Page images





Chephren. Sethos.

Sethos.- Whence come you?

Chephren.-From the desert. I have seen Israel's departure.

Sethos. — Then the slaves are gone? Tell me the manner of their going.

Chephren.–Midnight Was scarcely past, when, mingling with the crowd, And full of terror, I moved on to Goshen. The embassy from Pharaoh went before. The multitude increased. From all parts poured Old men and children, mothers giving suck, Their infants at their breasts, only intent On thrusting out the Hebrews. Onward still We moved. I was among the first. But oh, How marvellous ! we found the myriads Of Israel, from all parts of Goshen gathered, Round Rameses encamped, a countless army, All marshalled and equipped ; loins girt for travel ; Their bread unleavened, with their goods bound up, And on their shoulders : each man in his hand Grasping his staff. We urged them to be gone. They answer made by begging of us gold, Money and jewels, which we freely gave.


'Twas but an instant. They were on their march Towards the desert. Never shall I forget That awful movement. On, it was sublime ! 'Twas like a triumph. For, as they set forward,

* Concluded from page 262, Vol. lii.


One universal song burst from their tribes,
Loud and surpassing sweet, to their Jehovah.
Forgetting our disgrace, we raised a shout
So powerful, that our sacred Nile lifted
Up from his hidden bed his hoary head,
To listen.

Sethos.--You speak, methinks, most glowingly.

Chephren.--I know not how I feel. Egypt is changed.
Time was, when, at the death of Apis, all,
Both rich and poor, had mourned ; but, by these plagues,
Our gods have died, and we regard it not :
Nay, every house hath its own cause for mourning;
And yet, forgetful of our private sorrows,
We seemed intoxicate with joy, as if
At the departure of the Hebrews, we
Had triumphed. Myriads of the people have
Left their dead kindred, and their native land,
To go with Israel.

Sethos.- Alas, poor country!
Both man and beast were victims. The embalmers
Cannot preserve the putrefying corpses ;
The streets are filled with funeral processions ;
Every man is a mourner; the whole land
A grave. Deep gloom and horror sit
On every face, as if some fatal doom
Hung over us; and all the city pants,
As in the hush of fearful expectation.

Chephren.—And Pharaoh?

Sethos.-He has been invisible
From that dread midnight. No one dares disturb him.

Chephren.-At least the Hebrews are beyond his reach.

Sethos.-I know not that. Those who know Pharaoh best,
Think he will not so tamely yield. The contest
Is not yet ended; but may lead to scenes
More terrible than any that are past.
What monstrous thing has happened?

Enter a Page.
Page.-Pharaoh is roused;
And his first word was to inquire for Jambres.
A messenger was instantly dispatched
To bring him hither.


Pharaoh, alone.
O lost ! lost! lost! The very sport of fate !
But now the monarch of the world; and now,

[ocr errors]

Stripped, blasted! Why did death, in his red path,
Pass over me? Why strike at him? O Menes!
My noble son!

Yet since I have escaped,
May it not be a presage that I shall
Yet conquer ? that the God of Israel
Had no power over me? or he had struck
Me first, his greatest foe? I will forbid
Israel's departure. What more can I suffer

Shall Pharaoh be a by-word among men ;
The song of bards to future generations ;
A name for distant lands to wonder at ;
While Israel's victory o'er the baffled tyrant
Is chaunted in a thousand nations' songs ?
Never! I feel an impulse irresistible
That moves me onward. Silent monitor!
Be thou from heaven or hell, I welcome thee.
I stake


this hazard : conquer,
Or bravely fall. So future times shall sing
Of Pharaoh the invincible ! But first,
Moses and Pheron shall be put to death.

Pharaoh. Jambres.

Jambres.—May Pharaoh live for ever, and his foes Be crushed beneath his feet !

Pharaoh.—Jambres, at once
Forbid the Hebrews to depart.

Jambres.-My lord,
They are gone, and by this time have passed the bounds
Of Egypt.

Pharaoh.-Gone !

Jambres.-At the first word they went,
While yet all Egypt shook with terror.

Pharaoh.-Gone !
It is impossible. 'Twould take whole days
And weeks for preparation. You but dream.

Jambres.-At midnight, when our messengers arrived,
They found all ready. Standing on their feet,
The Hebrews waited but the signal, Swift
They marched, loaded with gifts : and have despoiled
All Egypt of its wealth.

Pharaoh.-I'll after them
With horse and chariot ! Swift as the eagle flies,
We'll track and swoop upon the frightened crowds,
And drink our fill of blood. Now, listen, Jambres.
Use your enchantments ; speak some potent curse ;
Gain all the gods and stars upon our side.
Aid me in this : I'll give you what you ask,
Even to half my kingdom.

Jambres.-We've felt the fearful might of Israel's God.
But still our gods are many. They, perchance,
For sacrifice neglected, or some rite,
Frown on us, and withhold their mighty shield.
Where was this great Jehovah, when, long ages,
He left his cherished people in our power,
Under base bondage? We were masters then,
And our gods triumphed. So they mav again.
We will implore their favour with rich offerings.
Let noble hecatombs smoke on their altars ;
And red libations stream along their pavements.
We will observe the omens, watch the heavens,
And fortune yet will smile upon us. Meanwhile,
Muster your troops ; your countless chariots ;
Your cavalry that awes the world. Pursue,
And overtake: slay; wreak your vengeance !
None can escape.

Pharaoh.-It shall be done. At once,
Light all your altars, and prepare the victims.
We'll awe the slaves into submission.
They are entangled in the land, the mountains,
And the rough passes of the wilderness.
Meet me to-night at Rameses.


The Hebrews encamped. Moses. Joshua.

Moses,-Pain brings forth pleasure. Light is born of darkn 89. Heaven leads through wondrous and mysterious paths The man predestined to great deeds and honours. Strange and eventful have the changing scenes Been of my life. My manhood's earliest dawn Was spent in palaces, and halls of learning, 'Mid sumptuous banquets, and brave feats of arms ; Son of a princess : yet God gave me

To scorn proud Egypt's wealth and guilty pleasures,
And choose affliction with his lowly people.

Yet what remains more strange. In desert deeps,
Twice twenty years the habitant of rocks
And unsunned caves in Midian's wilderness,
From men and cities far, save the rude race
Of shepherds. Thus my noon of life was passed,
A tent my habitation; all my


To tend my straggling flocks, and meditate
On nature and on wisdom. Then the years
Rolled round in tranquil pleasure, beyond that
Of courts and kings. When on my rustic pipe
I wove the texture of some lay, sacred
To great Jehovah ; when in mountain cave
Retired, filled with prophetic inspiration,
I wrote the world's old chronicles, the deeds
Of our great fathers, heaven itself was there.

And thee, my son, by means seeming unfit,
God is preparing for his work ; by suffering
And bondage under cruel taskmasters,
Forming the future conqueror of Canaan.
Through fields of carnage, deluges of blood,
O’er heaps of human carcases, thy path
To glory lies. These nations are foredoomed,
Not that alone they wrongfully usurped
Our promised country; but their rampant crimes,
Foul and unnatural, call on heaven for vengeance.

Joshua.-Yet it is terrible to scatter ruin,
And be the blasting minister of wrath.
O lovelier far, herald of peace, to strew
Blessings on earth.

Moses.—Yet in this world of sin
The gentlest nature must sometimes put on
Rough armour, and perforce wield deadly weapons.
But see, the tribes assemble.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Moses, Joshua, and Hebrews, assembled.
Moses. -Children of Israel, we have marched in safety,
And God has watched around our place of rest.
To him give thanks, who makes the darkness safe
As noontide light. Get ready to set forward,-
Long is our journey ; long, and full of toil ;
Through weary deserts; amid hostile nations ;
Beneath fierce suns, by day, and frosts, by night.
But be courageous.

Canaan lies beyond;
And God is ever with us.


Dear is the promised land

To Israel's pilgrim band,
Scene of our fathers' wanderings, and their tomb.

Dear is the hallowed sod

That angels' feet have trod,
Who pitched their flaming tents round Israel's home.

O’er all that sacred ground

Spirits still hover round,
And fiery hosts unseen their vigils keep :

« PreviousContinue »