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And fallen before the God of Israel.
Rameses. -O king, there is one only way of safety : Submission to Jehovah, the Almighty.
Pharaoh.-Have I not yielded? Have I not said to Moses,
A three days' journey in the wilderness
Go, you that are men; only your little ones,
Your flocks, and herds, must all be left behind ?
Who is Jehovah, that I should obey him?
And what are they but slaves ? And yet our gods
Are vanquished ; all our waters turn to blood;
Egypt lies desolate; city and country swarm
With frogs, lice, flies, and locusts. Fire, and hail,
And preternatural lightnings, dash and hiss
Around my path ; my body has been spread
With loathsome boils; and three long days have seen
My gilded chambers turned into a tomb,
By an unnatural darkness that the hand
Could feel. By all the gods, it maddens me!
Let the slave do his worst : I yield no farther.
Rameses.—Let not the king be angry with his servant.
How long shall this man be a snare to us?
Egypt is now a desert, and our cities
Will soon become our tombs. For none can stand
Before this God.
Menes.-Oh, hear these words, my father ;
Submission to a God is not dishonour.
Jannes.-Great monarch, suffer me to speak. Shall slaves
Who used to tremble at our whips, be able
To conquer Pharaoh? Never. Egypt's gods
Are able to deliver Egypt.
Menes.—Say then why
They did not, when their help was so much needed ?
Your arts cannot resist this mighty God.
Witness, proud Jannes, far-renowned magician,
When Moses' serpent swallowed yours.
'Twas some deception of the sight, performed
By that arch-juggler, Moses. Only cowardice
Would yield to the impostor.
'Tis then a cowardice common to Egypt :
For, from old Memphis to Ethiopia,
Both man and beast have trembled. You yourself
Have sickened of the same disease, and at
The sight of Moses have turned pale.
Your vaunted courage, when, all foul with boils,
For shame we durst not enter Moses' presence?
Where was your power when, three whole days and nights,
Thick darkness bound us like a chain, nor hand
Nor foot was moved ?
Pharaoh. Peace, Menes! Jannes, peace !
Words will not move me. By the great Osiris,
We'll meet calamities with hardy front,
And welcome them with merriment. Menes,
This day your marriage shall be solemnized.
Rameses, let your daughter be prepared.
Go! give the needful orders through the palace ;
We hold the marriage feast to-night. I have said.
Speak not a word in answer. (Menes and Rameses go out.)
Sethos (apart to Chephren).-Hark! a shout!
He comes ! the very palace rocks and trembles
At the loud noise. Again! But see, he enters.
Chephren.-Surely this man is more than human. Majesty
Is in his step ; a godlike grandeur sits
Upon his brow.
Sethos.-All shrink beneath his glance.
Even Pharaoh's proud look changes, and grows troubled.
Moses.—Pharaoh, once more I stand before thee. Speak
Thy final purpose.
Pharaoh.-Go, and serve Jehovah.
But all your flocks and herds remain behind :
Into the desert take your children only.
Moses.- We must have offerings, Pharaoh, for our God;
Therefore will take our cattle. Not one hoof
Shall stay in Egypt: for we know not what
Jehovah will require.
Pharaoh.-Out of my sight!
Nor venture here again. Look to yourself!
For on the day you see my face, you die !
Chephren.—Moses is silent. Yet he moves not, neither
Does his look speak of fear.
Israel and the Egyptians. Then thy pride
Shall stoop, and these thy flatterers then
Shall come and crouch to me, and cry, Go out,
With all thy people. And I will go out.
(Moses goes out, in great anger. The king retires. The assembly breaks
up, confusedly. Jannes remains.)
Jannes.-Cowardly fools !
How they all tremble! Certain there is much
About this Moses that I cannot fathom.
And Pharaoh's self must still be strongly urged :
For I perceive he wavers, and his cheek
Is superstition's colour, deadly pale.
That be my business. I who disbelieve
In all their gods, alike, can keep more cool,
To use the arguments on either side.
Yet Moses threatens, and he is wont to keep
His threat. Perhaps, what if it should be so ?
And to that end the threat of midnight death,
That, struck with fear, we may be easier prey,
They plan an insurrection for the night.
Trust me, my doughty Hebrews, we'll prepare
For your kind visit. I and Pheron, too,
Must quit accounts. But meanwhile I must watch
That Pharaoh's purpose change not.
A ROOM IN THE HOUSE OF RAMESES.
Rameses. Nitocris. Arsinoe.
Rameses.—The assembly is dismissed, and Moses gone.
I haste to learn the event, but dread to ask.
Meanwhile prepare, and put on all your
smiles, To meet the prince. Pharaoh must be obeyed.
Arsinoe.—But sweet Nitocris, prithee, droop not now;
This is the day that seats you on the throne
Of all your wishes. You are now the envy
Of Egypt's highest born and fairest maidens.
Nitocris.- I know I am. Yet 'tis an awful moment.
The time suits not with marriage revelries.
Arsinoe.-Try, dearest lady, to collect your spirits.
What dreadful cause oppresses you thus sadly?
Nitocris.—Tell me, Arsinoe, what think you of dreams ? Believe
that the mind with unseen worlds
Has sometimes a mysterious intercourse?
That spiritual beings to our inward sense
May whisper knowledge ; and that things to come,
When the freed mind has struggled from the bonds
Of its corrupter partner, lie unveiled
In sleep before us ?
Arsinoe.-That dreams have come from heaven,
We may not doubt. In visions of the night,
When all around is still, the gods on men
Have poured their inspiration. Night and silence
Are fittest for the visitants of heaven.
But of our common dreams, the flimsy texture
Bespeaks a mean and earthly origin.
Nitocris.-But say that some wild, terrible impression
Of woe impending be upon the mind
Indelibly stamped, would you interpret this
The true index of fate ?
Arsinoe.—'Tis the sign rather
Of a diseased mind. But why speak you thus ?
Nitocris. From these events some dreadful thing will happen.
A shapeless vision, ever boding ill,
Points to my dearest Menes, and cries death!
Oh, 'tis an awful time to celebrate
Bridal festivities. The dance and song
But ill accord with plagues, and woes, and deaths.
Arsinoe.—All wear a sadness foreign to their nature
In these sad times. Endeavour to look cheerful.
You will distress the prince
Nitocris.-Oh, I will rouse me.
I would not grieve the noble heart of Menes ;
He is all goodness, far above my merit.
When he returned from the Ethiopian war,
With captive princes at his chariot wheels,
The conqueror moved godlike; and yet so meek,
And mild and modest, that he blushing heard
The shouts of multitudes who welcomed home
Their country's hero. But there was one eye
That more admired than all that noisy crowd.
And while I looked and loved, I wept, and felt
How poor Nitocris was compared with Menes.
Arsinoe.—My dearest lady, go to Isis' temple
With votive gifts, and costly sacrifice.
Perhaps the goddess may relent and bless you.
Nitocris.-Alas! what power has she, by Israel's God
Conquered and shamed ? All gods and altars now,
And priests and oracles, have bowed and fallen
Before the God of Israel.
Menes. Nitocris. Arsinoe.
Dearest Nitocris, the long wished for day,
Our bridal day, at length is come.
At a sad season, Menes.
Menes.- I so joyed
When Pharaoh spoke the word, that Egypt's plagues
Were all forgotten. Israel must soon leave
Our country; Pharaoh soon must yield ; and then
All will be happiness. And come what may,
With thee I can know only bliss.
You worship not our gods. Should Pharaoh learn
Your secret, even your life would be in peril.
hide from his devouring anger ? Menes. With the freed Hebrews in the wilderness. Would you not go with me?
Nitocris.-To the world's end !
With you will henceforth be my happiness.
Menes.-Come, now you smile again. That look is better.
The bride who loves her lord should not be mournful.
Sad looks dishonour him, and tell the world
Of enforced vows, and painful sacrifice.
Nitocris.-Oh, you could not mistake me. My full joy
Too readily appears when you are present.
Menes.-Pheron, congratulate me! I have reached
The summit of my bliss. You for my friend,
bride. This world can give
Nothing beyond. But your looks are infectious.
Speak, Pheron, what dread thing has happened?
What evil has befallen you ?
Pheron.-Not for myself,
Not for myself, dear Menes, do I sorrow;
It is for thee, my brother. A last plague
Hath been foretold by Moses, far more dreadful
Than all the past. At midnight God goes forth,
And slays all the firstborn of Egypt.
Menes.-And I shall be his victim. (Nitocris faints.) Dearest Pheron,
You have killed her. O sublunary bliss !
How vain thou art! One minute since, the earth
Held not a heart more joyous than mine own:
And now the world knows none more desolate.