Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
Go to the Libretto Homepage


Georg Friedrich Händel



An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama

Words by Samuel Humphreys


Deborah (soprano)

Barak (alto)

Abinoam (bass)

Sisera (alto)

Jael (soprano)

An Israelite Woman (soprano)

Chief Priest of Israelites (bass)

Chief Priest of Baal (bass)

Herald (tenor)

Chorus of the Priests and Israelites

Chorus of the Priests of Baal




1. Overture

Scene 1

Deborah, Barak, Israelites, Officers, and Chorus of Israelite Priests.

2. Chorus of Israelites

Immortal Lord of earth and skies,
Whose wonders all around us rise,
Whose anger, when it awful glows,
To swift perdition dooms thy foes;
Oh, grant a leader to our host,
Whose name, with honour, we may boast,
Whose conduct may our cause maintain,
And break our proud oppressors' chain.

3. Recitative

O Barak, favour'd of the skies,
O son of Abinoam, rise!
Heav'n by thy arm his people saves,
And dooms our tyrants for our slaves.

O Deborah, with wise prediction blest,
To whom futurity stands forth confest,
Will Heav'n on me a gift so great bestow,
And grace the meanest of his servants so?

4. Duet

Where do thy ardours raise me?
How shall I soar to fame?
Shall then my conduct praise me,
And thus adorn my name?

Trust in the God that fires thee,
To vindicate his laws;
Act now as he inspires thee,
Thou shalt revive our cause.

5. Chorus of Israelites

Forbear thy doubts! To arms, away!
Thy God commands; do thou obey.

6. Recitative

Since Heav'n has thus his will express'd,
Submission, now, becomes me best;
But ere we stand in arms array'd,
O Prophetess, implore his aid,
And let uniting Judah join
To supplicate the pow'r divine.

7. Soli and Chorus

For ever to the voice of pray'r
Jehovah lends a gracious ear.

8. Accompagnato

By that adorable decree,
That chaos cloth'd with symmetry;
By that resistless pow'r that made
Refulgent brightness start from shade,
That still'd contending atoms' strife,
And spake creation into life;
O thou supreme, transcendent Lord,
Thy succours to our cries accord.

9. Chorus of Israelites

Oh, hear thy lowly servants' pray'r,
And grant them thy propitious care.

10. Recitative

Ye sons of Israel, cease your fears,
Jehovah your petition hears:
The impious chief of Canaan's host,
Who made our fall his daring boast,
Shall perish on the crimson sand,
Ignobly by a woman's hand.

11. Chorus of Israelites

Oh blast, with thy tremendous brow,
The tyrants that insult us now.

12. Recitative

To whomsoe'er his fate the tyrant owes,
My breast no pangs of pining envy knows.
Thy lovely sex, O Deborah, may claim
Equal prerogative with man in fame;
And none, but savage breasts alone,
That charming merit can disown.

13. Air

How lovely is the blooming fair,
Whose beauty virtue's laws refine,
She well may claim our softest care,
For sure she almost seems divine.

Scene 2

Enter Jael.

14. Recitative

O Deborah! Where'er I turn my eyes,
Grim scenes of war, in all their horrors, rise.
Oh, grant me in my green retreat,
Where solitude has fix'd her seat,
To live in peace, sequester'd far,
From dire alarms and sanguine war.

Hear me then, Jael! Let no fear
Of proud hostility thy peace impair;
For Heav'n has made thee its peculiar care.
Thy virtue, ere the close of day,
Shall shine with such a bright display,
That thou shalt be, by all, confess'd
Thy sex's pride, divinely bless'd.

15. Air

Choirs of angels, all around thee,
Lest oppression should confound thee,
Watchful wait in radiant throngs;
Judah's God, array'd in splendour,
Deigns to be thy great defender
From all meditated wrongs.
Choirs of angels. . . da capo

16. Recitative

My transports are too great to tell;
On the dear theme I could for ever dwell.
God does not only condescend
My life from danger to defend,
But keeps for me such joys in store,
Ambition could not ask for more.

17. Air

To joy He brightens my despair,
No rising pangs my peace control;
He guards me with a father's care,
And pours His mercy on my soul.
To joy. . . da capo

Scene 3

Abiboam, Deborah, Barak and Chorus.

18. Recitative

Barak, my son, the joyful sound
Of acclamations all around,
Gives me to know the glorious weight of cares
God for thy fortitude prepares.
Swift may thy virtue Judah's hopes outrun,
And make thy father boast of such a son!

19. Air

Awake the ardour of thy breast,
For victory, or death, prepare;
Let all thy virtue shine confess'd,
And leave the rest to Heav'n's care.
Should conquest crown thee in the field,
Be humble, or if death's thy doom,
Thy life with resignation yield,
And crowds will envy thee thy tomb.
Awake the ardour. . . da capo

20. Recitative

I go where Heav'n and duty call,
Prepar'd to conquer, or to fall.

21. Air

All danger disdaining,
For battle I glow;
Thy glory maintaining,
I'll rush on the foe.
Though death all around me
Stalks dreadfully pale,
No fear shall counfound me,
My cause shall prevail.
All danger. . . da capo

22. Chorus of Israelites

Let thy deeds by glorious,
And thy hand victorious.

Scene 4

Enter Herald from the camp of Sisera.

23. Recitative

My charge is to declare
From Sisera, a name renown'd in war,
That he with indignation knows
How you presume to be his foes:
Yet such compassion in his bosom reigns,
That ere he galls ye with redoubled chains,
He condescends to offer these your chiefs
An interview, that he may learn your griefs;
And the sad waste of human blood to save,
Will grant you all that slaves may dare to crave.

Proud infidels! Go,let the boaster hear
He breathes no wrath we condescend to fear.
Tell him, besides, that Judah now prepares
For interview, or battle, as he dares.

Exit Herald.

Scene 5

Deborah, Barak, Abinoam and Chorus.

Let him approach pacific or in rage,
We in the cause of liberty engage.

Whilst that bright motive in our bosom glows,
We dread no menace, and we shun no foes.

24. Chorus of Israelites

Despair all around them,
Shall swiftly counfound them,
Whilst transports of joy
Our praise shall employ.




Scene 1

Deborah, Barak, Abinoam, Jael, Israelite Women, Chorus of Israelite Priests, and Sisera attended by a Chorus of the Priests of Baal.

25. Chorus of Israelites

See, the proud chief advances now,
With sullen march and gloomy brow;
Jacob, arise, assert thy God,
And scorn oppression's iron rod.

Enter Sisera.

Scene 2

26. Recitative

That here rebellious arms I see,
Proud Deborah, proceeds from thee!
But, wouldst thou yet thy vain ambition cease,
Whilst our affronted mercy offers peace,
Bow down submissive, ere th'impending blow
Lays thee, and all thy lost associates, low.

27. Air

At my feet extended low,
Favour by thy tears engage;
Or thou soon shalt, trembling, know
Slighted mercy turns to rage.

28. Recitative

Go frown, barbarian,
Where thou art fear'd:
None but our God is here rever'd;
Our breasts his inspiration warms,
To vindicate our cause by arms;
And, to thy ruin, thou shalt know
What 'tis to find that God thy foe.

29. Air

In Jehovah's awful sight,
Haughty tyrants are but dust;
Those who glory in their might,
Place in vanity their trust.

30. Recitative

Yes, how your God in wonders can excel,
Your low captivity demonstrates well.

31. Air

Whilst you boast the wondrous story
Of your God's transcendent glory,
Has he free'd you from our chain?
Think, oh think, to your confusion,
All you trust in is illusion,
All your flatt'ring hopes are vain.

32. Air

Impious mortal, cease to brave us!
Great Jehovah soon will save us,
And his time we wait with pleasure;
All his people he'll defend,
And on their oppressors send
Plagues and vengeance without measure.

33. Recitative

Chief Priest of Baal
Behold the nations all around,
What God like Baal is renown'd?
To him your stubborn tribes would bow,
Did but the slaves their duty know.

34. Chorus of Baal's Priests

O Baal, monarch of the skies!
To whom unnumber'd temples rise;
From thee the sun, immensely bright,
Receiv'd his radiant robes of light;
By thee with stars the heavens glow,
The ocean swells and rivers flow;
The vales with verdure are array'd,
The flow'rs perfume the thickets's shade;
And 'tis by the event confess'd
Thy votaries alone are bless'd.

35. Recitative

Chief Priest of the Israelites
No more, ye infidels, no more!
False is the god whom ye adore;
A dull brute idol, whose detested shrine
None but such wretches can believe divine.

36. Chorus of Israelites

Lord of Eternity, who hast in store
Plagues for the proud, and mercy for the poor;
Look down, look down from thy celestial throne,
And let the terrors of thy wrath be known!
Plead thy just cause, thy awful pow'r disclose,
Avenge thy servants, and confound their foes.

37. Recitative

Deborah (to Sisera and his followers)
By His great name, and His alone,
Whose deity you dare disown,
Whose kindled wrath ye soon shall know
Will prove him a tremendous foe,
Fly, I conjure ye, from this place,
Too sacred for a throng so base.

We go, but ye shall quickly mourn,
In tears of blood, our dire return.

38. Soli & Chorus

All your boast will end in woe.

Farewell, despicable foe.

Baal's Priest
Mighty Baal's aid we crave.

Baal has no pow'r to save.

Baal's Priests
Baal's pow'r ye soon shall know.

Poor deluded mortals, go!

Exeunt Sisera and Priests of Baal.

39. Recitative

Great prophetess, my soul's on fire
To execute the ardours you inspire;
O that the fight were now begun!
My father should not blush to call me son.

40. Air

In the battle, fame pursuing,
We'll with slaughter float the plains;
And our tyrants, low in ruin,
Soon shall wear their captives' chains.
In the battle. . . da capo

41. Recitative

Thy ardours warm the winter of my age,
Its weakness strengthen and its pains assuage;
And well dost thou our impious foes deride,
Justice is thine, and God is on thy side.

42. Air

Swift inundation
Of desolation
Pour on the nation
Of Judah's foes;
Can fame delight thee,
Can Heav'n incite thee,
They now invite thee
To end our woes.
Swift. . . da capo

43. Recitative

Israelite Woman
O Judah, with what joy I see
The blessings Heav'n preserves for thee.

44. Air

Israelite Woman
No more disconsolate I'll mourn,
No more sad sackcloth wear;
From chains to freedom we return,
To transport from despair.

45. Recitative

Now, Jael, to thy tent retire,
Our bosoms for the battle fire;
But know, thy solitude will thee supply
With glory that shall never die.

46. Air

Oh, the pleasure my soul is possessing
At the prospect of mercies so dear.
May my bosom be ever expressing
With what raptures my God I revere.
Oh, the pleasure. . . da capo

47. Recitative

Barak, we now to battle go,
And rush with ruin on the foe.

48. Duet

Smiling freedom, lovely guest,
Balmy source of softest joy,
Mortals by thy aid are blest
With such charms that never cloy.

Thy dear presence to obtain,
Sweetly smoothing ev'ry care,
Who would dread the hostile plain,
Who each danger would not dare?

49. Chorus of Israelites

The great King of kings will aid us today;
His praises let all with transport display.




Scene 1

Enter Deborah and Barak with the victorious army of the Israelites, return'd from the pursuit of the Canaanites, and attended with the Israelite Women. Chorus of Israelite Priests, and captives, among whom are the Priests of Baal.

50. A Grand Military Symphony & Chorus

Now the proud insulting foe
Prostrate on the ground lies low;
Broken chariots, hills of slain,
Load the wide, extended plain.

51. Recitative

Israelite Woman
The haughty foe, whose pride to Heav'n did soar,
Is fall'n, is fall'n, and Canaan is no more.

52. Air

Israelite Woman
Now sweetly smiling peace descends,
And waves her downy wings;
Each blessing in her train attends,
Each joy around her springs.

Scene 2

To them Abinoam.

53. Recitative

My pray'rs are heard, the blessings of this day
All my past cares and anguish well repay;
The soldiers to each other tell
My Barak has perform'd his duty well.

My honour'd father.

O my son, my son,
Well has thy youth the race of honour run.

54. Air

Tears, such as tender fathers shed,
Warm from my aged eyes descend,
For joy to think, when I am dead,
My son shall have mankind his friend.

Scene 3

To them Jael.

55. Recitative

O Deborah, my fears are o'er;
Proud Sisera is now no more.

56. Chorus of Baal's Priests

Doleful tidings, how ye wound;
Despair and death are in that sound.

57. Air

Israelite Woman
Our fears are now for ever fled,
Our eyes no more shall flow;
Swift vengeance has laid low the head
Of our imperious foe.

58. Recitative

I saw the tyrant breathless in her tent,
Her arm his soul to endless darkness sent.
But see, the glad assembly wait to know
How thou didst rid them of so fierce a foe.
Already hast thou told it me,
But the relation will please more from thee.

When from the battle that proud captain fled,
Vengeance divine to my pavilion led
The trembling fugitive; who, pale with care,
Besought me, panting, to conceal him there;
With flaming thirst, and anguish in his look,
He ask'd for water from the limpid brook;
But milk I gave him in a copious bowl;
With ecstacy he quaff'd, and cooled his soul,
And then, with his laborious flight opprest,
In some few moments he sunk down to rest.
Then I was conscious, Heav'n, that happy hour
Had placed the foe of Judah in my pow'r:
The workman's hammer and a nail I seized,
And whilst his limbs in deep repose he eas'd,
I through his bursting temples forc'd the wound,
And rivetted the tyrant to the ground.

59. Air

Tyrant, now no more we dread thee,
All thy insolence is o'er;
Justice to thy ruin led thee;
Thou art fall'n to rise no more.
Tyrant. . . da capo

60. Recitative

If, Jael, I aright divine,
When men hereafter would proclaim
All that is noble by one name,
O Jael, they will mention thine.

61. Air

The glorious sun shall cease to shed
His beamy treasure from the skies;
And merit shall be virtues's dread
Whene'er thy bless'd memorial dies.

62. Recitative

May Heav'n, with kind profusion, shed
Its chosen joys on Jael's head.

63. Air

Low at her feet he bow'd, he fell,
And laid in dust his haughty head;
And late posterity shall tell
That where he bowed, he fell down dead.

64. Accompagnato

O great Jehovah! May Thy foes
Thus perish, who Thy laws oppose.
But oh, let all who love Thy praise,
And dedicate to Thee their days,
Shine like the sun, divinely bright,
When forth he marches in his might,
To run his radiant race of light.

65. Chorus of Israelites

Let our glad songs to Heav'n ascend,
For Judah's God is Judah's friend.
Oh, celebrate his sacred name,
With gratitude his praise proclaim.

Initially input by Pierre Degott (; HTML conversion by Potharn Imre (