Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
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Georg Friedrich Händel


An Oratorio

Words attributed to Newburgh Hamilton


Susanna (soprano)

Joacim, her Husband (alto)

Chelsias, her Father (bass)

Daniel (soprano)

First Elder (tenor)

Second Elder (bass)

Judge (bass)

An Attendant (soprano)

Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of Babylonians




1. Overture

Scene 1

Joacim, Susanna, Chelsias and Chorus of Israelites.

2. Chorus of Israelites

How long, O Lord, shall Israel groan,
In slavery and pain?
Jehovah, hear thy people's moan,
And break th'oppressor's chain!

3. Recitative

Our crimes repeated have provok'd His rage,
And now He scourges a degen'rate age.
My wife, my fair Susanna, come,
And from my bosom chase this gloom.

4. Air

Clouds o'ertake the brightest day,
Beauteous faces,
Blooming graces,
Soon submit and feel decay;
But true faith and wedded love
Banish pain and joys improve.
Clouds o'ertake. . . da capo

5. Recitative

O Joacim, when thou art by,
My soul dilates with newborn joy!
Down my pale cheeks the tears no longer run,
But fly, like dew, before the morning sun.

6. Duet

When thou art nigh,
My pulse beats high,
And raptures swell my breast.

Search, search my mind,
And there you'll find
Your lovely form impress'd.

With joy in their wings the young moments shall fly,
And chase ev'ry cloud that would darken the sky.
If thou art but present my cares to beguile,
Oppression is soften'd, and bondage will smile.

7. Recitative

Lives there in Babylon so bless'd a pair?
Soft roll my age, unknown to pain or care:
My virtuous daughter learnt the words of truth;
To fear the lord, I taught her pious youth.

8. Air

Who fears the Lord may dare all foes,
Him safely shrouds where'er he goes;
And when in battle fierce he glows,
No sword, no dart shall harm him.
The Lord's protection is a shield,
Which ne'er to mortal force will yield;
Though millions charge him in the field,
Yet nothing shall alarm him.
Who fears the Lord. . . da capo

9. Recitative

A flame like mine, so faithful and so pure,
Shall to the length of latest time endure,
For Heav'n-born virtue doth the warmth inspire,
And smiling angels fan the godlike fire.

10. Air

When first I saw my lovely maid,
Beneath the citron's shade,
In native innocence array'd,
My heart became her prize.
I gaz'd, I hugg'd the pleasing chain,
Could mortal breast from love refrain?
And thousand virtues still maintain
The conquest of her eyes.
When first I saw. . . da capo

11. Recitative

Let me confess, I hear my praises sung
With matchless pleasure, by thy tuneful tongue;
And ne'er this bosom felt the sharpen'd dart,
'Till from your lips I caught the am'rous smart.

12. Air

Would custom bid the melting fair,
The purpose of her soul declare,
I then had call'd you mine;
Long ere the day our hands were ty'd,
And I became thy happy bride
At Heav'n's eternal shrine.
Would custom bid. . . da capo

13. Recitative

Down my old cheeks the tears of transport roll,
And balmy comfort opens on my soul;
Your wedded truth each wond'ring husband know,
Catch the bright pattern, and with fondness glow;
From thee, Susanna, may each wedded wife
To faith connubial dedicate her life.

14. Air

Peace, crown'd with roses, on your slumbers wait,
And joyous plenty guard the op'ning gate.

15. Recitative

O pious Chelsias, thy paternal care
Hast taught my steps to shun the gilded snare
Where error lies conceaI'd!
Too great my thanks to be in words express'd,
Reign thou the second in this grateful breast.

16. Air

Without the swain's assiduous care,
How soon the sickly flow'r,
Depriv'd of sun and cheering air,
Would wither in her bow'r.
Shall human mind demand less pain
Than the native of the plain?
Without the swain's. . . da capo

17. Recitative

Source of each joy, thou comfort of my life,
My fair Susanna, my unspottted wife!
A while I'm summon'd from the town away,
Yet think not long I'll from thy presence stay.
Meanwhile be't thine each friend to entertain,
With converse sweet make light their galling chain;
Each true believer shall be welcome here,
And nourish pious hopes without a fear.

In this alone with sorrow I obey;
What joy have I when Joacim's away?
Forgive the tears that trickle from my eyes,
Be dumb my sorrows, and unheard my sighs.

Ere round the sphere the sun has urg'd his wain
And six times rested in the western main,
Depend, my fair, to see your lord return.

Till then, Susanna, 'tis thy lot to mourn.

18. Air

The parent bird in search of food
A while deserts her callow brood;
What torments wring her anxious breast,
Lest some rude hand despoil her nest.
But when she homeward does repair
And finds each flutt'ring infant there,
The joy she feels, my soul explain,
When next my fair I greet again.
The parent bird. . . da capo

Exeunt Joacim and Chelsias.

Scene 2


19. Recitative

On Joacim may ev'ry joy attend,
At once a husband, lover and a friend.

20. Accompagnato

What means this weight that in my bosom lies,
What mean these shades that swim before my eyes?
If ought prophetic in this breast I feel,
Portending good, oh, quick the same reveal!
Let Joacim, my husband, find it all;
If bad, on me alone the danger fall.

21. Air

Bending to the throne of glory,
This alone, great God, I crave:
Let me innocent before you
Rise from the devouring grave.
If Thy will is now requiring
That I die before my time,
All my longing soul's desiring
Is to fall without a crime.
Bending. . . da capo

Scene 3

First Elder.

22. Accompagnato

First Elder
Tyrannic love! I feel thy cruel dart,
Nor age protects me from the burning smart.
What, seated with the elders of the land,
To guide stern justice' unrelenting hand;
Shall I submit to feel the raging fires?
Youth pleads a warrant for his hot desires;
But when the blood should scarce attempt to flow,
I feel the purple torrents fiercely glow.
Love conquers all; alas! I find it so.
Bear me resistless down the rapid tide,
No faithful pilot shall my vessel guide,
No friendly star her gentle light supplies,
But pitchy clouds involve the darkened skies.
The tempest howls, the foaming surges roar,
While I, unhappy, quit the safer shore.

23. Air

First Elder
Ye verdant hills, ye balmy vales,
Bear witness of my pain;
How oft have Shinar's flow'ry dales
Been taught my amorous strain!
The wounded oaks in yonder grove
Retain the name of her I love.
In vain would age his ice bespread,
To numb each gay desire,
Tho' sev'nty winters hoar my head,
My heart is still on fire.
By mossy fount and grot I rove
And gently murmur songs of love.
Oh, sweetest of thy lovely race,
Unveil thy matchless charms;
Let me adore that angel's face,
And die within thy arms.
My ceaseless pangs thy bosom move
To grant the just returns of love.

Scene 4

First and Second Elders, and Chorus.

24. Recitative

Second Elder
Say, is it fit that age should drop his pride
To sooth and fondle at a woman's side?
Was it for this the faithful spoke my fame,
Nor fear'd injustice, when they heard my name?
Now approbation shall withdraw her praise,
And dark reproach attends my setting days.

First Elder
Hail, rev'rend brother! By that pensive face,
Methinks some long disputed dubious case
Waits the decision of thy blameless tongue.

Second Elder
Who judges too rashly, will be often wrong.

First Elder
Then tell your friend, why thus you thoughtful stand,
Purse your arch'd brow and cross each folded hand?

Second Elder
Suppose 'twere love, could'st thou prescribe a cure?

First Elder
Alas! I cannot. I those pangs endure:
The shafts that fly from fair Susanna's eyes
Wound the grave statesman and unman the wise;
Her beauteous image fills up all my heart.
Is't for her charms you likewise feel the smart?

Second Elder
Yes, 'tis her beauty, like a magic spell,
That fires my blood, and bids my years rebel;
Love, frantic love does all this bosom rule,
To its hot rage, the burning dogstar's cool.

25. Air

Second Elder
The oak, that for a thousand years
Withstood the tempest's might,
Like me, the darted light'ning fears,
And flames with sudden light;
Curs'd be the day, and curs'd the fatal hour
That brought my age into a woman's pow'r.

26. Recitative

First Elder
Ye winged gales, convey these whisp'ring sighs,
And tell Susanna, that her lover dies,
But softly murmur when you speak my name;
Unfold my passion, but conceal my shame.

Second Elder
See, where around the quiv'ring poplars twine
The ruddy clusters of the mantling vine,
The charmer sits. With winged haste we'll fly,
And close conceal'd from ev'ry searching eye
Await our time; then rush upon the fair,
Force her to bliss, and cure our wild despair.

27. Air

First Elder
When the trumpet sounds to arms,
Will the ling'ring soldier stay?
When the Nymph displays her charms,
Who the call will disobey?
Age and dignity in vain
Loudly thunder in my ear:
"From the horrid act refrain!"
Love forbids my soul to fear.

28. Chorus

Righteous Heav'n beholds their guile,
And forbears His wrath awhile.
Yet His bolt shall quickly fly,
Darted through the flaming sky.
Tremble guilt, for thou shalt find,
Wrath divine outstrips the wind.




Scene 1

Joacim, solus.

29. Recitative

Frost nips the flow'rs that would the fields adorn,
And tainting mildews waste the bearded corn.
Untimely storms the vernal grove destroy,
And absence, cruel absence, murders joy.

30. Air

On fair Euphrates' verdant side,
Where nodding osiers play,
With her I've mark'd the rolling tide,
And ev'ry sight was gay.
No more the flow'ry banks have charms
To please me as before,
Till dear Susanna fills these arms
Contentment is no more.
On fair Euphrates. . . da capo

Scene 2

Susanna and Attendant.

31. Recitative

Lead me, oh, lead me to some cool retreat,
My spirits faint beneath the burning heat.

32. Air

Crystal streams in murmurs flowing,
Balmy breezes gently blowing,
Rob of sweets the jasmine bow'r;
Bow the pines that shade yon mountain,
Curl the softly trickling fountain,
Cool the noontide's raging pow'r.
Crystal streams. . . da capo

33. Recitative

Too lovely youth, for whom these sorrows flow,
When will thy presence banish ev'ry woe?

Soon will thy lord, thyJoacim return;
Cease then so short an absence thus to mourn.

Alas! Whoe'er has felt the subtle fire,
The pleasing anguish of a chaste desire,
Knows that an hour swells out into a day,
The lovely object of our vows away;
But when the darling of our soul is near,
Time clothes with eagle's wings the rolling year.
But thou art kind, nor think thy mistress vain,
If now I wish to hear the tender strain,
Which Joacim compos'd, ere yet he led
These humble beauties to the bridal bed.

34. Air

Ask if yon damask rose be sweet,
That scents the ambient air;
Then ask each shepherd that you meet
If dear Susanna's fair.
Say, will the vulture leave his prey,
And warble through the grove?
Bid wanton linnet quit the spray,
Then doubt the shepherd's love.
The spoils of war let heroes share,
Let pride in splendour shine;
Ye bards, unenvy'd laurels wear:
Be fair Susanna mine.

35. Recitative

In vain you try to cure my rising grief,
My wounded bosom spurns at all relief.

I know the pangs that cleave the bleeding heart,
Still in my breast I feel the pointed dart.
An humble swain did all my pains create,
An humble swain best suited with my state;
But death soon seiz'd him, an untimely prize,
And tore the youth for ever from my eyes.

36. Air

Beneath the cypress' gloomy shade
Where silver lilies paint the glade,
I saw the lovely shepherd laid
Whose loss I still deplore.
He was in truth the sweetest swain
That ever trod the flow'ry plain
Or wak'd in virgin's heart a pain,
But is, alas, no more.

37. Recitative

Thy plaintive strains my inmost sorrows move,
For well Susanna knows the pangs of love.

Excuse th'involuntary tears that flow,
But my sad heart must vent its secret woe.

I was to blame to wake thy inmost smart.
Compose, sweet maid, compose thy beating heart,
But haste, good virgin, hither unguents bring
And all the spices that embalm the spring!
To shun the scorching day I mean to lave
My fainting limbs in yonder silver wave.

Exit Attendant.

Scene 3

Susanna and Two Elders.

But hark! What sudden noise invades my ear?
Defend me, Heav'n, from ev'ry wrong I fear!
What mean ye both ? Say, why do ye invade
The awful gloom of this sequester'd shade?

38. Air

First Elder
Blooming as the face of spring,
Mild as beams of dying light,
Softer than the cygnet's wing,
Source of joy and fond delight.
Hear my pray'r,
Charming fair,
With one smile dismiss my care.
Blooming as the face. . . da capo

39. Recitative

Second Elder
We long have languish'd, and now mean to prove
The matchless sweets of long expected love.

You wrong yourselves to plead so foul a cause;
Are these the boasted guardians of our laws?
But sure in sport ye both together came,
For may I doubt your yet unspotted fame?
Hence pious Elders, lest some jealous spy
Behold your conduct with an envious eye!

40. Air

Second Elder
The torrent that sweeps in its course
Whole forests and cities along,
Resistless is found in its force;
My passion is equally strong.
Whate'er would my purpose restrain
In pieces my fury shall tear;
Denial is offer'd in vain,
Then yield to entreaty, proud fair!
The torrent that sweeps. . . da capo

41. Recitative

Deceitful wolves, who left in truth's defence,
Wrong the high trust, and prey on innocence!
Desist, rash men, nor press my trembling hand,
Lest I awake the vengeance of the land!

Second Elder
Thou foolish woman! Will thy plaints avail
When our grave tongues repeat the well-forg'd tale?
Will those suspect, to whom your grief complains,
That blood could riot in an Elder's veins?

42. Trio

Away, away!
Ye tempt me both in vain!

First Elder
Yet stay, yet stay,
And hear my love-sick strain!

Second Elder
I scorn to intreat when by force I may gain
Relief to my sorrows, and ease to my pain!

43. Recitative

Alas! I find the fatal toils are set,
Turn as I will, I struggle in the net.
Yet hear the inmost purpose of my soul,
Which wrongs shall ne'er suppress nor fears control;
By falsehood's aid, appearing truth be thine,
Self conscious virtue shall be ever mine.

Second Elder
That shall be try'd. Who waits there? Ho, within!

Enter Chorus.

Scene 4

Second Elder
I caught the fair delinquent in her sin:
The youthful partner of her stol'n embrace
Broke from our feeble arms, and fled the place.
Ourselves beheld within the mazy grove
Their guilty pleasures, and adult'rous love.

First Elder
To judgment soon th'ill-fated beauty lead,
Ah, would these eyes had ne'er beheld the deed!

44a. Air

If guiltless blood be your intent,
I here resign it all;
Fearless of death, as innocent,
I triumph in my fall.
And if to fate my days must run,
O righteous Heav'n, thy will be done!

45. Recitative

Second Elder (interrupting her)
Quick to her fate the loose adult'ress bear,
Fair to the eye, yet falser than she's fair.

44b. Air (Susanna repeats the air "If guiltless blood")

46. Chorus of Babylonians

Let justice reign, and flourish through the land,
Nor youth, nor charms divert her iron hand.

Scene 5

Joacim and Chorus.

47. Recitative

Is fair Susanna false? It ne'er can be!
Detested scroll, ne'er gain belief from me.
Is she not softer than the breath of love,
Fair as the roe, and constant as the dove?
Hence let me speed to Babylon's proud walls,
There danger threatens and Susanna calls.

48. Air

On the rapid whirlwind's wing,
See, I fly to seek the fair,
On the rapid whirlwind's wing,
Lo, I cleave the yielding air.
At my sight,
Fresh delight
From her breast shall chase despair.
On the rapid. . . da capo

49. Chorus of Israelites

O Joacim, thy wedded truth,
Is warranted of Heav'n!
And to thy faith, illustrious youth,
Shall due reward be giv'n.




Scene 1

Susanna, Elders, Daniel, Judge and Chorus.

50. Chorus of Babylonians

The cause is decided, the sentence decreed,
Susanna is guilty, Susanna must bleed.

51. Recitative

I hear my doom, nor yet the laws accuse;
The witnesses your much-wrong'd ears abuse.
Then welcome death! I meet you with delight,
And change this earth for realms of endless light.

52. Air

Faith displays her rosy wing,
Cherubs songs of gladness sing,
Virtue clad in bright array,
Streaming with eternal day,
Whispers in my ravish'd ear;
"Innocence shall never fear,
Welcome to this bright abode,
Seat of angels, seat of God."

53. Recitative

First Elder
Permit me, fair, to mourn thy fate severe,
And join thy sorrows with one pious tear.

54. Air

First Elder
Round thy urn my tears shall flow,
Joy no more this heart shall know.
The remembrance of thy woe,
Never ceasing,
Still increasing,
With the length of time shall grow.
Round thy urn. . . da capo

55. Recitative

'Tis thus the crocodile his grief displays,
Sheds the false dew, and, while he weeps, betrays.
Ah! When I think what Joacim must feel,
This tortur'd heart can scarce its pangs conceal.

56. Accompagnato

But you, who see me on the verge of life,
I charge you, greet him from his dying wife.
Tell him, howe'er the Elders have decreed,
Their impious lust provok'd the bloody deed;
And, had Susanna plighted vows betray'd,
Beneath the cover of yon conscious shade,
Their venal tongues had spar'd her much wrong'd name,
Nor mark'd her actions with the brand of shame.

57. Recitative

Second Elder
The sentence now is passed! The wretch convey
To instant death; I'll hear no more, away!

The blood of innocence, with ceaseless cries
Shall cleave the womb of earth, and reach the skies.

First Elder
What voice is that so clam'rous in the crowd,
That censures judgment in a tone so loud?

Fools that ye are, too forward to believe
A varnish'd tale, invented to deceive;
Reverse, reverse the stern decree,
And set the chaste Susanna free.

Second Elder
Presumptuous boy! Art thou to dictate here?
Think of thy youth and shake with awful fear.

58. Air

'Tis not age's sullen face,
Wrinkled front and solemn pace,
That the truly wise declares.
Sacred wisdom oft appears
In the bloom of vernal years;
Oft she flies from silver hairs.
'Tis not age. . . da capo

59. Recitative

O wond'rous youth, re-judge the cause,
And from thy tongue pronounce the laws!
As she appears to thy discerning eye,
The fair we will acquit, or doom to die.

If you demand that I the cause decide,
Her old accusers for a while divide.
Let not the one the other's questions hear,
For truth will ne'er in diff'rent garbs appear.

60. Chorus of Israelites

Impartial Heav'n, whose hand shall never cease
To cheer fair virtue with the balm of peace,
With thy own ardours bless the youth,
And guide his footsteps to the paths of truth!

61. Recitative

Thou artful wretch, in vice's practice grey,
Who sav'st the guilty, and the just would'st slay!
Thou say'st that lately, with a wanton youth,
The fair Susanna broke her vows of truth.
If so, what tree, declare at once, declare,
Stretch'd forth her boughs to screen the guilty pair?

First Elder
A verdant lentisk, pride of all the grove,
Stood the gay witness of their lawless love.

False is thy tale, thy lips have utter'd lies,
And Heav'n shall scourge you for your blasphemies.
And say, thou partner in the impious deed,
Of Canaan's, sure, and not of lsrael's seed,
Beneath what tree you chaste Susanna saw,
Embrace her lover, and transgress the law?

Second Elder
Far to the west direct your straining eyes,
Where yon tall holm-tree darts into the skies;
See his large boughs an ample shade afford,
There, there Susanna wrong'd her wedded lord.

Vain is deceit when justice holds the scale,
The falsehood's flagrant by the vary'd tale.
Susanna! From thy captive dungeon go,
Thy fame is whiter than unsullied snow.
For you, an ignominious death's decreed,
Virtue is clear'd, and impious guilt shall bleed.
And hence be taught, who justice would dispense,
To stop the ear to ev'ry soothing sense;
Your mind be steeI'd against each flatt'ring call,
For, if you stumble, you as surely fall.
Instant conduct them to their fate,
And rid my presence of a sight I hate;
And hence let virtue never know a fear,
For in her dangers a kind help is near.

62. Air

Chastity, thou cherub bright,
Gentle as the dawn of light,
Soft as music's dying strain!
Teach the fair how vain is beauty,
When she breaks the bounds of duty,
Vain are charms, and graces vain.
Chastity. . . da capo

63. Recitative

But see! My Lord, my Joacim appears,
With the kind tutor of my infant years.

Scene 2

To them Joacim and Chelsias.

64. Air

Gold within the furnace try'd,
Shall the sharp essay abide,
Purer from the purging fire;
So shall virtue, when pursu'd
By foul envy's venom'd brood,
With superior grace aspire.
Gold within. . . da capo

65. Recitative

The joyful news of chaste Susanna's truth
Wakes me to comfort, and recalls my youth.

Receive my thanks, they're all that I can pay,
If I deserve, you pointed out the way.

66. Air

Raise your voice to sounds of joy,
Pierce the list'ning skies;
Impious hopes themselves destroy,
But virtue gains the prize.

67. Chorus of Israelites

Bless'd be the day that gave Susanna birth,
The chastest beauty that e'er grac'd the earth.

68. Recitative

Hence ev'ry pang, which late my soul oppress'd!
Comfort, return and harbour in this breast.
Nature, lest blessings should too quickly cloy,
Blends good with bad, and mixes tears with joy.

69. Air

Guilt trembling spoke my doom,
And vice her joy display'd,
Till truth dispell'd the gloom
And came to virtue's aid.
Kind Heav'n, my pray'rs receive,
They're due alone to thee,
Oppression's left to grieve,
And innocence is free.
Guilt trembling. . . da capo

70. Recitative

Sweet are the accents of thy tuneful tongue,
Less sweet the lark begins his morning song.
Malice shall strive thy spotless fame to stain,
And raise her voice against my fair in vain.

Lord of my heart and of each warm desire,
With thee the flame began, and shall expire.

71. Duet

To my chaste Susanna's praise
I'll the swelling note prolong.

While my grateful voice I raise,
Thy dear name shall grace the song.

Echo, catch the tender strains,

On thy wings, the music bear,

'Til it reach the distant plains,
Dying, in the void of air.

72. Chorus

A virtuous wife shall soften fortune's frown,
She's far more precious than a golden crown.

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