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ClassicsOnline Home » HANDEL: Saul
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel, later more generally known under the English
forms of name that he assumed in London, George Frideric Handel, was born in
Halle in 1685, the son of a successful barber-surgeon and his much younger
second wife. His father opposed his son's early musical ambitions and after his
father's death Handel duly entered the University in Halle in 1702 as a student
of law, as his lather had insisted. He was able to seize the chance of
employment as organist at the Calvinist Cathedral the following month, holding
the position for a year, until his departure for Hamburg, to work there at the
opera, at first as a violinist and then as harpsichordist and composer,
contributing in the latter capacity to the Italian operatic repertoire of the
house. At the invitation of the son of the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, he
travelled, in 1706, to Italy, where he won considerable success during the next
four years. Connections he had made in Venice, brought appointment in 1710 as
Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover. From here he was granted immediate
leave to fulfill a commission in London.
Handel's first opera for London was Rinaldo, with which he won
general acclaim, and after little over a year in Hanover, he returned to
England. It was here that he now established himself as a composer of Italian
opera and of other forms of vocal and instrumental music, for which there was
an eager audience, gradually achieving a dominant position in the musical life
of the English capital. His involvement with Italian opera as a composer and
organizer continued, eventually under the royal patronage of George I, Elector
of Hanover, who had succeeded to the English throne in 1715, on the death of
Queen Anne, but by 1733, with the establishment of a rival opera company under
the patronage of the Prince of Wales, there were obvious commercial
While Handel's work in Italian opera continued, with a final opera to be
staged in 1741, he increasingly turned his attention to a new English form,
that of the oratorio. This had certain very practical advantages, in language,
lack of the need for expensive spectacle and the increasing employment of
native singers. The content of oratorios appealed to English Protestant
susceptibilities, providing a winning synthesis of religion and entertainment,
and offering no offence to those who had found operatic conventions ridiculous
in a city with strong pre-existent dramatic traditions. Handel's first English
oratorio, in 1732, was Esther, with a libretto based on Racine,
followed, in 1733, by the biblical Deborah in March and in July Athalia,
with a libretto by Samuel Humphreys, his earlier collaborator, derived from
Racine and biblical sources. The
next English oratorio relying on biblical sources was Saul, first
performed at the King’s Theatre in London on 16th January 1739 and
revived on a number of subsequent occasions.
During the following years Handel continued to develop the form of the
oratorio, chiefly on biblical subjects but with an occasional excursion into
the mythological. These works, with their Italianate melodies, strong choral
writing and demonstrable dramatic sense, ensured their composer's continued
popularity and dominance, particularly with the wider development of choral
singing in the nineteenth century. Handel's most famous oratorio, Messiah, was
Handel died in London
in April 1759 and was buried, as he had requested, in Westminster Abbey, to be
commemorated there three years later by an imaginative and slightly improbable
monument by Louis François Roubiliac, who had provided, thirty years before, a
statue of the composer in his night-cap and slippers as Apollo for the pleasure
gardens at Vauxhall, an indication of his popular reputation. His funeral drew
a crowd of some three thousand mourners, while posthumous Handel celebrations
could muster a similar audience in the Abbey, with a proportionate number of
In July 1738 the cancellation of the intended opera season was announced
by the manager of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, Johann Jakob Heidegger,
after the failure of the Opera of the Nobility in 1737 and now a lack of
sufficient subscribers for a new season. Handel, who had been engaged by his
former partner as music director for the following season of opera for a fee of
£1000, was able, in consequence, to hire the theatre from Heidegger for his
ventures in English oratorio. To this end he busied himself with the oratorio Saul,
while still working intermittently on the Italian opera Imeneo, for
which there seemed no immediate prospect of performance.
Saul brought the first collaboration between Handel and Charles Jennens, a
country landowner of substantial wealth from Gopsall in Leicestershire, known
for his eccentricities of behaviour and display of wealth. Dr Johnson may have
seen fit to describe Jennens as an English 'Solyman the Magnificent', but he
was, nevertheless, a man of taste and discernment. He had been enthusiastic in
collecting works by Handel and in 1735 had supplied him with a libretto,
presumably for the oratorio Saul. He was to continue his active
collaboration with Handel with his adaptation of Milton's L'Allegro, il
Penseroso ed il Moderato, Messiah and Belshazzar. Handel was his
frequent guest at Gopsall and the relationship between the two men was more
amicable than might ever have been expected, given their temperaments. At any
rate, Handel was here willing, as in his later collaborations with Jennens, to
pay some attention to the latter's advice and suggestions and it was through
Jennens that he wrote new music for the elegy on Saul and Jonathan, rather than
re-using music he had written for the funeral of Queen Caroline the previous
In a well known letter to Lord Guernsey on 19th September Jennens
describes a visit to Handel, whose head, he found, was 'more full of maggots
than ever'. The first of these was a new instrument, a carillon or Tubalcain,
as Handel told him some called it, a set of bells to be played from a
keyboard, an instrument 'with which he designs to make poor Saul stark mad'.
Other 'maggots' included a new organ Handel had ordered, at a cost
of £500 (enabling him to direct the oratorio from the keyboard, facing the
performers), the introduction of an inappropriate Hallelujah to make a grand
ending, and many more, the description of which Jennens defers to a later time.
At the time of Jennens's visit to Handel in September 1738, the composer
was at work on the third act of Saul, the composition of which he had
started on 23rd July. By 8th August he had finished the second act and the
whole work would presumably have been virtually complete by the end of
September. In early 1739 the London Daily Post advertised the first
performance of the new oratorio, to take place on 16th January at six o'clock
in the evening. Various rumours arose as to the coming performance. Lord
Wentworth, in writing of a rehearsal of the oratorio, reports that 'one
Russell, an Englishman that sings extremely well' is taking the principal part,
with Francescina, but believes that 'all the rest are but indifferent'. A
few days later he writes to the same correspondent with the news that Handel
'has borrowed of the Duke of Argyll a pair of the largest kettle-drums in the
Tower, so to be sure it will be most excessive noisy with a bad sett off
singers', taking a pessimistic view of Handel's chances of recouping his losses
on the opera. The performance, in the event, was warmly greeted by an audience
that included the Royal Family, and was repeated for five nights. The architect
William Kent in a letter to Lord Burlington comments on the use of the
carillon: 'There is a pretty concerto in the oratorio with some stops in the
harpsichord that are little bells, I thought it had been some squirrels in a
The singers employed by Handel included the tenor John Beard, who, as a
boy, had sung the part of the Israelite Priest in the first performance of Esther
in 1732. Beard sang in Handel's Italian operas and in most if not all his
oratorios. His marriage, on the day of the public rehearsal, to Lady Henrietta
Herbert, daughter of the Earl of Waldegrave, occasioned considerable
The text of Saul was
published in 1738, described on the title-page as 'an oratorio or sacred
drama'. On the same page appear two quotations that might be thought to add
weight to the work, one, in Greek, from Marcus Aurelius on the nature of
virtue, and the other, in Latin, from Cicero on the relation of friendship to
The Biblical Narrative
Jennens derived his
text from the Books of Samuel and from Abraham Cowley's lengthy epic Davideis,
the latter acknowledged in the 1738 libretto as the source of Merab's
scornful behaviour. The oratorio starts with the aftermath of the boy David's
victory over Goliath (Samuel I, xvii). Goliath, a Philistine warrior,
had challenged Saul and his subjects, continuing to do so for forty days, while
none dared go out to meet him. David, sent by his father to take food to his
older brothers, who were in Saul's army, accepts the challenge and kills
Goliath with a pebble from his shepherd's sling. He cuts off Goliath's head,
and with it in his hand is ushered before Saul by Abner, captain of Saul's army.
David tells Saul that he is the son of Jesse, from Bethlehem, and is to be
rewarded with the hand of Saul's daughter. Jonathan, Saul's son, at once
becomes close friends with David, loving him as his own soul, and David remains
in Saul's household. Saul offers his daughter Merab as a reward to David, but
she, in the incident drawn from Cowley's poem, scorns David's humble birth.
Another daughter of the King, Michal, however, loves David. In a re-ordering of
the biblical events, David is now greeted by the women of Israel, who claim
that Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands. Saul is jealous
and fears David's possible ambition, but, at Michal's urging, David is
persuaded to calm Saul's disturbed spirits with his harp. Saul, in madness,
hurls a javelin at him, but David escapes. He now seeks to kill David, trying
to enlist Jonathan in his purpose, but Jonathan puts the duty of friendship
before that of filial obedience. Saul now gives Merab in marriage to another
but is persuaded to receive David again, to whom he offers the hand of Michal,
hoping, however, that he may fall victim to the Philistines. David is
victorious and once again, as he plays before Saul, the latter hurls a javelin
at him, forcing him to make his escape by subterfuge.
Samuel, the prophet
who had anointed Saul as King, has died, and now Saul, still fearing the
growing power of David, who has won wide support in his exile, seeks out the
woman of Endor with a familiar spirit (Samuel I xxviii), defying
his own law that had banned necromancy from the land. The spirit of Samuel
threatens defeat on the morrow. In the battle between the Israelites and the
Philistines, the former are defeated, and Saul and Jonathan are killed. News of
their death and the defeat is taken to David by an Amalekite, who had listened
to Saul's wish as he lay wounded and killed him. David has the Amalekite killed
and now mourns the death of Jonathan.
The libretto, as
constructed by Jennens, telescopes events that seem repetitive in the biblical
account. Here they are made to accord, in a measure at least, with classical
canons. In history, the eleventh-century Saul was the first King of Israel and
conquered the Philistines, Ammonites and Amalekites. His jealousy of his
son-in-law David led the latter to take refuge and even to serve the Philistine
King of Gath, as Saul mounted expeditions against him. He was secretly anointed
king by Samuel and on the death of Saul at Mount Gilboa he reigned as King of
Judaea in Hebron for seven and a half years, succeeding Saul's surviving son
Ishbosheth as King of all Israel for a further 32 years, during which he made
Jerusalem his capital. In iconography he is often pictured with a harp or lyre,
a reference to the musical skill with which he attempted to calm Saul's
madness. The tragedy in the oratorio is of Saul, and deals chiefly with his
envy and his final defeat and death after earlier greatness.
The oratorio Saul calls
for a dozen soloists and chorus, with an orchestra of pairs of flutes, oboes,
bassoons and trumpets, three trombones, timpani, carillon, harp, organ,
harpsichord and strings.  The opening Symphony is in the established
form of an Italian overture, with an Allegro in characteristically
imitative style, followed by a slow movement and a further Allegro, here
in the form of an organ concerto movement. The instrumental introduction to the
work ends with a triple-metre Andante larghetto.
 The first act
starts with a choral song of triumph for David's victory over Goliath and the Philistines,
now using trumpets, drums and trombones, in addition to the oboes, bassoon,
strings and keyboard instruments of the initial Symphony, and in the
same key of C major. The chorus has an orchestral introduction that answers
Lord Wentworth's contemporary expectations, with the voices of the chorus at
first in homophonic texture, before the introduction of a brief passage of
counterpoint.  David's achievement is praised in a C minor soprano Air, marked
Larghetto,  leading immediately to a chorus for alto, tenor and bass,
marked, unusually, Ardito,  and a G major Larghetto chorus
with a more extended fugal section.  The C major chorus that began the scene
returns, followed by a formal Hallelujah.
 A short recitative
starts the second scene, as Michal announces the approach of David, 
praising him in the following B flat major Air, accompanied by strings
and continuo, the first section duly repeated with appropriate ornamentation.
 In a recitative Abner introduces David to the King's presence, to be
rewarded by Saul with the promise of his daughter to wife.  David answers
Saul in an F major da capo aria, its opening figure expressing respect
for the King.  Now Jonathan expresses his delight in such modesty and
piety, in a recitative.  Saul's daughter Merab, however, gives vent to her
reservations about the proposed marriage in a contemptuous and angry G major Air,
marked Andante but lively enough in character.  Her following
recitative serves to introduce  Jonathan's Air, an A major da
capo aria, with an A minor central section, marked Larghetto. 
The High Priest now proposes David and Jonathan as a model for the young men of
Israel,  with three verses in strophic form in praise of virtue, a B minor Largo
which now adds a flute to the strings and continuo in accompaniment. 
Saul's suggestion that Merab should marry David  she rejects with
indignation in a G major Allegro.  In a gentler A minor Air Michal
comments on her sister's scornful reaction  and continues with a short Air
in F major, praising David.  The C major Symphony that follows
is scored for violins, carillons and organ,  of which Michal's subsequent
recitative explains the reason; this is the dance of the daughters of Israel,
in celebration of David's victory.
 This Symphony and
recitative herald the third scene, with its chorus of the daughters of Israel
in the same key, praising David and thereby exciting Saul's jealousy. -
His reaction is given in an accompanied recitative, interrupting the chorus and
then leading from its triumphant C major to  an E minor Air of
jealous rage, an aria that marks his angry exit.
 In the fourth
scene Jonathan rebukes the women for their lack of discretion and Michal urges
David to soothe Saul with his harp,  explaining its proposed effect in an A
major Air. - The High Priest discourses on the power of music to
restore primitive and universal harmony in an accompanied recitative.
 The fifth scene
opens with Abner telling of Saul's madness.  David prays in an F major Air,
an introduction to his harp-playing,  a Symphony in the same
key.  The present performance now restores David's agitated Air, in
which flight seems the only possibility.  Jonathan finds all to no avail
 and Saul now appears, to vent his anger in a lively B flat major Allegro,
at the end of which he hurls his javelin at David, who makes his escape.
 In his following recitative Saul commands Jonathan to destroy David, 
while Merab, in an F major Air, with an ornamented repetition of the
first part, comments on the capricious humour of her father.
 In the sixth scene
Jonathan, with an accompanied recitative, describes his own dilemma, divided
between filial piety and love for his friend.  His B minor Larghetto leads
to a G major Allegro, a determination to be true to his friend.  The
High Priest comments on the situation in a D minor Larghetto.  A G
minor fugal chorus, accompanied by woodwind, strings and continuo, ends
the act with a plea to God for David's safety.
 The second act
opens with a relatively cheerful E flat major chorus on the evils of envy, with
dotted rhythms over the progress of the bass-line.
 The second scene
of the act is between David and Jonathan. Jonathan, in a recitative, warns his
friend of his danger  and in a C minor Air swears loyalty.  David
comments on the mutability of fortune and Jonathan tells him that Saul has now
decided to give his daughter Merab to another in marriage. David, however,
would, in any case, prefer Michal.  He inveighs against haughty beauties and
praises gentle virtue in an E major Air, the first section repeated dal
segno.  Jonathan tells David to make his escape, since Saul is approaching.
 In recitative
Saul asks Jonathan if he has obeyed his command to kill David, but Jonathan
pleads for his friend.  In a strophic Largo in F major he urges his
case  and Saul relents, bidding Jonathan recall David to the court in an Air
in the same key.  Jonathan resumes his Air, now musing on the
value of reason in controlling the madness of his father's anger, in a
continuing Andante that now moves into D minor.
 The fourth scene
allows Jonathan to welcome David back to Saul's presence, while the latter
pretends to welcome him, now bestowing the hand of his daughter Michal on him.
 In a G major Air David finds inspiration in Saul's words and
promises loyalty. David and Jonathan leave together.  Now Saul, in a
recitative, reveals his plan to expose David to danger on the battlefield
against the Philistines.
 Michal, in a
recitative, declares her love for David  and she and David join in a G
major love duet.  This is capped by the chorus, praising the power of
virtue they perceive in David.  The following C major Symphony opens
with a formal slow introductory movement, dignified by the use of trombones,
with the strings and continuo. An Allegro provides the opportunity for
an organ concerto movement. The Symphony ends with a C minor organ Gavotte
 By the sixth
scene time has passed. David tells Michal of Saul's treachery, his renewed
anger and his attempt to kill him.  In a G minor duet David protests his
courage, while Michal urges him to make his escape.
 In the seventh
scene Doeg, sent by Saul, demands David's presence at court, to Michal's
dismay. He is shown to have made his escape, by leaving an effigy in his bed.
Threatening the consequences, Doeg leaves,  while Michal is left to declare
her trust in Jehovah in an E flat major Air.
 The eighth scene
finds Merab now prepared to support David and what she now sees as the cause of
justice, against the cruelty of her father.  In a G minor Air she
suggests that divine intervention can serve to assuage Saul's anger.
 Saul, in the
ninth scene, is present at the Feast of the New Moon, its celebration indicated
in a C major Symphony, with trumpets, trombones, drums, oboes, bassoons,
strings and continuo.  In an accompanied recitative Saul declares
his intention of taking full revenge on David, blaster of his fame, bane of his
peace and author of his shame.
 The final scene
of the act finds Saul demanding of Jonathan that David come to him, and now, to
his son's opposition, throwing a javelin at him.  A D major chorus, leading
to a chromatic fugal section, comments on the effects of unreasoning anger that
must end in its own destruction.
 The third act
opens with Saul, disguised, at Endor. In an accompanied recitative he laments
his own fate, cast off by God and now turning to Hell for aid.  In
unaccompanied recitative he approaches the house of the woman of Endor, whose
magic practices he has himself forbidden in his kingdom.
 The second scene
brings Saul face to face with the woman, who suspects his intentions. He asks
her to conjure up Samuel.  In a sinister F minor Air the woman calls
on the infernal spirits to bring to her the ghost of the Prophet Samuel.
 In the third scene
Saul confronts the apparition of Samuel, who tells him that he will lose his
kingdom, which will pass to David, after Saul and his sons have fallen, on the
morrow, to the Philistines.  A war-like C major Symphony follows.
 The fourth scene
finds David questioning an Amalekite about the battle. He learns of the death
of Saul, killed by the Amalekite at his own request.  David is appalled and
in a lively D major Air tells one of his attendants to kill the man who
has raised his sword against the Lord's anointed.  The famous Dead March is
heard, in C major and scored for flutes, trombones and drums, strings and continuo.
There is a brief transition,  leading to the C minor choral elegy on
Saul and Jonathan.  In E flat major, David's own lament is in the present
performance given to the High Priest,  to be followed by a G minor Air now
given to Merab.  David's own sorrow is simply expressed in a G major Air
accompanied only by continuo.  The chorus continues with its own
lament,  the further expression of which is here given not to David but to
Michal in an E major Air.  David and the chorus go on, the former
now paying tribute to his friend Jonathan.  In a recitative the High Priest
suggests that this is a time also to rejoice in the return of David, God's
friend.  This allows the chorus, in a brave C major, to urge their hero to
prosper in battle against the enemies of Israel.
The Concept of the Present Recording
It is assumed that the
essential conflict that determines the order of events in Handel's oratorio is
that between God and Saul. This has led to the restoration of some recitatives
and arias for the High Priest, removed by Chrysander as dispensable in his
edition of 1862. The present version finds the High Priest a symbol of God in
his interventions. Other modifications include the restoration of David's air, Fly,
malicious Spirit, fly, to emphasize the power of music described by Michal
and the High Priest. The lament on the death of Saul and Jonathan, biblically
and more usually in the oratorio given to David, has here been divided between
those with reason to lament, the High Priest, Merab and Michal, as well as
It has been found
preferable to refer to the so-called witch of Endor as the woman of Endor, on
the ground that the concept of witchcraft is an anachronism. [Nevertheless the
text of the oratorio follows tradition in writing of the Witch of Endor. The
Vulgate, Luther's translation of the Bible and the English Authorised Version
all simply refer to her as a woman of Endor, her activity that of a medium].
Saul's action in consulting the woman, in spite of his own ban on necromancy,
violates a divine command and thus shakes the very basis of his political
power. The woman, however, shows compassion at Saul's distress when he hears
the words of the apparition of Samuel. Her action has been compared by Lisa
Jung with that of the angel that gives the bread of life to the prophet Elijah.
The rôle has here been given to a woman and not, as has been traditional, to a
tenor. There is reason to believe that this accords with Handel’s intentions,
as far as can be ascertained from surviving cast-lists of performances that he
Based on information
supplied by Joachim Carlos Martini
Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro – Andante larghetto
Act the First
Scene the First
An Epinicion, or Song of Triumph, for the Victory over Goliath and the
No. 1, Chorus: A tempo giusto
Soprano, Alto, Tenore, Basso
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!
No. 2, Air: Larghetto
An Infant rais'd by thy Command,
To quell thy Rebel Foes,
Cou'd fierce Goliah's dreadful hand
Superior in the Fight oppose.
No. 3, Trio: Ardito forte
Alto, Tenore, Basso
Along the Monster Atheist strode,
With more than Human Pride,
And Armies of the Living God
Exulting in his Strength defy'd.
No. 4, Chorus: Larghetto
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
No. 5, Chorus: A tempo giusto
How excellent thy name, O Lord,
Above all Heav'ns, O King, ador'd,
How hast thou set thy glorious Throne!
Scene the Second
Saul, Jonathan, Merab, Michal and Abner, introducing David. High
No. 6, Recitative
No. 7, Air: Larghetto
O God-like 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!
No. 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.
No. 9, Air: Larghetto
O King, your Favours with Delight
I take, but must refuse your Praise:
For ev'ry pious Israelite
to God alone that Tribute pays.
Through Him we put to flight our Foes,
and in his Name
we trod them under that against us rose.
No. 10, Recitative
O early Piety! O
In this Embrace
my Heart bestows itself
And Jonathan and
David are but one
No. 11, Air: Andante
Thoughts a Prince can have,
In Rank a Prince!
in Mind a Slave!
No. 12, Recitative
Merab (Aside, to
Yet think with
whom this Honour you bestow;
How poor in
Fortune, and in Birth how low!
No. 13, Air: Allegro
Jonathan (To Merab)
Birth and Fortune
From Virtue let
my Friendship rise.
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.
No. 14, Recitative
illustrious Pair! your great Example
Shall teach our
Youth to scorn the sordid world,
And set their
Hearts on Things of real Worth.
No. 15, Air: Largo
While yet thy
Tide of Blood runs high,
To God thy future
Thy early Vigour
Service to promote.
So shall thy
Great Creator bless,
And bid thy Days
So shall thy
In Age no
Reflection thou shalt taste,
to thy Tomb,
The Pleasure of
Rood Action, past
And hope with
Rapture Joys to come.
No. 16, Recitative
first in Birth, be first in Honour:
Thine be the
vallant Youth, whose Arm has sav'd
Thy Country from
O mean Alliance!
No. 17, Air: Allegro
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!
Tho' Saul's Commands I can't decline,
I must prevent his low Design,
And save the
Honour of his Line.
No. 18, Air: Moderato
See with what a
She the precious
Tho' e'er so
Noble, or so Fair,
she cannot merit
what he gives.
No. 19, Air: Larghetto
Ah, lovely Youth!
wast thou design'd
With that proud
Beauty to be join'd?
Scene the Third
Saul, Michal and
Chorus of Women.
No. 20, Symphony: Andante allegro
No. 21, Recitative
Already see the
Daughters of the Land,
In joyful Dance,
with Instruments of Musick,
congratulate your Victory.
No. 22, Chorus: Andante
Soprano I, Soprano
Welcome all who
Author of our
Saul, who hast
thy Thousands slain,
Welcome to thy
David his Ten
praises are his due!
Soprano I, Soprano
II, Alto, Tenore I, Tenore II, Basso
praises are his due,
praise, are his due!
No. 23, Accompagnato
What do I hear?
Am I then sunk so low,
To have this up
start boy preferr'd before me?
No. 24, Chorus: Andante
praises are his due!
No. 25, Accompagnato
To him Ten
And to me but
What can they
give him more?
No. 26, Air: Andante
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? (Exit)
Scene the Fourth
Jonathan, Michal, High Priest
No. 27, Recitative
your ill-tim'd Comparisons,
I fear, have
injur'd him you meant to honour.
Look, as he departed hence,
shew'd the Tempest of his Soul.
Michal (to David)
'Tis but his old
Disease, which thou canst cure.
O 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 Sound, Divine. (Exit
No. 28, Air: Lorghetto
Fell Rage and
black Despair possest
With horrid Sway
the Monarch's Breast;
When David with
Struck the sweet
Soft gliding down
his ravish'd Ears,
Sounds dispel his Cares;
Despair and Rage
at once are gone,
And Peace and
Hope resume the Throne.
No. 29, Recitative
This but the
smallest part of Harmony,
of Attributes Divine,
And Centre of the
Rest, where all agree:
Force, what great Effect' proclaim!
No. 30, Accompagnato
By thee this
From its Almighty
By thee produc'd,
in thee contain'd:
No sooner did th'
Eternal Word dispense
Than Chaos his old Discord ceas'd.
Nature began, of
Beauties to disclose,
A fair harmonious
And tho’, by diabolick guile,
Disorder lord it for
The Time will
When Nature shall
her pristine Form regain,
And Harmony for
Scene the Fifth
Saul, David, Jonathan, Merab, Abner
No. 31, Recitative
Rack'd with Infernal Pains, ev'n now the King
Comes forth, and mutters horrid Words, which Hell,
No human Tongue, has taught him.
No. 31a, Air: Largo
O Lord, whose
O'er all thy
Tho' daily Man
thy law Transgress,
If yet his Sin be
not too great,
The busy Fiend
Yet longer for
And heal his
No. 32, Symphony (Arpa): Largo
No. 33, Air: Allegro
Own the Pow'r of
To thy native
his Pain assuage,
And instead of
With thy Peace
his Mind inspire.
No. 34, Recitative
'Tis all in vain;
his Fury still continues;
Distraction on my Friend he stares,
Stamps on the
And seems intent
No. 35, Air: Allegro
A Serpent, in my
Would sting me to
But of his Venom
feel the Smart.
now learn what Danger
It is to rouse a
(He throws his
javelin. Exit David.)
No. 36, Recitative
Has he escap'd my
I charge thee,
Jonathan, upon thy Duty,
And All, on your
Allegiance, to destroy
For while he
lives, I am not safe
Reply not, but
No. 37, Air: Allegro
in Humour lost,
By ev'ry Wind of
Now sets his
Vassal on the Throne,
Then low as Earth
he casts him down;
His Temper knows
no middle State,
Extreme alike in Lave
Scene the Sixth
Jonathan, High Priest, Chorus
O Filial Piety! O
How shall I
Commands I always have obey'd:
But to destroy my
Friend! The Brave, the Virtuous,
David! Israel's Defender, and Terror to her Foes!
To disobey you –
what shall I call it? –
'Tis an Act of
Duty to God – to David
– Nay, indeed To
No. 39, Air: Larghetto
No, cruel Father,
Commands I can't obey.
Shall I with
David's Life away!
No, cruel Father,
No; with my Life
I must defend
Against the World
my best, my dearest friend.
No. 40, Air: Larghetto
O Lord, whose Providence
Ever wakes for
Who the Ways of
Let not thy
faithful Servant fall
A Victim to the
Rage of Soul,
Who hates without
And, in Defiance
of thy Laws,
His precious Life
No. 41, Chorus: Allegro
Preserve him for
the Glory of thy Name,
Safety, and the Heathen's Shame.
Act the Second
Scene the First
No. 42, Chorus: Andante
Soprano, Alto, Tenore,
Cease in human
Breasts to dwell.
Ever at all Good
Still the Happy
God and Man by
Thou by God and
Most thyself thou
At once the Crime
Hide thee in the
Virtue sickens at
born of Hell!
Cease in human
Breasts to dwell.
Scene the Second
Jonathan and David
No. 43, Recitative
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
Retinue, me especially,
To execute his
No. 44, Air: Allegro
Jordan's Stream, I swear,
back to his
Spring shall swiftly roll,
than I consent to
hurt a hair of thee,
thou Darling of
No. 45, Recitative
O strange Vicissitude! But
He thought me worthy
of his Daughter's Love;
To Day he seeks
My Sister Merab,
by his own Gift thy Right,
He has bestow 'd
0, my Prince,
would that were all!
It would not
grieve me much:
The scornful Maid
(didst thou observe?)
disdainful Pride receiv'd
Command! But lovely Michal,
As mild as she is
fair, out-strips all Praise.
No. 46, Air: Moderato
Beauties rather move
engage our Love.
They only can our
Who gently speak,
and sweetly smile.
If Virtue in that
Who, that sees,
can Love forbear?
No. 47, Recitative
My Father comes,
retire, my friend, while I
Accents try to calm his Rage.
Scene the Third
Saul and Jonathan
No. 48, Recitative
Hast thou obey'd
my Orders, and destroy'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,
made the boldest of us tremble.
No. 49, Air: Lorgo
Sin not, O King,
against the Youth,
Think, to his
Loyalty and Truth,
rewards are due!
Think with what
joy this God-like man
You saw, that
Think, and with
ruin, if you can,
No. 50, Air: Andante
As Great Jehovah
lives, I swear,
The Youth shall
not be slain:
Bid him return,
and void of Fear
Adorn our Court
No. 51, Air: Lorgo
storm'd, and Battles won,
What Glory can
By this the Hero
best is known;
He can himself
greatest of his Kind,
Who can in
Reason's Fetters bind
The Madness of
his angry Mind!
Scene the Fourth
Jonathan, Saul and David
No. 52, Recitative
Appear, my Friend.
No more imagine
Be First in our
Esteem; with wonted Valour
Repel the Insults
of the Philistines:
And as a Proof of
(0 Hardness to
my Daughter Michal!
No. 53, Air: Allegro
Your words, O King, my Loyal Heart
If God His usual
Your Foes shall
feel what you inspire.
In all the
Dangers of the Field,
The Great Jehovah
is my Shield.
(Exeunt David and
No. 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!
David, Michal and Chorus
No. 55, Recitative
A Father's Will
has authoriz'd my Love;
Michal, then attempt to hide
the Secret of thy
Soul. I love thee, David,
And long hove
lov'd, Thy Virtue was the Cause;
and that be my
No. 56, Duet: Andante
O Fairest often
Yet for thy
Virtue more admir'd!
Thy Words and
Actions all declare
The Wisdom by thy
O lovely Maid!
Thy Form beheld,
Above all Beauty
charms our Eyes:
Yet still within
that Form conceal'd,
Thy Mind, a
greater Beauty, lies.
Michal and David
How well in Thee
does Heav'n at last compensate all my Sorrows past.
No. 57, Chorus
Is there a Man,
who all his Ways
Directs, his God
alone to please?
In vain his Foes
against him move:
their Hate disarms;
He makes them
yield to Virtue's Charms,
And melts their
Fury down to Love.
No. 58, Symphony: Largo
– Allegro – Gavotte
David and Michal
No. 59, Recitative
Thy Father is as
cruel, and as false,
As thou art kind
When I approach'd
New from the
Slaughter of his Enemies,
His Eyes with
Fury flam'd; his Arm he rais'd,
With Rage grown
stronger; by my guiltless Head
whizzing flew, and in the Wall
Mock'd once again
his Impotence of Malice.
No. 60, Duet: Allegro
ma non troppo
At Persecution I
No Fear my Soul
And blest in
Youth! for thee I fear!
Fly! – be gone! –
for Death is near!
Fear not, lovely
Fair, for me:
Death, where thou
art, cannot be.
Smile, and Danger is no more.
Fly – for Death
is at the Door!
For thee I fear,
Death, where thou
art, cannot be,
murd'rous Band comes on!
Stay no longer!
Fly! – be gone! Fly! Fly!
Scene the Seventh
Michal and Doeg
No. 61, Recitative
Whom dost thou
And who has sent
I seek for David; and am sent by Saul.
'Tis a Summons to
Say, he is sick.
In Sickness or in
Alive, or dead,
he must be brought to Saul.
Show me his
discover'd with an Image in it)
Do you mock the
Disappointment will enrage him more:
Then tremble for
No. 62, Air: Allegro
No, no, let the
At ev'ry thought
of Danger near.
arm' d with Death, assemble,
disdains to fear.
Tho' great their
Power as their Spite,
my Soul, remain:
For greater is
And will their
lawless Force restrain.
Scene the Eighth
No. 63, Recitative
Mean as he was,
he is my Brother now,
Husband; and, to speak the Truth,
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
faithfull Jonathan, avert
Ruin. I know, he'll do his best.
No. 64, Air: Largo
Author of Peace,
who canst controll
Ev'ry Passion of
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 the Ninth
Saul at the Feast of the New Moon
No. 65, Symphony: Allegro
No. 66, Accompagnato
The Time at length
is come, when I shall take
My full Revenge
on Jesse's San.
No longer shall
the Stripling make
totter at the Throne.
He dies – the
Blaster of my Fame,
Bane of my Peace,
and Author of my Shame.
Scene the Tenth
No. 67, Recitative
Where is the Son
Comes he not to
grace our Feast?
to go to Bethlem,
where his Father's House,
a solemn Rites of
Thinkst thou, I
do not know, that thou hast chose
The Son of Jesse
to thy own Confusion?
The World will say, thou ort 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 hither; for the Wretch must die.
What has he done? And wherefore must he die ?
oppose my Will? Die then thyself!
(He throws his
Exit Jonathan, then
No. 68, Chorus: A
Of Rage, by
With ev'ry Law he
No Ties the
furious Monster hold;
From Crime to
Crime he blindly goes,
Nor End, but with
his own Destruction, knows.
Act the Third
Saul disguis’d at
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!
Ev'n 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!
No. 70, Recitative
'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
Practices: Yet, O hard Fate!
Myself am now reduc'd to ask the Counsel
Of those I once
Saul and the Witch
No. 71, Recitative
Witch (Woman of
With me what
I wou'd, that by thy Art thou bring me up
the Man whom I shall name.
Witch (Woman of Endor)
Alas! thou know'st how
Saul has cut off those who use this Art.
Would'st thou insnare me?
As Jehova lives,
On this Account no Mischief shall befall thee.
Witch (Woman of Endor)
Whom shall I bring up to thee?
Bring up Samuel.
No. 72, Air: Largo
Infernal Spirits, by whose Pow'r
departed Ghosts in living Form 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!
Apparition of Samuel
No. 73, Accompagnato: Largo
Why hast thou force'd me from the Realms of Peace
Back to this World of Woe?
O holy Prophet, 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 you
What Course to take.
Hath God forsaken thee?
And dost thou ask my Counsel?
Did I not foretel thy Fate,
when, madly disobedient, thou didst spare
the curst Amalekite, and on the Spoil
Didst fly rapacious?
Therefore God this Day hath verify'd 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 to-morrow,
And Israel by Philistine Arms shall fall.
The Lord hath said it: He will make it good.
No. 74, Symphony: Allegro
David and an
No. 75, Recitative
Whence com'st 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 know'st thou
That they are
Upon Mount Gilboa
I met with Saul,
just fallen upon his Spear;
Swiftly the Foe
pursu'd. He cry'd 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
and have brought them to my Lord.
Whence art thou?
I am an Amalekite.
No. 76, Air: Allegro
of Race accurst!
And of all that
Race the worst!
How hast thou
dar'd to lift thy Sword
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 testify'd,
By Thee the
Lord's Anointed died.
Elegy on Death of
Saul and Jonathan
No. 77, March: Grave
No. 78, Chorus: Lorgo
mourn thy Beauty lost,
Youth on Gilboa slain.
How have thy
fairest Hopes been cross'd!
What Heaps of
mighty Warriors strew the Plain!
No. 79, Air: unto
O 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
And lest the
Daughters of th' Uncircumcis'd
triumph in our Shame.
No. 80, Air: Lorgo
From this unhappy
No more, ye
Gilboan Hills, on you
refreshing Rain or kindly dew
Which erst your
Heads with Plenty crown'd;
Since there the
Shield of Saul, in Arms renown'd,
Was vilely cast
No. 81, Air: Largo
his Bow ne'er 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.
No. 82, Chorus: Allegro
Eagles were not
so swift as they,
Nor Lions with so
strong a Grasp
Held fast and
tore the Prey.
No. 83, Air: A
Harmony they liv'd,
Nor Death their
Union cou'd divide:
The pious Son
ne'er left the Father's side,
But him defending
A Loss too great
to be surviv'd!
For Saul, ye
Maids of Israel, moan,
You owe the
Scarlet and the Gold you wear,
And all the Pomp
in which your Beauty long has shone.
No. 84, Solo and
Chorus: A tempo giusto
David and Chorus
O fatal Day! How
low the Mighty lie!
O Jonathan! How
nobly didst thou die,
for thy King and
For thee, my
how great is my
What Language can
my Grief express?
Great was the
Pleasure I enjoy'd in thee!
and more than
thy wondrous Love
Where, Israel, is
thy Glory fled?
Spoil'd of thy
Arms, and sunk in Infamy,
how canst thou
raise again thy drooping Head!
No. 85, Air
Ye men of Judah,
weep no more;
reign in all our Host;
for pious David
what Saul by
The Lord of Hosts
is David's Friend,
and Conquest will
hi, Arms attend.
No. 86, Chorus: Allegro
Gird on thy
Sword, thou Man of Might,
pursue thy wonted
Go on, be
prosperous in Fight,
Right-Hand, with Terror arm'd,
obdurate Foes dismay;
while others, by
thy Virtue charm'd,
shall crowd to
own thy Righteous Sway.
The End of the
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