Georg Friedrich Händel


An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama

Words by Charles Jennens


Saul (bass)

Merab (soprano)

Michal (soprano)

Jonathan (tenor)

David (alto)

Samuel (bass)

High Priest (tenor)

Witch of Endor (tenor)

Abner (tenor)

Amalekite (tenor)

Doeg (bass)

Chorus of Israelites




1. Overture

Scene 1

An Epinicion or Song of Triumph, for the victory
over Goliath and the Philistines.

2a. Chorus of Israelites

How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heav'ns, O King ador'd,
How hast Thou set Thy glorious throne!

3. Air (soprano)

An infant rais'd by Thy command,
To quell Thy rebel foes,
Could fierce Goliath's dreadful hand
Superior in the fight oppose.

4. Trio

Along the monster atheist strode,
With more than human pride,
And armies of the living God
Exulting in his strength defied.

5. Chorus of Israelites

The youth inspir'd by Thee, O Lord,
With ease the boaster slew:
Our fainting courage soon restor'd,
And headlong drove that impious crew.

2b. Chorus of Israelites

How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heavn's, O King ador'd,
How hast thou set Thy glorious throne!

Scene 2

Saul, Jonathan, Merab, Michal and Abner,
introducing David and the High Priest.

6. Recitative

He comes, he comes!

7. Air

O godlike youth, by all confess'd
Of human race the pride!
O virgin among women blest,
Whom Heav'n ordains thy bride!
But ah, how strong a bar I see
Betwixt my happiness and me!
O godlike youth. . . da capo

8. Recitative

Behold, O king, the brave, victorious youth,
And in his hand the haughty giant's head.

Young man, whose son art thou?

The son of Jesse,
Thy faithful servant, and a Bethlemite.

Return no more to Jesse; stay with me;
And as an earnest of my future favour,
Thou shalt espouse my daughter: small reward
Of such desert, since to thy arm alone
We owe our safety, peace and liberty.

9. Air

O king, your favours with delight
I take, but must refuse your praise:
For every pious Israelite
To God that tribute pays.
Through Him we put to flight our foes,
And in His name,
We trod them under that against us rose.
O king. . . da capo

10. Recitative

Oh,early piety! Oh, modest merit!
In this embrace my heart bestows itself;
Henceforth, thou noble youth, accept my frienship,
And Jonathan and David are but one.

11. Air

What abject thoughts a prince can have!
In rank a prince, in mind a slave.

12. Recitative

Merab (aside, to Jonathan)
Yet think on whom this honour you bestow;
How poor in fortune, and in birth how low!

13. Air

Birth and fortune I despise!
From virtue let my friendship rise.
(To David)
No titles proud thy stem adorn,
Yet born of God is nobly born,
And of His gifts so rich thy store,
That Ophir to thy wealth is poor.
Birth and fortune. . . da capo

14. Recitative

High Priest
Go on, illustrious pair! Your great example
Shall teach your youth to scorn the sordid world
And set their hearts on things of real worth.

15. Air

High Priest
While yet thy tide of blood runs high,
To God thy future life devote;
Thy early vigour all apply,
His glorious service to promote.
So shall thy great Creator bless,
And bid thy days serenely flow:
So shall thy youthful happiness
In age no diminution know.
With sweet reflections thou shalt taste,
Declining gently to thy tomb,
The pleasure of good actions past,
And hope with rapture joys to come.

16. Recitative

Thou, Merab, first in birth, be first in honour:
Thine be the valiant youth, whose arm has sav'd
Thy country from her foes.

Merab (aside)
Oh, mean alliance!

17. Air

My soul rejects the thought with scorn,
That such a boy, till now unknown,
Of poor plebeian parents born,
Should mix with royal blood his own!
Though Saul's command I can't decline,
I must prevent his low design,
And save the honour of his line.

18. Air

See, with what a scornful air
She the precious gift receives!
Though e'er so noble, or so fair,
She cannot merit what he gives.

19. Air

Ah, lovely youth, wast thou design'd
With that proud beauty to be joined?

20. Symphony

21. Recitative

Already see the daughters of the land,
In joyful dance, with instruments of music,
Come to congratulate your victory.

Scene 3

Saul, Michal, Chorus.

22. Chorus of Israelites

Welcome, welcome, mighty king!
Welcome all who conquest bring!
Welcome David, warlike boy,
Author of our present joy!
Saul, who hast thy thousands slain,
Welcome to thy friends again!
David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!

23. Accompagnato

What do I hear? Am I then sunk so low,
To have this upstart boy preferr'd before me?

24. Chorus of Israelites

David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!

25. Accompagnato

To him ten thousands, and to me but thousands!
What can they give him more, except the kingdom?

26. Air

With rage I shall burst his praises to hear!
Oh, how I both hate the stripling, and fear!
What mortal a rival in glory can bear?


Scene 4

27. Recitative

Imprudent women! Your ill-timed comparisons,
I fear, have injured him you meant to honour.
Saul's furious look, as he departed hence,
Too plainly shew'd the tempest of his soul.

Michal (to David)
'Tis but his old disease, which thou canst cure:
Oh, take thy harp, and as thou oft hast done,
From the king's breast expel the raging fiend,
And sooth his tortur'd soul with sounds divine.

28. Air

Fell rage and black despair possess'd
With horrid sway the monarch's breast;
When David with celestial fire
Struck the sweet persuasive lyre:
Soft gliding down his ravish'd ears,
The healing sounds dispel his cares;
Despair and rage at once are gone,
And peace and hope resume the throne.

29. Recitative

High Priest
This but the smallest part of harmony,
Great attribute of attributes divine,
And centre of the rest, where all agree:
Whose wondrous force what great effects proclaim!

30. Accompagnato

High Priest
By Thee this universal frame
From its Almighty Maker's hand
In primitive perfection came,
By Thee produc'd, in thee contain'd:
No sooner did th'eternal word dispense
Thy vast mysterious influence,
Than chaos his old discord ceas'd.
Nature began, of labour eas'd,
Her latent beauties to disclose,
A fair harmonious world arose;
And though, by diabolic guile,
Disorder lord it for a while,
The time will come,
When nature shall her pristine form regain,
And harmony for ever reign.

Scene 5

Saul, David, Jonathan, Merab, Michal, Abner, High Priest.

31. Recitative

Racked with infernal pains, ev'n now the king
Comes forth, and mutters horrid words, which hell,
No human tongue, has taught him.

32. Air

O Lord, whose mercies numberless
O'er all thy works prevail:
Though daily man Thy law transgress,
Thy patience cannot fail.
If yet his sin be not too great,
The busy fiend control;
Yet longer for repentance wait,
And heal his wounded soul.

33. Symphony

34. Recitative

'Tis all in vain; his fury still continues:
With wild distraction on my friend he stares,
Stamps on the ground, and seems intent on mischief.

35. Air

A serpent, in my bosom warm'd,
Would sting me to the heart:
But of his venom soon disarm'd,
Himself shall feel the smart.
Ambitious boy! Now learn what danger
It is to rouse a monarch's anger!

He throws his javelin. Exit David.

36. Recitative

Has he escap'd my rage?
I charge thee, Jonathan, upon thy duty,
And all, on your allegiance, to destroy
This bold, aspiring youth; for while he lives,
I am not safe. Reply not, but obey.

37. Air

Capricious man, in humour lost,
By ev'ry wind of passion toss'd!
Now sets his vassal on the throne,
Then low as earth he casts him down!
His temper knows no middle state,
Extreme alike in love or hate.

Scene 6

38. Accompagnato

O filial piety! O sacred friendship!
How shall I reconcile you? Cruel father!
Your just commands I always have obeyed:
But to destroy my friend, the brave, the virtuous,
The godlike David, Israel's defender,
And terror of her foes! To disobey you
What shall I call it? 'Tis an act of duty
To God, to David nay, indeed, to you.

39. Air

No, cruel father, no!
Your hard commands I can't obey.
Shall I with sacrilegious blow
Take pious David's life away?
No, cruel father, no!
No, with my life I must defend
Against the world my best, my dearest friend.

40. Air

High Priest
O Lord, whose providence
Ever wakes for their defence
Who the ways of virtue choose:
Let not thy faithful servant fall
A victim to the rage of Saul
Who hates without a cause,
And, in defiance of thy laws,
His precious life pursues.

41. Chorus

Preserve him for the glory of Thy name,
Thy people's safety, and the heathen's shame.




Scene 1

42. Chorus

Envy, eldest born of hell,
Cease in human breasts to dwell,
Ever at all good repining,
Still the happy undermining!
God and man by thee infested,
Thou by God and man detested,
Most thyself thou dost torment,
At once the crime and punishment!
Hide thee in the blackest night:
Virtue sickens at thy sight!

Scene 2

Jonathan and David.

43. Recitative

Ah, dearest friend, undone by too much virtue!
Think you, an evil spirit was the cause
Of all my father's rage? It was, indeed,
A spirit of envy, and of mortal hate.
He has resolv'd your death; and sternly charg'd
His whole retinue, me especially,
To execute his vengeance.

44. Air

But sooner Jordan's stream, I swear,
Back to his spring shall swiftly roll,
Than I consent to hurt a hair
Of thee, thou darling of my soul.

45. Recitative

Oh, strange vicissitude! But yesterday
He thought me worthy of his daughter's love;
Today he seeks my life.

My sister Merab, by his own gift thy right,
He hath bestow'd on Adriel.

Oh, my prince, would that were all!
It would not grieve me much: the scornful maid
(Didst thou observe?) with such disdainful pride
Receiv'd the king's command! But lovely Michal,
As mild as she is fair, outstrips all praise.

46. Air

Such haughty beauties rather move
Aversion, than engage our love.
They can only our cares beguile,
Who gently speak, and sweetly smile.
If virtue in that dress appear,
Who, that sees, can love forbear?
Such beauties. . . da capo.

47. Recitative

My father comes: retire, my friend, while I
With peaceful accents try to calm his rage.

Exit David.

Scene 3

Saul and Jonathan.

48. Recitative

Hast thou obey'd my orders, and destoy'd
My mortal enemy, the son of Jesse?

Alas, my father! He your enemy?
Say, rather, he has done important service
To you, and to the nation; hazarded
His life for both, and slain our giant foe,
Whose presence made the boldest of us tremble.

49. Air

Sin not, O king, against the youth,
Who ne'er offended you:
Think, to his loyalty and truth,
What great rewards are due!
Think with what joy this godlike man
You saw, that glorious day!
Think, and with ruin, if you can,
Such services repay.

50. Air

As great Jehovah lives, I swear,
The youth shall not be slain:
Bid him return, and void of fear
Adorn our court again.

51. Air

From cities stormed, and battles won,
What glory can accrue?
By this the hero best is known,
He can himself subdue.
Wisest and greatest of his kind,
Who can in reason's fetters bind
The madness of his angry mind!

Scene 4

52. Recitative

Appear, my friend.

Enter David.

No more imagine danger:
Be first in our esteem; with wonted valour
Repel the insults of the Philistines:
And as a proof of my sincerity,
(Oh, hardness to dissemble!) instantly
Espouse my daughter Michal.

53. Air

Your words, O king, my loyal heart
With double ardour fire:
If God his usual aid impart,
Your foes shall feel what you inspire.
In all the dangers of the field,
The great Jehovah is my shield.

Exeunt David and Jonathan.

54. Recitative

Yes, he shall wed my daughter! But how long
Shall he enjoy her? He shall lead my armies!
But have the Philistines no darts, no swords,
To pierce the heart of David? Yes, this once
To them I leave him; they shall do me right!

Scene 5

David and Michal.

55. Recitative

A father's will has authorized my love:
No longer, Michal, then attempt to hide
The secret of my soul. I love thee, David,
And long have loved. Thy virtue was the cause;
And that be my defence.

56. Duet

O fairest of ten thousand fair,
Yet for thy virtue more admir'd!
Thy words and actions all declare
The wisdom by thy God inspir'd.

O lovely maid! Thy form beheld,
Above all beauty charms our eyes:
Yet still within thy form conceal'd,
Thy mind, a greater beauty, lies.

How well in thee does Heav'n at last
Compensate all my sorrows past.


57. Chorus

Is there a man, who all his ways,
Directs, his God alone to please?
In vain his foes against him move:
Superior pow'r their hate disarms;
He makes them yield to virtue's charms,
And melts their fury down to love.

58. Symphony

Scene 6

David and Michal.

59. Recitative

Thy father is as cruel, and as false,
As thou art kind and true. When I approach'd him,
New from the slaughter of his enemies,
His eyes with fury flam'd, his arms he rais'd,
With rage grown stronger; by my guiltless head
The javelin whizzing flew, and in the wall
Mock'd once again his impotence of malice.

60. Duet

At persecution I can laugh;
No fear my soul can move,
In God's protection safe,
And blest in Michal's love.

Ah, dearest youth, for thee I fear!
Fly, begone, for death is near!

Fear not, lovely fair, for me:
Death, where thou art, cannot be;
Smile, and danger is no more.

Fly, or death is at the door!
See, the murd'rous band comes on!
Stay no longer, fly, begone!

Scene 7

Michal and Doeg.

61. Recitative

Whom dost thou seek? And who hast sent thee hither?

I seek for David, and am sent by Saul.

Thy errand?

'Tis a summons to the Court.

Say he is sick.

In sickness or in health,
Alive or dead, he must be brought to Saul;
Show me his chamber.

David's bed discovered with an image in it.

Do you mock the king?
This disappointment will enrage him more:
Then tremble for th'event.


62. Air

No, no, let the guilty tremble
At ev'ry thought of danger near.
Though numbers, armed with death, assemble,
My innocence disdains to fear.
Though great their power as their spite,
Undaunted still, my soul, remain:
For greater is Jehovah's might,
And will their lawless force restrain.

Scene 8

63. Recitative

Mean as he was, he is my brother now,
My sister's husband; and to speak the truth,
Has qualities which justice bids me love,
And pity his distress. My father's cruelty
Strikes me with horror! At th'approaching feast
I fear some dire event, unless my brother,
His friend, the faithful Jonathan, avert
Th'impending ruin. I know he'll do his best.

64. Air

Author of peace, who canst control
Every passion of the soul;
To whose good spirit alone we owe
Words that sweet as honey flow:
With thy dear influence his tongue be fill'd,
And cruel wrath to soft persuasion yield.

Scene 9

Saul at the Feast of the New Moon.

65. Symphony

66. Accompagnato

The time at length is come when I shall take
My full revenge on Jesses's son.
No longer shall the stripling make
His sov'reign totter on the throne.
He dies this blaster of my fame,
Bane of my peace, and author of my shame!

Scene 10

Saul and Jonathan.

67. Recitative

Where is the son of Jesse? Comes he not
To grace our feast?

He earnestly ask'd leave
To go to Bethlem, where his father's house,
At solemn rites of annual sacrifice,
Requir'd his presence.

O perverse, rebellious!
Thinkst thou I do not know that thou hast chose
The son of Jesse to thy own confusion?
The world will say thou art no son of mine,
Who thus canst love the man I hate; the man
Who, if he lives, will rob thee of thy crown:
Send, fetch him thither; for the wretch must die.

What has he done? And wherefore must he die?

Darest thou oppose my will? Die then thyself!

He throws the javelin. Exit Jonathan, then Saul.

68. Chorus

Oh, fatal consequence
Of rage, by reason uncontroll'd!
With every law he can dispense;
No ties the furious monster hold:
From crime to crime he blindly goes,
Nor end, but with his own destruction knows.




Scene 1

Saul disguised, at Endor.

69. Accompagnato

Wretch that I am, of my own ruin author!
Where are my old supports? The valiant youth,
Whose very name was terror to my foes,
My rage has drove away. Of God forsaken,
In vain I ask his counsel. He vouchsafes
No answer to the sons of disobedience!
Even my own courage fails me! Can it be?
Is Saul become a coward? I'll not believe it!
If Heav'n denies thee aid, seek it from hell!

70. Accompagnato

'Tis said, here lives a woman, close familiar
With th'enemy of mankind: her I'll consult,
And know the worst. Her art is death by law;
And while I minded law, sure death attended
Such horrid practises. Yet, oh hard fate,
Myself am now reduc'd to ask the counsel
Of those I once abhorr'd!

Scene 2

Saul and the Witch of Endor.

71. Recitative

With me what would'st thou?

I would, that by thy art thou bring me up
The man whom I shall name.

Alas! Thou know'st
How Saul has cut off those who use this art.
Would'st thou ensnare me?

As Jehovah lives,
On this account no mischief shall befall thee.

Whom shall I bring up to thee?

Bring up Samuel.

72. Air

Infernal spirits, by whose pow'r
Departed ghosts in living forms appear,
Add horror to the midnight hour,
And chill the boldest hearts with fear:
To this stranger's wond'ring eyes
Let the prophet Samuel rise!

Scene 3

Apparition of Samuel.

73. Accompagnato

Why hast thou forc'd me from the realms of peace
Back to this world of woe?

O holy prophet!
Refuse me not thy aid in this distress.
The num'rous foe stands ready for the battle:
God has forsaken me: no more he answers
By prophets or by dreams: no hope remains,
Unless I learn from thee from course to take.

Hath God forsaken thee? And dost thou ask
My counsel? Did I not foretell thy fate,
When, madly disobedient, thou didst spare
The curst Amalekite, and on the spoil
Didst fly rapacious? Therefore God this day
Hath verified my words in thy destruction,
Hath rent the kingdom from thee, and bestow'd it
On David, whom thou hatest for his virtue.
Thou and thy sons shall be with me tomorrow,
And Israel by Philistine arms shall fall.
The Lord hath said it: He will make it good.

74. Symphony

Scene 4

David and an Amalekite.

75. Recitative

Whence comest thou?

Out of the camp of Israel.

Thou canst inform me then. How went the battle?

The people, put to flight, in numbers fell,
And Saul, and Jonathan his son, are dead.

Alas, my brother! But how knowest thou
That they are dead?

Upon mount Gilboa
I met with Saul, just fall'n upon his spear;
Swiftly the foe pursu'd; he cried to me,
Begg'd me to finish his imperfect work,
And end a life of pain and ignominy.
I knew he could not live, therefore slew him;
Took from his head the crown, and from his arms
The bracelets, and have brought them to my lord.

Whence art thou?

Of the race of Amalek.

76. Air

Impious wretch, of race accurst!
And of all that race the worst!
How hast thou dar'd to lift thy sword
Again th'anointed of the Lord?
(To one of his attendants, who kills the Amalekite.)
Fall on him, smite him, let him die!
On thy own head thy blood will lie;
Since thy own mouth has testified,
By thee the Lord's anointed died.

77. Symphony: dead march

Scene 5

Elegy on the death of Saul and Jonathan.

78. Chorus

Mourn, Israel, mourn thy beauty lost,
Thy choicest youth on Gilboa slain!
How have thy fairest hopes been cross'd!
What heaps of mighty warriors strew the plain!

79. Air

High Priest
Oh, let it not in Gath be heard,
The news in Askelon let none proclaim;
Lest we, whom once so much they fear'd,
Be by their women now despis'd,
And lest the daughters of th'uncircumcis'd
Rejoice and triumph in our shame.

80. Air

From this unhappy day
No more, ye Gilboan hills, on you
Descend refreshing rains or kindly dew,
Which erst your heads with plenty crown'd;
Since there the shield of Saul, in arms renown'd,
Was vilely cast away.

81. Air

Brave Jonathan his bow never drew,
But wing'd with death his arrow flew,
And drank the blood of slaughter'd foes.
Nor drew great Saul his sword in vain;
It reek'd, where'er he dealt his blows,
With entrails of the mighty slain.

82. Chorus of Israelites

Eagles were not so swift as they,
Nor lions with so strong a grasp
Held fast and tore the prey.

83. Air

In sweetest harmony they lived,
Nor death their union could divide.
The pious son ne'er left the father's side,
But him defending bravely died:
A loss too great to be survived!
For Saul, ye maids of Israel, moan,
To whose indulgent care
You owe the scarlet and the gold you wear,
And all the pomp in which your beauty long has shone.

84. Solo and Chorus

O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!

David and Israelites
O Jonathan! How nobly didst thou die,
For thy king and people slain.

For thee, my brother Jonathan,
How great is my distress!
What language can my grief express?
Great was the pleasure I enjoy'd in thee,
And more than woman's love thy wondrous love to me!

David and Israelites
O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!
Where, Israel, is thy glory fled?
Spoil'd of thy arms, and sunk in infamy,
How canst thou raise again thy drooping head!

85. Recitative

High Priest
Ye men of Judah, weep no more!
Let gladness reign in all our host;
For pious David will restore
What Saul by disobedience lost.
The Lord of hosts is David's friend,
And conquest will his arms attend.

86. Chorus of Israelites

Gird on thy sword, thou man of might,
Pursue thy wonted fame:
Go on, be prosperous in fight,
Retrieve the Hebrew name!
Thy strong right hand, with terror armed,
Shall thy obdurate foes dismay;
While others, by thy virtue charm'd,
Shall crowd to own thy righteous sway.