Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
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Georg Friedrich Händel

ESTHER
(1732)

An Oratorio

Words by Samuel Humphreys

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Esther (soprano)
Ahasuerus, King of Persia (alto)
Mordecai (alto)
Haman (bass)
Israelite Women (soprano & alto)
Israelite Priest (tenor)
Habdonah (tenor)
Persian Officer (tenor)


Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of Persian Soldiers


 

ACT ONE

 

1. Overture

Scene 1

Esther, Mordecai, and Chorus of Israelites.

2. Arioso

Esther
Breathe soft, ye gales! Ye rills, in silence roll!
And heav'nly peace reside in Esther's soul!

3. Air

Esther
Watchful angels, let me share
Your indulgent daily care!
O King of kings, celestial Lord!
Whose works our admiration raise:
With rapture shall my lips record
Thy Majesty's immortal praise.

4. Air

Esther
Hallelujah.

5. Recitative

Mordecai
With transport, lovely queen, I see
The wonders God has wrought for thee,
Thy blooming beauty he bestows,
To end dejected Zion's woes.
The Lord of Asia, on his throne,
Now languishes for thee alone,
And by thy empire in his breast,
Judaea may again be blest.

6. Air

Mordecai
So much beauty, sweetly blooming,
Shall thy consort's soul enslave.
In thy lovely pow'r presuming,
Ask him all thy heart can crave.
So much beauty. . . da capo

Scene 2

Ahasuerus, Haman and Officers.

7. Recitative

Ahasuerus
Let me with freedom thy petition know,
Thy virtues merit all I can bestow.

Haman
O king, forever live! Thy slave's request
Flows from the duty of a loyal breast.
The vassal Jews, through all thy realms, disdain
A due subjection to thy gracious reign;
They boast, their God will plead their cause,
Restore the temple, and their laws.
Ah! would my sovereign in his slave confide,
I soon would humble their pernicious pride,
Whose impious ardour to rebel
Captivity's too mild to quell.

Ahasuerus
Go, settle then my realm's repose,
Avenge thy monarch on his foes;
Pursue their pride with a relentless hand,
And purge rebellion from the tainted land.

8. Air

Ahasuerus
Endless flame, thy days adorning,
Glory, brighter than the morning,
Shall reward thy faithful care.
Titles, all their lustre lending,
To thy latest race descending,
Shall thy prince's love declare.
Endless flame. . . da capo

Scene 3

Haman and Officers.

9. Recitative

Habdonah
'Tis greater far to spare than to destroy.

Haman
I'll hear no more; it is decreed,
All the Jewish race shall bleed.
Hear and obey, what Haman's voice commands.
Hath not the lord of all the east
Giv'n all his power into my hands?
Hear ye, all ye nations far and wide,
Which own our monarch's sway,
Hear and obey.

10. Air

Haman
Pluck root and branch from out the land:
Shall I the God of Israel fear?
Let Jewish blood dye ev'ry hand,
Nor age, nor sex I spare.
Raze, raze their temples to the ground,
And let their place no more be found.

11. Recitative

Persian Officer
Our souls with ardour glow
To execute the blow.

12. Chorus of Persian Soldiers

Shall we the God of Israel's fear?
Nor age, nor sex we'll spare.
Pluck root and branch from out the land:
Nor age, nor sex we'll spare.

Scene 4

Israelites.

13. Recitative

Israelitish Priest
Jerusalem no more shall mourn,
In sad captivity forlorn.
The righteous God, in whom we trust,
Will be propitious to the just.
To rapture then your voices raise,
And change your sighs to songs of praise.

14. Air

Israelitish Priest
Tune your harps to cheerful strains,
Moulder idols into dust!
Great Jehovah lives and reigns,
We in great Jehovah trust.
Tune your harps. . . da capo

15. Recitative

Esther
Thus pleas'd is th'Almighty to dispense,
In ways unknown to us, His providence.

16. Air

Esther
No more disconsolate I mourn,
No more sadcloth wear;
From chains to freedom we return,
To transport from despair.

17. Recitative

Israelitish Priest
Now persecution shall lay by her iron rod;
Esther is Queen, and Esther serves the living God.
Methinks I see each stately tow'r
Of Salem rise by Esther's pow'r:
She shall break the captive chain,
And Zion learn our songs again.

18. Air

Israelitish Woman
Praise the Lord with cheerful noise,
'Wake my glory, 'wake my lyre!
Praise the Lord each mortal voice,
Praise the Lord, ye heav'nly choir!
Zion now her head shall raise:
Tune your harps to songs of praise.
Praise the Lord. . . da capo

19. Chorus of Israelites

Shall we of servitude complain,
The heavy yoke and galling chain?

Scene 5

Enter Mordecai.

20. Recitative

Mordecai
How have our sins provok'd the Lord!
Wild persecution has unsheath'd the sword.
Haman hath sent forth his decree:
The sons of Israel all
Shall in one ruin fall.

21. Accompagnato

Mordecai
Methinks I hear the mother's groans,
While babes are dashed against the stones!
I hear the infant's shriller screams,
Stabb'd at the mother's breast!
Blood stains the murderer's vest,
And through the city flows in streams.

22. Air

Mordecai
O Jordan, Jordan, sacred tide,
Shall we no more behold thee glide
The fertile vales along?
As in our great fathers' days,
Shall not thy hills resound with praise
And learn our holy song?
O Jordan. . . da capo

23. Chorus of Israelites

Ye sons of Israel mourn,
Ye never to your country shall return!

 

ACT TWO

 

Scene 1

Esther and Chorus of Israelites.

24. Chorus of Israelites

Tyrants may a while presume,
They never shall receive their doom.
But they soon shall, trembling, know,
Stern justice strikes the surest blow.

Scene 2

Enter Mordecai.

25. Recitative

Esther
Why sits that sorrow on thy brow?
Why is thy rev'rend head
With mournful ashes spread?
Why is the humble sackcloth worn?
Speak, Mordecai, my kinsman, friend,
Speak, and let Esther know,
Why all this solemn woe?

Mordecai
One fate involves us all!
Haman's decree,
To strike at me,
Hath said that ev'ry Jew shall fall.
Go, stand before the king with weeping eye.

Esther
Who goes unsummon'd, by the laws shall die.

Mordecai
Haste to the king, his mercy crave;
Trust to th'Almighty, and be brave.
Why wer't thou rais'd to Persia's throne?
Nor for thy sake alone.

26. Air

Mordecai
Dread not, righteous queen, the danger;
Love will pacify his anger;
Fear is due to God alone.
Follow great Jehovah's calling,
For thy kindred's safety falling;
Death is better than a throne.
Dread not. . . da capo

27. Recitative

Esther
I go the power of grief to prove;
Oh, may that grief compassion move!

28. Air

Esther
Tears assist me, pity moving,
Justice cruel fraud reproving.
Hear, O God, thy servant's prayer!
Is it blood that must atone,
Take, oh take my life alone,
And thy chosen people spare.

29. Recitative

Israelitish Woman
O Heav'n, protect her with thy tender care,
And make the king propitious to her pray'r!

30. Duet

Israelitish Women
Blessings, descend on downy wings!
Angels, conduct her on the way!
New life our royal Esther brings,
Since our cause she pleads today.

31. Chorus of Israelites

Save us, O Lord,
And blunt the wrathful sword.

32. Air

Mordecai
Hope, a pure and lasting treasure,
Pouring in its balmy pleasure,
Soothes the bitter pangs of woe.
Hope, to trust in Heav'n inviting,
Now with peaceful views delighting,
Clears the gloomy storm below.
Hope. . . da capo

Scene 3

Ahasuerus, Esther.

33. Recitative

Ahasuerus
Who dares intrude into our presence without our leave?
It is decreed,
He dies for this audacious deed.
Ah, Esther there!
The law condemns, but love will spare.

Esther
My spirits sink, alas I faint.

Ahasuerus
Ye powers, what paleness spreads her beauteous face!
Esther, awake, thou fairest of thy race.
Esther, awake and live, 'tis my command!
Behold the golden sceptre in my hand,
Sure sign of grace. The bloody stern decree
Was never meant, my queen, to strike at thee.

34. Duet

Esther
Who calls my parting soul from death?

Ahasuerus
Awake, my soul, my life, my breath!

Esther
Hear my suit, or else I die.

Ahasuerus
Ask, my Queen, can I deny?

35. Air

Ahasuerus
O beauteous queen, unclose those eyes!
My fairest shall not bleed;
Hear love's soft voice that bids thee rise
And bids thy suit succeed.
Ask, and 'tis granted from this hour,
Who shares our heart shall share our power.
O beauteous queen. . . da capo

36. Recitative

Esther
If I find favour in thy sight,
May the great monarch of the east
Honour my feast,
And deign to be his servant's guest.
The king and Haman I invite.

37. Air

Ahasuerus
How can I stay when love invites?
I come, my queen, to chaste delights.
With joy, with pleasure, I obey,
To thee I give the day.
How can I stay. . . da capo

Scene 4

Manent Israelites

38. Recitative

Israelitish Priest
With inward joy his visage glows,
He to the queen's apartment goes.
Beauty has his fury charm'd,
And all his wrath disarm'd.
Beauty will her pow'r maintain,
What can beauty crave in vain?

39. Air

Israelitish Woman
Heav'n has lent her ev'ry charm,
Rising fury to disarm.
And the monarch's breast will prove
That each passion yields to love.
Heav'n has lent her. . . da capo

40. Anthem

God is our hope, and he will show the king to show mercy to Jacob's race.
Blessed, blessed are all they that fear the Lord.
God save the king, long live the king, may the king live forever.
Amen, Halleluja.

 

ACT THREE

 

Scene 1

Mordecai and Chorus of Israelites.

41. Arioso

Mordecai
Jehovah crown'd with glory bright,
Surrounded with eternal light,
Whose ministers are flames of fire:
Arise, and execute thine ire!

42. Chorus of Israelites

He comes, he comes to end our woes,
And pour his vengeance on our foes.
Earth trembles, lofty mountains nod!
Jacob, arise to meet thy God!
He comes, he comes to end our woes,
And pour his vengeance on our foes.

Scene 2

Ahasuerus, Haman, Esther and Israelites.

43. Recitative

Ahasuerus
Now, O queen, thy suit declare.
Ask half my empire, and 'tis thine.

Esther
O gracious king, my people spare,
For in their lives, you strike at mine.
Reverse the dire decree!
The blow is aimed at Mordecai and me.
And is the fate of Mordecai decreed,
Who, when the ruffian's sword
Sought to destroy my royal lord,
Brought forth to light the desperate deed?

Ahasuerus
Yes, yes, I own,
To him alone
I owe my life and throne.
Say then, my queen, who dares pursue
The life to which reward is due?

Esther
'Tis Haman's hate
That signed his fate.

Ahasuerus
I swear by yon great globe of light
Which rules the day,
That Haman's sight
Shall never more behold the golden ray.

44. Air

Haman
Turn not, O queen, thy face away.
Behold me prostrate on the ground!
Oh speak, his growing fury stay,
Let mercy in thy sight be found.

45. Air

Esther
Flatt'ring tongue, no more I hear thee!
Vain are all thy cruel wiles!
Bloody wretch, no more I fear thee,
Vain thy frowns and vain thy smiles.
Tyrant, when of power possess'd,
Now thou tremblest, when distress'd.
Flatt'ring tongue. . . da capo

46. Recitative

Ahasuerus
Guards, seize the traitor, bear him hence!
Death shall reward the dire offence.
To Mordecai be honour paid:
The royal garment bring,
My diadem shall grace his head,
Let him in triumph through the streets be led,
Who saved the king.

47. Air

Ahasuerus
Through the nation he shall be
Next in dignity to me;
All my people shall revere
Merit to their prince so dear.
Daily to his honour'd name
Incense shall on altars flame,
Whilst applauding crowds around
Shall his deathless fame resound.

48. Chorus of Israelites

All applauding crowds around
Shall his deathless fame resound.

49. Air

Haman
How art thou fall'n from thy height!
Tremble, ambition, at the sight!
In power let mercy sway,
When adverse fortune is thy lot,
Lest thou by mercy be forgot,
And perish in that day.
How art thou fall'n. . . da capo

50. Duet

Esther
I'll proclaim the wond'rous story
Of the mercies I receive,
From the dayspring's dawning glory
Till the fading day of eve.

Israelitish Woman
All the blessings Heav'n is lending,
Well demand our gracious lays
To his radiant throne ascending,
Wafted on the wings of praise.

Both
In exalted rapture joining,
We'll employ our happy days,
All our grateful pow'rs combining
To declare His endless praise.

Scene 3

Israelites with Mordecai in triumph.

51. Solo (alto) and Chorus

Israelites
The Lord our enemy has slain,
Ye sons of Jacob, sing a cheerful strain!
Sing songs of praise, bow down the knee.
The worship of our God is free!
For ever bless'd be thy holy name,
Let Heav'n and earth his praise proclaim.

Alto
Halleluja!


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