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Jonah and the Whale

The Text: Jonah and the Whale, Part I

I. The Lesson (Chorale)

Patience is a princely thing, though displeasing often.
When heavy hearts are hurt, or held up to scorn,
Sufferance may assuage and salve the blazing pain:
Face woe with fortitude, and joy will follow.

It befell long ago in the land of Judah,
Wherein Jonah was enjoined to be prophet to the Gentiles;
God’s charge to him came, creating no cheer
With these harsh words rankling and roaring in his ear:

II. The Charge to Jonah (Arietta and Cavatina)

[Voice of God]
Arise at once and quickly set forth;
Without a further word, take the Nineveh highway,
And spread through that city these words which I now say:

I have watched too long all the wickedness of its dwellers,
Their maliciousness is so mad I shall abide it no more.
Now hasten there swiftly and give them this message.

When that voice which had stunned his mind ceased speaking,
Jonah’s wit was withered and warily he thought:

If I bow to his bidding and bring them this tale,
And they take me, my troubles will triple in Nineveh.
If I speak of such tidings, they will seize me at once,
Put me in prison, pin me in the stocks,
Set me in shackles and scratch out my eyes.
A marvelous message for a man to preach!
In spite of the perils, I shall approach it no closer;
I shall turn my travels toward Tarshish and tarry a while,
And thus lost, I might perchance be left alone by him.

So he passes to the port to secure a safe passage,
And finds there a fair ship fitted for its journey.
He seeks out the sailors and they settle on a sum
For taking him to Tarshish on the following tide.

III. His Flight (Worksongs and Sea Shanty)

He steps lively aboard as the sailors start singing:
They catch up the cross-sail and fasten the cables,
Working at the windlass they weigh their anchors,
And smartly secure the bowline to the mast.

They grip the guide-ropes and the great mainsail drops,
Then they lay in oars on the larboard side.

A blithe breeze behind them bellies out the sails
And spanks this sweet ship swiftly from the harbour.

Haul away, hand o’er hand,
Haul away, strongly haul!

Haul on the bowline,
   the ship she is arolling,
O, haul on the bowline,
   the bowline, haul-o!

Together, pull on the rope, lads
Don’s give up hope, lads,
With all your might,
Pull together!

Heave away, my bully boys,
Heave, heave away, I say.
Here’s how a drunken sailor
Earns his pay!

Haul away, (etc.)
Haul on the Bowline (etc.)
Together, pull (etc.)
Heave away, (etc.)

Never was so joyful a Jew as was Jonah,
To have escaped so easily from the errand of God;
Believing that he who had established the earth
Was helpless to harm him on the high seas.

The lookout in the crosstrees stood,
With his spyglass in his hand,
“There’s a whale, there’s a whale,
there’s a whalefish,” he cried,
“And she blows at every span, brave boys.”

“And she blows at every span.”

The captain stood on the quarter-deck,
And a fine little man was he,
“Overhaul! Overhaul! Let your davit-tackles fall,
And launch your boats for the sea, brave boys.”

“And launch your boats
   for the sea.”

We struck that whale
   the line paid out
But she gave a flourish
   with her tail;
The boat capsized and four
   sailors they were drowned,
And we never caught that whale,
   brave boys,
And we never caught that whale.

“To lose that whale,” our captain said,
“It grieves my heart full sore;
But oh! To lose four gallant men,
It grieves me ten times more, brave boys.”

“It grieves me ten times more,
   brave boys, brave boys.”

But our Lord looks on all things, on land or afloat.
For the Master of Mankind, wise in all matters,
Ever wakeful and waiting, works at will.

IV. The Storm at Sea (Variations on a Sea Shanty)

He evoked the elements he himself had endowed,
And winds quickly wakened when wrathfully he called:

[The Voice of God]
Eurus and Aquilon, in the East residing,
Blow both at my bidding on these blue waters!

Ragged clouds rose up, reddening the skies,
The sea soughed most sorely, stunning the ear.
Winds on the dark waters wrestled together,
Making waves rage wildly, whelming so high
That the frightened fish darted and fled in terror.
The gale grew in fury and smashed all the gear,
Then hurled in a heap the helm and the stern;
Ripped ropes from the riggings and rent the sails.
Still the crew cut the cables, bailed quick as they could,
Intent on escaping, they scooped out the sea;
For be man’s voyage ne’er so vile, his life is ever sweet.
They laboured to lighten the load of the ship,
Throwing overboard ballast and bales of cargo,
Then bags and featherbeds, bright gowns and robes,
Their casks and chests, and their coffers as well.
But the wailing of the wind went on wilder than ever,
And even more whelming were the waves on that sea.
There remained no remedy; they resigned all hope,
And each craved to the god who could comfort him best.
Then the wisest spoke out, despair in his voice:

[A solo voice]
I believe some lawless wretch may be on board,
Who has grieved his god or greatly angered him.
See, for his sins we shall sink and all perish for his sake.
I suggest we settle lots on every soul;
Let the loser be lobbed into the sea.

To this they agreed and assembled at once,
Arranging among them that all should draw lots;
The injurious journeyer was judged to be Jonah.

What the devil have you done, doltish wretch?
What do you seek on the sea, sinful shrew?
Would you destroy us all with your wicked works?
What country do you come from, do you call your own?

He showed them by signs, which they well understood,
That he had fled from the face of our Father the Lord.
Then fear fell upon them, freezing their hearts:

Have you no governor, guardian or god to call upon?
Where in the world were you wanting to go?
See, how your sins have sealed your fate!
Give glory to your god before you go further!

Roughly they took him by top and by toe,
And into the tumultuous sea he was thrown.
No sooner was he tossed out than the tempest abated,
The waves subsided and the waters grew still.

V. In the Belly of the Whale (Intermezzo)

A wild wallowing whale, by God’s own will
Beaten up from the abyss, by that boat was floating.
Well aware of the man awash in the waters,
The whale swam swiftly to swallow him up;
Touching nary a tooth, Jonah tumbled down its throat.
With a mighty surge the fish swept to the bottom of the sea,
Where rough rocks rolled in the raging currents,
With the man in its maw, much tortured by dread;
Little wonder it was that he wept in woe!
The whale, ever rolling, roamed the watery wilderness;
Seated in its stomach, safe and secure, Jonah pondered this lesson:

Sufferance may assuage and salve the blazing pain:
Face woe with fortitude, and joy will follow.

So in the belly of that beast he abided in full
Three days and three nights, ever thinking on the Lord;
He, who in happiness had hidden from his God,
Now, in sorrow and suffering, sought him.
At last stillness descended and in the silence he prayed;

VI. His Prayer (Aria with Chorus)

I cried by reason of mine affliction
unto the Lord, and he heard me;
out of the belly of hell cried I,
and thous heardest my voice.

For thou hadst cast me into the deep,
in the midst of the seas;
and the floods compassed me about:
all thy billows and thy waves
passed over me.

Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight;
yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

The waters compassed me about,
even to the soul: the depth
closed me round about,
the weeds were wrapped about my head.

De profundis clamavi ad te,

De profundis clamavi ad te,

Ad te clamavi, Domine:

De profundis clamavi ad te,
Domine, Domine.

I went down to the bottom
of the mountains;
the earth with her bars
was about me for ever;
yet hast thou brought up
my life from corruption.
O Lord my God

When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord:
and my prayer came in unto thee,
into thine holy temple.

They that observe lying
vanities forsake their own
mercy. But I will sacrifice
unto thee with the voice of
thanksgiving; I will pay
that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.


De profundis clamavi ad te
   Out of the depths have I cried to you,
Domine: exaudi vocem meam.
   O Lord: Hear my voice.
Fiant aures tuae intendentes
   Let thine ears be attentive
In vocem deprecationes meae.
   to the voice of my supplications.
Si iniquitatis observaveris
   If thou shouldst mark iniquities,
Domine, quis sustinebit?
   O Lord, who shall stand?
Quia apud te propitiatio est:
   But there is forgiveness with thee
et propter legem tuam sustinui
   that thou mayest be feared,
te Domine
   O Lord.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius:
   My soul waiteth for the Lord
speravit anima mea in Domino
   and in his word do I hope.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem,
   My soul waiteth for the Lord
   more than they that watch for the morning;
speret Israel in Domino.
   Let Israel hope in the Lord.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia;
   For with the Lord there is merdcy,
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
   and with him is plenteous redemption.
Et ipse redimet Israel
   and he shall redeem Israel
ex omnibus iniquitatibus euis
   from all his iniquities.
Gloria Patri et Filio
   Glory be to the Father and to the Son,
et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat
   and to the Holy Spirit; as it was
in principio, et nunc, et semper
   in the beginning, is now and forever
et in saecula saeculorum.
   and in ages of ages.

Then our Father firmly commanded the fish
To spit up the sinner on some dry shore.
Jonah looked at the land that lay there before him:
It was the very same spot where his journey had started.
Once again the wind of God’s word whipped about him:

[The Voice of God]
Will you never go to Nineveh, not by any means?

Yes, I shall go, Lord: grant me your grace.

End Part I   |   Read Part II