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Title:  Joseph's Dreams
Author: Henry Lawson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 2000731h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  November 2019
Most recent update: November 2019

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Joseph’s Dreams and Reuben’s Brethren
A Recital in Six Chapters

Henry Lawson

Transcriber's note: This poem was first published as Joseph's Dreams in a limited (75 copies) book in 1904. It was published with illustrations in the Brisbane Truth, Sunday, August 8, 1915 as Joseph's Dreams and Ruben's Brothers. This is a combination of the two.


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6


I cannot blame old Israel yet,
        For I am not a sage—
I shall not know until I get
        The son of my old age.
The mysteries of this Vale of Tears
        We will perchance explain
When we have lived a thousand years
        And died and come again.

No doubt old Jacob acted mean
        Towards his father’s son;
But other hands were none too clean,
        When all is said and done.
There were some things that had to be
        In those old days, ’tis true—
But with old Jacob’s history
        This tale has nought to do.

(They had to keep the birth-rate up,
        And populate the land—
They did it, too, by simple means
        That we can’t understand.
The Patriarchs’ way of fixing things
        Would make an awful row,
And Sarah’s plain, straightforward plan
        Would never answer now.)

Chapter 1

This is a tale of simple men
        And one precocious boy—
A spoilt kid, and, as usual,
        His father’s hope and joy
(It mostly is the way in which
        The younger sons behave
That brings the old man’s grey hairs down
        In sorrow to the grave.)

Old Jacob loved the whelp, and made,
        While meaning to be kind,
A coat of many colours that
        Would strike a nigger blind!
It struck the brethren green, ’twas said—
        I’d take a pinch of salt
Their coats had coloured patches too—
        But that was not their fault.

Young Joseph had a soft thing on,
        And, humbugged from his birth,
You may depend he worked the thing
        For all that it was worth.
And that he grafted not but crowed,
        You don’t need to be told,
And he was mighty cocky, with
        His “Lo!” and his “Behold!”

He took in all his brothers said,
        And went and told his Dad,
And then, when someone split on him,
        No wonder they were mad.
But still he wasn’t satisfied,
        And it would almost seem
He itched to rile his brethren, for
        He went and dreamed a dream,

And told it to his brothers straight
        (So Genesis believes):—
“Lo! we were working in the field,
        And we were binding sheaves,
And my sheaf rose and stood upright,
        And, straightway, for a sign,
Your sheaves came round about and made
        Obeisance to mine!”

The brethren stared and made comment
        In words that were not mild,
And when the meaning dawned on them
        You bet that they were wild!
And Joseph left those angry men
        To boil and blow off steam,
And ambled, chuckling, home agen
        To dream another dream.

“Behold! I’ve dreamed a dream once more!”
        He told ’em, frank and free—
“The sun, moon, and eleven stars
        Have likewise bowed to me!”
(Perhaps Astronomy has changed
        Since Joseph saw the light,
But I have wondered what the sun
        Was doing out at night.)

And when they dropped!—you never heard,
        In sheds or shanty bars,
Such awful language as escaped
        From those eleven stars.
You know how Jacob-Israel loved
        His hopeful youngest pup;
But, when he heard the latest dream,
        It shook the old man up.

But Joseph talked his father round,
        Who humoured every whim
(Perhaps old Jacob half-believed
        They would bow down to him):
But, anyway, as always was,
        He backed the youngest son,
And sent the others with the sheep
        Out to the Check-’em run.

Chapter 2

Now Jacob, with that wondrous tact
        That doting parents show,
Or, anxious for his sons out back,
        Sent, of all others, Joe!
To see if it was well with them
        (And they were not asleep),
With one eye on his brothers’ camp,
        And one eye on the sheep.

He drew a blank on Check-’em run—
        Got bushed, too, you’ll be bound.
A certain cove—there’s always one—
        Saw Joseph mooning round.
He asked him how it came to pass,
        And what it was about,
And said, “They’re trav-lin’ now for grass
        In Doothen—further out.”

He also muttered, “Strike me blue!”
        While staring at the clothes—
He’d never seen a jackaroo
        With such a coat as Joe’s.
He set the nameless on the track,
        And scratched his head to think,
But gave it best, and, riding back,
        Said firmly, “Strike me pink!”

’Twas blazing hot in Doothen then,
        The sweat ran down in streams—
It melted out the memory
        Of even Joseph’s dreams!
They’d had some trouble with the sheep,
        Some Arabs and a “shirk”—
It was a favourable time
        For Joe to get to work.

They saw him coming, “afar off”—
        In this case, you might note,
Their eyesight wasn’t wonderful,
        Considering the coat.
And what with sheep, and dust, and flies,
        And damned shirks in the swim
With sheep stealers, the brethren were
        For absenteeing him.

And, add to that, he scared the kine
        With his infernal coat—
They trampled on the sheep and swine
        And startled every goat.
The brethren had to round up then
        As fast as ass could go,
And when they got to camp agen
        They’d fixed it up for Joe.

Save poor old Rube—he had the blight,
        But, grafting all the same,
He only looked on family rows
        As just a blooming shame.
Like many an easy-going man,
        He had a cunning soul.
He said, “We will not kill the kid,
        But shove him in a hole,

And leave him there to dream o’ things”—
        There’s not the slightest doubt
He meant to slip round after dark
        And pull the youngster out,
And fill his gourd and tucker-bag,
        And tell him “Not to mind”,
And start him on the back-track with
        A gentle kick behind.

Some ’Tothersider prospectors
        Had been there poking round;
You may depend that Reuben knew
        ’Twas “dry and shallow ground”.
They dropped young Joseph in a hole—
        The giddy little goat—
And left him there, to cool his heels,
        Without his overcoat.

(Don’t think that Moses, such a whale
        On dry facts, thought it wet
To say, when they’d chucked Joseph in,
        It was an empty pit!
So many things are preached and said
        Where’er the Bible is
To prove that Moses never read
        The “proofs” of Genesis.)

But let’s get on. While having grub,
        A brethren sniffed and “seen”
Some Ishmaelites pass through the scrub—
        Or O-asses, I mean.
They’d been right out to Gilead—
        A rather longish trip—
For camel-loads of balm, and myrrh,
        And spicery for ’Gyp.

(I’ve often seen the Afghans pass
        With camel strings out back,
And thought ’twas somewhat similar
        On that old Bible track.
I don’t know much of balm and myrrh,
        Whatever they may be,
But e’en when sheepskins were not there,
        I’ve smelt the spicery.)

It was the same in Canaan then
        As it is here to-day:
A sudden thought jerked Judah up
        For “brofit” straight away.
The brethren got on one end too
        When Judah jumped and said,
“We’ll sell the kid for what he brings!
        He’s no good when he’s dead.”

And, to be short, they being Jews—
        The “chosing” of the earth—
They sold him to the Ishmaelites
        For more than twice his worth.
(Some Midianitish auctioneers
        Were also on the job.)
’Twas “twenty bits of silver”, which
        I s’pose was twenty bob.

So they most comfortably got
        Young Joseph off their hands,
For Ishmael never bothered much
        About receipts or brands.
(They spake not of his dreams and cheek,
        His laziness, or “skite”;
No doubt they thought the Ishmaelites
        Would see to that all right.)

Then Reuben came; he’d been around
        To watch the sheep a bit,
And on his way back to the camp
        He slipped round by the pit
To give young Joe a drink. He stared,
        And, thinking Joe was dead,
He rent his gown like mad, and ran
        For ashes for his head.

(As if that would do any good!
        I only know that I
Cannot afford to rend my clothes
        When my relations die.
I don’t suppose they would come back,
        Or that the world would care,
If I went howling for a year
        With ashes in my hair.)

You say he counted on a new
        Rig-out? Yes? And you know
That Jacob tore his garment too,
        So that old cock won’t crow.
Look here! You keep your smart remarks
        Till after I am gone.
I won’t have Reuben silver-tailed—
        Nor Pharaoh, later on.

The brethren humbugged Reuben well,
        For fear he’d take the track,
And sneak in on the Ishmaelites,
        And steal young Joseph back,
Or fight it out if he was caught,
        And die—as it might be—
Or, at the best, go down with Joe
        And into slavery.

Young Simeon slipped into the scrub,
        To where the coat was hid,
And Judah stayed and wept with Rube,
        While Levi killed a kid.
So they fixed up the wild-beast yarn,
        And Hebrews sadly note—
Considering the price of cloth—
        They had to spoil the coat.

(There was a yarn about old Rube
        That all true men despise,
Spread by his father’s concubines—
        A vicious strumpet’s lies.
But I believe old Moses was,
        As we are, well aware
That Reuben stood in this last scene
        The central figure there.)

I feel for poor old Israel’s grief,
        Believing all the same
(And not with atheist unbelief)
        That Jacob was to blame.
’Twas ever so, and shall be done,
        While one fond fool has breath—
Fond folly drives the youngest son
        To ruin and to death.

The caravan went jogging on
        To Pharaoh’s royal town,
But Genesis gives no account
        Of Joseph’s journey down.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
        He found it pretty rough,
But there’s a bare chance that his hide,
        As well as cheek, was tough.

I see them toiling through the heat,
        In patches and in dirt,
With sand-grooved sandals on their feet,
        And slaves without a shirt—
The dust-caked thirst, the burning ground,
        The mad and maddening flies,
That gathered like black goggles round
        The piccaninnies’ eyes.

The Ishmaelites had tempers brief,
        And whips of hide and gut,
And sometimes, p’raps, for Hagar’s sake,
        Gave Joe an extra cut.
When, fainting by the way, he felt
        The stimulating touch,
I have no doubt he often wished
        He hadn’t dreamed so much.

He didn’t dream much on that trip,
        Although he thought a lot.
However, they got down to ’Gyp
        In good time, where he got
A wash and rest—he needed both—
        And in the old slave-yard
Was sold to Captain Potiphar,
        Of Pharaoh’s body-guard.


I pause to state that later on
        (And it seems worth the halt)
Smart Judah gat into a mess,
        Though it was not his fault.
And I would only like to say,
        In this most thankless task,
Wives sell to husbands every day,
        And that without a mask

But, what with family rows and drought,
        And blessed women too,
The fathers of terrestrial tribes
        Had quite enough to do.
They had to graft both day and night,
        With no rest, save the last,
For when they were not grafting they
        Were populating fast.

Chapter 3

The Captain was a casual man,
        But seemed a shrewd one too;
He got young Joseph’s measure soon,
        And saw what he could do.
The Lord was with Joe, Moses said—
        I know that Joe had pluck—
But I believe ’twas mostly check,
        And his infernal luck.

The Captain made him manager,
        Housekeeper, overseer,
And found that this arrangement paid—
        That much at least is clear.
And what with merchants, clerks, and slaves,
        Joe led a busy life,
With one eye on the maid-servants,
        And “Jeames” and Potty’s wife.

The Captain seemed a casual man,
        And “’Gyp” was on the glide:
There was a growing tendency
        To live and let things slide.
He left all things in Joseph’s hands—
        According to old Mose—
And knew not what he had besides
        His tucker and his clothes.

I guess he had a shrewd idea,
        For it is now, as then—
The world most often makes mistakes
        With easy-going men.
The Captain often went away
        For quietness and rest,
And, maybe, for some other things—
        Well, Potiphar knew best.

Perhaps the missus knew it too—
        At least, she should have known—
And Joe was handsome, strange, and new,
        And she was much alone.
It seems a funny business now,
        But I was never there—
Perhaps so long as cheques came in
        The Captain didn’t care.

’Tis strange that Moses, such a whale
        On details out of joint,
Should always come, in such a case,
        So bluntly to the point.
He says Joe had a goodly form—
        Or person it should be—
He says that she cast eyes on Joe,
        And she said, “Lie with me.”

It took young Joseph sudden like.
        He’d heard, while on the run,
Of other women who could lie,
        And in more ways than one;
Of men who had been gaoled or hanged—
        As they are here to-day—
(Likewise of lovers who were banged),
        And so he edged away.

She never moved, and so he stayed
        While she was there to hear,
For his infernal vanity
        Was stronger than his fear.
He bragged his opportunity,
        His strength, and godliness:
“There is no greater in the house
        Than I.” (She made him less.)

’Twas cant to brag of purity
        And right in that household,
For what was he if not a slave,
        And basely bought and sold?
Unmanly for a man to treat
        A love-starved woman so,
And cowardly to humiliate
        A spirit thrust so low.

She knew that Joseph was a spy
        On her and all the rest,
And this, with his outspoken “scorn”,
        Made reasons manifest.
She had her passions (don’t be shocked,
        For you have yours, no doubt),
And meant to take young Joseph down
        And pay her husband out.

He was a slave, and bought and sold,
        And I will say right here
His preaching was too manifold
        And glib to be sincere,
When youth and “looks” turn goody-good—
        You’ll see it at a glance—
They have one eye to woman’s help
        And both on the main chance.

Now, had old Rube been in his place
        (All honour to his name),
I’ll swear he would have taken things
        Exactly as they came,
And kept it dark—or fought it out,
        As the ungodly can—
But, whatsoe’er he might have done,
        He would have been a man!

Howbeit, the missus stuck to Joe,
        Vindictive, vicious, grim,
And bore his sermons and rebuffs
        Until she cornered him. . . . 
He left his garment in her hand,
        And gat him out of that. . . . 
About the merits of the case
        I’ll say no more—that’s flat.

(He knew all right what she was at,
        And Potiphar was out,
He went alone into the house
        When no one was about.
He may have been half-drunk or mad,
        He certainly was blind,
To run no further than the yard,
        And leave his coat behind!)

But, seeing how our laws are fixed,
        If I get in such dirt,
I’ll straightway get me out of that
        If—I’ve to leave my shirt.
But I will keep the running up,
        If I have common-sense,
Nor stop this side of Jericho
        To think of my defence.

Joe should have streaked for Suez straight,
        And tried his luck in flight
For Canaan, where they looked on things
        In quite another light.
Old Jacob had experience,
        And he’d have stuck to Joe.
He was a match for women’s lies
        That flabbergast us so.

The missus told the self-same tale,
        And in the self-same way,
As our enfranchised females do
        In police courts every day.
Too cowardly to breathe a breath
        Against the vilest rip,
We send straight men to gaol or death,
        Just as they did in ’Gyp.

Now, Potiphar was wondrous mild—
        Suspiciously, to say
The least. He didn’t operate
        On Joseph straight away.
Perhaps he knew his wife no less
        Than Joe, yet had regard
For his own peace and quietness—
        So Joe got two years’ hard.

Chapter 4

The Lord was with him, Moses said,
        Yet his luck didn’t fail,
For he got on the right side of
        The governor of the gaol.
Perhaps he’d heard of Mrs P.,
        And cases like to Joe’s,
And knew as much of woman’s work
        As anybody knows.

He made Joe super-lag—a sort
        Of deputy-retained
(The easy-going tendency
        In Egypt seemed ingrained)—
Left everything in Joseph’s hands,
        Except, maybe, the keys;
And thereafter he let things slide,
        And smoked his pipe in peace.

Now Pharaoh had some trouble with
        His butler and his cook,
But Pharaoh seemed most lenient
        With asses bought to book—
He didn’t cut the weak end off
        Each absent-minded wretch,
But mostly sent the idiots up
        To “chokey” for a “stretch”.

They found themselves in Joseph’s care,
        And it would almost seem
They’d got wind of his weaknesses,
        For each one dreamed a dream.
“They dreamed a dream; both of them. Each
        Man his dream in one night:
Each man according to his dream”
        (And his own dream)—that’s right.

Next morning they made up their “mugs”,
        And Joseph, passing through,
Asked them if they were feeling cronk,
        And why they looked so blue?
They told him they had dreamed two dreams
        (One each), and any dunce
Can understand how such remarks
        Would int’rest Joe at once.

And there was no interpreter,
        They said—and that was why
Joe said that that belonged to God—
        But he would have a try.
I’ve noticed this with “Christians” since,
        And often thought it odd—
They cannot keep their hands from things
        They say belong to God.

The butler dreamed—or, anyway,
        He said so (understand)—
He’d made some wine in Pharaoh’s cup,
        And placed it in his hand—
And Pharaoh placed the wine inside,
        I s’pose. But, anyways,
There were three branches in the dream,
        Which were, of course, three days.

The butler might have one again,
        And Joseph, going strong,
By evil chance get wind of it,
        And diagnose it wrong!
The cook had been the butler’s mate,
        And he thought (was it odd?)
That nightmare students such as Joe
        Were safer far in quod.

He did repent him of his fault—
        Though it was rather late—
For Pharaoh’s dreams had called a halt,
        A reason of some weight.
The butler hoped to score, but ’twas
        A risky thing to do,
And you will wonder, later on,
        If Joe “forgat” him too.

’Twas plain to any fool, so Joe
        Said: “Yet within three days
Shall Pharaoh lift thine head up, and
        Restore thee to thy place.
Thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup
        Into his hand once more.
(And he shall drink the liquor down
        Just as it was before.)

“But promise, when thou art all right,
        And nothing is amiss,
To speak to Pharaoh of my case,
        And get me out of this.
For I was kidnapped, likewise gaoled,
        For nothing that I know.”
(And, granting his celibacy,
        ’Twould seem that that was so.)

The cook, he was a godless cook,
        But quietly he stood,
’Til Joseph’s inspiration came—
        And he saw it was good.
And then his dream he did unfold,
        All straight and unrehearsed
(Without a “Lo!” or a “Behold!”
        Or windmill business first):

“I’d three old baskets on me ’ed—
        Now I ain’t tellin’ lies!—
The top ’un full of fancy bread
        An’ pork ’n’ kidney pies.
I didn’t bother looking up,
        For it was blazin’ ’ot—
There come a flock of crimson crows
        And scoffed the bleedin’ lot.”

The cook he was a clever cook,
        But he’d been on the spree—
He put the case as man to man,
        And put it frank and free.
He patted Joseph on the back,
        Told him to go ahead,
And Joseph met the cook half way,
        And (man to man) he said:

“Within three days shall Pharaoh lift
        Thine head from off of thee,
And he shall hang thee by the heels
        To the most handy tree.
A flock of crows shall pick thy bones
        (And, to be trebly sure,
His slaves shall pound them up with stones
        And use them for manure).”

The butler passed an anxious night—
        He wanted matters fixed—
For what if Joe’s prescriptions should
        By some fool chance get mixed?
The cook—who was a careless cook—
        Wrote scoff words on the wall,
But, when the time was up, he wished
        He hadn’t dreamed at all.

And Pharaoh gave a feast—he’d got
        Another chef this trip—
And his old butler he restored
        Unto his butlership;
But hanged the cook. And after that—
        Or this is how it seems—
The butler straight away forgat
        Young Joseph and his dreams.

And maybe he was wise, for all
        That anybody knows,
He’d seen the headless baker hanged,
        And picked clean by the crows.
It struck him, too, when looking back
        While calm and free from cares,
That Joseph had an off hand way
        Of fixing up nightmares.

Chapter 5

The gaol did Joseph little good,
        Except by starts and fits,
But saved old Egypt for a while,
        And brightened up his wits.
And, lest you thought me most unjust
        In matters lately gone,
You read and know how holy Joe
        Sold Egypt later on.

Her weather prophets were as good
        As ours are, every bit,
But Pharaoh took to dreaming dreams,
        And made a mess of it.
(And but for that—I do not care
        What anybody thinks—
I’d not have lost my overcoat,
        And watch and chain, and links.)

Now Joseph’s and the prisoners’ dreams
        Were plain as dreams could be,
And more especially Pharaoh’s dreams,
        As far as I can see—
The same man who invented them
        Could well have read them too,
But any third-rate showman knows
        That that would never do.

There must be “Lo’s”, “Beholds”, and “Yets”,
        And “It must come to pass”,
’Til floods are gone, and tanks are dry,
        And there’s no crops nor grass.
And “Likewise”, “Alsoes”, “Says unto”,
        And countless weary “Ands”,
Until Japan sends Chinamen
        To irrigate the lands.

And Pharaoh must take off his ring
        (The one from off his hand),
To put upon Joe’s little fin,
        That all might understand.
And they must ride in chariots,
        Have banquets everywhere,
And launch trips up the Hawkesbury,
        To see Australia there.

(I dreamed last night that cattle fed
        Along the river flats,
They bore the brands of all the States,
        And looked like “Queensland fats”.
And lo! a mob of strangers came,
        All bones, from horn to heel,
But they had nostrils breathing flame,
        And they had horns of steel.

I dreamed that seven sheep were shorn
        That went by seven tracks,
And strove to live the winter through
        With sackcloth on their backs.
And lo! I dreamed, from east and west
        There came two blades of heat—
One blackened all the towns like fire,
        Like drought one burnt the wheat.

A black slave and a white slave laid
        A golden carpet down,
And yellow guards stood round about,
        And he that came was brown.
Men slaved beneath the whip in pits,
        Who now slave willingly—
They sold their birthright for a “score”.
        Now read those dreams for me!)

But Joseph fixed up Pharaoh’s dreams
        As quick as I can tell—
And, for Australia’s sake, I wish
        That mine were fixed as well,
And nationalized from trusts and rings
        And shady covenants;
But—we have thirteen little kings
        Of thirteen Parliaments.

The years of plenty soon run out,
        And, from the cricket score,
We’ll turn to face the years of drought
        And might-be years of war.
With neither money, men, nor guns,
        With nothing but despair—
But I get tired of printing truths
        For use—no matter where.

Joe said to seek a wise man out,
        And Pharaoh took the Jew—
Adventurers fix up our dreams,
        And we elect them too.
I mean no slur on any tribe
        (My best friend was a Yid),
But we let boodlers shape our ends,
        And just as Pharaoh did.

But Joseph did spy out the land,
        If not for his own good
(He only boodled on the grand,
        It must be understood).
He made a corner first in wheat,
        And did it thoroughly—
No “trust” has ever seen since then
        So great a shark as he.

And when the fearful famine came,
        And corn was in demand,
He grabbed, in God’s and Pharaoh’s name,
        The money, stock, and land.
(He knew the drought was very bad
        In Canaan; crops were gone;
But never once inquired how his
        Old Dad was getting on.)

Chapter 6

And after many barren years
        Of spirit-breaking work,
I see the brethren journeying down
        From Canaan’s West-o’-Bourke
And into Egypt to buy corn—
        As, at this very hour,
My brethren toil through blazing heat
        The weary miles for flour.

’Twas noble of our Joseph then,
        The Governor of the land,
To bait those weary, simple men,
        With “monies” in their hand;
To gratify his secret spite,
        As only cowards can;
And preen his blasted vanity,
        And strike through Benjamin.

He put a cup in Benny’s sack,
        And sent them on their way,
And sent the Pleece to bring ’em back
        Before they’d gone a day.
The constable was well aware
        Of Joseph’s little plan,
And most indignant when he caught
        The wretched caravan.

He yelped: “Have such things come to pass?
        Howld hard there! Jerk ’em up!
Put down yer packs from every ass,
        And fork out Phairey’s cup!
It makes me sick, upon my soul,
        The gratichood of man!
Ye had the feast, and then ye shtole
        His silver billy-can.”

They swore that they had seen no cup,
        And after each had sworn
They said the sandstorm coming up
        Would simply spoil the corn.
They begged that he would wait until
        They reached the nearest barn.
He said, “O that’s a wind that shook
        The barley sort of yarn!

“(Now I’m no sergeant, understand—
        Ye needn’t call me that—
Oi want no sugar wid me sand
        Whin Joseph smells a rat.)
Take down yer sacks from off yer backs—
        The other asses too—
And rip the neck of every sack—
        The boys will see yer through.”

The cup was found in Benjamin’s,
        As all the world’s aware—
The constable seemed most surprised,
        Because he’d put it there.
“A greenhorn raised on asses’ milk!
        Well, this beats all I know!”
And then, when he had cautioned them,
        He took the gang in tow.

And when they started out to rend
        Their turbans and their skirts,
He said, “Ye drunken lunatics,
        Ye needn’t tear yer shirts—
Ye’re goin’ where there’s ladies now,
        So keep yer shirts on, mind.
(The Guvnor got in trouble wanst
        For leavin’ his behind.)”

And Joseph gaoled and frightened them.
        (The “feast” was not amiss:
It showed him most magnanimous
        With all that wasn’t his.)
He took some extra graveyard pulls
        At his old Dad’s grey hairs,
’Til Judah spoke up like a man—
        And spoke up unawares.

Then Joseph said that he was Joe,
        With Egypt in his clutch—
You will not be surprised to know
        It didn’t cheer them much.
And when he saw they were afraid,
        And bowed beneath the rod,
He summoned snuffle to his aid,
        And put it all on God.

And now the brethren understood,
        With keen regret, no doubt,
That sin is seldom any good
        Unless it’s carried out.
For after that heart-breaking trip
        Across the scorching sands
They found themselves in Joseph’s grip,
        With Benny on their hands.

(Poor Reuben, to persuade his dad
        To let the youngster come,
Had left his own sons’ lives in pledge
        For Benjamin, at home.
But life is made of many fires
        And countless frying-pans—
As fast as we get rid of Joe’s
        We’re plagued by Benjamin’s.)

Joe had a use for them, so he
        Bade them to have no fear.
He said to them, “It was not you,
        But God, who sent me here.
He sent me on to save your lives;
        He hath sent you to me,
To see to you and all your wives,
        And your posterity.

“The Lord God hath exalted me,
        And made me His right hand—
A father unto Pharaoh, and
        A ruler in the land,
And likewise lord of Egypt”—
        He said a few things more,
And then he got to business straight—
        I’ve heard such cant before.

Those who have read will understand
        I never mean to scoff,
But I hate all hypocrisy
        And blasted showing-off.
How cunningly our holy Joe
        Fixed up his tribe’s affairs
For his own ends, and sprang the job
        On Pharaoh unawares.

“The fame was heard in Pharaoh’s house,”
        Where peace and kindness thrived,
Saying, “Joseph’s brethren are come”
        (Joe’s brothers have arrived).
And Pharaoh heard, and was well pleased,
        For he was white all through.
(And Moses says, without remark,
        It pleased the servants too.)

But Pharaoh promptly put an end
        To Joseph’s mummery.
He said, “Send waggons up, and bid
        Thy people come to me.
Thou art commanded! Furnish them
        With money and with food;
And say that I will give them land,
        And see that it is good.”

And Jacob’s sons chucked up their runs
        With blessings short and grim,
And Jacob took the stock and gear
        And all his seed with him.
They sent the family tree ahead,
        And Pharaoh read that same
(They found him very tired, ’twas said,
        And misty when they came).

And Pharaoh unto Joseph spake
        Most kind, though wearily:
“Thy father and thy brethren all
        Are now come unto thee;
And Egypt is before thee now,
        So in the best land make
Thy father and thy brethren dwell—
        The land of Goshen take;

“And there, unhindered, let them thrive,
        In comfort let them dwell,
Apart and free. My people love
        All shepherds none too well—
But if thou knowest amongst them men
        Of proved activity,
Then make them rulers over all
        My flocks and herds for me.”

They brought five brethren unto him,
        And he was very kind—
Perhaps he looked those brethren through,
        And saw what lay behind.
His head he rested on his hand,
        And smoothed his careworn brow,
He gazed on Israel thoughtfully,
        And asked, “How old art thou?”

And Jacob told him, and was touched.
        He said his days were few
And evil. They had not attained
        To those his father knew.
But Jacob only had himself,
        And no one else, to thank
If Joe had given his grey hairs
        A second graveyard yank.

I think that Pharaoh was a man
        Who always understood,
But was content to stand aside
        If for his people’s good,
And seem not missed the while. He knew
        His merits—and no pride—
And ’twas a grievous day for Jew
        And Gentile when he died.

You know the rest of Joseph’s tale,
        And well the poor Egyptians knew—
House agent on the grand old scale,
        He boodled till the land was blue.
He squeezed them tight, and bled them white—

.     .     .     .     .

Until a Pharaoh came in sight
        Who didn’t know him from a crow.

The Patriarchs, right back from Dad
        To where the line begins,
Were great at passing “blessings” on,
        Together with their sins.
Old Noah was about the first—
        Cursed Ham till all was blue,
But ’twas with some effect he cursed,
        And with good reason too.

And when the time had come to pass
        For Jacob to be gone,
He polished up his father’s sins
        And calmly passed them on.
He called his twelve sons round his bed
        (Lest some good might befall),
He called his twelve sons to be blessed,
        And cursed them, one and all

Save Joseph; and the rest had cause
        To curse him ere they got
The English, who have every day
        More cause to damn the lot.
And if they crossed the Red Sea now,
        I guess we’d let them go,
With “Satan hurry Kohenstein”
        And “God speed Ikey Mo!”

And lest my Jewish friends be wroth—
        As they won’t be with me—
I’ll say that there is Jewish blood
        In my posterity.
This verse, I trust, shall profit him
        When he has ceased to grow—
My firstborn, who was known as “Jim”,
        But whose true name is “Joe”.


I’ve written much that is to blame,
        But I have only sought to show
That hearts of men were just the same
        Some forty centuries ago.
All kindness comes with woman’s love—
        That which she claims is due to her—
Not man! not man! but God above
        Dare judge the wife of Potiphar.

And Jacob shall be ever blind
        To reason and posterity,
In that “fond folly” of mankind
        That is born of impotency.
No parents’ love or parents’ wealth
        Shall ever fairly portioned be,
Faith shall not come, except by stealth,
        Nor justice in one family.

And Joseph proved unto this hour—
        Just what he was in Holy Writ—
A selfish tyrant in his power,
        And, up or down, a hypocrite.
And Joseph still, whate’er befall,
        But gives his place to Benjamin,
And Reuben bears the brunt of all,
        Though Judah does the best he can.

The hearts of men shall never change
        While one man dies and one is born,
We journey yet, though ways seem strange,
        Down into Egypt to buy corn.
Some prosper there, and they forget;
        And some go down, and are forgot;
And Pride and Self betray us yet,
        Till Pharaohs rise that know us not.

But kindliness shall live for aye,
        And, though we well our fate deserve,
Samaritans shall pass that way,
        And kings like Pharaoh rule to serve.
We’re fighting out of Egypt’s track—
        And, ah! the fight is ever grand—
Although, in Canaan or Out Back,
        We never reach the Promised Land.


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