JEPHTHA, Judge Of Israel and
leader of the army.|
ZEBUL, Jephtha's half-brother, a warrior.
HAMOR, A warrior. betrothed to Iphis.
STORGE, Wife of Jephtha.|
IPHIS, Jephtha's daughter, betrothed to Hamor
IT must be so; or these vile Ammonites (Our lordly tyrants now these eighteen years) Will crush the race of Israel. Since heav'n vouchsafes not, with immediate choice, To point us out a leader, as before, Ourselves must choose.--And who so fit a man As Gilead's son. our brother. valiant Jephtha?--- True. we have slighted, scorn'd, expell'd him hence, As of a stranger born; hut well I know him; His gen'rous soul disdains a mean revenge. When his distressful country calls his aid.-- And, perhaps, heav'n may favour our request If with repentant hearts we sue for mercy.
Pour forth no more unheeded pray'rs To idols deaf and vain: No more with vile unhallow'd airs, The sacred rites profane.
No more to Ammon's god and king, Fierce Moloch, shall our cymbals ring, In dismal dance about the furnace blue, Chemosh no more Will we adore, With timbrell'd anthems, to Jehovah due.
But Jephtha comes.--Kind heav'n, assist our plea! O Jephtha, with an eye of pity look On thy repentant brethren in distress. Forgetful of thy wrongs, redress thy sire, Thy friends, thy country, in extreme despair.
Virtue my soul shall still embrace, Goodness shall make me great, Who builds upon this steady base Dreads no event of fate.
'Twill be a painful separation, Jephtha, To see thee harness'd for the bloody field. But ah! how trivial are a wife's concerns, When a whole nation bleeds, and grovelling lies, Panting for liberty and life
In gentle murmurs will I mourn, As mourns the mate-forsaken dove; And sighing wish thy dear return To liberty and lasting love.
Happy this embassy, my charming Iphis, Which once more gives thee to my longing eyes As Cynthia breaking from th' involving clouds On the benighted traveler, the sight of thee, my love Drives darkness and despair. Again I live; in thy sweet smiles I live; As in thy father's ever watchful care Our wretched nation feels new life, new joy, O haste and make my happiness complete
Dull delay in piercing, anguish Bids thy faithful lover languish, While he pants for bliss in vain. Oh! with gentle smiles relieve me; Let no more false hopes deceive me, Nor vain fears inflict a pain.
Ill suits the voice of love when glory calls, And bids thee follow Jephtha to the field. Act there the hero, and let rival deeds Proclaim thee worthy to be called his son; And Hamor shall not want his due reward
Take the heart you fondly gave, Lodg'd in your breast with mine; Thus with double ardor brave, Sure conquest shall be thine.
I go: my soul, inspir'd by thy command, Thirsts for the battle. I'm already crown'd With the victorious wreath; and thou, fair prize More worth than fame or conquest, thou art mine
These labors past, how happy we I How glorious will they prove! When gathering fruit from conquest's tree We deck the feast of love!
What mean these doubtful fancies of the brain? Visions of joy rise in my raptur'd soul, There play awhile, and set in darksome night. Strange ardor fires Illy breast; my arms seem strung With tenfold vigor, and my crested helm To reach the skies,--be humble still, my soul.-- It is the spirit of God; in whose great name I offer up my vow.--
If, Lord, sustain'd by thy almighty pow'r, Ammon I drive, and his insulting hands, From these our long,-uncultivated lands, And safe return a glorious conquer;-- What, or whoe'er shall first salute mine eyes, Shall be forever thine, or fall a sacrifice
'Tis said. Enter Israelites, &c., Attend, ye chiefs, and with one voice, Invoke the holy name of Israel's God.
O God, behold our sore distress; Omnipotence, to plague, or bless! But turn thy wrath, and bless once more Thy servants, who thy name adore.
Some dire event hangs o'er our heads, Some woeful song we have to sing In misery extreme.--O, never, never Was my foreboding mind distress'd before With such incessant pangs.
Scenes of horror, scenes of woe, Rising from the shades below, Add new terror to the night. While in the never-ceasing pain, That attends the servile chain, Joyless flow the hours of light.
Say, my dear mother, whence these piercing cries That force me, like a frightened bird. to fly, My place of rest?
The smiling dawn of happy days Presents a prospect clear; And pleasing hope's all bright'ning rays Dispel each gloomy fear; While every charm that peace displays Makes spring-time all the year.
Such, Jephtha, was the haughty king's reply-- No terms--but ruin, slavery, and death.
When his loud voice ill thunder spoke, With conscious fear the billows broke, Observant of his dread command. In vain they roll their foaming, tide; Confin'd by the Almighty! pow'r. That gave them strength to roar They now contract their boist'rous pride, And lash with idle rage the laughing strand
Part the Second.
Glad tidings of great joy to thee, dear Iphis, and to the house of Israel, I bring. Thus then in brief:--both armies in array Of battle rang'd, our general stept forth, And offer'd haughty Ammon terms of peace* Most just and righteous; these with scorn refus'd, He bade the trumpet sound: but scarce a sword Was ting'd in hostile blood, ere all around The thund'ring heavens open'd, and pour'd forth Thousands of armed cherubim. When straight Our general cried: "This is thy signal, Lord; I follow thee, and thy bright heavenly host." Then rushing on proud Ammon, all aghast. He made a bloody slaughter, and pursued The Hying foe, till night bade sheath the sword, And taste the joys of victory and peace.
Cherub and Seraphim, unbodied forms, The messengers of fate, His dread command await; Of swifter flight, and subtler flame, Than lightning's winged flame, They ride on whirlwinds, directing the storms.
Up the dreadful steep ascending, While for fame and love contending, Sought I thee, my glorious prize. And now, happy in the blessing, Thee, my sweetest joy, possessing, Other honors I despise.
'Tis well. Haste, ye maidens, and in richest robes, Adorn me, like a stately bride, to meet My father in triumphant pomp. And while around the dancing banners play,--
Tune the soft melodious lute, Pleasant harp, and warbling flute, To sounds of rapt'rous joy, Such as on our solemn days, Singing great Jehovah's praise, The holy choir employ.
Again heav'n smiles on his repentant people; And victory spreads wide her silver wings, To soothe our sorrows with a peaceful calm.
Freedom now once more possessing, Peace shall spread with ev'ry blessing Triumphant joy around; Sion now no more complaining Shall, in blissful plenty reigning, Thy glorious praise resound.
Zebul, thy deeds were valiant, nor less thine My Hamor; but the glory is the Lord's
His mighty arm, with sudden blow, Dispers'd and quell'd the haughty foe; They fell before him, as when through the sky He bids the sweeping winds in vengeance fly
In glory high, in might serene, He sees, moves all, unmov'd, unseen. His mighty arm, with sudden blow, Dispers'd and quell'd the haughty foe.
Hail, glorious conqueror! much lov'd father, hail! Behold thy daughter, and her virgin train, Come to salute thee with all duteous love.
Welcome as the cheerful light, Driving darkest shades of night Welcome as the spring that rains Sweets and plenty o'er the plains Not cheerful day, Nor springs so gay, Such mighty blessings brings, As peace on her triumphant wings.
Welcome thou whose deeds conspire To provoke the warbling lyre. Welcome thou, whom God ordain'd Guardian angel of our land! Thou wert born. his glorious name And great wonders to proclaim.
Horror! confusion! harsh this music grates Upon my tasteless ears.--Begone, my child; Thou hast undone thy father.--Fly, begone, And leave me to the rack of wild despair!
Open thy marble jaws, O tomb! And hide me, earth, in thy dark womb: Ere I the name of father stain, And deepest woe from conquest gain.
Why is my brother thus afflicted? say, Why didst thou spurn thy daughter's gratulations, And fling her from thee with unkind disdain?
First perish thou! and perish all the world! Hath heav'n then bless'd us with this only pledge Of all our love, this one dear child, for thee To be her murderer?--No, cruel man;--
Let other creatures die, Or heav'n. earth, seas, and sky, In one confusion lie, Ere in a daughter's blood, So fair, so chaste, so good, A father's hand's embrued.
If such thy cruel purpose: lo! your friend Offers himself a willing sacrifice, To save the innocent and beauteous maid.
On me let blind mistaken zeal Her utmost rage employ; 'Twill be a mercy there to kill Where life can taste no joy.
Zeb. O spare thy daughter. Sto. Spare my child, Ham. My love. Jep. Recorded stands my vow in heav'n above. Sto. Recall the impious vow, ere 'tis too late: Ham. * And think not heav'n delights Zeb. * In Moloch's horrid rites. Jep. I'll hear no more; her doom is fix'd as fateSuch news flies swiftly; I've heard the mournful cause Of all your sorrows.--Of my father's vow, Heav'n spoke its approbation by success . Jephtha hath triumph'd.--Israel is free!
For joys so vast, too little is the price Of one poor life--but oh I accept it, heav'n A grateful victim, and thy blessings still Pour on my country, friends, and dearest father
Happy they: this vital breath With content I shall resign; And not murmur, or repine, Sinking in the arms of death.
Deeper, and deeper still, thy goodness, child, Pierceth a father's bleeding heart, and checks The cruel sentence on my falt'ring tongue Oh! let me whisper it to the raging winds, Or howling deserts; for the ears of men It is too shocking.--Yet--have I not vow'd? And can I think the great Jehovah sleeps, Like Chemosh, and such fabled deities? Ah! no; heav'n heard my thoughts, and wrote them down-- It must be so.--'Tis this that racks my brain, And pours into my breast a thousand pangs, That lash me into madness.--Horrid thought!-- My only daughter!--so dear a child, Doom'd by a father!--Yes--the vow is past, And Gilead hath triumphed o'er his foes.-- Therefore, tomorrow's dawn--I can no more.
How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees I All hid from mortal sight! All our joys to sorrow turning, And our triumphs into mourning, As the night succeeds the day. No certain bliss, No solid peace, We mortals know, On earth below- Yet on this maxim still obey. Whatever is, is right.
Part the Third.
Hide thou thy hated beams, O sun, in clouds And darkness, deep as is a father's woe.
A father, offering up his only child In vow'd return for victory and peace,
Waft her, angels, through the skies, Far above yon azure plain; Glorious there, like you, to rise, There, like you, for ever reign.
Ye sacred priests, whose hands ne'er yet were stain'd With human blood, why are ye thus afraid To execute my father's will?-- the call Of heav'n with humble resignation I obey
Farewell, ye limpid springs and floods Ye flow'ry meads and mazy woods; Farewell, thou busy world, where reign Short hours of joy, and years of pain Brighter scenes I seek above, In the realms of peace and love.
Doubtful fear, and reverent awe, Strike us, Lord, while here we bow; Check'd by thy all-sacred law, Yet commanded by the vow. In this distress, Lord, hear our pray'r, And thy determin'd will declare.
Rise, Jephtha.--and, ye reverend priests, withhold The slaught'rous hand.--No vow can disannul The law of God,--Nor such was its intent When rightly scann'd;--and yet shall be fulfill'd Thy daughter, Jephtha, thou must dedicate To god, in pure and virgin-state for ever; As not an object meet for sacrifice, Else had she fall'n an holocaust to God. The holy spirit, that dictated thy vow, Bade thus explain it, and approves your faith.
Happy, Iphis, shalt thou live; While to thee the virgin choir Tune their harps of golden wire, And their yearly tribute give. Happy, Iphis, all thy days (Pure, angelic, virgin state) Shalt thou live; and ages late Crown thee with immortal praise.
For ever blessed be thy holy name Lord God of Israel!
Theme sublime of endless praise, Just and righteous are thy ways; And thy mercies still endure, Ever faithful ever sure
Let me congratulate this happy turn, My honour'd brother, judge of Israel; Thy faith, thy courage, constancy, and truth, Nations shall sing; and in their just applause, All join to celebrate thy daughter's name.
Land her, all ye virgin train, In glad songs of choicest strain; Ye blest angels all around, Laud her in melodious sound . Virtues, that to you belong, Love, and truth, demand the song.
O let me fold thee in a mother's arms, And with submissive joy, my child, receive Thy designation to life of heav'n.
Sweet as sight to the blind, Or freedom to the slave, Such joy in thee I find, Safe from the grave. Still I'm of thee possess'd, Such is kind Heaven's decree That hath thy parents bless'd In blessing thee.
With transport, Iphis, I behold thy safety, But must for ever mourn so dear a loss: Dear, tho' great Jephtha were to honour me Still with the name of son.
'Tis heaven's aII-ruling power That checks the rising sigh; Yet let me still adore, And think an angel by, While thus each charm and beauteous line, With more than human lustre shine
My faithful Hamor, may that Providence. Which gently claims, or forces our submission Direct thee to some happier choice.
Freely I to heav'n resign, All that is in Hamor mine Joys triumphant crown thy days, And thy name eternal praise. Great the bliss assigned to me, Greater still attend on thee.
Ye house of Gilead. with one voice, In blessings manifold rejoice: Freed from war's destructive sword, Peace her plenty round shall spread, While in virtue's path ye tread. So blest are they who fear the Lord Hallelujah. Amen
þ This termination although differing from the common impression or the result of Jephtha's vow, is sanctioned by the opinions of many learned commentators upon the portion or Scripture History from whence this subject is taken -- viz., Judges, chap. x., xi.
* Those pieces marked thus * are usually omitted.