Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

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

Still with impatient love Sabrina pines,
And now to speak the fatal truth designs;
Sooth'd by her own indulgent hopes, which trace
A secret passion in the Hebrew's face.
He sighs, and when he thinks himself alone,
Oft seems some new misfortune to bemoan,
In foreign accents, and a tongue unknown.
Her vanity an explanation found,
And put a sense on every flatt'ring sound,
Forgetful of her nuptial vows and fame,
She fondly thus betrays her guilty flame.
If yet my torments are to thee unknown,
If yet my sighs the myst'ry have not shewn,
Insensible,–let this confession prove
The strange excess, and grandeur of my love.
Yet had I still my wild desires suppressed,
Had not thine eyes an equal flame confess'd.
Let me be punish'd with the last disdain,
He said, if e'er I harbour'd thoughts so vain!
I ne'er Sabrina's favour so abus'd,
Nor once your virtue in my heart accus'd.
Should I perfidious (heav'n forbid!) offend
My gen'rous master,–I might say my friend;
Let scandal sink my name, when so unjust
I prove, so false to hospitable trust!
Thus with a modest turn he would reclaim
Her am'rous frenzy, and conceal her shame;
Nor waits her leave, but hastily withdrew.
Careless her limbs upon a couch she threw,
And curst her folly with a thousand tears;
Till Iphicle, her artful nurse, appears;
Of so much grief she press'd to know the cause,
At last the secret from her mistress draws.
You wrong, the Beldam cries, your own desert,
For you have charms, the youth a human heart.
Your beauty might a savage breast inspire,
At sight of you the coldest age takes fire.
But where's the wonder that a bashful boy,
Should, at the first address, be nice and coy?
He loves, no doubt, and languishes like you,
But fears th' ambitious motive to pursue:
Nor shall your utmost wishes want redress,
I have a draught that gives divine success;
Nepenthe, which th' immortals quaff above;
These sacred drops rewarded Chemis' love.
When Totis, by his death, the full command
Of Misraim left in fair Charoba's hand,
The rich Gebirus from Chaldea came
With foreign pomp to seek the royal dame.
Chemis adorn'd his train, whose charming face
Allur'd a goddess of the wat'ry race;
On Nilus' banks the young Chaldean stood,
When lo! Merina rising from the flood,
Her chariot set with pearl, the wave divides,
Softly along the silver stream she glides.
Her robes with pearl and sparkling rubies shine,
Her brighter eyes express a light divine.
Nor from her humid bed the blooming day
Has e'er ascended with a clearer ray.
Her smiles the raging tempests could appease,
Allay the winds, and calm the swelling seas.
She leaves her crystal vaults, and coral groves,
Her liquid kingdoms, and immortal loves,
And o'er the grassy meads with Chemis roves.
At parting gave him this celestial spell,
Which ev'ry good procures, and can each ill repel.
My mother from this youth derives her line,
And this she left me, as a gift divine,
By all her ancestors preserv'd with care;
One heav'nly drop shall banish your despair.
Her flatt'ring nurse's charm she vainly tries,
For Joseph still her hateful passion flies:
But obstinate in love to gain her ends,
To fam'd Asana, Iphicle she sends.
Harpinus there an uncouth dwelling own'd,
Planted with yew and mournful cyprus round;
Whose shadows every pleasing thought control,
And fill with deep anxiety the soul.
Hither black fiends at dead of night advance,
The horned Serim thro' the darkness dance:
From earth, from air, and from the briny deep
They come, and here nocturnal revels keep.
From gloomy Acherusia, and the fen
Of Serbon, and the forest of Birdene;
From Ophiodes, the serpent isle, they come,
And Syrtes, where fantastick spectres roam;
From Chabnus, and the wild Psebarian peak,
Whose hoary cliffs the clouds long order break.
In hellish banquets, and obscene delights,
The curst assembly here consume the nights.
The sick'ning moon her feeble light withholds,
In sable clouds her argent horns she folds;
The constellations quench their glimm'ring fire,
And frighted far to distant skies retire.
Amidst these horrors, in his echoing cells,
And winding vaults, the Necromancer dwells:
Passing from room to room, the brazen doors
Resound, as when exploded thunder roars.
The day excluded thence, blue sulphur burns,
With frightful splendour, in a thousand urns.
The wizard here employs his mighty spells,
And great events by divination tells;
Inscribing mystick figures on the ground,
And mutt'ring words of an unlawful sound;
Which from their tombs the shiv'ring ghosts compel,
And force them future secrets to reveal.
The stars he knew, when adverse, or benign;
When with malignant influence they shine,
Or, darting prosp'rous rays, to love incline.
The nurse a pleasing answer here obtain'd,
And thus Sabrina's drooping thoughts sustain'd.
A third succeeding day shall crown your love,
And every am'rous star propitious prove.
Sabrina feeds the while her guilty flame,
And now the third appointed morning came;
When for the favour'd youth in haste she sends
The message with reluctance he attends.
Silent she sits; while waiting her commands,
Fix'd at a formal distance long he stands.
Her eyes still fix'd on Joseph's beauteous face;
A close contempt, and inward hatred trace;
Yet desp'rate to compleat her own disgrace.
Ungrateful youth! she cries, too well I find
By these cold looks, thy unrelenting mind:
Thy savage temper, and unconquer'd pride,
By words of sacred import thou wouldst hide,
Thou talk'st of holy ties, and rules severe,
Pretending some avenging God to fear.
What God, alas! does cruelty command?
Or human bliss maliciously withstand?
Such thoughts as these the heav'nly powers arraign,
Efface their goodness, and their justice stain.
Would they the gen'rous principle control,
Who gave this am'rous bias to the soul?
What nature is, they made it: nor can bind
With servile laws the freedom of the mind:
Were this our lot, happy the brutal kind,
That unmolested thro' the forest rove,
Licentious in their choice, and unconfin'd in love!
Virtue!–a meer imaginary thing!
Torment it may, but can no pleasure bring.
Honour!–'tis nothing but precarious fame,
For empty breath, for a fantastick name.
Wilt thou my soft intreaties still deny,
And see me languish, and unpity'd die?
Consent at last to love's enchanting joys,
While pleasure calls thee with her tempting voice:
These folding curtains shall our bliss conceal,
That no intruding eye our theft reveal.
Deluded fair! the noble youth replies,
Could we some artful labyrinth devise
To hide our sin, and far from mortal sight
Retire, involv'd in all the shades of night;
Yet there,–expos'd to heav'n's unclouded view,
Its vengeance would our treachery pursue;
Distinguish'd plagues would soon our guilt expose,
While all your sex's glory you must lose.
To Potiphar alone your vows belong,
In him a tender lover you must wrong.
For me, where should I hide my hated face,
Could I be conscious of a crime so base?
No, let me thro' the yawning earth descend,
Rather than with such insolence offend
The laws of God, and kindness of my friend!
My master's favours, endless to recite,
When I with such ingratitude requite;
When with a thought so horrid and prophane,
My faith and spotless loyalty I stain;
Let wrathful lightnings flashing round my head,
And bolts of raging thunder strike me dead!
Let execrations, and eternal shame
Destroy my peace, and blast my hated name!
These words with such an awful air he spoke,
Celestial virtue sparkling in his look,
His haughty mistress all her hopes resign'd,
And felt a diff'rent frenzy seize her mind:
Assisting fiends the hellish thought suggest,
And blot the tender passion from her breast.
A crimson scarf with ornamental pride
Was o'er his graceful shoulders loosely ty'd;
This furiously she snatch'd, while from th' embrace
He frees himself, and quits the hated place.
She call'd aloud, her voice Cyrena hears,
And ent'ring saw her well-dissembled tears,
A tale of proffer'd violence she feigns,
And of the Hebrew's arrogance complains,
Alarm'd at her repeated calls, she said,
The monster left his curst design, and fled.
His scarf the truth confirm'd: her lord the while
Returns; her words his easy faith beguile:
Blinded with rage he calls the injur'd youth,
And thus upbraids his violated truth.
How can'st thou, wretch! belie a mind so base,
With that undaunted air, and guiltless face?
Hypocrisy so steady and compleat,
A villain, cautious as thyself, might cheat;
No wonder then thy practis'd saintly shews
Should on my honest artless mind impose.
My soul entire to thee I did resign;
Except my bed, whate'er I had was thine.
In fetters let th' ungrateful slave be ty'd,
Some gloomy dungeon shall the monster hide.
Dungeons he said, and chains I can defy,
But would not, curst with your displeasure, die.
This sad reflexion aggravates my fate;
How shall I bear my gen'rous master's hate?
Oh stay! at last my vindication hear,
While by th' Unutterable Name I swear,
My thoughts are all from this injustice clear.
He ceas'd, and still Sabrina's shame conceals,
Nor one accusing word her fraud reveals.
Now to a damp unwholsom vault convey'd,
Joseph in ignominious chains is laid.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 14, 2010



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