Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

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

But now Sabrina's guilty fire returns,
Her bosom with the raging passion burns:
She with a female tenderness relents,
And all her former cruelty repents.
By her accus'd, in chains the captive lies,
For whom she fondly languishes and dies.
Tormented, and enraged, she often curst
Her pride, her folly, and revengeful lust.
A deep remorse, from conscience of her sin,
With constant horrors vex her soul within.
Her thoughts ten thousand racking torments feel,
Yet in her treach'rous crime obdurate still.
Her life and youthful spirits melt away,
Her beauty withers with a swift decay:
By day she wildly raves, consumes the night
In thoughtless watchings, and imagin'd fright:
While airy terrors glide before her sight.
Pale ghosts with wide distorted eye-balls stare,
And burning spectres thro' the darkness glare,
Till forc'd by fate, and torments more intense,
To vindicate suspected innocence,
To Potiphar the hidden truth she tells,
And all the faithless mystery reveals.
And now he comes–insulting death! she cries,
Perpetual darkness swims before my eyes.
If there are Gods that human things regard,
My monstrous crimes will meet a just reward.
Oh sacred virtue! at thine awful name
I start, and all my former thoughts disclaim;
For thou art no fantastick empty thing,
From thee alone unmingled pleasures spring.
The world, the boundless universe I'd give,
My first unblemish'd honour to retrieve:
'Tis vainly wish'd!–to some strange realms below,
Some dark uncomfortable coasts I go.
She spoke, and gasping in the pangs of death,
With ling'ring agonies resign'd her breath:
While Joseph by the courtier was forgot;
Till fate the period of his freedom brought.
Th' Aegyptian monarch from a short repose,
And troubled visions, with the morning rose.
T' explain the doubtful omens in his breast,
He summons ev'ry planetary priest:
Their orders, which to diff'rent stars belong,
Were soon assembled, a surprising throng;
Sullen their looks, and varied was their vest,
A wild Devotion thro' the whole express'd.
One wore a mantle of a leaden hue,
Trailing behind a sweeping length it drew;
With Poppies, Aconite, and Hellebore,
Mandrake, and Nightshade, strangely figur'd o'er;
A treble twist of serpents curling round,
With monstrous ornament the foldings bound.
With some a verdant forest seem'd to move,
Their flowing robes with palmy branches wove.
With panthers, bears, and every savage beast
Express'd in lively colours, some were dress'd.
On others eagles spread their wings; on some
Appear'd the ostrich' hieroglyphick plume,
While others wore a painted crocodile,
With all the monstrous progeny of Nile.
Nasar, a youth vow'd to the morning star,
With budding roses had adorn'd his hair.
His raiment of inestimable cost
Glitter'd with pearl, and imitated frost.
O'erspread with landskips wrought in miniature,
Surprising scenes the ravish'd sight allure:
Clear fountains, flow'ry walks, and myrtle groves,
Peacocks with gaudy trains, and shining doves.
The prince with anxious looks relates his dreams,
The doubtful sages search their heav'nly schemes:
But all their stars were mute, the meaning flies
In trackless darkness, and obscure disguise.
The bearer of the cup did now reflect
On his past danger, and his base neglect;
And thus his royal master he address'd:
Be Pharaoh's bounty, and my guilt confess'd,
When with my fellow criminal detain'd,
We by thy justice in the ward remain'd,
A Hebrew youth, unjustly there confin'd,
From nightly omens which perplex'd the mind,
With clear conviction did our lot unfold;
My honour, and the steward's doom foretold.
Amidst the solemn darkness of the night,
His cell was glitter'd with ethereal light;
For highly favour'd by th' immortal Gods,
To visit him they left their bright abodes.
Joseph, unfetter'd, they from prison bring,
By heav'n inspir'd, he stands before the King;
Who thus repeats his dream: Methought I stood
On the fair borders of our sacred flood:
While, curious, I survey'd the spreading stream,
Seven bulky oxen from the river came,
Fat and well-favour'd: o'er the verdant mead
They proudly rang'd, and on the pasture fed;
When just their number rose, of aspect four,
Ill-shap'd, and meagre, who the first devour.
The scene was chang'd, when springing in my walk,
Seven blades of corn adorn'd one bending stalk
Ripen'd and full; when lo! a second rears
His blasted top, with seven unfruitful ears;
This swallow'd greedily the former store,
As the lean oxen did the fat before.
I woke with great anxiety oppress'd,
And for the meaning ev'ry God address'd.
The Almighty God o'er earth and skies supreme,
The youthful prophet cries, has sent this dream
To Pharaoh, which discovers future things;
What changes on the world his pleasure brings.
With one intent the sacred vision came,
Of both the hidden meaning is the same.
Seven plenteous years begin their joyful round,
The fields with boundless harvest shall be crown'd;
Then seven unprosp'rous years shall these devour,
And leave no remnant of the former store.
But that the people and the king may live
This counsel heav'n commissions me to give,
That wasteful luxury should be restrain'd,
And wise intendants thro' the realm ordain'd:
Let these against the threat'ning ill provide,
Lay up the corn, and o'er the stores preside.
This youth by some propitious pow'r was sent,
The prince replies, our ruin to prevent;
Then bids them an imperial vestment bring,
And from his finger draws a costly ring:
And this, he said, a sacred pledge shall be
Of those bright honours I reserve for thee.
My pow'r, my kingdom, I to thee resign,
The sov'reign title only shall be mine;
To thee my noblest favourites shall bow,
Our guardian God, our great preserver thou!
His second chariot then the king ordains
Should be prepar'd: white steeds with scarlet reins
The triumph drew; they champ the golden bit,
And spurn the dusty ground with airy feet.
On high with princely pomp the youth was plac'd,
With marks of pow'r, and regal ensigns grac'd;
Gay heralds, Bow the knee, before him cry,
The crowd adore him as he passes by:
Nor here the royal favours were confin'd,
Great Pharaoh's daughter is his bride design'd.
The night had twice in sable triumph reign'd,
And twice the circling light its empire gain'd:
When from his high apartment Joseph sees
A lofty temple, through the waving trees,
To Isis vow'd: He from the gilded dome,
Ravish'd, beheld a beauteous virgin come.
An artless modesty improves her face,
An elegant reserve, and matchless grace;
A rosy tincture in her cheeks appears,
Lovely as that the blooming morning wears:
Her eyes a sprightly blue; her length of hair
Dishevell'd hung, like threads of silver fair.
Long strings of jet and pearl, in mingled twists,
Adorn'd her well-shap'd neck, and slender wrists.
Her robes were heav'nly azure, sprinkled o'er
With stars; a crescent on her breast she wore.
The wounded Hebrew for the virgin sigh'd,
And felt a growing passion yet untry'd:
Her lovely image, on his mind impress'd,
Had fix'd her empire in his yielding breast.
But oh! what anguish did his soul invade,
When he was told, the lov'd enchanting maid
At Isis ' holy shrine devoutly bow'd,
A virgin priestess to the goddess vow'd?
This, this, he cry'd, must all my hopes confound,
Helpless my grief, incurable my wound!
Mean time the fame uncontradicted goes,
That he th' Aegyptian princess must espouse.
Pain'd and distress'd, he hears the spreading news,
And dreads the offer, which he must refuse,
Or with dissembled vows the imperial maid abuse
Asenah's pow'r (that was the priestess' name)
Would in his breast admit no rival flame.
The royal maid no less unhappy prov'd,
Who long illustrious Orramel had lov'd;
An Ethiopian prince, whose faultless face
And shape exceeded all the tawny race.
His features nobly turn'd, his piercing eyes
Sparkl'd like stars amidst the gloomy skies;
At once they dazzled, and engag'd the sight
With awful lustre, and imperious light.
Black as a midnight cloud, his yielding hair
In easy curls waves to the gentle air.
The princess, pain'd with secret discontent,
Her father's purpose labours to prevent;
In vain! the king obstructs her young desires,
But first the pleasure of the gods enquires.
Just Potiphera, an unblemish'd priest,
His piety sincere, but ill address'd,
While fragrant incense round the temple smokes,
Osiris from the monarch he invokes.
The fiends, in hopes to cross the great design
And awful will of providence divine,
With penalties forbid the king's intent,
The Hebrew's future greatness to prevent:
Then nam'd the fair Asenah for his bride,
And blindly with eternal fate comply'd:
Effecting heav'n's predestinated ends,
While Joseph's ruin envious hell intends;
Nor doubts the young idolatress would prove
His snare, and soon seduce him with her love.
The priest, yet trembling, near the altar stands,
And dreads the sacrilege the god commands.
My daughter nam'd! he cries, to Isis vow'd
By mystick rites, which no reverse allow'd!
It must be so–The gods pronounce it fit,
The priest his will, the king must his submit.
The maid reluctant leaves the holy shrine,
But yields obedience to the pow'rs divine.
The gift, as heav'n's, the joyful youth regards,
Which thus bright virtue crowns, and sacred truth rewards.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 14, 2010

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