East.
Her thoughts the proud magnificence admire,
The people's customs, and their strange attire;
'Till modest rules, and the declining day,
With Leah's charge forbid her longer stay:
But ah! Too late, she finds herself betray'd
To Shechem's pow'r, a lost defenceless maid;
A captive in his treach'rous courts retain'd,
By fraud seduc'd, and brutal force constrain'd,
Her name dishonour'd, and her nation stain'd.
In vain with tender sighs he strives to move
The injur'd fair to voluntary love;
The strictest rules of chastity she knew,
With all that to her great descent was due;
But what with gentle arts he fails to gain,
His wild desires by violence obtain.
The hateful tidings reach'd her father's ears,
And almost sunk his venerable years:
Her brothers rage, and for revenge combine:
But guard with secret guile their black design.
The town in feasts consum'd the second day,
And plung'd at night in fearless riot lay.
The restless shepherds ere the ling'ring dawn,
Each held his sword, for horrid action drawn:
Surpris'd the city like a rising flood,
Rag'd thro' the streets, and bath'd their swords in blood.
The Hebrews, pleas'd with this successful fate,
Sprung furious on, and forc'd the palace gate:
Fierce Simeon thro' the bright apartments flew,
And old and young, without distinction, slew.
Shechem, with restless passion still inspir'd,
Was with the charming Israelite retir'd;
And first by mad insulting Levi found,
Without a pause he gave the desp'rate wound.
Take thy dispatch, curst ravisher, for hell,
He said; and down the bleeding victim fell:
His fatal mistress turns away her eyes,
With horror seiz'd, and trembling with surprise.
The swains her roving vanity upbraid,
And to their tents the penitent convey'd.
Their father, griev'd, reproves the bloody fact;
But Judah thus defends the hostile act.
Should they, a race uncircumcis'd and vile,
With lawless mixtures Abram's flock defile?
Our wives and sisters in our sight constrain;
While we, regardless of the shameful stain,
Stand tamely by, and scarce of wrong complain?
They first intrench'd on hospitable trust,
And human faith;–our vengeance is but just.
Such justice never mingle with my fame,
Good Israel cries, nor spot my guiltless name!
The realms around, who idol Gods revere,
Will this black deed with indignation hear;
And all their policy and rage unite,
To blot our odious mem'ry from the light.
So hell believ'd;–but heav'n a sacred dread
Of Jacob's sons among the nations spread;
While he at Bethel, with a pious flame,
Implores the great unutterable Name.
From thence to Mamre's peaceful plain retires,
Where Kiriath-arba lifts her golden spires:
Illustrious Arba built and nam'd the place,
The boasted father of the giant race;
For them design'd the monstrous plan appear'd,
To heav'n the threat'ning battlements were rear'd.
In careless joys and plenty here they live,
And to the neighb'ring swains protection give.
Beneath the hill, on which their city stood,
Ascended high a venerable wood;
To solemn shades, which gave a secret dread.
Conceal'd a vaulted structure for the dead,
Machpelah call'd, with wondrous labour wrought;
This Abram of the giant nation bought:
The cave, the wood, the springs, and bord'ring field,
Ephron, their prince, by publick contract seal'd.
Here to their purchas'd right the shepherds drive
Their fleecy charge, and unmolested live;
While frequent thro' the consecrated ground,
Inscriptions and old monuments they found.
Where'er celestial visions had appear'd,
The pious worshippers an altar rear'd;
The mystic name to mortals long unknown,
Was deeply figur'd on the polish'd stone;
By marks engrav'd on arching rocks, 'twas seen,
That heavenly pow'rs had there convers'd with men.
Remote from this a lofty pillar stood;
This Jacob to the rural concourse shew'd;
Here see, he said, the memory retain'd
Of Abram's conquest near Damascus gain'd.
To distant lands the Eastern rule was spread,
And Jordan's banks a yearly tribute paid:
The king of Sodom first contemn'd the yoke,
Adnah and Zeboim next the treaty broke.
At this the royal Elamite enrag'd,
The neighb'ring kings, his great allies, engag'd;
Arioch and mighty Tidal join their force,
Conquest where'er they turn attends their course.
The Horims on mount Seir their valour prove,
Their troops the Emims from their fortress drove.
In Siddim's vale the adverse princes stay,
There Shibna, Bera and Shemeber lay.
Amraphel early meets his doubtful foes,
And for the victory his ranks dispose;
But scarce th' encounter could be call'd a fight,
So soon the troops of Sodom took their flight:
The coward race, unus'd to charge a foe,
Their jav'lins, swords and shields at once forego.
Some seek the woods, and some a shelt'ring cave;
Some in the rocks their breath, inglorious, save;
While others, plunging down fair Jordan's tide,
From the stern looks of war their faces hide.
Th' invaders sheath their swords, and scorn to grace
With martial deaths the despicable race.
Bera alone and Lot sustain'd the field,
But press'd by numbers were compell'd to yield:
These, with the riches of the town, a prey
To Paran's hills the conqu'rors bore away.
This Abram heard, and gather'd on the plain
A valiant band, his own domestic train:
His glad assistance Eshcol brings, a youth
Of public honour, and unblemish'd truth;
With Aner, Mamre, dauntless both and young,
Brothers, all three from noble Amor sprung.
'Twas night, secure the victor army lies,
Scornful of foes, and fearless of surprise;
By Heav'n's command a sudden vapour spreads,
O'er all the host, and clouds their drowsy heads;
To the high throne of sense soft slumber climbs,
Slackens their sinews, and benumbs their limbs;
The captives eyes alone its force repell'd,
Nor to the pleasing violence would yield.
Now near the camp the brave Confed'rates draw,
And by the glimm'ring fires its posture saw;
The foremost rank, the swift invaders slew,
And soon the waking pris'ners heard and knew
Their active friends, that to their succor flew.
Abram his nephew, he the rest unty'd;
The sleeping foe avenging swords supply'd:
From file to file the fearless brothers pass,
And leave them breathless on the purple grass.
Th' old patriarch feels new life in ev'ry vein,
And scatters wide destruction o'er the plain.
The terror grows, the clash of arms, and cries
Of wounded men afflict the ambient skies.
Prince Arioch, startled at the noise, awakes,
And from his eyes the fatal slumber shakes.
At oft-repeated calls his legions arm,
And madly haste to meet the loud alarm;
But by a force more prevalent out-done,
On certain fate with eager steps they run;
Disorder'd and amaz'd, they quit the field,
And, raving, to their unknown victors yield.
The morning rose, and with her blushing light
Expos'd their damage, and inglorius flight;
The joyful shepherds seize th' abandon'd spoils:
And now returning from their martial toils,
A royal priest at Salem Abram meets,
With presents, and a benediction greets
The Hebrew bands:–To heav'n he lifts his eyes,
And blest be that propitious pow'r, he cries,
Who walks the chrystal circuit of the skies;
Who hears the boasts of mortals with disdain,
Contemns their force, and makes their triumphs vain!
His mien was solemn, and his face divine,
Refulgent gems around his temples shine:
His graceful robe, a bright celestial blue,
Trailing behind, a train majestic drew.
The tenth of all great Abram gives the priest,
The Kings and Amorites divide the rest.
All pleas'd, the gen'rous conqu'ror loudly prais'd,
And to his fame this lasting column rais'd.
The swains were list'ning still, when Jacob cries,
To yonder mountains now direct your eyes;
For there a brighter scene of glory lies.
'Twas there the wond'ring sun in Abram view'd
The noblest height of human fortitude;
The pious man in guiltless sleep lay drown'd,
When thro' his ears thunder'd this fatal sound.
Arise, and Isaac on mine altar lay,
With thy own hand the destin'd victim slay.
He starts, and cries, who can this thought inspire?
Can heav'n this monstrous sacrifice require?
The dreadful call again surpriz'd his ears,
And lo! the well-known heavenly form appears.
He bow'd, and at the purple dawn arose,
And with his darling to Moriah goes.
Astonish'd long he by the altar stood,
Then pil'd with trembling hands the sacred wood;
Half dead himself; The wond'ring youth he binds,
Who now his sire's severe intention finds.
What thoughts, he ask'd, my father, have possest
Your soul? what horrid fury fills your breast?
Am I to hell a sacrifice design'd?
Some cruel demon must your reason blind;
Th' unblemish'd skies abhor this bloody deed,
No human victims on their altars bleed.
'Tis heav'n, the Patriarch said, this fact requires,
'Tis heav'n–be witness yon ethereal fires!
Yet, countless as the stars, from thee must spring
Victorious nations, and the mystick King:
'Tis past relief–yet by himself he swore,
Who from the dead thy relicks can restore;
What obstacle surmounts almighty pow'r?
This said, the pious youth resign'd his life;
Blest Abram shook off all paternal strife,
And forward thrust the consecrated knife.
As lightning from the skies, an angel broke,
And warded with his hand the fatal stroke;
When thus a voice streams downward from above,
Breathing divine beneficence and love.
By my great self I swear, to bless thy race
With endless favour and peculiar grace;
Thy scepter'd sons the spacious East shall sway,
While vanquish'd kings obedient tribute pay.
Here Jacob ends, and to his tent retires;
Their fleecy charge the parting swains requires.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 14, 2010



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