Judas Maccabaeus Quotes

"See The Conquering Hero Comes"

Context: Just as an overture by Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1869) had a tryout with two previous operas before ending up permanently attached to the Barber of Seville (1816), so a poem by an English classical scholar was used in two oratories and a play. Rossini's two earlier operas are forgotten today but Joshua, Judas Maccabaeus, and even The Rival Queen are still performed. George Frederick Handel (1689–1739) was a German composer of operas who went to England in 1712. He found the atmosphere so congenial to his music that in 1726 he became a British citizen. He directed the Royal Academy of Music and the King's Theatre in Covent Garden, and still had time to turn out forty operas, twenty-three oratorios, and a great quantity of church and chamber music. He is best remembered today for his Messiah (1742). One of Handel's neighbors, in Middlesex, was a classical scholar, Thomas Morell, friend of the poet Thomson, the actor Garrick, and the artist Hogarth. He was a product of King's College, Cambridge, from which he received a B.A. (1726), an M.A. (1730), and a D.D. (1743). Trained in Greek, he translated two volumes of Euripides' plays and other classical works. He also published several volumes of verse, chiefly sacred, but including Congratulary Verses on the Marriage of the Prince of Orange with the Princess Ann (1737). Morell's skill as an organist led to an acquaintance with Handel, who suggested he provide a libretto for an oratorio about Judas Maccabaeus, in 1746. This was the first of eight oratorios in which they collaborated. Joshua came two years later. The same poem appears in both oratorios. Later it also was inserted into a tragedy, The Rival Queens by Nathaniel Lee. It became so well known as part of that much-produced drama that its composition has more than once been attributed to Lee. In Part I of Judas Maccabaeus, Judas and his brother Simon lament the death of their father Mattathias, who had died leading the Jewish people against the cruel Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes. The people determine to continue to seek liberty, counting on the help of God and choosing Judas to guide them. In Part II, after a partial victory, the Jews turn to the restoration of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem, desecrated by heathen idolatry. In the final part, having dedicated Jerusalem, they welcome Judas, returning victorious. It is in this third part that the poem occurs, sung by the Israelite youths and maidens.

See the conquering hero comes,
Sound the trumpet, beat the drums;
Sports prepare, the laurel bring,
Songs of triumph to him sing.
See the godlike youth advance,
Breathe the flutes and lead the dance;
Myrtle wreaths and roses twine,
To deck the hero's brows divine.