Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Elizabethan Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.  1845.
 
The Passage of the Red Sea
X. Michael Drayton
 
THOSE which at home scorn’d Pharaoh and his force,
And whose departure he did humbly pray,
He now pursues with his Egyptian horse
And warlike foote, to spoile them on the way.
Where his choice people strongly to protect,        5
The only God of emperie and of might,
Before his host his standard doth erect,
A glorious pillar in a field of light;
Which he by day in sable doth vnfolde,
To dare the sunne his ardour to forbeare,        10
By night conuerts it into flaming golde,
Away the coldnesse of the same to feare.
Not by Philistia he his force will leade,
Though the farre nearer and the happier way:
His men of warre a glorious march shall tread        15
On the vast bowels of the bloudie sea;
And sends the windes as currers forth before
To make them way from Pharaoh’s power to flie,
And to conuey them to a safer shore.
Such is his might that can make oceans drie,        20
Which by the stroke of that commanding wand
Shouldred the rough seas forcibly together,
Raised as rampiers by that glorious hand,
(Twixt which they march,) that did conduct them thither.
The surly waues their Ruler’s will obay’d,        25
By him made vp in this confused masse,
Like as an ambush secretly were laid,
To set on Pharaoh as his power should passe,
Which soone with wombes insatiably wide,
Loos’d from their late bounds by the Almightie’s power,        30
Come raging in, enclosing euery side,
And the Egyptians instantly deuour.
The sling, the stiffe bowe, and the sharpned launce,
Floating confusdly on the waters rude,
They which these weapons lately did aduance,        35
Perish in sight of them that they pursude:
Clashing of armours and the rumorous sound
Of the sterne billowes in contention stood,
Which to the shores doe euery way rebound,
As doth affright the monsters of the flood.        40
Death is discern’d triumphantly in armes,
On the rough seas his slaughterie to keepe,
And his colde selfe in breath of mortals warmes
Vpon the dimpled bosome of the deepe.
There might you see a checkquer’d ensigne swim        45
About the bodie of the enui’d dead,
Serue for a hearse or couerture to him
Ere while did waft it proudly ’bout his head:
The warlike chariot turn’d vpon the backe,
With the dead horses in their traces tide,        50
Drags their fat carkasse through the foamie bracke,
That drew it late vndauntedly in pride.
There floats the bar’d steed with his rider drown’d,
Whose foot in his caparison is cast,
Who late with sharpe spurs did his courser wound,        55
Himselfe now ridden with his strangled beast.
The waters conquer (without helpe of hand)
For them to take, for which they neuer toile,
And like a quarrie cast them on the land,
As those they slew they left to them to spoile.        60
 
  In eightie-eight 1 at Douer that had beene
To view that nauie (like a mighty wood)
Whose sailes swept heauen, might eas’lie there haue seene
How puissant Pharaoh perish’d in the floud.
What for a conquest strictly they did keepe,        65
Into the channel presently was pour’d;
Castilian riches scatter’d on the deepe,
That Spaine’s long hopes had sodainly deuour’d.
Th’ afflicted English rang’d along the strand,
To waite what would this threatening power betide,        70
Now when the Lord with a victorious hand
In his high iustice scourg’d the Iberian pride.
 
Note 1. 1588. [back]
 
 
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