Elizabeth Singer Rowe

(1674-1737 / England)

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

Their father's blessing on their knees they take,
And now to Memphis quick advances make,
Where safe arriv'd, but fearful of their doom,
To Joseph's steward hastily they come,
Disclose in humble terms their late mistake,
And render doubl'd all the money back.
Your father's God (he said) your coin restor'd,
'Twas justly paid, then leads them to his lord.
Their gifts, with prostrate homage, they present;
His gracious smiles their rising doubts prevent;
Forgetful of himself, with eager haste,
He forward stept, and Benjamin embrac'd:
His heart expands with sympathetick joy,
While in his arms he folds the wond'ring boy;
Fond nature struggles with the vain disguise,
A brother sparkles in his radiant eyes:
Scarce all his grandeur from the gentle youth
(With mutual rapture touch'd) conceals the truth;
And half disclos'd the kindred soul appears,
Till Joseph flies to hide the swelling tears,
That melting love and soft surprise excite,
But recollected, soon returns in sight.
Conducts them now into a spacious hall,
Where well-worn slaves, obsequious to the call,
To luxury inur'd, with artful care,
A splendid banquet instantly prepare;
Embroider'd carpets cover all the ground,
While fragrant ointments spread their odours round,
Large silver lavers, with officious care,
The gay attendants round the circle bear.
And now, with costly fare and sparkling wine
Of various sorts, the loaded tables shine,
Beneath a glitt'ring canopy of state,
In Tyrian robes, the graceful regent sat;
With all the bounty of a royal feast
He nobly entertains each Hebrew guest:
Their hostage freed the mutual joy compleats,
In order plac'd, they take their destin'd seats:
With sprightly wines, and social converse gay,
In guiltless mirth they spend the fleeting day.
In calm repose supinely pass the night,
Till rising with the morning's rosy light,
They haste away, with full provisions stor'd,
In every sack (as order'd by his lord)
Their coin the steward secretly convey'd;
A silver cup in Benjamin's was laid.
Secure the suburbs utmost bounds were past,
When with a feign'd concern and anxious haste,
He overtakes the hindmost of the train,
And thus accosts them in an angry strain.
How could you thus, ungrateful and unjust,
Against the rules of hospitable trust,
Combine, the consecrated cup to steal,
By which my lord does secret things reveal.
With what strange meaning is thy language fraught,
Surpris'd, they cry, we're guiltless, even in thought,
And by th' immortal God, we dare protest,
Such black designs are strangers to our breast.
Our coin unask'd exactly we restor'd,
How should we then abuse thy injur'd lord,
And basely, gold or silver from him steal,
While recent favours yet our thanks compel?
If such enormous guilt our bosoms stain,
Vassals for life thy servants shall remain;
The wretch, convicted of a crime so high,
Unpity'd here before thy face shall die.
Content, he said, and search'd their burdens round;
At last, the cup in Benjamin's was found:
With wild despair, their folding vests they rent,
And backward to the royal office went.
The regent here, but oh! how chang'd they find,
No more the mild, beneficent and kind,
But fiercely asking, in an alter'd tone,
What wrong is this your guilty hands have done?
You well might know, where dress and learning shine,
A man, like me, must certainly divine.
Prostrate they fall, while Judah for the rest,
With mingled sighs their mutual grief express'd.
What can I say?–How shall thy servant speak?
In what pathetick words my silence break?
What energy of language shall I find,
To paint the wild distraction of my mind?
Justice divine, with keen revenge begins
To reckon up our lengthen'd score of sins;
Our secret crimes this rigorous stroke demand;
And, self-condemn'd, we here thy vassals stand.
No,–cries the gracious Regent, only he
With whom the cup was found, my slave shall be;
Return in peace, your needless fears resign,
This youth, a publick criminal, is mine.
When Judah thus, (still gently drawing near)
Be pleas'd, my lord, to lend a gracious ear,
While I the tender circumstance repeat,
And for my father's hoary age intreat.
Two lovely boys, the pleasure of his life,
And only offspring of a beauteous wife,
The elder Branch, by an untimely death,
Snatch'd from his arms, long since resign'd his breath.
The youngest, who does now his care engage,
The single prop of his declining age,
The constant theme of every pleasing thought,
Your strict command, my lord, has hither brought:
Our sire (thy servant) long refus'd to grant
The pressing suit, till forc'd by meagre want,
And just concern, to clear our injur'd truth,
He to my conduct gave the gentle youth.
But oh! what killing anguish pierc'd his heart,
When thus compell'd with Benjamin to part:
With all the eloquence that filial love
Could e'er inspire to calm his fears I strove;
But all in vain; on dismal thoughts intent,
If mischief should his blooming life prevent,
My hoary hairs, he said, with grief oppress'd,
Must to the gloomy grave descend for rest.
And I, unhappy, whither shall I go
To shun that dark distracting scene of woe?
My father's wretchedness I cannot see,
Depriv'd of every future joy by me;
For I, with all the arguments I had,
Became myself a surety for the lad,
And must again the precious pledge restore,
Or see my aged parent's face no more.
My lord, you seem to have a tender heart,
(Tho' sometimes forc'd to act a rig'rous part)
This first, unfortunate offence, forgive,
Or let thy servant here a vassal live
A bondslave, in my youngest brother's stead,
Condemn'd no more my native soil to tread.
No longer Joseph could his tears controul,
Or hide the soft emotions of his soul,
Relenting signs the watchful Hebrews saw,
In haste he bids th' attendants all withdraw.
I am your brother Joseph, then he cries,
With tears and melting goodness in his eyes,
That brother you to Midian merchants sold
On Dothan's plain–Nor need the rest be told.
The cruel fact, alas, too well they knew,
And, with disorder'd looks, each other view.
He then demands–How fares my honour'd sire?
Confus'd and mute they farther off retire;
A guilty shame on every face was spread,
Come near, my brethren, then he mildly said,
Reflect not on yourselves, with thought severe,
It was not you, but God, that sent me here;
His goodness rul'd the circumstance and place,
To save the stock of Abraham's sacred race;
Five years of cruel famine yet remain,
While, destitute of hope, the careful swain
Shall neither sow nor reap–The burning soil,
Untill'd shall lie, or mock his fruitless toil;
But heav'n has sent me here, to save your lives,
Your infant offspring, and your tender wives.
Th' Aegyptian king, in every virtue great,
Ordains me second ruler in the state;
The strength, the pow'r, the wealth of all the land,
Without restraint, are trusted to my hand.
Return, and in my father's ears relate
The plenty, pomp, and grandeur of my state:
Tell him, I long his hoary age to greet,
And throw myself in raptures at his feet:
Let him come down to Goshen's healthful air,
His whole domestick charge shall be my care.
Dismiss your fears–This painful silence break!
You see a friend! you hear a brother speak!
Behold the tender motions of my heart,
No more disguis'd with grandeur, or with art!
Regard me well, the kindred features trace,
You'll find the prints of nature in my face!
Then clasping round his youngest brother's neck,
No longer strives the gushing tears to check;
The friendly ardor throws off all disguise,
While nature sits triumphant in his eyes;
Nor less delight transports the gentle youth,
Replete with goodness, innocence and truth;
In mutual sympathy their souls were ty'd,
And more by virtue than by birth ally'd.
Saluting then the rest, with mild address,
He clears their doubts and softens their distress;
Conversing freely, now they quit their fears,
While Pharaoh, pleas'd, the new adventure hears;
And in his clemency, and royal grace,
Commands the viceroy some selected place
Should be assign'd on Goshen's rich champain
His father's num'rous charge to entertain.
The regent now, impatient of delay,
With costly presents sends the men away;
But with a sparkling Babylonian vest
His youngest friend was grac'd above the rest.
Make haste, he said, to bring my father down,
Tell him I live, and be my greatness known;
Take waggons, for convenience on the way,
Your wives and helpless children to convey;
Nor care to gather up your needless stores,
The wealth of Zoan's plenteous land is yours.
At Hebron soon their speedy journey ends,
The good old man their coming now attends;
Where scarce arriv'd, at once they all relate
The welcome news of Joseph's prosp'rous state.
Why would you mock my woe with airy schemes,
(He fainting said) of gay fantastick dreams?
But soon the loaded carriages appear,
Recal his life, his drooping spirits chear.
My Joseph lives! (transporting truth) he cries,
I'll see his face, and close my aged eyes:
Content, resign these poor remains of breath,
And gently rest in the calm shades of death.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 14, 2010

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