The Captivity, an Oratorio

ACT I.

FIRST PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Y E captive tribes, that hourly work and weep
Where flows Euphrates murmuring to the deep,
Suspend your woes awhile, the task suspend,
And turn to God, your father and your friend.
Insulted, chain'd, and all the world our foe,
Our God alone is all we boast below.

AIR .

FIRST PROPHET .

Our God is all we boast below,
To him we turn our eyes;
And every added weight of woe
Shall make our homage rise

SECOND PROPHET .

And though no temple richly drest,
Nor sacrifice are here;
We'll make his temple in our breast,
And offer up a tear.

ISRAELITISH WOMAN .

RECITATIVE .

That strain once more; it bids remembrance rise,
And brings my long-lost country to mine eyes.
Ye fields of Sharon, drest in flowery pride,
Ye plains where Kidron rolls its glassy tide,
Ye hills of Lebanon, with cedars crown'd,
Ye Gilead groves, that fling perfumes around,
How sweet those groves, that plain how wondrous fair,
How doubly sweet when heaven was with us there!

AIR .

O memory, thou fond deceiver,
Still importunate and vain;
To former joys recurring ever,
And turning all the past to pain.

Hence intruder most distressing,
Seek the happy and the free:
The wretch who wants each other blessing,
Ever wants a friend in thee.

SECOND PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Yet why complain? What though by bonds confined,
Should bonds repress the vigour of the mind?
Have we not cause for triumph, when we see
Ourselves alone from idol worship free?
Are not this very morn those feasts begun
Where prostrate error hails the rising sun?
Do not our tyrant lords this day ordain
For superstitious rites and mirth profane?
And should we mourn? should coward virtue fly,
When vaunting folly lifts her head on high?
No; rather let us triumph still the more,
And as our fortune sinks, our spirit soar.

AIR .

The triumphs that on vice attend
Shall ever in confusion end;
The good man suffers but to gain,
And every virtue springs from pain:

As aromatic plants bestow
No spicy fragrance while they grow;
But crush'd, or trodden to the ground,
Diffuse their balmy sweets around.

FIRST PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

But hush, my sons, our tyrant lords are near,
The sounds of barbarous pleasure strike mine ear;
Triumphant music floats along the vale,
Near, nearer still, it gathers on the gale;
The growing sound their swift approach declares!
Desist, my sons, nor mix the strain with theirs

Enter Chaldean Priests attended.

FIRST PRIEST .

AIR .

Come on, my companions, the triumph display,
Let rapture the minutes employ;
The sun calls us out on this festival day,
And our monarch partakes in the joy.

SECOND PRIEST .

Like the sun, our great monarch all rapture supplies,
Both similar blessings bestow;
The sun with his splendour illumines the skies,
And our monarch enlivens below.

AIR .

CHALDEAN WOMAN .

Haste, ye sprightly sons of pleasure,
Love presents the fairest treasure,
Leave all other joys for me.

A CHALDEAN ATTENDANT .

Or rather, love's delights despising,
Haste to raptures ever rising,
Wine shall bless the brave and free

FIRST PRIEST .

Wine and beauty thus inviting,
Each to different joys exciting,
Whither shall my choice incline?

SECOND PRIEST .

I'll waste no longer thought in choosing,
But, neither this nor that refusing,
I'll make them both together mine.

FIRST PRIEST .

RECITATIVE .

But whence, when joys should brighten o'er the land,
This sullen gloom in Judah's captive band?
Ye sons of Judah, why the lute unstrung?
Or why those harps on yonder willows hung?
Come, take the lyre, and pour the strain along,
The day demands it; sing us Sion's song.
Dismiss your griefs, and join our warbling choir,
For who like you can wake the sleeping lyre?

AIR .

Every moment as it flows,
Some peculiar pleasure owes.
Come then, providently wise,
Seize the debtor ere it flies.

SECOND PRIEST .

Think not to-morrow can repay
The debt of pleasure lost to-day.
Alas! to-morrow's richest store
Can but pay its proper score.

SECOND PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Chain'd as we are, the scorn of all mankind,
To want, to toil, and every ill consign'd,
Is this a time to bid us raise the strain,
Or mix in rites that heaven regards with pain?
No, never. May this hand forget each art
That wakes to finest joys the human heart,
Ere I forget the land that gave me birth,
Or join to sounds prophane its sacred mirth!

SECOND PROPHET .

Rebellious slaves! if soft persuasion fail,
More formidable terrors shall prevail.

FIRST PROPHET .

Why, let them come, one good remains to cheer-
We fear the Lord, and scorn all other fear.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES .

Can chains or tortures bend the mind
On God's supporting breast reclined?
Stand fast, and let our tyrants see
That fortitude is victory.

ACT II.

Israelites and Chaldeans, as before.

FIRST PROPHET .

AIR .

O peace of mind, angelic guest,
Thou soft companion of the breast,
Dispense thy balmy store!
Wing all our thoughts to reach the skies,
Till earth, receding from our eyes,
Shall vanish as we soar.

FIRST PROPHET .

RECITATIVE

No more. Too long has justice been delay'd,
The king's commands must fully be obey'd;
Compliance with his will your peace secures,
Praise but our gods, and every good is yours.
But if, rebellious to his high command,
You spurn the favours offer'd from his hand,
Think, timely think, what terrors are behind;
Reflect, nor tempt to 'rage the royal mind.

AIR .

Fierce is the tempest howling
Along the furrow'd main,
And fierce the whirlwind rolling
O'er Afric's sandy plain.

But storms that fly,
To rend the sky,
Every ill presaging,
Less dreadful show
To worlds below,
Than angry monarch's raging.

ISRAELITISH WOMAN .

RECITATIVE .

Ah me! what angry terrors round us grow,
How shrinks my soul to meet the threaten'd blow!
Ye prophets, skill'd in heaven's eternal truth,
Forgive my sex's fears, forgive my youth!
Ah! let us one, one little hour obey;
To-morrow's tears may wash the stain away.

AIR .

Fatigued with life, yet loth to part,
On hope the wretch relies;
And every blow that sinks the heart
Bids the deluder rise.
Hope, like the taper's gleamy light,
Adorns the wretch's way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray.

SECOND PRIEST .

RECITATIVE .

Why this delay? at length for joy prepare.
I read your looks, and see compliance there.
Come on, and bid the warbling rapture rise,
Our monarch's fame the noblest theme supplies.
Begin, ye captive bands, and strike the lyre,
The time, the theme, the place, and all conspire.

CHALDEAN WOMAN .

AIR .

See the ruddy morning smiling,
Hear the grove to bliss beguiling;
Zephyrs through the woodland playing,
Streams along the valley straying.

FIRST PRIEST .

While these a constant revel keep,
Shall reason only teach to weep?
Hence, intruder! we'll pursue
Nature, a better guide than you.

SECOND PRIEST .

RECITATIVE .

But hold! see, foremost of the captive choir,
The master-prophet grasps his full-toned lyre.
Mark where he sits with executing art,
Feels for each tone, and speeds it to the heart;
See how prophetic rapture fills his form,
Awful as clouds that nurse the growing storm.
And now his voice, accordant to the string,
Prepares our monarch's victories to sing.

FIRST PROPHET .

AIR .

From north, from south, from east, from west,
Conspiring nations come;
Tremble, thou vice-polluted breast;
Blasphemers, all be dumb.

The tempest gathers all around,
On Babylon it lies;
Down with her! down, down to the ground;
She sinks, she groans, she dies.

SECOND PROPHET .

Down with her, Lord, to lick the dust,
Before yon setting sun;
Serve her as she hath served the just!
'Tis fix'd — It shall be done.

FIRST PRIEST .

RECITATIVE .

No more! when slaves thus insolent presume,
The king himself shall judge, and fix their doom.
Unthinking wretches! have not you, and all,
Beheld our power in Zedekiah's fall?
To yonder gloomy dungeon turn your eyes;
See where dethroned your captive monarch lies,
Deprived of sight, and rankling in his chain;
See where he mourns his friends and children slain.
Yet know, ye slaves, that still remain behind
More ponderous chains, and dungeons more confined.

CHORUS OF ALL .

Arise, all potent ruler, rise,
And vindicate thy people's cause;
Till every tongue in every land
Shall offer up unfeign'd applause.

ACT III.

RECITATIVE .

FIRST PRIEST .

Yes, my companions, Heaven's decrees are pass'd,
And our fix'd empire shall for ever last:
In vain the madd'ning prophet threatens woe,
In vain rebellion aims her secret blow;
Still shall our name and growing power be spread,
And still our justice crush the traitor's head.

AIR .

Coeval with man
Our empire began,
And never shall fall
Till ruin shakes all.
When ruin shakes all,
Then shall Babylon fall.

SECOND PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

'Tis thus the proud triumphant rear the head,
A little while, and all their power is fled.
But ha! what means yon sadly plaintive train,
That onward slowly bends along the plain?
And now, behold, to yonder bank they bear
A palled corse, and rest the body there.
Alas! too well mine eyes indignant trace
The last remains of Judah's royal race.
Fall'n is our king, and all our fears are o'er,
Unhappy Zedekiah is no more.

AIR .

Ye wretches who by fortune's hate
In want and sorrow groan,
Come ponder his severer fate
And learn to bless your own.

FIRST PROPHET .

You vain, whom youth and pleasure guide,
Awhile the bliss suspend;
Like yours, his life began in pride,
Like his, your lives shall end.

FIRST PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Behold his wretched corse with sorrow worn,
His squalid limbs by ponderous fetters torn;
Those eyeless orbs that shock with ghastly glare,
Those unbecoming rags, that matted hair!
And shall not Heaven for this avenge the foe,
Grasp the red bolt, and lay the guilty low!
How long, how long, Almighty God of all,
Shall wrath vindictive threaten ere it fall!

ISRAELITISH WOMAN .

AIR .

As panting flies the hunted hind,
Where brooks refreshing stray;
And rivers through the valley wind,
That stop the hunter's way.
Thus we, O Lord, alike distressed,
For streams of mercy long;
Streams which cheer the sore oppressed,
And overwhelm the strong.

FIRST PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

But whence that shout? Good heavens! amazement all!
See yonder tower just nodding to the fall:
Behold, an army covers all the ground,
'Tis Cyrus here that pours destruction round: —
And now behold the battlements recline —
Oh God of hosts, the victory is thine!

CHORUS OF CAPTIVES .

Down with them, Lord, to lick the dust;
Thy vengeance be begun;
Serve them as they have served the just
And let thy will be done.

FIRST PRIEST .

RECITATIVE .

All, all is lost. The Syrian army fails,
Cyrus, the conqueror of the world, prevails,
The ruin smokes, the torrent pours along, —
How low the proud, how feeble are the strong!
Save us, O Lord! to Thee, though late, we pray;
And give repentance but an hour's delay.

FIRST AND SECOND PRIEST .

AIR .

O haply, who in happy hour
To God their praise bestow,
And own his all-consuming power
Before they feel the blow!

SECOND PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Now, now's our time! ye wretches bold and blind,
Brave but to God, and cowards to mankind,
Ye seek in vain the Lord unsought before,
Your wealth, your lives, your kingdom, are no more.

AIR .

O Lucifer, thou son of morn,
Of Heaven alike and man the foe;
Heaven, men, and all,
Now press thy fall,
And sink thee lowest of the low.

FIRST PROPHET .

O Babylon, how art thou fallen!
Thy fall more dreadful from delay!
Thy streets forlorn
To wilds shall turn,
Where toads shall pant, and vultures prey.

SECOND PROPHET .

RECITATIVE .

Such be her fate. But hark! how from afar
The clarion's note proclaims the finish'd war!
Our great restorer, Cyrus, is at hand,
And this way leads his formidable band.
Give, give your songs of Sion to the wind,
And hail the benefactor of mankind:
He comes pursuant to divine decree,
To chain the strong, and set the captive free.

CHORUS OF YOUTHS .

Rise to transports past expressing,
Sweeter by remember'd woes;
Cyrus comes our wrongs redressing,
Comes to give the world repose.

CHORUS OF VIRGINS .

Cyrus comes, the world redressing,
Love and pleasure in his train;
Comes to heighten every blessing,
Comes to soften every pain.

SEMI-CHORUS .

Hail to him with mercy reigning,
Skill'd in every peaceful art;
Who from bonds our limbs unchaining,
Only binds the willing heart.

THE LAST CHORUS .

But chief to thee, our God, defender, friend,
Let praise be given to all eternity;
O Thou, without beginning, without end,
Let us, and all begin, and end, in Thee!
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