Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

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

'Twas night, and now advanc'd the solemn hour;
The keeper of the prison, from his tow'r,
Astonish'd, sees a form divinely bright,
Smile thro' the shades, and dissipate the night;
With streaming splendor tracing all the way,
It enters where the new-come pris'ner lay.
Some God, he cries, who innocence defends,
Some God in that propitious light descends.
This stranger sure, whatever the fact can be
Alledg'd against him, from the guilt is free.
The sacred vision to the youth appears,
His spirits with celestial fragrance chears.
His heav'nly smiles would ev'n despair control,
And with immortal rapture fill the Soul.
His youthful brows a fair Tiara crown'd,
A folding zone his gaudy vestments bound,
Embroider'd high with Amaranthus round.
Such wings th' Arabian Phoenix never wore,
Sprinkled with gold and shading purple o'er.
Beneficent his aspect and address,
His lips seraphick harmony express;
His voice might stay th' invading sleep of death,
While these soft words flow with his balmy breath.
From the unclouded realms of day above,
From endless pleasures, and unbounded love,
From painted fields deck'd with immortal flow'rs,
From blissful valleys, and ethereal bow'rs,
I come, commission'd by peculiar grace,
With great presages to thy future race.
This Gabriel spoke; the pious Hebrew's breast
Prophetick flame and pow'r divine confest;
An awful silence, and profound suspence,
Clos'd the tumultuous avenues of sense;
The heav'nly trance, each wand'ring thought confin'd,
Collects the operations of the mind,
While Gabriel all the inward scene design'd.
Before him, rais'd to high dominion, all
His humble brethren in prostration fall;
His joyful eyes again his father see,
He takes the blessing on his bended knee.
Vastly in numbers Jacob's sons increas'd,
Poor vassals by th' Egyptians are distress'd,
And by a royal tyrant's yoke oppress'd:
To heav'n they cry, an aid that never fails,
Heav'n hears the cry, the potent pray'r prevails.
A mighty prophet, by divine command;
Does bold before the raging monarch stand,
And brings his great credentials in his hand.
Across the ground his wond'rous rod he throws;
The rod transform'd a moving serpent grows,
Unfolds his speckled train, and o'er the pavement flows.
A dazzling train of miracles ensue,
Which speak the prophet and his mission true.
The springs, the standing lakes, and running flood
His pow'rful word converts to reeking blood;
The wounded billows stain the verdant shore,
Advancing slowly with a mournful roar.
Infernal night her sable wings extends,
And from the black unbottom'd deep ascends:
The seer denounces plagues on man and beast;
Contagious torments soon the air infest;
Aloud he bids a sudden tempest rise,
On rapid wings the storm obedient flies;
Th' extended skies are rent from pole to pole,
Blue lightnings flash, and dreadful thunders roll.
Nor yet th' obdurate king the God reveres,
Whom ev'ry element obsequious fears;
Till vengeful strokes of pow'r confess'd divine,
With clear, but terrible conviction shine.
The night was cover'd with unusual dread,
While ev'ry star malignant influence shed.
Pale spectres thro' the streets of Zoan roam,
From sepulchres amazing echoes come;
While, like a flaming meteor, down the skies,
With threat'ning speed the fatal angel flies.
Reluctant justice, with a grace severe,
Sits in his looks, and triumphs in his air.
A crested helmet shades his awful brows;
Behind his military vesture flows,
And like an ev'ning's ruddy meteor glows.
He grasps his sword, unsheath'd for certain fate,
Destruction, death, and terror on him wait;
Mortal the stroke, invisible the wound,
While dying groans with mingled shrieks resound.
From house to house the dreadful rumour runs,
While wretched fathers mourn their first-born sons.
Th' alarm'd Egyptians, at the breaking day,
Hurry the sacred multitude away;
But Pharaoh soon his daring sin renews,
Blaspheming loud the rescu'd slaves pursues;
The fearful tribes stand trembling on the shore,
The foe behind, a raging sea before.
Their glorious chief extends his pow'rful wand,
And gives the mighty signal from the strand;
Th' obedient waves the mighty signal take,
And parting, crowd the distant surges back;
On either hand, like crystal hills, they rise;
Between, a wide stupendous valley lies:
With joyful shouts the grateful Hebrews pass,
Nor does the harden'd foe decline the chace;
'Till heav'n's command the watry chain dissolves,
And in the whelming deep their pride involves.
While Israel thro' the desert takes their way,
Led by a cloud which marches on by day;
But resting chear'd th' encamping host by night,
With lambent flame, and unexampled light.
Where lofty Sinah shades the neighb'ring plain,
Commanded now the sacred tribes remain;
Prepar'd with mystick rites, to hear with awe
Their Saviour God pronounce their future law:
Close bounds the mountain guard from all approach,
That rashly none the hallow'd place might touch.
Reluctant see th'appointed morning rise,
And fiery splendors glow around the skies.
While from th' ethereal summit God descends,
Beneath his feet the starry convex bends.
His radiant form majestick darkness hides,
While on a tempest rapid wings he rides.
The trembling earth his awful presence owns,
The forest flames, the cleaving desert groans,
Each river back his wand'ring current calls,
And rushing down the subterranean falls,
To the profoundest caves affrighted flies,
Reveal'd and bare each sandy channel lies.
Their stately heads the ancient mountains sink,
And to a level with the vales would shrink;
Again secure in their primaeval beds,
Beneath the waves would hide their fearful heads.
old Sinah quakes at the tremendous weight,
That press'd with awful feet his cloudy height;
Obscur'd with blackness, shades, and curling smoke,
Prodigious lightnings from the darkness broke;
While raging thunders round the welkin fly,
Th' ethereal trumpet sounding loud and high.
Adoring low the pious nation bend,
And now the solemn voice of God attend:
The angel shifts the scene, and leaves the rest
Inimitable all, and not to be express'd.
The curtain'd Tabernacle next he paints,
Nor colours for the gay pavilion wants;
The golden altar, with attending priests,
Their sacred pomp, and instituted vests.
Then brings the favour'd tribes where Jordan flows:
And all the well-known bord'ring landskip shews.
An airy conquest on Beth-horon's plain,
The warlike sons of Jacob now obtain:
Before the troops a glorious leader stands,
A painted jav'lin balanc'd in his hands;
He boldly thus the rolling orbs commands.
Thou sun! to lengthen this victorious day,
With ling'ring beams on lofty Gibeah stay:
And thou, fair morn! retard thy hasty flight,
And gild the vales of Ajalon at night.
This said, the flying army they pursue,
And all the Amorean kings o'erthrew.
The promis'd land entirely gain'd, they spread
Their peaceful dwellings round Moriah's head.
But with the night the pleasing vision flies
Gabriel unseal'd the youthful prophet's eyes,
His senses from the heav'nly trance releas'd,
And all the sacred agitation ceas'd.
The thoughtful keeper early to the vault
Descends, and thence the injur'd pris'ner brought;
Treats him with kindness, and a just regard,
And gave him all the freedom of the ward.
Of Pharaoh's servants two were here detain'd,
The steward, who his table did command,
With him that fill'd the royal cup with wine;
Suspected both as traitors in design.
Joseph, observing a dejected air
Sat heavy in their eyes, with friendly care
Enquires the cause, which freely both reveal,
Mysterious dreams of the past night they tell.
And thus the first:–Methought a bulky vine
Grew up unprop' d; three waving branches shine
With purple grapes, and to my hand incline:
I press'd the tempting fruit without control,
Then gave to Pharaoh's hand the flowing bowl.
The next begins:–Three canisters replete
With royal viands, and luxurious meat,
Oppress'd my drooping head, while birds of prey
With direful croakings snatch'd the food away.
Unhappy man! thy dream from God was sent,
The Hebrew said, and full of black portent:
The third returning day shall bring thy doom,
When thou a prey to vultures shalt become.
Then to the first, these joyful comments sound;
Before the sun has twice fulfill'd his round,
Thou with thy former honours shalt be crown'd.
But in the triumph of thy prosp'rous fate,
Kindly remember my unhappy state,
Who by the blackest falshood here am stay'd;
To this the man a courtier's promise made.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 14, 2010



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