Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
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Georg Friedrich Händel


A Sacred Drama

Words by Thomas Morell


Joshua (tenor)

Othniel (alto)

Caleb (bass)

Achsah, Caleb's Daughter (soprano)

Angel (boy soprano)

Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of the defeated Israelites
Chorus of the Tribe of Judah
Chorus of Youths
Chorus of Virgins




1. Introduction

Scene 1

Joshua, Caleb, Othniel, Achsah, High Priest, Chiefs and Elders of Israel.

2. Chorus of Israelites

(after the miraculous passage of the Jordan, and entrance into Canaan)
Ye sons of Israel, ev'ry tribe attend,
Let grateful songs and hymns to Heav'n ascend!
In Gilgal, and on Jordan's banks proclaim
One first, one great, one Lord Jehovah's name.

3. Recitative

Behold, my friends, what vast rewards are giv'n
To all the just, who place their faith in Heav'n!
Oh, had your sires obey'd divine command,
They too, like you, had reach'd the promis'd land;
But rebels to the laws th'Almighty gave,
They, in the desert, met an early grave.

O Joshua, both to rule and bless ordain'd!
When Moses the eternal mansions gain'd,
What boundless gratitude to Heav'n we owe,
That did in thee a chief so wise bestow!
Courage and conduct shine in thee complete,
Justice and mercy fill thy judgment seat.

4. Air

O first in wisdom, first in pow'r!
Jehovah ev'ry blessing show'r
Around Thy sacred head!
The neighb'ring realms with envy see
The happiness and liberty
O'er all thy people spread.

5. Recitative

Matrons and virgins, with unwearied pray'r,
Solicit Heav'n for thee, their fav'rite care.
The first lawgiver broke th'Egyptian chain;
And, by thy hallow'd aid, we Canaan gain.

6. Air

Oh, who can tell, oh, who can hear
Of Egypt, and not shed a tear?
Or, who will not on Jordan smile,
Releas'd from bondage on the Nile?

7. Recitative

Caleb, attend to all I now prescribe;
One righteous man select from ev'ry tribe,
To bear twelve stones from the divided flood,
Where the priests' feet, and holy cov'nant stood;
In Gilgal place them! Hence twelve more provide,
And fix them in the bosom of the tide!
These when our sons shall view with curious eye,
Thus the historic columns shall reply:

8. Solo and Chorus

To long posterity we here record
The wondrous passage, and the land restor'd:

To long posterity we here record
The wondrous passage, and the land restor'd:
In wat'ry heaps affrighted Jordan stood,
And backward to the fountain roll'd his flood.

9. Accompagnato

So long the memory shall last,
Of all the tender mercies past.

10. Air

While Kedron's brook to Jordan's stream
Its silver tribute pays,
Or while the glorious sun shall beam
On Canaan golden rays,
So long the memory shall last
Of all the tender mercies past.

Scene 2

Othniel, Joshua. Angel appearing.

11. Recitative

But, who is he, tremendous to behold,
A form divine in panoply of gold?
With dignity of mien, and stately grace,
He moves in solemn, slow, majestic pace;
His auburn locks his comely shoulders spread,
A sword his hand, a helmet fits his head;
His warlike visage, and his sparkling eye
Bespeak a hero, or an angel nigh.

12. Air

Awful, pleasing being say,
If from Heav'n thou wing'st thy way!
Deign to let thy servant know,
If a friend, or pow'rful foe!

13. Recitative

Joshua, I come commission'd from on high,
The captain of the host of God am I;
Loose from thy feet thy shoes, for all around,
The place whereon thou stand'st is holy ground.

Low on the earth, oh, prostrate let me bend,
And thy behests with reverence attend!

14. Accompagnato

Leader of Israel, 'tis the Lord's decree,
That Jericho must fall, and fall by thee,
The tyrant king, and all his heathen train,
At their own idol-altars shall be slain,
Th'embattI'd walls, and tow'rs, that reach the sky,
Shall perish, and in dusty ruin lie;
Scatter'd in air, their ashes shall be tossed,
The place, the name, and all remembrance lost.

15. Recitative

To give command, prerogative is thine,
And humbly to obey, the duty's mine.

16. Air

Haste, Israel haste, your glitt'ring arms prepare!
With valour abounding,
The city surrounding,
Deal death and dreadful war!

17. Chorus of Israelites

The Lord commands, and Joshua leads,
Jericho falls, the tyrant bleeds.

Scene 3

Otniel, Achsah.

18. Accompagnato

In these blest scenes, where constant pleasure reigns,
And herds and bleating flocks adorn the plains;
Where the soft season all its blessings sheds,
Refreshing rivers, and enamell'd meads,
Here, in the covert of some friendly shade,
Direct me, love, to Achsah, blooming maid!

O Othniel, Othniel!

'Tis my name I hear!
Othniel, in melting accents, strikes my ear.

O Othniel, valiant youth,
May Heav'n reward thy love and truth!

19. Recitative

'Tis Achsah's voice! Who, but that heav'nly fair,
Could breathe so tender and so sweet a pray'r?

But see, he comes! He heard, and knows his pow'r.

20. Accompagnato

Hail, lovely virgin of this blissful bow'r!
How sweet the music of thy tuneful tongue!

These praises to the feather'd choir belong.

21. Air

Hark, 'tis the linnet and the thrush!
In dulcet notes,
They pour their throats,
And wake the morn on ev'ry bush.
From morn to eve they chaunt their love,
And fill with melody the grove.
Hark, 'tis the linnet. . . da capo

22. Recitative

O Achsah, form'd for ev'ry chaste delight,
T'inspire the virtuous thought and charm the sight!
Thy presence gilds the variegated scene,
To the green olive adds a brighter green,
White to the lily, blushes to the rose,
With deeper red the rich pomgranate glows;
The fruits their flavour, flow'rs their odour prove,
And here we taste true liberty and love.

23. Duet

Achsah and Othniel
Our limpid streams with freedom flow,
And feel no icy chains;
No moulded hail, no fleecy snow,
Pollute our fruitful plains.
The years one vernal circle move,
And still the same like Othniel's/Achsah's love.

Trumpets flourish.

24. Recitative

The trumpet calls; now Jericho shall know
What 'tis to have a lover for a foe.
The city conquer'd, I shall hope to find
Thy father Caleb, like his Achsah, kind.

25. Chorus of Israelites

May all the host of Heav'n attend him round,
And angels waft him back, with conquest crown'd!




Scene 1

Before Jericho. Joshua, Caleb, Achsah, Chiefs and Chorus.
The Priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant.

26. Recitative

'Tis well; six times the Lord hath been obey'd,
Low in the dust the town shall soon be laid.
Now the seventh sun the gilded domes adorns,
Sound the shrill trumpets, shout, and blow the horns.

A solemn march during the circumvection of the Ark of the Covenant.

27. Solo and Chorus

Joshua (the walls of Jericho falling)
Glory to God!

Glory to God! The strong cemented walls,
The tott'ring tow'rs, the pond'rous ruin falls.
The nations tremble at the dreadful sound,
Heav'n thunders, tempests roar, and groans the ground.

28. Recitative

The walls are levelI'd, pour the chosen bands,
With hostile gore imbrue your thirsty hands,
Set palaces and temples in a blaze,
Sap the foundations, and the bulwarks raze.
But oh, remember, in the bloody strife,
To spare the hospitable Rahab's life.

29. Air

See, the raging flames arise,
Hear, the dismal groans and cries!
The fatal day of wrath is come,
Proud Jericho hath met her doom.

30. Air

To vanity and earthly pride,
How short a date is giv'n!
The firmest rock, that shall abide,
Is confidence in Heav'n.


Scene 2

The Passover. Joshua, Caleb, Othniel, Achsah, High Priest,
Priests, Chiefs, Elders, and a full assembly of people.

31. Recitative

Let all the seed of Abrah'm now prepare
To celebrate this feast, with pious care.
Ages unborn, by this example led,
Shall bleed the lamb, and bake th'unleaven'd bread.

32. Solo and Chorus

Almighty Ruler of the skies,
Accept our vows and sacrifice!

Thy mercy did with Israel dwell,
When the first-born of Egypt fell.
But oh, what wonders did the Lord
At the Red Sea to us afford!
He made our passage on dry ground,
While Pharaoh and his host were drown'd.
He through the dreary desert led,
He slaked our thirst, with manna fed.
His glory did on Sinai shine,
When we receiv'd the law divine.

Scene 3

Joshua, Caleb.

33. Recitative

Joshua, the men dispatch'd by thee to learn
The strength of Ai, and country to discern,
Elate with pride, deluded by success,
Despis'd their pow'r and made the people less.
Easy of faith, we trust what they relate,
And now the hasty error find too late:
Our troops with shame repuls'd! Oh, fatal day!
Hark, Israel mourns, triumphs the King of Ai!

34. Chorus of the defeated Israelites

How soon our tow'ring hopes are cross'd!
The foe prevails, our glory's lost!
Again shall Israel bondage know,
Oh, sheathe the sword, unbend the bow.

35. Recitative

Whence this dejection? Rouse your coward hearts,
Let courage edge your swords, and point your darts.
Remember Jericho, and sure success
Shall crown your arms; the Lord our cause shall bless.

36. Air and Chorus

With redoubled rage return,
Ev'ry breast with fury burn,
And the heathen soon shall feel
The force of your avenging steel.

We with redoubled rage return,
All our breasts with fury burn.
The heathen nation soon shall feel
The force of our avenging steel.


Scene 4

Othniel, Achsah.

37. Recitative

Now give the army breath; let war awhile
Smooth his rough front, and wear a cheerful smile.
The interval, if Achsah but approve,
I'll consecrate to virtue and to love.

38. Air

Heroes when with glory burning,
All their toil with pleasure bear;
And believe, to love returning,
Laurel wreaths beneath their care.
War to hardy deeds invites,
Love the danger well requites.
Heroes. . . da capo

39. Recitative

Indulgent Heav'n hath heard my virgin pray'r,
And made my Othniel its peculiar care.
When he is absent, sighs my hours employ,
When he returns, transporting is the joy.

40. Air

As cheers the sun the tender flow'r,
That sinks beneath a falling show'r
And rears its drooping head,
Thy presence doth my pow'rs control,
Darts joy, like lightning, through my soul,
And all my cares are fled.

Scene 5

To them Caleb.

41. Recitative

Sure I'm deceiv'd, with sorrow I behold!
Let not this folly in the camp be told,
Now all the youth of Israel are in arms,
That Othniel, lost in dalliance, shuns th'alarms.

Oh, why will Caleb my fix'd passion blame?
This spotless object justifies my flame.

No more, it wounds thy fame! Daughter, retire!

Scene 6

Caleb, Othniel.

Oh, let thy bosom glow with warlike fire!
Thou know'st what craft the men of Gibeon us'd
To obtain their league, which else had been refus'd;
Soon did that treaty through the heathen ring,
Adonizedeck, of Jerusalem king,
With the confed'rate pow'rs of most renown
Have sworn to ruin the revolted town.
Firm to our faith, it never shall be said,
That our allies in vain implor'd our aid.

Perish the thought! While honour hath a name,
IsraeI's, or Gibeon's cause is still the same.

42. Air

Nations, who in future story,
Would recorded be with glory,
Let them through the world proclaim:
"Friendship is the road to fame."

Scene 7

Joshua, Caleb, Othniel, Chiefs, Elders and Chorus.
The armies of the Israelites and Canaanites prepared for battle.

43. Recitative

Brethren and friends, what joy this scene imparts,
To meet such brave, such firm united hearts!
What though the tyrants, an unnumber'd host,
Their strength in horse, and iron chariots, boast?
Now shines the sun, that fixeth Canaan's doom,
Trust in the Lord, and you shall overcome.

Flourish of warlike instruments.

Thus far our cause is favour'd by the Lord.
Advance, pursue, Jehovah is the word!

Flourish of warlike instruments.

44. Solo and Chorus

O thou bright orb, great ruler of the day,
Stop thy swift course, and over Gibeon stay!
And, O thou milder lamp of light, the moon,
Stand still, prolong thy beams in Ajalon.

Behold, the list'ning sun the voice obeys,
And in mid heav'n his rapid motion stays.
Before our arms the scatter'd nations fly,
Breathless they pant, they yield, they fall, they die.




Scene 1

Joshua, Caleb, Othniel, Achsah and Chorus.

45. Chorus of Israelites

Hail, mighty Joshua, hail! Thy name
Shall rise into immortal fame.
Our children's children shall rehearse
Thy deeds in never-dying verse,
And grateful marbles raise to thee,
Great guardian of our liberty!

46. Air

Happy, oh, thrice happy we,
Who enjoy sweet liberty!
To your sons this gem secure,
As bright, as ample, and as pure.
Happy. . . da capo

47. Recitative

Caleb, for holy Eleazer send,
And bid the chiefs of Israel all attend,
To execute th'Almighty's great command,
And lot among the tribes the conquer'd land.

With thee, great leader, when Jephunneh's son
Was sent to view the nations thou hast won;
Hebron obtain'd, we all its produce sought,
Thick-cluster'd grapes, figs, and pomgranates brought.
The men, their prowess carefully survey'd,
And deem'd the conquest easy to be made.
Here would I stop — but, oh, unhappy fate!
The tim'rous spies a diff'rent tale relate,
Increas'd the danger, multiplied the foe,
And fill'd some dastard souls with panic woe.

Firm as a rock, when billows lash its side,
Thou didst persist, and all their threats defied.
The men appeas'd, said Moses, man of God:
"Caleb, the land whereon thy feet have trod
—Mark what I say! for 'tis the will of Heav'n!—
Shall be to thee, and to thy children giv'n."
Behold! The promise of the man divine
I ratify, and Hebron now is thine.

My cup is full; how blest is this decree!
How can my thanks suffice the Lord, and thee?

48. Air

Shall I in Mamre's fertile plain,
The remnant of my days remain?
And is it giv'n to me to have
A place with Abrah'm in the grave?
For all these mercies I will sing
Eternal praise to Heav'n's high King.

49. Chorus of the Tribe of Judah

For all these mercies we will sing
Eternal praise to Heav'n's high King.

50. Recitative

O Caleb, fear'd by foes, by friends ador'd,
Well have we paid this tribute to thy sword;
But still, to make thine heritage complete,
Debir remains, Debir, the giant's seat.

Worn out in war, I find my strength decline;
Counsel alone, the gift of age, is mine.
Is there a warrior willing to pursue
The conquest, and that stubborn town subdue?
For him, for his, I amply will provide,
And to crown all, Achsah shall be his bride.

Glorious reward, the task be mine alone!
Transporting thought! Caleb, the town's thy own.

51. Air

Place danger around me,
The storm I'll despise.
What arm shall confound me,
When Achsah's the prize?
Place danger. . . da capo

Scene 2

Joshua, Caleb, Achsah and Chorus.

52. Chorus of Israelites

Father of mercy, hear the pray'r we make,
And save the hero for his country's sake.

53. Recitative

In bloom of youth, this stripling hath achiev'd
What scarce, in future times, shall be believ'd.
Mankind no sooner did pronounce his name,
But he stood foremost in the rolls of fame.
Tyrants he humbled, with the world's applause,
And sav'd his country's liberty and laws.

54. Chorus

See, the conqu'ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums.
Sports prepare, the laurel bring,
Songs of thriumph to him sing.

See the godlike youth advance!
Breathe the flutes, and lead the dance;
Myrtle wreaths, and roses twine,
To deck the hero's brow divine.

Full Chorus
See, the conqu'ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums.
Sports prepare, the laurel bring,
Songs of triumph to him sing.
See. . . da capo

Scene the last

To them Othniel.

55. Recitative

Welcome, my son, my Othniel, good and great,
The ornament and champion of the state!
Take thy reward, the noblest Heav'n can raise,
And lasting love adorn your happy days.

What tongue can utter, or what heart conceive
The joy with which this blessing I receive?

Blest be the pow'r that kept thee safe from harms,
Blest be the pow'r that gave thee to my arms.

56. Air

Oh, had I Jubal's lyre,
Or Miriam's tuneful voice!
To sounds like his I would aspire,
In songs like hers rejoice.
My humble strains but faintly show,
How much to Heav'n and thee I owe.

57. Recitative

While life shall last, each moment we'll improve
In equal gratitude, and mutual love.

58. Duet

O peerless maid, with beauty blest,
Of ev'ry pleasing charm possest!

O gen'rous youth, whom virtue fires,
And love and liberty inspires!

As first in valour thou art deem'd,
For truth thou art no less esteem'd.

59. Recitative

While lawless tyrants, with ambition blind,
Mock solemn faith, waste worlds, and thin mankind,
Israel can boast a leader, just and brave,
A friend to freedom, and ordain'd to save.
Thus bless'd, to Heav'n your voices raise
In songs of thanks, and hymns of praise.

60. Chorus

The great Jehovah is our awful theme,
Sublime in majesty, in pow'r supreme.

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