Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
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Georg Friedrich Händel


A Sacred Drama

Words by Thomas Morell


Judas Maccabaeus (tenor)

Simon, his Brother (bass)

Israelitish Woman (soprano)

Israelitish Man (mezzo-soprano)

Eupolemus, the Jewish Ambassador to Rome (alto)

First Messenger (alto)

Second Messenger (bass)

Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of Youths
Chorus of Virgins




1. Overture

Scene 1

Chorus of Israelites, men and women,
lamenting the death of Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabaeus.

2. Chorus of Israelites

Mourn, ye afflicted children, the remains
Of captive Judah, mourn in solemn strains;
Your sanguine hopes of liberty give o'er,
Your hero, friend and father is no more.

3. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Well, may your sorrows, brethren, flow
In all th'expressive signs of woe:
Your softer garments tear,
And squalid sackcloth wear,
Your drooping heads with ashes strew,
And with the flowig tear your cheeks bedew.

Israelitish Woman
Daughters, let your distressful cries
And loud lament ascend the skies;
Your tender bosoms beat, and tear,
With hands remorseless, your dishevell'd hair;
For pale and breathless Mattathias lies,
Sad emblem of his country's miseries!

4. Duet

Israelitish Woman and Man
From this dread scene, these adverse pow'rs,
Ah, whither shall we fly?
O Solyma! Thy boasted tow'rs
In smoky ruins lie.

5. Chorus of Israelites

For Sion lamentation make,
With words that weep, and tears that speak.

6. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Not vain is all this storm of grief;
To vent our sorrows, gives relief.
Wretched indeed! But let not Judah's race
Their ruin with desponding arms embrace.
Distractful doubt and desperation
Ill become the chosen nation,
Chosen by the great I AM,
The Lord of hosts, who, still the same,
We trust, will give attentive ear
To the sincerity of pray'r.

7. Air

Israelitish Man
Pious orgies, pious airs,
Decent sorrow, decent pray'rs,
Will to the Lord ascend, and move
His pity, and regain His love.

8. Chorus of Israelites

O Father, whose Almighty pow'r
The Heav'ns, and earth, and seas adore;
The hearts of Judah, thy delight,
In one defensive band unite.
And grant a leader bold, and brave,
If not to conquer, born to save.

9. Accompagnato

I feel, I feel the deity within,
Who, the bright cherubim between,
His radiant glory erst display'd;
To Israel's distressful pray'r
He hath vouchsafe'd a gracious ear,
And points out Maccabaeus to their aid:
Judas shall set the captive free,
And lead us all to victory.

10. Air

Arm, arm, ye brave! A noble cause,
The cause of Heav'n your zeal demands.
In defence of your nation, religion, and laws,
The Almighty Jehovah will strengthen your hands.
Arm, arm. . . da capo

11. Chorus of Israelites

We come, we come, in bright array,
Judah, thy sceptre to obey.

12. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
'Tis well, my friends; with transport I behold
The spirit of our fathers, fam'd of old
For their exploits in war. Oh, may they fire
With active courage you, their sons inspire:
As when the mighty Joshua fought,
And those amazing wonders wrought,
Stood still, obedient to his voice, the sun,
Till kings he had destroy'd, and kingdoms won.

13. Air

Judas Maccabaeus
Call forth thy pow'rs, my soul, and dare
The conflict of unequal war.
Great is the glory of the conqu'ring sword,
That triumphs in sweet liberty restor'd.
Call forth. . . da capo

14. Recitative

Israelitish Woman
To Heav'n's Almighty king we kneel,
For blessings on this exemplary zeal.
Bless him, Jehovah, bless him, and once more
To thy own Israel liberty restore.

15. Air

Israelitish Woman
O liberty, thou choicest treasure,
Seat of virtue, source of pleasure!
Life, without thee, knows no blessing,
No endearment worth caressing.

16. Air

Israelitish Woman
Come, ever-smiling liberty,
And with thee bring thy jocund train.
For thee we pant, and sigh for thee,
With whom eternal pleasures reign.
Come. . . da capo

17. Recitative

Israelitish Man
O Judas, may these noble views inspire
All Israel with thy true heroic fire!

18. Air

Israelitish Man
'Tis liberty, dear liberty alone,
That gives fresh beauty to the sun;
That bids all nature look more gay,
And lovely life with pleasure steal away.

19. Duet

Israelitish Woman and Man
Come, ever-smiling liberty,
And with thee bring thy jocund train.
For thee we pant, and sigh for thee,
With whom eternal pleasures reign.

20. Chorus of Israelites

Lead on, lead on! Judah disdains
The galling load of hostile chains.

21. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
So will'd my father now at rest
In the eternal mansions of the blest:
"Can ye behold," said he "the miseries,
In which the long-insulted Judah lies?
Can ye behold their dire distress,
And not, at least, attempt redress?"
Then, faintly, with expiring breath,
"Resolve, my sons, on liberty, or death!"
We come! Oh see, thy sons prepare
The rough habiliments of war;
With hearts intrepid, and revengeful hands,
To execute, O sire, thy dread commands.

22. Semi-chorus of Israelitish Men

Disdainful of danger, we'll rush on the foe,
That Thy pow'r, O Jehovah, all nations may know.

23. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
Ambition! If e'er honour was thine aim,
Challenge it here:
The glorious cause gives sanction to thy claim.

24. Air

Judas Maccabaeus
No unhallow'd desire
Our breasts shall inspire,
Nor lust of unbounded pow'r!
But peace to obtain:
Free peace let us gain,
And conquest shall ask no more.

25. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Haste we, my brethren, haste we to the field,
Dependant on the Lord, our strength and shield.

26. Chorus of Israelites

Hear us, O Lord, on Thee we call,
Resolv'd on conquest, or a glorious fall.




27. Chorus of Israelites

Fall'n is the foe; so fall Ty foes, O Lord,
Where warlike Judas wields his righteous sword!

28. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Victorious hero! Fame shall tell,
With her last breath, how Apollonius fell,
And all Samaria fled, by thee pursued
Through hills of carnage and a sea of blood;
While thy resistless prowess dealt around,
With their own leader's sword, the deathful wound.
Thus, too, the haughty Seron, Syria's boast,
Before thee fell with his unnumber'd host.

29. Air

Israelitish Man
So rapid thy course is,
Not numberless forces
Withstand thy all-conquering sword.
Though nations surround thee,
No pow'r shall confound thee,
Till freedom again be restor'd.
So rapid. . . da capo

30. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Well may we hope our freedom to receive,
Such sweet transporting views thy actions give.


Israelitish Woman and Man
Sion now her head shall raise,
Tune your harps to songs of praise.

32. Chorus

Sion now her head shall raise,
Tune your harps to songs of praise.

33. Recitative

Israelitish Woman
Oh, let eternal honours crown his name:
Judas, first worthy in the rolls of fame.
Say, "He put on the breast-plate as a giant,
And girt his warlike harness about him;
In his acts he was like a lion,
And like a lion's whelp roaring for his prey."

34. Air

Israelitish Woman
From mighty kings he took the spoil,
And with his acts made Judah smile.
Judah rejoiceth in his name,
And triumphs in her hero's fame.
From mighty kings. . . da capo

35. Duet

Israelitish Woman and Man
Hail, hail, Judea, happy land!
Salvation prospers in his hand.

36. Chorus

Hail, hail, Judea, happy land!
Salvation prospers in his hand.

37. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
Thanks to my brethren; but look up to Heav'n;
To Heav'n let glory and all praise be giv'n;
To Heav'n give your applause,
Nor add the second cause,
As once your fathers did in Midian,
Saying, "The sword of God and Gideon."
It was the Lord that for his Israel fought,
And this our wonderful salvation wrought.

38. Air

Judas Maccabaeus
How vain is man, who boasts in fight
The valour of gigantic might!
And dreams not that a hand unseen
Directs and guides this weak machine.
How vain. . . da capo

39. Recitative

First Messenger
O Judas, O my brethren!
New scenes of bloody war
In all their horrors rise.
Prepare, prepare,
Or soon we fall a sacrifice
To great Antiochus; from th'Egyptian coast,
(Where Ptolemy hath Memphis and Pelusium lost)
He sends the valiant Gorgias, and commands
His proud, victorious bands
To root out Israel's strength, and to erase
Ev'ry memorial of the sacred place.

40. Air

Israelitish Woman
Ah! wretched, wretched Israel! fall'n, how low,
From joyous transport to desponding woe.

41. Chorus

Ah! wretched, wretched Israel! fall'n, how low,
From joyous transport to desponding woe.

42. Recitative

Be comforted, nor think these plagues are sent
For your destruction, but for chastisement.
Heav'n oft in mercy punisheth, that sin
May feel its own demerits from within,
And urge not utter ruin. Turn to God,
And draw a blessing from His iron rod.

43. Air

The Lord worketh wonders
His glory to raise;
And still, as he thunders,
Is fearful in praise.

44. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
My arms! Against this Gorgias will I go.
The Idumean governor shall know
How vain, how ineffective his design,
While rage his leader, and Jehovah mine.

45. Air

Judas Maccabaeus
Sound an alarm! Your silver trumpets sound,
And call the brave, and only brave, around.
Who listeth, follow: to the field again!
Justice with courage is a thousand men.
Sound an alarm. . . da capo

46. Chorus

We hear, we hear the pleasing dreadful call,
And follow thee to conquest; if to fall,
For laws, religion, liberty, we fall.

47. Recitative

Enough! To Heav'n we leave the rest.
Such gen'rous ardour firing ev'ry breast,
We may divide our cares; the field be thine,
O Judas, and your sanctuary mine;
For Sion, holy Sion, seat of God,
In ruinous heaps, is by the heathen trod;
Such profanation calls for swift redress,
If e'er in battle Israel hopes success.

48. Air

With pious hearts, and brave as pious,
O Sion, we thy call attend,
Nor dread the nations that defy us,
God our defender, God our friend.

49. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Ye worshippers of God,
Down, down with the polluted altars, down.
Hurl Jupiter Olympius from his throne,
Nor reverence Bacchus with his ivy crown
And ivy-wreathed rod.
Our fathers never knew
Him, or his beastly crew,
Or, knowing, scorn'd such idol vanities.

Israelitish Woman
No more in Sion let the virgin throng,
Wild with delusion, pay their nightly song
To Ashtoreth, yclep't the Queen of Heav'n.
Hence to Phoenicia be the goddess driv'n,
Or be she, with her priests and pageants, hurl'd
To the remotest corner of the world,
Ne'er to delude us more with pious lies.

50. Air

Israelitish Woman
Wise men, flatt'ring, may deceive us
With their vain, mysterious art;
Magic charms can ne'er relieve us,
Nor can heal the wounded heart.
But true wisdom can relieve us,
Godlike wisdom from above;
This alone can ne'er deceive us,
This alone all pains remove.
Wise men. . . da capo

51. Duet

Israelitish Woman and Man
Oh, never, never bow we down
To the rude stock or sculptur'd stone.
We worship God, and God alone.

52. Chorus of Israelites

We never, never will bow down
To the rude stock or sculptur'd stone.
We worship God, and God alone.




53. Air

Israelitish Man
Father of Heav'n! From Thy eternal throne,
Look with an eye of blessing down,
While we prepare with holy rites,
To solemnize the feasts of lights.
And thus our grateful hearts employ;
And in Thy praise
This altar raise,
With carols of triumphant joy.
Father of Heav'n. . . da capo

54. Accompagnato

Israelitish Man
See, see yon flames, that from the altar broke,
In spiring streams pursue the trailing smoke.
The fragrant incense mounts the yielding air;
Sure presage that the Lord hath heard our pray'r.

55. Recitative

Israelitish Woman
Oh, grant it, Heav'n, that our long woes may cease,
And Judah's daughters taste the calm of peace,
Sons, brothers, husbands to bewail no more,
Tortur'd at home, or havock'd in the war.

56. Air

Israelitish Woman
So shall the lute and harp awake,
And sprightly voice sweet descant run,
Seraphic melody to make,
In the pure strains of Jesse's son.

57. Recitative

First Messenger
From Capharsalama, on eagle wings I fly,
With tidings of impetuous joy:
Came Lysias, with his host, array'd
In coat of mail; their massy shields
Of gold and brass, flash'd lightning o'er the fields,
While the huge tow'r-back'd elephants display'd
A horrid front. But Judas, undismay'd,
Met, fought, and vanquish'd all the rageful train.
Yet more, Nicanor lies with thousands slain;
The blasphemous Nicanor, who defied
The living God, and, in his wanton pride,
A public monument ordain'd
Of victories yet ungain'd.

Second Messenger
But lo, the conqueror comes; and on his spear,
To dissipate all fear,
He bears the vaunter's head and hand,
That threaten'd desolation to the land.

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

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

59. March

60. Soli (alto, tenor) & Chorus of Israelites

Sing unto God, and high affections raise,
To crown this conquest with unmeasur'd praise.

61. Recitative

Judas Maccabaeus
Sweet flow the strains, that strike my feasted ear;
Angels might stoop from Heav'n to hear
The comely song we sing,
To Israel's Lord and King.
But pause awhile: due obsequies prepare
To those who bravely fell in war.
To Eleazar special tribute pay;
Through slaughter'd troops he cut his way
To the distinguish'd elephant, and, whelm'd beneath
The stabbed monster, triumph'd in a glorious death.

62. Air

Judas Maccabaeus
With honour let desert be crown'd,
The trumpet ne'er in vain shall sound;
But, all attentive to alarms,
The willing nations fly to arms,
And, conquering or conquer'd, claim the prize
Of happy earth, or far more happy skies.

63. Recitative

Peace to my countrymen; peace and liberty.
From the great senate of imperial Rome,
With a firm league of amity, I come.
Rome, whate'er nation dare insult us more,
Will rouse, in our defence, her vet'ran pow'r,
And stretch her vengeful arm, by land or sea
To curb the proud, and set the injur'd free.

64. Chorus of Israelites

To our great God be all the honour giv'n,
That grateful hearts can send from earth to Heav'n.

65. Recitative

Israelitish Woman
Again to earth let gratitude descend,
Praiseworthy is our hero and our friend.
Come then, my daughters, choicest art bestow,
To weave a chaplet for the victor's brow;
And in your songs for ever be confess'd
The valour that preserv'd, the pow'r that bless'd,
Bless'd you with hours, that scatter, as they fly,
Soft quiet, gentle love, and boundless joy.

66. Air (Duet)

Israelitish Woman (and Man)
O lovely peace, with plenty crown'd,
Come, spread thy blessings all around.
Let fleecy flocks the hills adorn,
And vallies smile with wavy corn.
Let the shrill trumpet cease, nor other sound
But nature's songsters wake the cheerful morn.
O lovely peace. . . da capo

67. Air

Rejoice, O Judah, and, in songs divine,
With cherubim and seraphim harmonious join!

68. Chorus

Hallelujah! Amen.

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