The Works of Arthur Golding (Translations)
Abraham's Sacrifice, 1575
Modern Spelling Version
Transcribed by B.F. © copyright 2002
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SARA: The more we live, the more we see, alas,
What life it is that in this world we pass.
Was never woman born upon the mould,
That for her husband or her issue could . . . 
Herself with me in happiness compare.
But yet I have endured such grief and care
These last three days since they went hence, that well
I am not able to my life to tell,
Which of the twain hath greater to me been,
The former joy, or present pain I mean
Which I have felt these last 3 days, since they
Have been away: for nother night nor day
Have I tane rest, because my mind doth run
On nothing but my husband and my son. . . . 
And of a truth I was to blame as tho,
In that I suffered them away to go,
And went not with them. Of the six days three,
Alas but three my God, yet passed be,
And yet three mo my patience still must prove.
Alas my God which seest me from above,
Both outwardly and inwardly alway,
Vouchsafe to shorten these three years I say,
For were they much more shorter than they be,
They be not days, but months & years to me . . . 
My God, thy promise puts me out of doubt:
But if thou long delay the falling-out,
I fear I shall have need of greater strength,
To bear the pain in holding out at length,
Wherefore my God, now grant thou unto me
I may with joy right soon my husband see,
And eke mine Isaac in mine arms embrace
Returned in health and safety to this place.
ABRAHAM: O God, my God, thou seest my open heart,
And of my thoughts thou seest each secret part, . . . 
So that my case I need not to declare.
Thou seest, alas thou seest my woeful care.
Thou only canst me rid of my disease,
By granting me (if that it might thee please)
One only thing the which I dare not crave.
SATAN: Another song than this yet must we have.
ABRAHAM: What? What? And is it possible that God's
Behest and deed should ever be at odds?
Can he deceive? Even to this present day
He hath kept touch in all that he did say. . . . 
And can he now unsay his word? No, no.
But yet it would ensue he should do so,
If he my son should take away as now.
What say I? O my God, my God, sith thou
Dost bid me, I will do it. Is it right
That I so sinful and so wretched wight,
Should fall to scanning of the judgments
Of thy most perfect pure commandments.
SATAN: My case goes ill. O Cowl we must yet find
Some other way t'assault this haggard's mind. . . . 
ABRAHAM: It may be that I have imagined
Amiss: the more it is examined,
The more the case seems strange. It was perchance
Some dream or wicked fiend that at a glance
Did put this matter in my head for why,
So cruel off'rings please not God perdye.
He cursed Cain for killing of his brother:
And shall I kill mine Isaac and none other?
SATAN: No no. Never do so.
ABRAHAM: Alas alas what meant I so to sayn? . . . 
Forgive me, Lord, and pluck me back again
From this lewd race* wherein my sin gan go:
O Lord my God deliver me from this woe,
This hand of mine shall certainly him smite.
For sith it is thy will, it is good right
It should de [be] done. Wherefore I will obey.
SATAN: But I will keep you from it if I may.
ABRAHAM: So doing I should make my God untrue,
For he hath told me that there should ensue
So great a people out of this my son, . . . 
As over all the earth should spread and run,
And therefore if that Isaac once were killed,
I see not how this covenant could be hild.
Alas Lord, hast thou made him then for nought:
Alas Lord, is it vain that thou so oft
Hast promised me such things in Isaak,
As thou would'st never do for others sake?
Alas and can the things repealed be,
Which thou so oft hast promised unto me?
Alas and shall my hope have such an end? . . . 
Whereto should then man's hope & trusting tend
The sum of all I minded to have said,
Is that to thee I heartily have prayed,
To give me issue: hoping that when thou
Hadst granted it, I should have lived now
In joy and pleasure: but I see full well,
The contrary to my desire befell.
For of my sons, which were no mo but twain,
To put away the one myself was fain:
And of the other (O hard extremity . . . ) . . . 
Both father I, and tormenter must be,
Yea tormenter, yea tormenter, alas.
But are not thou the self-same God, which was
Contented for to hear me patiently,
When I did pray to thee so instantly,
Even in the mids of all thy wrath and ire,
When Sodom thou did'st mind to burn with fire?
Now then my God and king, wilt thou say nay,
When for myself I unto thee do pray?
Whom I begat him must I now deface. . . . 
O God, at leastwise grant me yet this grace.
SATAN: Grace? In my book that word I never found.
ABRAHAM: Some other man my son to death may wound.
Alas my Lord, and must this hand of mine
To such a stroke against all kind decline?
How will it touch his woeful mother near,
When of his violent death she needs shall hear?
If I allege thy will for my defense,
Who will believe that thou wilt so dispense?
And if men do not credit it: what fame . . . 
Will fly abroad to my perpetual shame?
I shall be shunned of all men more and less,
As pattern of extremest cruelness.
And as for thee, who will unto thee pray,
Or on thy word and promise ever stay?
Alas, may these hoar hairs of mine abide
The sorrow that is likely to betide?
Have I already past so many dangers,
Have I so traveled countries that are strangers,
In heat and cold, in thirst and hunger still, . . . 
Continually obedient to thy will:
Have I so long time lived ling'ringly,
Now in the end to die unhappily?
O heart of mine, clive*, clive, asunder clive:
And linger here no longer time alive.
The speedier death, the lesser is the grief.
SATAN: Now is he down, if God send no relief.
ABRAHAM: What said I? What intend I? O my God
Which did'st create and make me of a clod,
Thou art my Lord, and I thy servant true, . . . 
Out of my native country thou me drew.
How oftentimes hast thou assured me,
That unto mine this land should lotted be?
And when thou gave me Isaac, did'st not thou
Most faithfully and constantly avow,
That out of him such offspring should be bred,
As should this land throughout all overspread?
Then if thou wilt needs take him now away,
What should I thereunto against thee say?
He is thine own, I had him of thy gift. . . . 
Take him therefore. Thou knowst best how to shift.
I know thou wilt to life him raise again,
Rather than that thy promise should be vain,
Howbeit Lord, thou knowst I am a man,
No good at all or do or think I can.
But yet thy power which aye is invincible,
Doth to belief make all things possible.
Hence flesh, hence fond affections everychone:
Ye human passions let me now alone.
Nothing to me is good or reasonable, . . . 
Which to God's will is not agreeable.
SATAN: Well, well, then Isaac shall die: and we
What will ensue thereof shall after see.
O false old hag, thou makest me soft to groan.
ABRAHAM: See where my son walks up & down alone
O silly child! O wretched men, death oft
Within our bosoms lodgeth him full soft,
When furthest off we take him for to be.
And therefore right great need always have we
To lead such a life, as if we fain would die. . . . 
But wotest thou my son (alas) what I
Intend to say?
ISAAC: ~~~ What pleaseth you good father.
ABRAHAM: Alas, that word doth kill my heart the rather.
Yet must I better courage to me take.
Isaac my son: alas my heart doth quake.
ISAAC: Father, methinks that fear hath you dismayed.
ABRAHAM: O my dear child: it is as thou hast said.
Alas my God.
ISAAC: ~~~ Sir if it may you please,
Be bold to tell me what doth you disease*.
ABRAHAM: Ah my dear child, wist thou what thing it were . . . 
Mercy good Lord, thy mercy grant us here.
My son my son, beholdest thou this line.
This wood, this fire, and eke this knife of mine?
This gear* my Isaac serveth all for thee.
SATAN: Of God and nature en'my though I be:
Yet is this thing so hard a case to see,
That even almost it is a grief to me.
ABRAHAM: Alas my son.
ISAAC: ~~~ Alas my father dear,
Upon my knees I humbly pray you here,
My youthful years to pity, if you may. . . . 
ABRAHAM: O of mine age the only staff and stay,
My darling, O my darling, fain would I
That I for thee a thousand times might die:
But God will have it otherwise as now.
ISAAC: Alas my father, mercy I cry you.
Alas alas I want both tongue and hand,
Against you in mine own defense to stand.
But see, but see my tears for nature's sake,
None other fence* I can or will now make
Against you. I am Isaac, none other . . . 
But Isaac, your only by my mother.
I am your son that through yourself hath life
And will you let it be bereft with knife?
Howbeit, if you do't to'bey the Lord,
Then on my knees I humbly do accord,
To suffer all that ever God and yow,
Shall think expedient for to do as now.
But yet what deeds, what deeds of mine deserve
This death O God. My God my life preserve.
ABRAHAM: Alas my son, God hath commanded me . . . 
To make an off'ring unto him of thee,
To my great grief, to my great grief and pine,
And endless woe.
ISAAC: ~~~ Alas poor mother mine.
How many deaths shall my death give to thee?
But tell me yet, my killer who shall be?
ABRAHAM: Who? My dear son I my God my God grant grace
That I may die now present in this place.
ISAAC: O father mine.
ABRAHAM: ~~~ Alas, no whit that name
Agrees to me. yet should we be to blame
If we obeyed not God.
ISAAC: ~~~ Sir I am ready. 
SATAN: Who would have thought he would have him so steady?
ISAAC: Now then my father, well I see indeed
That I must die. Lord help me at my need.
My God, my God, now strengthen thou my mind,
And at thy hand such favor let me find,
That of myself I may the upper hand
Obtain, against this sudden death to stand.
Now bind me, kill me, burn me, I am prest
To suffer all, sith God so thinks it best.
ABRAHAM: Ah what a thing, a what a sight is here! . . . 
Mercy good God, now for thy mercy dear.
ISAAC: Thou Lord hast made me and created me,
Thou Lord upon the earth hast lodged me,
Thou hast me given the grace to knowledge thee
Yet have I not so well obeyed thee
My Lord and God as duty doth require:
Which me to pardon loud I thee desire.
And whereas I to you my Lord and father
Have not always such honor yielded rather,
As your great kindness did deserve to have: . . . 
Therefore forgiveness humbly I do crave.
My mother: she is now a great way hence,
Wherefore my God vouchsafe her thy defense,
And so preserve her through thy special grace,
As she no whit be troubled at my case.
[Here Isaac is bound]
Alas, I go to deep and darksome night:
Farewell as now for aye all worldly light.
But sure I am I shall at God's hand find
Far better things than these I leave behind.
Good father, I am ready at your will. 
SATAN: Was never child that spake with better skill.
I am ashamed, and therefore take my flight.
ABRAHAM: Alas my son, before thou leave this light
And that my hand do give th' unkindly blow,
Upon thy mouth let me a kiss bestow.
Isaac my son, let this same arm of mine
Which must thee kill, embrace this neck of thine.
ISAAC: With right good will and hearty thanks.
ABRAHAM: Ye skies the great god's work aye glist'ring* in our eyes
Which well have seen how God (who still is true) . . . 
Did me with fruit by Isaac here endue:
And thou O land five times to me behight,*
Bear witness that my fingers do not smite
This child of mine for hatred or for vengeance,
But only for to yield my due obeisance,
To that great God which hath created me,
And all the things that live or move or be:
Who saves the good that put in him their trust,
And stroys the bad that serve their wicked lust.
Bear witness that I faithful Abraham, . . . 
Through god's great goodness still so steadfast am
As notwithstanding all that human wit
Can say or think, to make me now to flit:
In one belief I ever do remain,
That not one word of God doth happen vain.
But now my hand, high time it is that thou
Do gather strength to execute thy vow.
[Here the knife falls out of his hand.]
That by thy killing of mine only son,
Thy deadly stroke may through my heart eke run.
ISAAC: What do I hear?
~~~ Alas my father dear! . . . 
ABRAHAM: A, a, a, a.
ISAAC: ~~~ I am at your will.
Am I now well? Your pleasure then fulfill.
ABRAHAM: Did ever man so piteous case yet find?
Was ever any friendship yet so kind?
And was there ever yet so piteous case.
I die my son, I die before thy face.
ISAAC: Away with all this fear of yours I pray.
Will you from God yet longer time me stay?
ABRAHAM: [Here he intendeth to strike him.]
Alas who ever yet so stout a mind
Within so weak a body erst did find? . . . 
Alas my son I pray thee me forgive
Thy death. It kills me that thou may not live.
THE ANGELL: Abraham, Abraham.
ABRAHAM: ~~~ My God, here I am.
ANGELL: Into the sheath put up thy knife,
And see thou do not take his life,
Nor hurt the child in any wise.
For now I see before mine eyes,
What love thou bearest to the Lord,
And honor unto him avord*,
In that thou dost so willingly . . . 
Thy son thus offer even to die.
ABRAHAM: O God.
ISAAC: O God.
ABRAHAM: O Lord a man may see.
[Here he takes the sheep.]
How good it is obedient for to be
To thee: the case is fitly furnished.
I will go take him tied by the head.
ANGELL: O Abraham.
ABRAHAM: ~~~ Lord here I am.
ANGELL: Thus sayth the Lord, I promise thee
By my eternal majesty,
And by my Godhead: sith that thou
Hast showed thyself so willing now, . . . 
Me to obey, as to forbear
Thine only Isaak's life: I swear,
That maugre* Satan to his face,
I will thee bliss and all thy race.
Consid'rest thou the lightsome sky,
And on the shore the gravel dry?
I will increase thine offspring more,
Than stars in heaven, or sand on shore.
Their en'mies they shall overcome,
And of thy body one shall come, . . . 
By whom my blissing shall spread forth
On all the nations of the earth.
By him the treasures of my love
And mighty power, shall from above
Be shedded down on all mankind,
Because thou hast obeyed my mind.
See here the mighty power of earnest faith,
And what reward the true obedience payth
Wherefore ye Lords & Ladies I you pray,
When you from hence shall go again away.
Let not this true and noble story part
Out of the mind and tables of your heart.
It is no lie, it is no painted tale,
It is no feigned jest nor fable stale.
It is a deed, a deed right true, of one
That was God's faithful servant long agone. . . . [Epi.10]
Wherefore ye masters and ye mistresses,
Ye Lords and Ladies all both more and less,
Ye rich and poor, ye sorry and ye sad,
And you also whose hearts with mirth are glad,
Behold, and look upon yourselves each one,
In this so fair example here foregone.
Such are true glasses, showing to our sight,
The fair, the foul, the crooked, and the right.
For whoso doth unfeignedly endeavor
(As Abraham) to keep God's sayings ever, . . . [Epi.20]
And (notwithstanding all the reasons which
His mind allegeth backward him to twitch*)
Doth still refer himself and all his deeds
To God: with much more happy issue speeds
Than he can wish: for come there storms or wind,
Come grief, come death, come cares of sundry kind.
Let earthquake come, let heaven & skies down
Let dark confusion overcover all:
The faithful heart so steadfastly is grounded,
As it abodeth ever unconfounded. . . . [Epi.30]
Contrary-wise the man that trusteth to
His own self-wit, thereafter for to do,
And standeth in his own conceit shall find,
The more he goes, the more he comes behind.
And every little puff and sudden blast
From his right course shall quite & clean him cast
Again, how own self-willed nature will
Him overthrow and all his doings spill.
Now thou great God which makest us to know
The great abuses which do plainly show . . . [Epi.40]
The wretched world to be perverted quite,
Make all of us to take such warning by't,
As each of us may fare the better by
The lively faith set forth before our eye
In Abraham that holy personage,
Whose doings have been played upon this stage.
Lo masters here the happy recompense
Which God doth give you for your gentle silence.
F I N I S .
A L L P R A Y S E A N D T H A N K S B E E G I V E N
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