We have all of us read how the Israelites fled
From Egypt with Pharaoh in eager pursuit of 'em,
And Pharaoh's fierce troop were all put "in the soup"
When the waters rolled softly o'er every galoot of 'em.
The Jews were so glad when old Pharaoh was "had"
That they sounded their timbrels and capered like mad.
You see he was hated from Jordan to Cairo --
Whence comes the expression "to buck against faro".
For forty long years, 'midst perils and fears
In deserts with never a famine to follow by,
The Israelite horde went roaming abroad
Like so many sundowners "out on the wallaby".
When Moses, who led 'em, and taught 'em, and fed 'em,
Was dying, he murmured, "A rorty old hoss you are:
I give you command of the whole of the band" --
And handed the Government over to Joshua.
But Moses told 'em before he died,
"Wherever you are, whatever betide,
Every year as the time draws near
By lot or by rote choose you a goat,
And let the high priest confess on the beast
The sins of the people the worst and the least,
Lay your sins on the goat! Sure the plan ought to suit yer.
Because all your sins are 'his troubles' in future.
Then lead him away to the wilderness black
To die with the weight of your sins on his back:
Of thirst let him perish alone and unshriven,
For thus shall your sins be absolved and forgiven!"
'Tis needless to say, though it reeked of barbarity
This scapegoat arrangement gained great popularity.
By this means a Jew, whate'er he might do,
Though he burgled, or murdered, or cheated at loo,
Or meat on Good Friday (a sin most terrific) ate,
Could get his discharge, like a bankrupt's certificate;
Just here let us note -- Did they choose their best goat?
It's food for conjecture, to judge from the picture
By Hunt in the Gallery close to our door, a
Man well might suppose that the scapegoat they chose
Was a long way from being their choicest Angora.
In fact I should think he was one of their weediest:
'Tis a rule that obtains, no matter who reigns,
When making a sacrifice, offer the seediest;
Which accounts for a theory known to my hearers
Who live in the wild by the wattle beguiled,
That a "stag" makes quite good enough mutton for shearers.
Be that as it may, as each year passed away,
a scapegoat was led to the desert and freighted
With sin (the poor brute must have been overweighted)
And left there -- to die as his fancy dictated.
The day it has come, with trumpet and drum.
With pomp and solemnity fit for the tomb
They lead the old billy-goat off to his doom:
On every hand a reverend band,
Prophets and preachers and elders stand
And the oldest rabbi, with a tear in his eye,
Delivers a sermon to all standing by.
(We haven't his name -- whether Cohen or Harris, he
No doubt was the "poisonest" kind of Pharisee.
The sermon was marked by a deal of humility
And pointed the fact, with no end of ability.
That being a Gentile's no mark of gentility,
And, according to Samuel, would certainly d--n you well.
Then, shedding his coat, he approaches the goat
And, while a red fillet he carefully pins on him,
Confesses the whole of the Israelites' sins on him.
With this eloquent burst he exhorts the accurst --
"Go forth in the desert and perish in woe,
The sins of the people are whiter than snow!"
Then signs to his pal "for to let the brute go".
(That "pal" as I've heard, is an elegant word,
Derived from the Persian "Palaykhur" or "Pallaghur"),
As the scapegoat strains and tugs at the reins
The Rabbi yells rapidly, "Let her go, Gallagher!"
The animal, freed from all restraint
Lowered his head, made a kind of feint,
And charged straight at that elderly saint.
So fierce his attack and so very severe, it
Quite floored the Rabbi, who, ere he could fly,
Was rammed on the -- no, not the back -- but just near it.
The scapegoat he snorted, and wildly cavorted,
A light-hearted antelope "out on the ramp",
Then stopped, looked around, got the "lay of the ground",
And made a beeline back again to the camp.
The elderly priest, as he noticed the beast
So gallantly making his way to the east,
Says he, "From the tents may I never more roam again
If that there old billy-goat ain't going home again.
He's hurrying, too! This never will do.
Can't somebody stop him? I'm all of a stew.
After all our confessions, so openly granted,
He's taking our sins back to where they're not wanted.
We've come all this distance salvation to win agog,
If he takes home our sins, it'll burst up the Synagogue!"
He turned to an Acolyte who was making his bacca light,
A fleet-footed youth who could run like a crack o' light.
"Run, Abraham, run! Hunt him over the plain,
And drive back the brute to the desert again.
The Sphinx is a-watching, the Pyramids will frown on you,
From those granite tops forty cent'ries look down on you --
Run, Abraham, run! I'll bet half-a-crown on you.
So Abraham ran, like a man did he go for him,
But the goat made it clear each time he drew near
That he had what the racing men call "too much toe" for him.
The crowd with great eagerness studied the race --
"Great Scott! isn't Abraham forcing the pace --
And don't the goat spiel? It is hard to keep sight on him,
The sins of the Israelites ride mighty light on him.
The scapegoat is leading a furlong or more,
And Abraham's tiring -- I'll lay six to four!
He rolls in his stride; he's done, there's no question!"
But here the old Rabbi brought up a suggestion.
('Twas strange that in racing he showed so much cunning),
"It's a hard race," said he, "and I think it would be
A good thing for someone to take up the running.
As soon said as done, they started to run --
The priests and the deacons, strong runners and weak 'uns
All reckoned ere long to come up with the brute,
And so the whole boiling set off in pursuit.
And then it came out, as the rabble and rout
Streamed over the desert with many a shout --
The Rabbi so elderly, grave, and patrician,
Had been in his youth a bold metallician,
And offered, in gasps, as they merrily spieled,
"Any price Abraham! Evens the field!"
Alas! the whole clan, they raced and they ran,
And Abraham proved him an "even time" man,
But the goat -- now a speck they could scarce keep their eyes on --
Stretched out in his stride in a style most surprisin'
And vanished ere long o'er the distant horizon.
Away in the camp the bill-sticker's tramp
Is heard as he wanders with paste, brush, and notices,
And paling and wall he plasters them all,
"I wonder how's things gettin' on with the goat," he says,
The pulls out his bills, "Use Solomon's Pills"
"Great Stoning of Christians! To all devout Jews! you all
Must each bring a stone -- Great sport will be shown;
Enormous Attractions! And prices as usual!
Roll up to the Hall!! Wives, children and all,
For naught the most delicate feelings to hurt is meant!!"
Here his eyes opened wide, for close by his side
Was the scapegoat: And eating his latest advertisement!
One shriek from him burst -- "You creature accurst!"
And he ran from the spot like one fearing the worst.
His language was chaste, as he fled in his haste,
But the goat stayed behind him -- and "scoffed up" the paste.
With downcast head, and sorrowful tread,
The people came back from the desert in dread.
"The goat -- was he back there? Had anyone heard of him?"
In very short order they got plenty word of him.
In fact as they wandered by street, lane and hall,
"The trail of the serpent was over them all.
A poor little child knocked out stiff in the gutter
Proclaimed that the scapegoat was bred for a "butter".
The bill-sticker's pail told a sorrowful tale,
The scapegoat had licked it as dry as a nail;
He raced through their houses, and frightened their spouses,
But his latest achievement most anger arouses,
For while they were searching, and scratching their craniums,
One little Ben Ourbed, who looked in the flow'r-bed,
Discovered him eating the Rabbi's geraniums.
The moral is patent to all the beholders --
Don't shift your own sins on to other folks' shoulders;
Be kind to dumb creatures and never abuse them,
Nor curse them nor kick them, nor spitefully use them:
Take their lives if needs must -- when it comes to the worst,
But don't let them perish of hunger or thirst.
Remember, no matter how far you may roam
That dogs, goats, and chickens, it's simply the dickens,
Their talent stupendous for "getting back home".
Your sins, without doubt, will aye find you out,
And so will a scapegoat, he's bound to achieve it,
But, die in the wilderness! Don't you believe it!
Top Andrew Barton Paterson Poems