The Life of King David in Poetry
(These writings have been updated in language where possible)
I sing the life of David, Israel's king!
Assist, you sacred Power who did him bring
From the sheepfold, and set him on the throne,
You I invoke, on you I rely alone;
Breathe on my muse, and fill her slender quill,
With your refreshing dews from Hermon hill,
That what she sings, may turn unto your praise,
And to your Name may lasting trophies raise.
After King Saul had, by the sin he wrought
In Amalek, divine displeasure brought
Upon himself, and so the Lord provoked,
Though his offence he with religion cloaked,
That God of his promotion did repent,
And, in decree, the kingdom from him rent.
While the good Prophet on his mournful string,
Bewailed the destined downfall of the king,
God to him did his sacred herald call,
Samuel, by whom he had anointed Saul,
And said, How long for Saul does mean to mourn?
Up, quickly fill with sacred oil your horn;
To Bethlemish Jesse I intend,
Thee, on a special errand strait to send,
For I among his sons provided have
A king who shall my people rule and save.
Though to the Prophet it was fully known,
That God had Saul determined to dethrone,
And raise another; for himself did bring
From God the unwelcome sentence to the king;)
Yet did this dangerous errand him surprise;
And smite with fear, How can I go! he cries;
If jealous Saul should of the business hear,
My head must pay for mine offence I fear.
The Lord, a gracious Master, fully knew
The Prophet's heart was firm, upright and true;
And that his fear from frailty did arise,
A fair expedient for him did devise.
Go, go, said he, an heifer with you take,
And say, I come a sacrifice to make
Unto the Lord: Call Jesse thereunto,
And I will then direct you what to do;
Go, entertain no fear but fear of me,
And him anoint whom I shall show to you .
Away went Samuel. And, to Bethlehem come,
Convened the elders of the place, on whom
A trembling fell, a dreadful panic fear,
Lest some great ill had drawn the Prophet there;
Wherefore they asked him, If he came in peace?
He answering, Yes; their fears did quickly cease.
He told them then, he came to hold a feast
Unto the Lord, that love might be increased
Among them. Bid them haste, and sanctify
Themselves, that to the feast they might draw nigh.
Then unto Jesse's house the Prophet went,
Upon his special errand most intent.
Among his sons when Eliab he spied,
This must be he, within himself he cried;
For Eliab was the eldest, stout and tall,
A fit successor he might think for Saul;
He therefore said, surely, ‘the Lord's anointed
‘Is now before him;’ this has he appointed.
But God thus checked him. Look not at the face
Nor outward stature; but the inward grace:
I view not man like man; the external part
He looks upon, but I regard the heart.
The Prophet thus instructed, now no more
Consults weak reason as he did before;
But when Old Jesse had before him set
Seven of his sons, all proper persons, yet
The prophet to his guide now keeping close,
Told him the Lord had chosen none of those.
Sure these are not your all, the Prophet cried;
No, one there still remains, old Jess' replied,
My youngest son, my shepherd's place he fills,
And tends his fleecy charge on distant hills.
Send, fetch him, said the Prophet, quickly home,
For we will not sit down until he come.
A speedy messenger for David flies,
And brings the sprightly youth before their eyes,
A rosy bloom adorned his comely face,
Sweet to behold, and manly with a grace;
Before the Prophet, Jesse makes him stand,
The Prophet soon received the Lord's command,
‘Arise, anoint the youth, for this is he;’
And Samuel strait approached with bended knee,
Assumed his horn, and on young David's head,
The consecrating oil did freely shed.
From that day forward upon David came,
The Spirit of the Lord; which might proclaim,
To well discerning eyes his unction, as
Of Saul's rejection a sure token it was,
That the good spirit did from him depart,
And to an evil spirit left his heart.
This evil spirit from the Lord is said,
On Saul to come, and it such trouble made
To Saul and all his servants, that they thought
The best expedient was, there should be sought
Some skilful man, who on his harp might play,
And drive that spirit, for the time away.
This they propose. He shows a ready mind
To try it, bids them such an harper find.
One mentioned David, whom he thus set forth,
A cunning player, and a man of worth;
Valiant and wise; a comely person; one
To whom the Lord had special favour shown.
This pleased Saul; to Jesse strait he sent
To fetch young David; David quickly went,
A tender kid the cheerful youth did bring,
With bread and wine, a present for the king.
His office is assigned him to stand
Before the King, and with a skilful hand,
When Saul was troubled, on his harp to play,
And when he played, the spirit was drove away.
This made him dear to Saul; Saul quickly found,
The benefit which did to him redound
From the sweet harper's music; for the sake
Whereof he did him armour-bearer make:
A martial office it was, to bear the shield
Of Saul, when he should march into the field;
Which shows, he found the youth as well could wield
His arms (a lance or spear, and massy shield)
And thereby, if occasion were, defend
His person, and in need, due succor lend;
As softly strike upon the tuneful string,
And by harmonious lays relieve the king.
Unwilling therefore David should return,
Lest he his absence might have cause to mourn,
He sent again to Jesse to request,
That with his leave, he might be longer blest
With David's service, that he might be freed
From his affliction: Jesse soon agreed.
While Saul yet reigned (although by God rejected,
Because he had the Lord's command neglected)
The bold Philistines with a mighty host,
Made an invasion upon Judah's coast;
Whom to repel, when Saul the danger knew,
The men of Israel he together drew.
Upon two hills the war-like camps were seen,
A valley lying in the midst between;
Each army standing in battalion arranged,
Before a blow on either side was changed,
From the Philistine camp, a champion bold
Came proudly daring, dreadful to behold;
Upon his scowling brow sate fuming wrath,
His name Goliath, and his city Gath;
In height he was six cubits and a span,
In truth, a monster rather than a man;
He on his head a brazen helmet ware,
Too great for any head but his to bear,
And in a coat of mail he was arrayed,
That of fine brass five thousand shekels weighed;
His shoulders did a brazen target bear,
And on his legs he greaves of brass did wear,
The staff too of his spear full well might seem,
For bigness to have been a weaver's beam,
The head whereof alone (it is strange to say)
Six hundred shekels did of iron weigh;
Before him went his squire who bore his shield,
Too huge for any but himself to wield.
Advancing forward towards the camp of Saul,
To Israel's armies he aloud did call,
And to this purpose spoke, ‘What need ye try
‘The fortune of a battle? Am not I,
‘A Philistine? You, servants unto Saul?
‘Choose you a man, the stoutest of you all;
‘If he be able me in fight to slay,
‘Then we henceforth will your commands obey;
‘But if in single combat I prevail,
‘And kill him, you to serve us shall not fail:
‘Come, show your courage, let it now appear,
‘Ye have at least one man that's void of fear:
‘All Israel's armies, I this day defy,
‘Give me a man that may my prowess try.’
Thus forty days together did he brave
The Israelites, yet none an answer gave,
For Saul himself was dreadfully afraid,
And the whole host of Israel sore dismayed.
While thus this son of earth did proudly vaunt,
And with his looks, an host of Hebrews daunt,
It so fell out, or rather God so wrought,
That little David to the camp was brought;
David, old Jesse's son, the Ephrathite,
Fitter in show to follow sheep than fight.
Seven other son's had Jesse, eight in all,
The eldest three were serving under Saul;
To see how well they fared, and how things went,
The good old man, his youngest, David sent,
Not empty handed. David early rose,
And to the camp with victuals laded goes,
Yet not without providing one to keep,
Until he returned, his father's flock of sheep.
Just as the host to fight was going out,
And for the signal, did to battle shout,
Came David to the trench; with haste he ran,
To find his brethren before the fight began,
And as with them he talking stood, soon
Came forth the Philistine's bold champion,
Enclosed in brass, and with an hideous cry,
Denounced his challenge then as formerly;
At sight of whom, a sight that carried dread,
The men of Israel to their trenches fled.
No sooner heard young David the defy,
But brave disdain did sparkle in his eye,
His mettle rose, his breast with courage swelled,
He scarce himself from falling on withheld;
That Spirit which, from God upon him came,
At his anointing, now does more inflame
His heart with holy zeal, and does him bear,
Above the sense of danger and of fear;
He could not brook, that one uncircumcised,
Defying Israel, should go unchastised;
He talked with one, he turned him to another,
Not daunted with the chidings of his brother;
He let them both by word and gesture know,
He dared against the great Goliath go.
The rumor of him reached the royal tent,
And from the king a messenger was sent,
To bring him to him. In he nimbly stepped,
And said, O king, the challenge I accept;
Let no man's courage fail, for in the might
Of God, I with this Philistine will fight.
Alas! said Saul, when he observed the lad,
A shepherd-swain, all in sheep's russet clad,
To fight with him you are too weak by far,
You but a youth, and he a man of war.
Cast fear away, O king, the youth replied,
He's strong who has the Almighty on his side;
I fear the God of Israel, and have found,
Young though I am, his strength in need abound;
Thy servant slew a lion, and a bear,
That from my father's flock a lamb did tear,
And since this Philistine, has in his pride,
The armies of the living God defied,
The uncircumcised wretch no more shall be,
Than was the lion or the bear to me;
The Lord, who from the bear's and lion's paw,
Did me preserve because I loved his law,
Will, I believe, as in his fear I stand,
Preserve me safe from this great giant's hand.
The king amazed, yet glad withal to find,
In such a straight so well resolved a mind,
Gives his consent, and prays the Lord to bless,
His little combatant with great success:
Himself, with his own armour David arms,
To render him the more secure from harms,
Upon his head an helmet he does put
Of massy brass, through which no sword could cut,
Then loads him also with a coat of mail,
Which, having oft been tried, did never fail;
On this array, his sword did David gird,
And then assayed to go; but when he stirred,
He too unwieldy was, he found to move.
Nor dared he fight in arms he did not prove;
Saul's armour therefore David did refuse,
‘Who fight for God, must not man's weapons use:’
Saul's armour therefore leaving in his tent,
He took his trusty staff, and out he went,
His sling in the other hand; and as he goes,
He five smooth stones out of the valley chose,
Opens his scrip, and puts the stones therein,
And then draws near unto the Philistine.
The giant rolling round his staring eyes,
At length the little Hebrew coming spies,
At whom his haughty breast with scorn did swell,
And with such words as these he on him fell:
‘Am I a dog, you despicable boy,
‘That you attempt me thus with staves to annoy?
‘Come hither, sirrah, and your flesh for meat,
‘I'll give unto the fowls and beasts to eat.’
Then by his gods (what could he mention worse?)
He belches out an execrable curse,
So loud as if he meant the vale to shake,
And cause the savage beasts themselves to quake.
When he had ended, David did begin,
And answered thus the haughty Philistine.:—
‘You come to me with sword, and shield, and spear,
‘But I to you , come in the name and fear
‘Of God the Lord of hosts, by you defied,
‘The God of Israel, to chastise your pride;
‘This day, I trust, into my hand he'll give
‘Thy severed head, no longer shall you live;
‘Of all your host, the carcases this day,
‘Shall to the fowls and beasts be made a prey,
‘That all who on the spacious earth do dwell,
‘May know there is a God in Israel;
‘And to this whole assembly 't shall appear,
‘That not by sword the Lord does save, nor spear;
‘The Lord our God, the battle does command,
‘And he will give you up into our hand.’
So spoke the undaunted youth. And at that word,
The enraged giant was so thoroughly stirred,
That forth he stepped, and lifting up his spear,
With direful threats to David he drew near.
To meet him David still advanced as fast,
And from his sling a stone he swiftly cast,
So rightly aimed, and with a force so strong,
It pierced his brain, and felled him all along:
Prostrate he sprawling lay, the bruised earth,
Received with trembling her gigantic birth.
No sooner David this advantage spies,
But o'er the vale, he like the lightning flies:
While stretched upon the ground the monster lay,
Like some great mole of earth, or bank of clay,
The nimble victor laying by his sling,
Did on his massy shoulders lightly spring,
Where standing, forth the giant's sword he drew,
And therewith did his neck asunder hew.
Thus with a sling and stone did David smite,
And slay Goliath in a single fight.
O dextrous slinger, who the prize might win,
left-handed sons of Benjamin! (Jud 20)
Nay, rather let the praise to him alone
Ascribed be, who guided hand and stone!
The challenge answered thus, the conquest won,
In sight of both the armies looking on,
The monster's head still reeking in its gore,
In triumph then victorious David bore.
Him thus returning, captain Abner meets,
Embraces and affectionately greets;
Extols his fearless valor to the sky,
And congratulates his happy victory.
By him conducted to the royal tent,
To Saul he does Goliath's head present.
Mean while the Philistines, their champion dead,
With terror struck, in great disorder fled;
The Hebrews shouting, eagerly pursue,
And of them killed and wounded not a few.
Thus the proud Philistines the Lord did quell,
And wrought deliverance for his Israel.
A SON had Saul, whose name was Jonathan,
A brave young Prince, and a courageous man,
He present was, when David to the King,
The trophy of his victory did bring,
And well observing David's speech and mein,
The like to which before he had scarcely seen,
Such love to David touched his princely heart,
It soon produced in him an equal part;
A noble friendship hence between them grew,
And which was most affected neither knew.
A solemn covenant between them passed,
A friendship that beyond the grave should last.
The noble prince did of his robe divest
Himself, and David to accept it pressed,
His garments he on David did bestow,
Even to his sword, his girdle, and his bow.
Which presents David did with thanks accept,
Pledges of friendship to be firmly kept.
In high esteem and favour with the King,
This glorious victory did David bring;
A courtier now the shepherd is become,
The King him not permitting to go home;
Advanced he is unto an high degree
Of honor, none so great with Saul as he;
Over the men of war the King him set
Wherein his wise behaviour did him get
The love of all the people, and of all
The courtiers too: a thing does rarely fall.
Now honors on him wait, and for a while,
Indulgent fortune does upon him smile;
In him both court and country take delight,
At once the King's and people's favorite.
But oh! how slippery are princes courts,
Where fickle fortune with poor mortals sports!
And by alluring baits does them entice,
To trust themselves upon the glazed ice,
Then on a sudden, before they are aware,
Trips up their heels, and leaves them groveling there;
The wheel whereon she does her creatures raise
Is in continual motion, never stays,
But always whirls about: who sit a-top
Today, tomorrow to the bottom drop.
How ticklish is a favorite's estate,
Who must upon another's humor wait,
And when he apprehends he stands most fast,
Is puffed down with an inconstant blast!
If he the prince's creature seems to be,
He hardly escapes the people's oblique,
All their mishaps to his account they score,
And lay their disappointments at his door.
If in the peoples favour he appears,
The prince then is, or seems to be in fears,
And that too popular he may not grow,
Seeks all occasions how to lay him low.
So David found. The people sing his praise;
And that, in worthless Saul does envy raise.
It so fell out, that now the coasts were clear
From Philistines, and peoples minds from fear,
The Hebrew dames, from all the cities round,
With instruments of most melodious sound,
Came tripping out, and all along the way,
Upon the well tuned strings did sweetly play;
Their fingers played, their nimble feet did dance,
For joy of their much-wished deliverance.
Together thus they come to meet the King,
And in his ears this Epinicion sing,
[Saul has (of enemies) his thousands slain,
And David his ten thousands] with disdain
The King this heard; it made his color rise,
And his displeasure sparkled in his eyes.
While thus the women in their tuneful chore,
Him faintly praise, and David ten times more,
The evil spirit, an envenomed dart
Let fly, and lodged it in his thoughtful heart;
The poison wrought, and in a trice possessed,
With soul-tormenting jealousies his breast;
Suspicion and distrust in him it bred,
And with surmisings filled his troubled head,
He swelled and champed; at length his discontent,
Did thus itself in angry accents vent.
To David they ascribed have, said he,
Ten thousands; and but thousands unto me,
Thus they prefer my vassal me before,
And, but the kingdom, what can he have more?
Hence Saul on David kept an evil eye,
And to have slain him divers times did try,
Even while good David on his harp did play,
The affliction of his spirit to allay;
But David's God (who had King Saul rejected,
And chosen David) David still protected.
When Saul perceived (for even wicked men,
Have sights of God's outgoings now and then)
That God did prosper David, and did move
The hearts of all the people him to love,
He daily grew of David more afraid,
And studied how he might be best betrayed.
Two daughters had king Saul. A stately dame
The elder was, and Merab was her name;
A topping lady she, whose lofty look,
Showed that she nothing that was low could brook;
Commanding power reigned in her sparkling eye,
And on her brow sate awful majesty;
A sprightly vigor filled her manly face,
Which yet was not without a pleasing grace;
And had her breast been hid, she might have gone
Among the warriors for an Amazon.
So looked Penth'silea, when she came
To Priam's succor Such another dame
Was she, who dared engage in single fight
With Theseus, the warlike Hippolite.
Unlike herself, a sister Merab had,
The joy and grief of many a noble lad,
Fair Michal she was called, whose lovely face,
No feature wanted that could add a grace;
Her body delicate, wherein enshrined,
As in its temple, dwelt a virtuous mind;
Engaging sweetness beamed from her eye,
And on her cheek sate maiden modesty;
Her courteous mien gave proof to all that she
From pride and haughtiness of mind was free,
For of the meanest she would notice take,
Her whole converse, humility bespake;
So graceful was her gesture, it did move
At once beholders to admire and love.
These were Saul's daughters; and by these the King
Ruin on David did design to bring,
By one of these he hoped to prevail,
If all his other stratagems should fail.
One of these princesses had promised been,
To whoever should kill the Philistine.,
Which David having done, might justly claim
One; but the King had power which to name,
He therefore Merab first assigned to be,
The guerdon of young David's victory;
But when the time approached, he changed his mind,
And her unto another's bed consigned.
But Michal's lovely, Michal's virgin love,
In strong desires did unto David move;
This so rejoiced her envious Father's ear,
He said, I'll give her to him for a snare.
His servants he instructed how to draw,
David to yield to be his son-in-law;
They tell him what delight in him the King
Did take; what honor it to him would bring,
To be unto his sovereign allied,
Besides the enjoyment of so fair a bride.
When he himself excused upon the score,
His family was low, himself too poor,
Out of his slender fortunes to advance,
So large a dowry as the King perchance,
Might look to have (for women then were thought,
It seems of worth sufficient to be bought.)
The instructed courtiers presently replied,
The King no dowry does desire beside
An hundred fore-skins of his enemies
The Philistines; that dowry will suffice.
This was the snare the treacherous King did lay,
His well-deserving David to betray.
Ungrateful Prince! though David him had freed
From danger, when he made Goliath bleed;
Yet on set-purpose he this dowry chose,
That he to danger David might expose;
He knew the valiant youth's adventurous mind,
The greatest hazards never had declined,
And by proposing this, he did intend,
David to bring to an untimely end.
It was not ambition to be son-in-law
Unto a king, did humble David draw,
Michal's fresh beauty and affection move,
In youthful David like returns of love;
And when he heard what dowry Saul proposed,
He gladly with the proposition closed,
The maid he liked (as who indeed could choose)
The terms he liked; what was there to refuse?
For though he should not Michal thereby gain,
He gladly would the Philistines have slain.
Up with his men he in the morning gets,
And on the Philistines so briskly sets,
That though with all the speed they could they fled,
He laid at least two hundred of them dead,
Whose fore-skins he unto the court did bring,
And gave a double dowry to the King.
Ill pleased was Saul, that what he did project
For David's ruin, wrought not that effect;
Had David's head been lifeless brought, that sight
Would to his eyes have yielded more delight;
Yet, since it would not further his design,
To manifest displeasure and repine,
He held it best his promise good to make,
And David for his son-in-law to take;
Concealing therefore for a little while,
His hatred under a dissembled smile,
He of true gladness made a feigned show,
And Michal upon David did bestow.
The marriage-rites performed, the shepherd's led,
With nuptial songs to princess Michal's bed;
Where leaving them in amorous embraces,
My muse their father's machinations traces.
NOT fully were the princely nuptials over,
Not fully bride and bridegroom joyed, before
Invidious fame by a confirmed report,
Disturbed the pleasures of the peaceful court.
The Philistines again had took the field;
The viol now must to the clarion yield,
David to field must go; the trumpet sounds,
To bid the Philistines prepare for wounds.
Saul's hope revives, that some Philistine spear,
Will rid him both of David and his fear;
To lose a battle would not trouble Saul,
So he might lose his son-in-law withal;
But, to his trouble, David from the war
Returned with conquest, and without a scar,
And, to torment him more, each enterprise
Raised David higher in the peoples eyes.
Until now a secret hope restrained Saul,
That David by the Philistines would fall,
But having by repeated trials found,
That David still returned without a wound;
Grown desperate and impatient of delay,
He bid his son and servants David slay.
Surprised, the courtiers on each other gaze,
As men whom sudden horror does amaze;
None undertakes the work, all silent stand,
Filled with abhorrence of the King's command.
They could not without much reluctance hear,
His death decreed, who was to them so dear;
Nor could the King a man among them gain,
That would with David's blood a finger stain.
But Jonathan, whose deeper rooted love,
Did with a stronger spring to David move,
Was not content barely to hold his hand,
From executing that unjust command,
Unless his utmost power he also bent,
His brother David's ruin to prevent.
Leaving his father therefore, out he goes,
His father's wicked counsels to disclose
To David; but, when unto him he came
Ah! how confused he was between grief and shame;
He grieved to find his friend so near death's jaws,
And blushed to think his father was the cause;
Shame made him loath his father's fault to speak,
But friendship prompted the design to break:
Friendship prevailed, and with a downcast eye,
He made him understand the danger nigh.
Not more was David troubled when he heard,
What he before suspected not nor feared,
Than overjoyed in Jonathan to find,
So true a friendship and so brave a mind;
And in the most endearing terms he showed,
His hearty sense thereof and gratitude.
Then sitting down together, they concert,
How they may best the impending storm avert;
It was agreed, that David should abide
In secret, until Jonathan had tried
His father's temper, that he so might find,
How deep the offence was rooted in his mind.
They part, and David does himself withdraw,
To court goes Jonathan; with filial awe,
And humble stile he David's cause did plead,
And with his father thus does intercede.
‘Let not the King against his servant sin,
‘Whose works to you, ever good have been,
‘His life, you know, he in his hand did put,
‘And great Goliath's head he off did cut,
‘The monstrous Philistine, by David fell,
‘A great salvation to all Israel,
‘The Lord by him did work; you did it see,
‘And did therein rejoice as well as we.
‘Why will you David slay without a cause,
‘Who is in all things subject to your laws?
‘O draw not on thyself the heavy guilt,
‘That waits on guiltless blood unjustly spilt!
‘Pardon, most honored father, I beseech,
‘My boldness and the freedom of my speech;
‘It is for David that I humbly sue,
‘David who does your enemies subdue;
‘Let me prevail, your anger pray withdraw,
‘From both my brother and your son-in-law.’
So well did Jonathan discharge his part,
So well he used the oratorical art,
That he prevailed; the King reversed his doom,
The father by the son was overcome:
And that there might no ground for fear remain,
He gave his oath, David should not be slain.
On which assurance, Jonathan did bring
David to wait again upon the king;
His place in court he takes, and for a space,
He stands as formerly in seeming grace.
But it was not long, before the cursed root
Of envy did again begin to shoot,
And jealous Saul a fresh occasion took,
On David with an evil eye to look.
The restless Philistines, the land again
Invaded had; whom David to restrain,
His men led forth, and with such fury flew
Upon them, that he their main body slew;
Great was the slaughter his revengeful blade,
Upon the Philistines at that time made,
That had not some secured themselves by flight,
The host of Philistines had perished quite.
So great a victory, it was thought by all,
Would have endeared David unto Saul,
And it was but reasonable to expect,
So good a cause should yield a good effect;
But on the other hand, he David more
Maligned now than ever he did before;
He saw that David, daily more became
The peoples darling, and he thought his aim
Was at the crown; he let in a surmise,
That David one day would against him rise;
He recollected what the prophet said
Of his rejection; and he was afraid,
David would prove that neighbor, unto whom
The kingdom, rent from him, in time should come; (Sam 15)
He saw that God did eminently bless,
All David's undertakings with success;
That David was unto the people dear,
He also saw, and that increased his fear;
He thought withal, that David did improve,
By all the arts he could, the peoples love,
That having gained a powerful interest,
He might by force the scepter from him wrest;
These restless workings of his troubled head,
Perplexing thoughts and terrors in him bred;
At length he was with apprehensions filled,
That he himself by David should be killed
How miserable is the state of those,
Whom blind suspicion does to fear expose!
Death has less terror in it. Who can find
A torment equal to a jealous mind?
When Saul this apprehension in had let,
His passions all were in a ferment set;
Fear, anger, envy, madness, vengeful hate,
Did boil together and incorporate
In his foul breast; yet so, that bloodless fear,
Did in his face predominant appear.
Those other passions ready were to invent,
New kinds of tortures David to torment;
Bur fear overruled, insinuating he
By David's death, himself from death might free,
And that it must be by a sudden stroke,
Lest David should the peoples help invoke,
And they by force him rescue. Thus again,
Is guiltless David destined to be slain,
By secret sentence in the king's own heart,
Which he resolved he would to none impart,
For he no more would trust to friend or foe,
But his own hand should give the fatal blow.
When thus the king had David's death designed,
The faithful chief, whose uncorrupted mind,
Was never tainted with disloyal stain,
Returned from battle to the court again,
And, as a proof of victory, did bring
Of-spoils, a chosen present to the king.
How easily is innocence betrayed,
When under shows of kindness snares are laid!
No apprehension had the guiltless youth
Of danger, armed with probity and truth,
He such an inoffensive mind did bear,
As kept him free from all suspicious fear;
With confidence unto the king he goes,
(For confidence from innocence flows)
And does in order unto him relate,
The battle and his army's present state.
The crafty king too, at the first congress,
No token of displeasure did express,
But under outside kindness, inward hate
Concealing, did a fitter season wait
To execute his purpose, that the blow
Might be secure, which should his anger show.
Nor did he long for an occasion wait,
But in a while, as in his house he sate,
The evil spirit from the Lord (for God
Makes use of evil spirits as a rod)
Upon him came, his javelin in his hand,
And David playing on his harp did stand
Before him, with refreshing tunes to allay
His grief, and the evil spirit drive away.
So kind an office, sure one might have thought,
Upon the worst of natures would have wrought,
And hindered even the most savage mind,
From perpetrating what he had designed;
But Saul, now hardened to a brutish rage,
Beyond the force of harmony to assuage,
Thinking he now had sure advantage got,
To strike the stroke when David eyed him not,
His javelin at him with such fury cast,
That had it hit, that hour had been his last;
But who the kingdom unto David gave,
Did David now from threatened danger save.
The rustling of Saul's garment, when on high
He raised his arm to let the javelin fly,
Made David look, and nimbly slip aside,
While the sharp-pointed shaft did by him glide,
Which, whirling by, with such a force did fall,
That fast it stuck upon the adverse wall.
It was time for David warning now to take,
And for his safety due provision make;
His person now he could no longer trust,
With one that neither grateful was nor just;
One whom no services could render kind,
Nor the most solemn promises could bind;
One who to gratify his groundless hate,
Stuck not his sacred oath to violate;
With such an one it was not safe to stay,
While therefore safe he was, he went away,
The treacherous court he speedily forsook,
And to his private house himself betook,
His faithful wife acquainting with the case,
Her father's falsehood, and his own disgrace.
Meanwhile the wrathful king, whose hot desire,
Of David's death, had set him all on fire,
Vexed that his rustling robe that warning gave
To David, from the stroke himself to save,
And fearing lest, if now he got away,
He might the wrong revenge another day;
All in a rage, he certain of his guard,
Whose surly looks bespoke their natures hard,
Unto him called, and charged them to repair,
Forthwith to David's house and slay him there.
With downcast looks the troubled guards receive,
The unexpected charge, the court they leave,
And lest they should for backwardness be checked,
To David's house their heavy steps direct;
There make a stand, and set a private watch,
That David stepping out they might dispatch.
But loyal Michal, whose mistrustful eye,
Had all the ways surveyed, did them descry,
And told her husband, if he should remain
In's house till morning, he would then be slain,
Then through a lattice did direct his eye,
To the place where the insidious guards did lie.
The sight of these, and sense for what they came,
Did his adventurous courage so inflame,
That had not Michal weeping on him hung,
He boldly had himself among them flung
With sword in hand; but Michal's moving tears,
Wrought him to listen to her pressing fears.
Together thereupon they counsel take,
What means are best his safe escape to make;
Love shows the way; fair Michal does propose,
And David won by her, does therewith close.
When darkness had the place of light possessed,
And drowsy sleep had mortals laid to rest;
When through the sable clouds no star appeared,
No warlike sound, no busy noise was heard,
Then Michal, who had all things ready got,
Needful to carry on the harmless plot,
Having her dearest David oft embraced,
While he encircled with his arms her waist
Did through a window gently let him down,
And softly said, live David for the Crown;
May God you keep, and bring you safe again
Unto your Michal; he replied, Amen.
Then with a sigh she did the window close,
Her sigh he echoed, and away he goes.
Now travels David in a mournful plight,
Beneath the covert of a darksome night,
And Gibeah left, himself he recommends
To God's protection, and to Ramah bends
His wandering course; at Ramah then did dwell,
His cordial friend, the prophet Samuel.
Arrived, he to the Prophet opens all
The wrongs which he sustained had from Saul,
How he his life had sought, he does relate,
And much laments his own unhappy state.
The good old man does David's case bewail,
And that his spirit might not sink or fail,
Doth him encourage in the Lord to trust,
Whom he had found both merciful and just.
He wished him call to mind the oil was shed,
At Bethlehem upon his youthful head,
By God's command; that being so anointed,
He to the kingdom was by God appointed,
Who through his troubles would him still preserve
From hurt, if he from God did never swerve.
Advised him therefore not to let in fear,
However great his perils might appear;
But trust in God, who never will forsake
The wronged, who him for their Protector take.
David thus strengthened; he and Samuel
To Najoth go, and there together dwell.
Mean-while, with eager eyes the impatient king,
Looked every moment when his guards would bring
The head of David; in at length they come;
And tell him, David's sick a bed at home;
For with that shift, when they the door drew nigh,
And asked for David, Michal put them by,
Having an image placed in his bed,
With goat's hair pillow laid, as it were his head.
With furrowed brows, and countenance severe,
The disappointed King his guards did hear,
With sharp reproaches blamed their negligence,
And sent them back, with speed to bring him there.
Go, fetch him bed and all, without delay,
Said he, that I myself the wretch may slay.
They go. But oh! the rage that in him burned,
And at his nostrils fumed when they returned,
And brought him word, that David being fled,
They found an image only in his bed;
How did he rage and storm! incensed the more
At this escape than ever he was before;
Inflamed to think, that by a woman's wile,
His daughter Michal should him thus beguile;
His passion heightened, that his troops should let
His hated son have time away to get;
But that which most of all disturbed his mind,
Was that he David knew not where to find;
And foul he would have fell, it might be feared,
Upon his guards, had he not timely heard,
That David, in the dark, to Najoth slid,
And there himself among the prophets hid.
Forthwith to Najoth messengers he sent,
To fetch him there; away with speed they went:
But here the Lord himself does interpose
To save his David from approaching foes;
For when they to the prophets school were come,
And saw the company of prophets; some
Then prophesying, all the rest attent,
And Samuel standing over as president,
They could not David touch; but on them all,
Who were to apprehend him sent by Saul,
A spirit came from God, and they began
To prophesy in order man for man.
Thrice did this stubborn king this course repeat,
And thrice did God his base intent defeat;
No sooner came his messengers among
The prophets, but prophetic notes they sung.
Galled with these disappointments, the angry king,
Whom envy, fear, and jealousy did sting,
Resolves in person he'll to Najoth go,
And once more try what he himself can do;
Forward he sets, and subtly as he went,
Contrived how he might David circumvent;
But before he got to Najoth, on him fell
A spirit from the Lord; and he, as well
As they whom he before had sent, began
To prophesy, and prophesying ran
To Najoth, where, at sight of Samuel,
First stripping off his clothes, he prostrate fell
Upon the ground, and in that rueful plight
Lay naked all that day, and all that night.
Whence a proverbial speech it grew to be,
When in religious company we see
An impious man affect a saintly shew,
“Is Saul among the pious prophets too.”
How admirable are the ways of God,
Whether his staff he uses, or his rod!
The first of these his fainting ones does stay,
The last does them correct that run astray;
Who would not that resistless being fear,
Who easily thus, can in a moment veer
Our fixed intent? Who would not to that hand
His will submit, that can all wills command?
How resolutely, in an headstrong will,
Did Saul determine he would David kill!
How eagerly did he his will pursue,
His trembling hands in David's blood to imbrue!
What direful threatnings did he vent, what he
Would do, could he again but David see!
Yet, when he came where David was, we find
That awful power his spirit strait did bind,
He could not David touch; no power he had,
However bad his will was, to be bad;
But, over-powered, though evil was his heart,
He was constrained to act the prophet's part,
He spoke, and did as prophets used to do,
Who were inspired by the Lord thereto.
Small odds, perhaps, or none to outward sight,
Distinguished this wrong prophet from the right;
Each probably, alike might act and speak,
And be alike regarded by the weak,
The undiscerning crowd, who seldom try,
Beyond the outward ear, and outward eye;
Yet plain it is, that Saul was now no more
By God regarded than he was before
He prophesied when he was among
The prophets, but his spirit still was wrong.
One long before, who Balak taught to lay,
A dangerous stumbling-block in Israel's way,
A grand exemplar is, that wicked men,
Against their wills, may utter now and then,
Those sacred mysteries which God alone,
Doth by his spirit unto man make known.
What glorious things did Beor's son declare, (Num 23-24)
Concerning Jacob's seed! how precious are
The prophesies, wherein he did foretell
The beauty, strength, and state of Israel!
What soul refreshing comforts do arise
In pious minds from those sweet prophesies!
And well they may, for God himself had put
Into the prophet's mouth a word, and shut
His divinations out; whereby we know
His speech did from the holy Spirit flow.
Yet this perhaps, of prophets was the worst,
Who for advantage would have Israel cursed,
For which, how well soever he spoke, he stands
Condemned upon record with public brands;
Yet God, to show his sovereignty, does chose
Sometimes the tongues of such as these to use,
Who, though the truths they tell may be believed,
Yet are not they themselves to be received.
Though Balaam did of Jacob's star declare,
“The sword of Israel did not Balaam spare;” (Num 24)
Nor is it long before prophesying Saul, (Num 31)
Will be obliged upon his sword to fall. (Sam 31)
May these examples lead us to beware
How we receive such (preach they never so fair)
For gospel ministers; but let us rather
Observe (as he of old). But who's their Father. (Sam 10)
For men may glorious truths declare we see,
Yet they the children of the devil be.
While Saul among the seers enraptured lay,
Deprived of power to move a foot away,
Good David, who with reverence much admired
This gracious act of Providence, retired,
Lest when the fit was over, angry Saul
Should in displeasure on the prophets fall.
From Najoth therefore, having first advised
With reverend Samuel, whom he highly prized,
He, undiscerned, withdrew, and strait did bend
His course to Jonathan, his faithful friend,
Into whose bosom he could freely vent
His sorrows, and his hapless state lament.
What sin of mine has raised this cruel strife,
That I, said he, am hunted for my life?
The gentle prince, whose truly noble breast,
Was with a generous compassion blest,
His friend's complaint, his dangers and his fears,
With close but sorrowful attention hears,
And quick returns this short, but kind reply,
Almighty God forbid! “You shall not die:”
And straight endeavors, whatever he may,
His fears with strong assurance to allay;
He thought his Father nothing would essay,
Without consulting him about the way,
And thereby hoped it in his power would be,
In case of an attack, his friend to free.
But David, whom experience now had taught,
That both by force and fraud his life was sought,
Judged it not safe his person to expose
On such uncertain ticklish grounds as those:
He told his Jonathan, it was not unknown,
How firm a friendship was between them grown,
It was therefore reasonable to believe
His father hid from him what would him grieve,
Or might perhaps, designedly conceal
His mind from him, lest he should it reveal;
Yet know, said he, as sure as you have breath,
There's but a single step between me and death.
That word, with such an accent David spoke,
Impressions deep it could not fail to make
Upon his tender friend; his quickened sense,
Like a strong spring new vigor took from there;
Starting, he said, “From evil may you be,
“My dearest David, and from danger free!
“Which that you may, I'm ready here to do
“Whatever you judge may conduce thereto.”
Then sitting down, they mutual counsel take,
And this conclusion prudently they make,
That Jonathan, his father's mind once more,
At his return from Najoth should explore,
And should accordingly let David know,
If Saul his death designed yet or no.
David, mean-while, did by agreement stay
At Ezel-stone, (a mark that showed the way)
Near which, in bushy covert, he might lie
Safe from the view of any passing by.
And now, before their parting leave they took,
A sacred covenant afresh they strook,
A during tie, confirmed by solemn oath,
A bond inviolable on them both,
Which to their latest offspring should extend,
On either side, and never have an end:
By which a stipulation they did bind
Themselves to be unto each other kind;
That Jonathan should faithfully report
To David how he found affairs at court,
And should his utmost power employ to free
His friend from danger, if he any see.
On the other hand, That David, when the throne
Of Israel should come to be his own,
Should Jonathan, and all that from him spring,
Secure from danger while himself is king;
For Jonathan, whose deeply piercing eye,
On David's brow did marks of empire spy,
Was wont, with confidence, his friend to tell,
That he should be the king of Israel.
By this time Saul from Najoth was returned,
With smoother brow; but in his breast still burned
Malignant hate, nor did he yet despair
To compass David's death at unaware.
The new-moon now approached, and therewithal
Revived the wicked hopes of cruel Saul,
He made no doubt, but at the sacred feast,
He should have zealous David for his guest;
For then it pleased him always to admit
David at table with himself to sit,
And then might hope, with more success, to cast
His fatal spear than when he threw it last.
The new-moon being come, and David's seat
Left empty, when the king sate down to meat,
Two days together; Saul began to doubt
It was designed; and with an angry pout,
“Why cometh not,” said he, “old Jesse's son
“To meat, as he in former times has done?”
Thus Saul to Jonathan: who, having eyed
His father's angry countenance, replied,
“Since you are pleased the reason to demand
“Of David's absence, please to understand,
“That David unto Bethlehem is gone,
“On urgent business (to return soon)
“A yearly sacrifice his brethren hold
“At this time there, as he himself me told,
“To which the family do all repair,
“And David too was summoned to be there;
“He therefore earnestly of me did crave
“My leave to go, which readily I gave.”
As from the prince's lips these words did fall
A fire of rage enkindled was in Saul
Against his son, which forth in choler brake,
And with a furious accent thus he spake:
“You son of the perverse rebellious woman,
“Whose headstrong folly will be ruled by no man,
“Too well I know that Jesse's son and you ,
“To your confusion but too well agree;
“Yet you, until he's securely in his grave,
“No kingdom, no establishment can have;
“Send therefore, fetch him, before he further fly,
“Make no delay, for he shall surely die.”
These words in such a thundering tone he spake,
As seemed to make the hall he sate in shake.
Grieved was the princely Jonathan to hear
A sentence so unjust and so severe;
Small hopes he had, yet could not choose but try
His father's stormy mind to pacify,
And to that purpose, in an humble tone,
Asked “Why shall David die?—What has he done?”
As supplying oil, on flaming fire cast,
Instead of quenching, does augment the blast;
So Jonathan's soft words enkindled more
His wrathful father than he was before;
He nothing said, too full he was to speak,
His stifling choler could not silence break;
But snatching up, with furious haste, his spear,
Which at his hand designedly stood near,
With such a force at Jonathan he threw,
As more than words, his bloody mind did show.
Although the prince the stroke did nimbly shun,
Yet was he greatly moved at what was done;
Such gross indignity would stir a man
Of meaner spirits than was Jonathan;
Considering that it was a public shame,
And more, because it from a father came;
The harder too it was for him to bear,
Who was his father's and the kingdom's heir,
Himself long since adult; and which was more,
Had been his father's viceroy just before;
All which together working in his breast,
Made this abuse uneasy to digest.
From table, therefore, he in heat arose,
And breathing forth displeasure, out he goes,
Then to his own apartment does retire,
To give free vent to this new kindled fire,
Where falling on his couch, he does bemoan
Much more his friend's condition than his own.
Respecting what concerned his late disgrace,
He doubted not, considering men would place
All to his father's passion; and that he
Himself, his passion over, would troubled be:
But, ah! his friend, his friend! poor David's case
Did more affect him than his own disgrace.
No longer now does any thought remain
In Jonathan, that David's fears were vain;
No clearer evidence he now does need,
That David's death was by the king decreed;
This act of violence, for David's sake,
Both cleared his doubt, and made his heart to ache.
The tedious night in restless tossings spent,
Between uneasy grief and discontent,
As soon as before Aurora did disclose
The springing day, the faithful prince arose;
Both honor and affection did him spur,
And, before the lark was stirring, made him stir.
Honour reminds him, that his word he gave
To David; Love said, “You must David save;”
Which that he might, he to the field does go,
(His quiver bearing and his bow,
Not knowing why) no otherwise he went,
Than if to recreate himself he meant.
When near the place, where Jesse's son did wait,
The doubtful issue of his doleful fate,
His curved bow with sinewed arm he drew,
And over David's head the arrows flew;
One flying shaft a private token bore,
Agreed upon between themselves before,
By which poor David understood too well,
What Jonathan unwilling was to tell.
The thoughtless page, who nothing did suspect,
With nimble speed the arrows did collect,
And to his master bring, who did deliver
Unto the lad his unstrung bow and quiver
To carry home; himself remained behind,
As if to walk alone he were inclined.
The youth now gone, and Jonathan alone,
Strait David issued forth by Ezel-stone,
And, falling to the ground, with triple bend
Of body did salute his noble friend;
Then casting arms about each other's neck,
Their pearly tears each other's breast bedeck,
They wept and kissed, they kissed and wept again;
Nor could they soon those crystal floods restrain,
Each kiss a fresh supply of tears did breed
In both their eyes, till David did exceed;
At length, their covenant renewed, they part,
Each kindly bearing back the other's heart;
They part, and each does his own path pursue,
With eyes reflex, while either was in view.
End of the First Book.
Now travels David with a thoughtful mind,
Uncertain where a safe retreat to find;
For though while prosperous his affairs did stand,
He friends and servants many could command;
Yet now that frowns had wrinkled fortune's face,
He knew not where to find a resting place.
In this perplexed state, his pious mind
Was to consult the oracle inclined;
The unambiguous oracle, from where
Jehovah secret counsels did dispense,
And undeceiving answers always gave
To such as with an honest mind did crave.
To Nob his weary steps he therefore bends;
Nob was a city of the priests, his friends;
And to Ahimelech he does repair,
Who then possessed the pontifical chair.
The reverend pontiff, who was unadvised
Of David's troubles, now was much surprised
To see him come alone, who, not long since,
Was royally attended like a prince:
He startled at the sight, nor could forbear
To ask why unattended he came there.
It happened that a certain Edomite,
Who to the Hebrews was a proselyte,
One who had charge and oversight of all
The herds, and herd-men that belonged to Saul,
Was with the priest; but what his business there
Doth not to us by sacred writ appear;
'Tis only left in brief upon record,
That he was there detained before the Lord.
Him, standing in a corner, David spied,
Before he to Ahimelech replied;
And knowing well the man, he was afraid
His friend the priest would be by him betrayed,
If after he the king's displeasure knew,
He any kindness unto him should shew;
Lest therefore into danger he should bring
His friend, or out of favour with the king,
He held it best his troubles to conceal,
And not his adverse fortune to reveal,
That if this pick-thank should relate to Saul,
Ought that against the priest should stir his gaul,
The priest the accusation might surmount,
And place his kindness to the king's account.
He therefore gave the priest to understand,
His coming thus was by the king's command;
Who he pretended had dispatched him so,
That none his secret enterprise might know;
And that his servants he before did send
To such a place, his coming to attend;
Adding, that in such haste he came away,
The king's command admitting no delay;
That of provision he had never thought,
Nor had his sword or weapons with him brought.
The guiltless priest, with unsuspecting ear,
This feigned story for a truth did hear,
And not with victuals only him supplied,
But armed him with Goliath's sword beside,
Which, offered to the Lord, when he was slain,
Did with the priest unto that time remain;
Nay, wanting other, he the showbread gave,
Appointed for the priests alone to have;
In doing which, he errs that thinks he erred,
Since mercy is to sacrifice preferred.
Yet before he gave the consecrated bread,
He asked if they, who should therewith be fed,
Were clean. Who will of holy things partake,
Must whatsoever makes unclean forsake.
Thus furnished, David did from Nob depart,
And turned his face to Gath with heavy heart;
Not knowing else where he his head might hide,
Nor could he long in safety there abide;
The servants of king Achish quickly knew,
That he was David who Goliath's slew,
And strait recounted, to incense their king,
Whatever the Hebrew Dames of him did sing,
When in their dancing and triumphant strain,
They chanted he had his ten thousands slain.
This David heard; but would not seem to hear,
Concealing, with his utmost care, his fear,
Until by a stratagem, he found a way
Himself from Gath in safety to convey.
When past the bounds of the Philistine's land,
On Israel's coast again, he's at a stand
Which way to take, or whither to direct
His wandering feet, where he might unsuspect
Absconded lie, until those clouds were past,
With which his hemisphere was overcast;
In all his tract, unknowing of a friend
Whom he could trust, and who could him defend,
And Saul, if once discovered, would, he knew,
Through all the tribes of Israel him pursue.
But little time could he deliberate,
What course to take, so pressing was his fate;
Yet in those moments, many a place was brought,
Under the judgment of his winged thought.
Of all the refuges, his wary mind
Could in such haste, and on a sudden find,
None pleased him better than a certain cave,
To which its name the town Adullum gave;
A spacious cave it was, yet known to few,
Remote from Gibeah, and from public view;
And, which did recommend it to his state,
'Twas in the tribe of Judah situate,
Judah, the tribe from which he sprang, and where
He had most reason to expect defense.
This solitary cave he thought was best,
Where, for a while, he hoped to find some rest;
The towns and cities therefore he forsook,
And to Adullum's cave himself betook,
Where long he had not been before he spied
A friend pass by, whose faith he oft had tried,
By whom, unto his brethren and his friends,
He notice of his safe arrival sends.
With joy, like that which Jacob did revive,
When news was brought that Joseph was alive,
Did good old Jesse the good tidings hear,
That David was in safety, and so near;
And quickly he, his wife, and every son,
With all their families, to David run,
Him to embrace, and cheer him in his straight,
Henceforth resolved to share a common fate.
This fame expanded with a loud report,
And strangers too in multitudes resort;
Whoever was in distress, or discontent,
And all that were in debt unto him went;
A numerous company to him repair,
With minds as desperate as their fortunes had weared;
And these, with one consent, implored that he
A captain over them would vouchsafe to be.
He to their importunity does yield,
And taking muster of them in the field,
Who the day before no living soul could he find,
With whom to trust his person or his mind,
Now finds himself environed with a throng
Of metaled blades, about four hundred strong.
When first that lonely cave was in his eye,
He purposed only there obscured to lie,
Until Providence should his affairs dispose,
And reconcile him to his causeless foes;
But this access of forces did him force
To alter now his counsels and his course.
He well considered that it was in vain
To hope that he could long concealed remain;
That of his confluence of men report
Would soon be made to Saul's enquiring court,
And that with windy trumpet, flying fame,
The case would quickly through the tribes proclaim;
That Saul apprized would not a moment stay,
But fly upon him like a bird of prey.
He therefore all things needful does with care
In readiness for his defense, prepare;
His soldiers he does discipline, and show
Both how to use the sword, and draw the bow.
His aged parents unto Moab's king,
Safe conduct first obtained, he does bring,
On promise that they there should safe abide
Until God should please the quarrel to decide;
For Moab's king and Saul were then at war,
Which made him David countenance so far.
Things thus disposed, he from the hold did go,
God, by his prophet Gad, directing so,
And marched to Hareth forest, where he might,
If forced thereto, with more advantage fight.
NOW wrap thyself, my muse, in sable weed,
While you relate a most inhuman deed
As ever was done; lay by your laurels now,
And wreath your temples with a cypress bough.
You, who of all the nine, never known to smile,
Are held inventress of the tragic stile,
Speak through my quill, and on a doleful string,
In mournful notes, a tragic story sing.
It was not long before Saul's attentive ear
Of David and his new-raised men did hear,
And calling to remembrance that his son,
Whose courage was inferior to none,
On the affront was put upon him last,
When he at meat, his javelin at him cast,
Was in displeasure from the court retired,
His fear suggested that they both conspired
Against him, and confederated were
His crown and scepter between themselves to share;
Which well he knew could not be done, but he
Must, if not slain, at least dethroned be.
The thought of which, as it did horror breed
In him, whose fear did from his guilt proceed,
So did it blow his anger to a rage,
Beyond the force of reason to assuage.
In this turmoil he chanced abroad to be,
Beneath the umbrage of a spreading tree,
Under whose shady boughs, in chair of state,
He sat himself to cool and recreate;
About him stood his servants in a ring,
Waiting the pleasure of their angry king.
As chafing thus he sate, between wrath and fear.
Vibrating, in his palsied hands, his spear,
His terror-striking eye he rolled about,
And in a while his choler thus brake out:
‘Hear now, ye Benjamites, will Jesse's son,
‘When he the crown of Israel has won,
‘To every one of you, who sucor yields
‘Unto him now, rich vineyards give and fields?
‘Will he you all, of thousands, captains make,
‘That ye so ready are his part to take?
‘That all of you against me have conspired,
‘And not a man, since Jonathan retired,
‘Has shown me that my son a league has made
‘With Jesse's son, and that I am betrayed?
‘Are ye so well assured of David's grace,
‘That he will each of you promote to place
‘Of trust and honor, that among you none
‘In pity has informed me that my son
‘Has stirred up my servant war to make,
‘And both my crown and life away to take?’
This unexpected speech the courtiers strook,
Amazed they stand, and on each other look;
Each man among them knew himself to be
From treasonable combination free;
For though their love to David did remain,
Yet did they still their loyalty retain:
But when the king's stern visage they beheld,
His pouting lips, his cheeks with anger swelled,
His stormy brow, his fiery sparkling eye,
His foaming mouth with fury drawn awry,
His fuming breath puffed like a smoking brand,
A trembling motion in his restless hand;
Though free from guilt, they were not free from fear,
Knowing how apt he was to cast the spear.
While thus the courtiers in a silent maze,
Upon the king and one another gaze,
Forth Doeg steped, sprung from the Edomites,
Of herdsmen chief, and chief of parasites,
The same who the other day with leering eye,
Did David in the tabernacle spy;
He now, to curry favour with his lord,
Told how the priest and David did accord,
How he himself at Nob had lately been,
And David with Ahimelech had seen,
How kind the priest, how ready to inquire
Of God, in David's case, at his desire;
Adding, the priest with food had David stored,
And armed him also with Goliath's sword;
In short, he told whatever Ahitub's son,
Had unto David said, or for him done,
And in such terms the matter did relate,
As were most apt the king to irritate,
Hiding what would have freed the priest from blame,
That David went as in the royal name.
The king in pain, through rage too closely pent,
Within his swollen breast, for want of vent,
Was glad this charge against the priests to hear,
Resolving to discharge his fury there.
Forthwith a pursuivant was sent to bring
The priests from Nob before the wrathful king.
The priests, the royal summons to obey,
Immediately advanced upon the way,
And, in a body, with a good intent,
Themselves at Gib'ah to the king present.
No sooner did the king the priest spy,
But with a frowning brow and flaming eye,
Upon them fixed; he to the pontiff brake,
His mind in accents which his fury spake.
‘Hear now,’ said he, Ahitub's son (whose word
To him again was, “Here am I, my lord,”)
‘Why have you with a treasonable mind,
‘Against your lord, with Jesse's son combined?
‘Thy treason's plain: for first ye did conspire
‘Against my life, then of the Lord inquire;
‘That thereby he to rise against me might,
‘Emboldened be his sovereign Lord to smite;
‘You with provisions too did him supply,
‘That he, as now he does, in wait might lie,
‘Nay, you into his hand a sword did put,
‘That he my head might from my shoulders cut.’
So spoke the king, and more perhaps had spoke,
But that this choler did him almost choke.
To whom Ahimelech, with due respect,
Returned an answer much to this effect:
‘May't please the king, what service I have done
‘For David was, as David was your son,
‘Thy son-in-law, who always freely went,
‘On whatsoever service by you sent,
‘One whom the king admitted to his table,
‘And in your house was always honourable;
‘Nor thought I any one more true to you ,
‘Among your great retinue, than was he;
‘So may he prove: if otherwise he be,
‘His being so was never known to me;
‘'Twas in your business that he said he came,
‘Nor had I him received, but in your name.
‘Did I then first to seek the Lord begin
‘For him, that this should now be made my sin?
‘Have I not oft before for him inquired?
‘Yet never before was charged to have conspired;
‘From me far be it, ever to entertain
‘A thought that may my loyalty distain;
‘And from the king, far be it too I pray,
‘Unto his servant's charge this thing to lay,
‘Or to my father's house, for we are clear,
‘And can our innocence make appear;
‘God is my witness, what I speak is true,
‘Thy servant of this matter nothing knew.”
So spake the reverend Ahimelech,
And, with his last words, bowed his aged neck:
The other priests, to show they did agree
To what he said, bowed every man his knee.
So just the priest's defence was, and so clear,
Unto the standers-by did he appear,
That all the courtiers ready were to shout
For joy: when, on a sudden Saul broke out,
And, with a vehemence of voice, did cry,
‘You, you Ahimelech, shall surely die,
‘And all your father's house.’ O cruel word!
More cruel mind! to be by all abhorred:
Abhorred it was; each courtier hung his head,
And every face grew pale which had been red.
The dismal sentence did with horror strike
The hearers, deep fetched sighs shewed their dislike;
A trembling murmur at one side began,
And spreading, through the whole assembly ran,
Which ended in an universal groan,
Enough to melt all hearts, but those of stone.
HOW miserable is the state of those,
Whose frame of government does them expose
To arbitrary power! where law's unknown!
Nor any man can call his life his own!
Where innocence is of little force!
Because impartial justice has no course!
Where one man's rage keeps all the rest in awe,
Whose will and pleasure are his only law!
O! how much better is their case who live
Under a constitution which does give
To every man in government a share,
And binds the whole to have of each a care;
Where even-handed justice freely flows,
And each the law, he must be tried by, knows;
Where none by power can be oppressed, because
Both prince and people subject are to laws:
None there an arbitrary sentence fears,
Since none can be condemned but by his peers,
Whose common interest does them wary make,
How they their fellow's life away do take,
For the same sentence wherewith they condemn
Another may be shortly turned on them;
These too the accused party may reject,
If their indifferency he does suspect;
And, never so mean, may for his birthright stand
Fair trial, and full hearing may demand.
Prize your good fortune, ye, whose lot is fell,
Under so good a government to dwell,
Where no dispensing pow'r can make a breach,
Upon your freedoms, nor your persons reach;
But all ye have, life, liberty, estate,
Is safe by law, which none can abrogate,
Without your own consents; be therefore wise,
And learn so great a benefit to prize;
Look to't; be watchful, none by any wile,
You of so rich a jewel ever beguile.
Ah! had the government of Saul been such,
He had not dared the priests of Nob to touch,
Who never were, by legal proof convicted,
Of that for which he on them death inflicted;
Who had themselves from all suspicion cleared,
And blameless unto all, but him appeared.
But he, whose lawless will for law was put,
Resolving off those innocents to cut,
Commands his guards to turn without delay,
Upon the priests of God, and them to slay;
Alleging (to encourage them thereto)
That they with traitorous David had to do;
And that they David's flight, although they knew it,
Concealed had from him, and did not shew it.
If on the court so great a terror came,
When he before, the sentence did but name,
How great a consternation may't be thought,
This warrant for their execution brought.
The guards, who never dared till now dispute
Their lord's command, now stand amazed and mute;
The thought of such an impious act them struck
With trembling, and their palsied fingers shook,
And let their weapons fall; nor was there one
Among them all, though threat'ned from the throne
With stormy frowns, that would extend an arm,
Against the priests of God to do them harm.
None all this while, so unconcerned did stand,
As did the priests themselves: the king's command,
To have them slain, which made the rest to quake,
No alteration in their looks did make;
Which shewed their guiltless souls were free from fear;
A steady resolution had possest,
With brave contempt of death, their peaceful breast;
They, in themselves, did feel the best defence
Against a tyrant's threatenings, innocence;
This kept their spirits in an even mean,
With countenance composed, and minds serene.
Thus standing, they the Lord their God invoke,
Prepared to receive the fatal stroke.
The more unterrifyed the King beheld
The priests, the more his breast with anger swelled;
He thought that they his power did contemn,
And, in himself, he vowed revenge on them;
He chaffed extremely too, to think that he
Should by his guards no more regarded be:
Then, fury boiling in him to its height,
He singles out the brutish Edomite,
The informer Doeg, bidding him to fall
Upon the sacred priests, and slay them all.
Not backwarder the yeomen of the guard,
Themselves had shewed (men mostly rough and hard)
Than forward he, Saul's pleasure to fulfil,
And strait a sea of righteous blood to spill;
Forthwith himself he to the work addrest,
And in Ahimelech's unspotted breast,
His thirsty sword did sheath. The aged sire,
Did not resist, did not a foot retire;
But, with undaunted resolution, stood
The stroke, 'till in a stream of purple blood,
His life expiring, to the ground he pressed,
A glorious pattern leaving to the rest.
They, without terror, did his death behold,
And by his brave example, grew more bold.
Ah! had not cursed Doeg, the disgrace
Of all mankind, as well as Edom's race,
Been in his nature, savager than were
The fiercest beasts committed to his care,
The awful aspect of Ahimelech,
Had been enough the ruffian's mind to check,
Whose goodly personage, and manly face,
An unaffected gravity did grace;
His milk-white beard, unto his spotless breast,
Itself extending, thereupon did rest,
And in his sacerdotal robes attired,
Was worthily both loved and admired.
But graceless Doeg, of a graceless kind,
Bred among beasts, to brutishness inclined,
By shedding blood, more bloody-minded grew,
And on the other priests with fury flew.
They, undismayed, themselves prepare to die,
Not one resists, not one attempts to fly;
But having God, whose priests they were, implored,
They yield their spotless breasts to Doeg's sword:
He in their blood did bathe his reeking blade,
And on the soiled earth, them breathless laid;
The bloody wretch their bodies hewed and tore,
And warm he left them weltering in their gore,
All man by man; nor did he leave alive,
One ephod-wearer, out of eighty-five.
Thus fell the priests of God; thus bleeding lay
The tribe of Levi, slaughtered in a day;
Butchered by barb'rous hands, without all cause,
Against religion, reason, right, and laws:
This Doeg acted; but 'twas Saul that bid;
This Saul commanded, and this Doeg did.
The hard'ned king, thus having fed his eyes,
With this, to him delightful sacrifice,
To carry on his vengeance to the height,
The city Nob too with the sword did smite;
No living soul therein his fury left,
But, whatsoever breathed, of life bereft,
Men, women, children, oxen, asses, sheep,
His slaught'ring sword at once away did sweep.
O horrid act! on his part most unjust,
As done to answer a revengeful lust;
But just from God, who, his denounced
Against old Eli's house did thus fulfil. (Sam 2)
WHILE thus king Saul his forces did employ,
His well-deserving subjects to destroy,
David, still uninformed thereof, was bent
The sacking of rich Keilah to prevent.
To his retreat the unwelcome news was brought,
That the Philistines against Keilah fought,
And robbed the threshing-floors; his gen'rous mind,
To raise the siege, and save the town inclined;
He therefore quickly of the Lord inquires,
The sacred answer quick'ned his desires;
Most clear the answer was, yet he was willing,
His men disdoubting, to inquire again;
For they who were in daily fear that Saul,
With all his forces would upon them fall,
Were loth for others' sakes, their strength to break,
And make themselves, for their defence more weak;
But when, the second time inquired, the Lord
A more confirming answer did afford,
With promise that, observing his command,
He would give the Philistines into their hand;
Fear overcome, they drew up man by man,
Their valiant leader marching in the van.
To Keilah come, unlooked for by all,
He on the Philistines did briskly fall,
And, with a dreadful slaughter, all did smite,
Who sought not safety in a timely flight.
The siege thus raised, and Keilah's coasts now cleared
From those assailants she so justly feared,
Into the town victorious David entered,
For whose deliv'rance he his life had ventured,
Leading a booty which his sword did win,
From the defeated host of Philistine;
The gladded Keilites all their wits employ,
To manifest their gratitude and joy;
And well they might, with civick garland crown
His temples, who from spoil had saved their town.
Encouraged greatly with this good success
Was David, and his followers no less;
They joy together: but how meer a toy,
How momentary is all human joy!
This glimm'ring glance of sun-shine soon was past,
And their horizon blacker clouds o'ercast.
The triumph yet was hardly well begun,
When young Abiathar, Ahimelech's son,
Who from the sword, by Providence was freed,
To propagate a sacerdotal seed,
Came panting in; with sweat besmeared and dust,
And almost breathless, through the concourse thrust.
To David come, with many a sigh and sob,
He tells the horrid tragedy of Nob;
How the high-priest, with all his priestly train,
And every living soul at Nob was slain.
Could you have seen, with what a mournful look,
Poor David these amazing tidings took,
Ye would have doubted, whether in his face,
Astonishment or grief had greater place.
So Jeptha looked, when to his great surprize,
His daughter met him for a sacrifice.
The suddenness and strangeness of the deed,
Horror in David, and amazement breed;
His grief was equal; for he knew full well,
This evil, for his sake, the priests befell:
The thought, with anguish pierced his gen'rous breast,
More deeply than can be by words exprest.
The infants with their mothers, he laments,
And that he e'er saw Nob, too late repents;
The priests unrighteous murder does bemoan,
No less than if their case had been his own:
He all their deaths bewails; but most his grief,
Abounds for his Ahimelech their chief,
Unto whose memory how much he owed,
Could not, he thought, more signally be showed,
Than by accumulating favors on
Abiathar, his sole-surviving son.
With kind embraces, therefore, he does cheer
The down-cast youth, and bids him cast off fear;
Assuring him, that since their common fate,
Made them joint objects of Saul's causeless hate,
He special care would of his safety take,
Both for his own, and for his father's sake,
Whose well-deservings of him, he should find,
Were deeply graven in a grateful mind.
To David now intelligence was sent
By some well-wisher, that king Saul was bent
To shut him up in Keilah, and to take
Him pris'ner, or destroy it for his sake.
This made him lay all other thoughts aside,
And for his own security provide.
Could David on the Keilites have relied,
That they would have stood faithful to his side,
He dared have held the town against the king,
And all the forces in his power to bring;
For Keilah was a place of strength; and more,
Had all provisions for a siege in store;
But doubting how the citizens might hold,
Against the force of steel, or power of gold,
He to the sacred oracle did go,
Saul's purpose and the Keilites' faith to know.
The answer was, ‘Saul will come down; and they,
To save themselves, will you to him betray.’
This answer, from the oracle received,
Made David, of the Keilites help bereaved,
Resolve to lead his slender band from there,
And seek a place of more secure defence.
He dared himself and men no longer trust,
With them who were too fearful to be just;
For well he knew, where pressing fears prevail,
Fidelity and friendship quickly fail.
Ungrateful Keilah, therefore, he forsook,
And to the wilderness himself betook;
The wilderness of Zip, where he might be,
In all appearance, from betrayers free.
Here noble Jonathan, whose virtuous love,
In greatest dangers did itself approve,
By secret ways to David did repair,
Whose heart was almost overwhelmed with care.
As pensive lovers feel a sudden cheer,
On seeing the object of their love appear,
So David, at the unexpected sight
Of Jonathan, his very soul's delight,
Forgetting all his fears, and sorrows past,
With gladsome smiles his faithful friend embraced;
Who such returns of hearty love did make,
As well the firmness of his friendship spake;
Then to a shady pine they jointly walk,
And between themselves of David's troubles talk.
No need had David now himself to moan,
His friend knew how to make his case his own;
He kindly to him spake, and had a word,
Of comfort to confirm him in the Lord;
Bid him not fear, but in the Lord confide,
Who was, he could assure him, on his side;
Told him, the Lord would cover him, that Saul
Should be unable to effect his fall;
And, prophet-like, foretold him that the throne,
Of Israel should one day be his own,
And he himself the next in dignity:
(Unhappy man! who others fate could see,
But not his own.) Thus having cheered his friend,
And time requiring, they their conf'rence end,
And then before the Lord, they both renew
Their covenant, and kissing, bid adieu.
AS in the winter, showers and storms succeed
To sun-shine, which to travellers do breed
More toil and hardship, than the transient smile
Of sol gave comfort, which they had ever while;
So after David's heart had been made glad,
By the kind visit which he lately had,
Fresh storms arose, his troubles now grew more,
And dangers greater than they were before;
Saul furiously approached, and well he knew,
With num'rous forces, and his own but few;
Saul only wanted knowledge where he lay,
And some, he knew, would guide him to his prey.
The pick-thank Zephites, in whose trackless wood,
The afflicted prince, with his retinue stood,
To curry favour, hasten to the king,
And where poor David was, glad tidings bring,
Engaging, if he came without delay,
They David would into his hands betray.
Attentive ears to all the Zephites told,
The king did lend, and smoothly them cajoled,
Bestowed a graceless blessing on the band,
Begged them to go again, and understand
More fully all his haunts, and closely spy
The lurking places where he used to lie,
And bring him word: away the Zephites post,
But David had, meanwhile, forsook their coast,
And to the wilderness of Maon gone,
The plain that's on the south of Jeshimon.
This when Saul heard, he there bent his course,
Resolving to prevail by fraud or force;
So swiftly he pursued, he David found,
And him and all his men environed round.
Great was the strait poor David now was in,
So great, he never had in greater been;
No hope to conquer, nor no way to fly,
Nothing remained but to fight or die;
When lo! a messenger came panting in,
And told the king, the bloody Philistine
Invaded had the land, and all was lost,
At least, that lay upon the bordering coast,
Unless he came with speed: therefore, O king,
He cried, make no delay, thy forces bring
To save your land, and let the king make haste,
Before the country be laid wholly waste.
This startling message made the king with speed
Return, and David from his danger freed.
Thus God sometimes, by unexpected ways,
Relief to his distressed ones conveys,
Exciting others upon them to fall,
Who would the righteous without cause enthrall.
This great deliverance, with a thankful heart
To God ascribed, there David does depart,
And with his little band of men did hide,
Unto the fortresses of En-gedi,
A place of greater strength, and where he might,
If over-pressed, secure himself by flight;
Concluding right, it would not be long before Saul,
With greater forces would upon him fall.
His expectation failed not; for the king,
The Philistins repelled, does with him bring
Three thousand chosen men, men he had tried,
In whose fidelity he could confide;
And now himself, with pleasing hopes he fed,
That he should David take, alive or dead.
But God, who often on wicked men does bring,
The hurts they plot against others, did the king
Cast single into David's hands: now he,
Might with one stroke himself for ever free,
From Saul's pursuits; for Saul had, from his men,
At nature's call, retired into a den,
His royal robe he laid aside the while,
Lest any tinct the garment should defile,
Not thinking David in the cave had been,
Or that he had by human eye been seen.
Who but a David, would have let his foe,
At such advantage found, in safety go!
No small temptation to him it must be,
To set himself from all his troubles free;
His firm attendants too their lord provoke,
To strike himself, or let them give the stroke.
But he, whose noble breast was thoroughly filled
With loyal principles, from heaven instilled,
(Not liking too, in case he should succeed
Unto the crown, his subjects such a deed
For precedent should have) with brave disdain
Of such a fact, his followers did restrain.
Yet, that the king might sensible be made,
How causelessly he was of him afraid,
He gently stepped to where the garment lay,
And, undiscerned, cut the skirt away;
Then drawing back, he waited 'till the king,
His robe resumed, went forth; and following,
He at a distance, well secured did stand,
Having the lappet of the robe in's hand,
And with extended voice, but humble speech,
Obeisance made, he did the king beseech,
To view the skirt; an evidence, quoth he,
Of innocence and loyalty in me;
For well you may conclude, when I so near
Unto you was unseen, I could my spear
As easily into your side have put,
As from your garment I the skirt did cut;
But that your life, O king, to me was dear,
In that I did not hurt you, does appear.
So well his righteous cause did David plead,
Having none else for him to intercede,
So did he manifest his innocence,
So cleared himself from all surmised offence,
So earnestly upon the Lord did call,
Judgment to give between himself and Saul,
That Saul observing, did confounded stand,
Amazed to see his skirt in David's hand;
The sight of which, convinced him David could,
At the same time have slain him, if he would,
This satisfyed him, that his life he owed
To David's mercy, which from virtue flowed;
The sense whereof made him first weep, then cry,
‘You, my son David, are more just than I,
‘For you, for all the evil I have done
‘To you, has me rewarded well my son;
‘What man his foe, at such advantage found,
‘Would spare! Your goodness does to me abound;
‘Wherefore the Lord reward you well, I pray,
‘For your great kindness shown to me this day.’
Then adding, ‘Now, behold by this I know,
‘The Israelitish crown to you shall go,
‘And that the kingdom shall established be,
‘On you and yours, by heaven's just decree:
‘Swear, therefore, said he, to me by the Lord,
‘That you will mercy to my seed afford,
‘And not, for my offence, cut off the same,
‘But leave me in my father's house a name.’
His title to the kingdom David knew,
Better than Saul, and where that title grew;
Even from the sacred oil, which on his head,
The prophet had by God's appointment shed;
Wherefore, to humor Saul, he to him swear;
Which done, Saul straitway homeward did repair;
But David, who too well the king did know
To trust him, up unto the hold did go.
THE prophet Sam'el now resigned his breath
To God who gave it; to lament whose death,
And with a due regard to solemnize,
In public manner, his sad obsequies,
The Israelites with one consent did hie
To Ramah, where he lived and was to lie;
And that the king, who loved to seem devout,
Would give attendance there, we need not doubt.
This gave poor David some few days of ease,
And from his fears did him a while release.
To Paran now, new quarters seeking, he
Removed his little camp from En-gedi;
From wilderness to wilderness, where still
To get provisions would require his skill.
Here, wants increasing, he to mind did call,
That long before he fled the face of Saul,
There lived a wealthy miser on that coast,
Who of his great possessions used to boast.
Besides a thousand goats, three thousand sheep,
His hinds in Carmel constantly did keep;
So great a flock must many hands employ,
Many a lusty man and sturdy boy,
To keep, and shear the sheep, and wind the wool,
Nor would a little keep their bellies full;
Great store of victuals therefore must be dressed,
In such an house, although there were no guest;
And custom had prevailed to that degree,
To every friend the shearing feast was free.
This David well considering, and hearing
That this rich neighbour had begun sheep-shearing,
Thought it a proper time for him to try,
Whether his wealth was mixt with charity;
He therefore chose out ten young men, who were
Of his retinue, them he bid repair
To go to Nabal (for that was the name
Of this rich man) and when to him they came,
They, in their master's name, should him salute,
In such terms as his humour best might suit;
Wish peace, said he, to him, his house, and all
Whate'er he does possess, both great and small.
When thus ye have addressed him, tell him I,
Who might command, entreat his courtesy;
Which to excite, put him in mind that we,
From doing hurt to him, or his, are free;
For proof of which, we boldly dare appeal
To his own servants: may but he so deal
With us, as we by them have dealt, while they
Among us fed his flocks from day to day:
Then close your message thus; since we are come
In a good day, give us, we pray you , some
Of your provisions, that your servants may,
To David your beneficence convey.
Thus David's servants, unto Carmel come,
To Nabal spake. But he, with aspect glum,
And scornful tone, said, Who is David! who,
The son of Jesse! Many servants do
Break now-a-days, each from his lord, that he
Himself may from his due obedience free;
And would you have me take my bread and meat,
Provisions for my guests and men to eat,
And squander 'em to such, I neither know,
From where they come nor whither they may go.
This surly answer did the men so scare,
That they, like modest beggars as they were,
Not pressing further, to their lord return,
And, with the story, make his spirits burn;
For he no sooner heard with what despight,
The brutish clown his just request did slight,
But, in a high resentment of the affront,
And resolution to take vengeance on't,
He to his soldiers forthwith gave the word,
‘Arm, arm with speed:’ and girding on his sword,
Drew forth four hundred, which he thought enough,
Leaving the rest to guard the camp and stuff,
And, with a stormy mind and martial heat,
Marched on, bestowing many a direful threat
On Nabal now, who single must not fall,
But he, and his own family withal.
In vain, said David, have I safely kept
This fellow's flocks, while he securely slept;
He might a civil answer sure have sent,
If he to part with nothing was so bent;
I'll take such veng'ance on the ungrateful wretch,
That others may from him example fetch.
While thus enraged, David made such haste,
Nabal to slay, and his whole house lay waste,
Propitious Providence, whose piercing eye
Sees all men's deeds, and thoughts too, from on high,
And with a secret, over-ruling arm,
As well from doing, as receiving, harm,
Doth his preserve; did now contrive a way,
David from shedding guiltless blood to stay.
Such means too oft, through stupid ignorance,
Are weakly placed to accident or chance,
By thoughtless men; though others clearly see,
They are the effects of a divine decree,
Which oft through instruments are brought to pass;
As this, whereof we now are speaking, was.
For Nabal, though himself a fool or mad,
(As e'en his very name imports) yet had
A well-accomplished wife, discreet and wise,
Fair-spoken, full of virtuous qualities,
Who often her husband's rudeness did bewail,
And seek to hide; her name was Abigail.
To her a servant (who had seen and heard
His master's foul behavior, justly feared
The dire effects often) hastened to the intent,
That she forewarned, the mischief might prevent.
Mistress, said he, David, to whom we know,
The safety of ourselves and flocks we owe,
Who has so kind a neighbour been, that since
He came to live among us, a defence
He has been to us, both by night and day,
Securing us from thieves, and beasts of prey;
This courteous prince has to our master sent
Ambassadors, both with a compliment
Of gratulation, and a small request,
That he would admit him, as an absent guest,
To be partaker, in some sort, at least,
Of the abundance of his shearing feast.
But oh! our master, who you know too well,
Is so ungoverned, that if one but tell
A civil message to him, he will fall
Foul on him like a son of Belial;
So did he now at David's men let fly,
A rude invective full of raillery,
Against their master, and them back has sent
Empty of food, but full of discontent;
Consider, therefore, mistress, what to do,
For quick diverting the impending blow;
For evil, if not stopt, is like to fall
Upon our master, and, through him, us all.
Not without great surprize, we may suppose,
Th'attentive dame did hear such words as those,
Which she had reason to believe were true,
For she too well her husband's temper knew;
But being of a well-composed mind,
To all men just, and to her husband kind,
She did not think it was a proper season,
With him, of his ill carr'age then to reason;
But hasten all she could, to go and try,
If she the injured prince could pacify.
Her husband, therefore, not consulted, she
A present took of what might likely be
To gain acceptance [bread, wine, flesh well-dressed,
Figs, raisins, parched-corn] all of the best,
In good proportion; which on asses laid,
She sent before her, and for haste never staid
Herself to deck; but in her common dress
Sped after, bending to the wilderness.
As down the hill she rode, her watchful eye
Did David, with his men descending, spy
From the adverse hill; at equal distance set,
They in the interjacent valley met.
Come near to David, from her ass she leapt,
And with submissive look, first forward stepped
A pace or too; then prostrate at his feet
She fell, and modestly the prince did greet:
‘On me, my lord, I pray, on me let lie,
‘The punishment of this iniquity;
‘Let not my lord, this man of Belial heed,
‘Nabal, whose name and nature are agreed
‘So well, that by his name is well exprest,
‘The folly which does in his bosom rest;
‘Resent it not: but let your handmaid stand
‘'Twixt him and you , subject to your command;
‘Yet give me leave, I pray, to speak a word,
‘A word in season to my honoured lord,
‘Which shall be nothing but the truth, that so
‘You may the right state of the matter know;
‘For, of a truth, my lord, I did not see,
‘The messengers that came to him from thee,
‘Nor of the matter did one tittle hear,
‘Till they were gone; and then both shame and fear
‘Did spur me on, to hasten to my lord,
‘And bow my neck unto your right'ous sword:
‘Strike, if you please; yet give me leave to say,
‘The Lord will you avenge another way;
‘Stain not your hand with blood, but to the Lord
‘Refer your cause, who can, without your sword,
‘Revenge your wrongs: may who seeks ill to thee,
‘Be in like case as Nabal soon will be.’
Then humbly offering him the things she brought,
Her present to accept she him besought,
And raising her discourse to higher things,
(Such as concerned the kingdom) home she brings
The matter to himself; and thus applied
The case to him, as if she prophesied.
‘Because, my lord, you do his battles fight,
‘The Lord of Hosts in you does take delight;
‘He'll make you a sure house wherein to dwell,
‘And set you on the throne of Israel;
‘Thy head shall wear the Israelitish crown,
‘And you shall live and die in high renown.’
Then giving Saul, some (not unwelcome) blows,
She thus to David her discourse did close:
‘When you have found the Lord deal well with thee ,
‘Remember that it was foretold by me.’
This said, she stopt: but not before the Lord,
Had David quite disarmed (not of his sword,
But) of his anger, and that hot displeasure,
Which in his breast had boiled beyond due measure;
He now is changed, his heat is now allayed,
And, looking on fair Abigail, he said,
‘Blest be the God of Israel, who this day,
‘Sent you to me and stop me on the way;
‘Blessed by your advice, and blessed be
‘You too for giving it; whereby you me
‘Prevented have from shedding blood, which I
‘To do, had you not come, was very near:
‘I did the injury too high resent,
‘And to revenge as high, was fully bent;
‘But now from thoughts of violence I cease,
‘And gladly send you back again in peace.
‘Return, fair dame, return; for I rejoice,
‘That I have heard and heark'ned to your voice;
‘Thy virtues, good impressions in me leave,
‘And I your present gratefully receive;
‘Thy wise behaviour has atonement made,
‘For the offence your husband's rudeness laid.’
Then parting, he unto his camp retired,
She to her house; he, her; she him, admired.
WHEN Abigail returned home, she found
Nabal kept open house, all things abound,
Ev'n to profusion; such a lavish feast,
As might have entertained a royal guest;
The wine so freely flowed, and he the cup
So often took, so often turned it up,
That he, who was the master of the feast,
Had now transformed himself from man to beast;
In high excess he spent the jovial day,
And stupid now in drink, he snoring lay.
This was no time to speak to him; but when,
Next morn, his little sense returned again,
She, in due order, did to him relate,
The danger he had escaped; how near his gate
David's vindictive sword had been; how he,
And all his house were near a massacre;
How instant danger o'er them all had hung,
The cause, his rudeness and abusive tongue.
This he no sooner heard, but straight the thought,
Of danger he upon himself had brought,
(Though now he knew 'twas over) struck a dart,
Into his mean and too unmanly heart;
His spirits sunk, and in some ten days time,
Smote by the Lord, his life went for his crime.
So great a man, so strange a death, so near
To David's camp, must quickly reach his ear;
Which, when he heard, he blest the Lord that he,
Had both from self-avenging kept him free,
And also had, by an immediate stroke,
Avenged his cause, and Nabal's heart had broke.
Then recollecting what a goodly dame,
(With beauty, wisdom, virtue, youth, and fame,
Adorned) Abigail to him appeared,
When, to divert the storm she justly feared,
She as a suppliant, the other day,
Although with tears bedewed, before him lay;
Love kindled in his heart a noble flame,
With honour to espouse the lovely dame;
To her he, therefore, quickly did dispatch,
Ambassadors to treat an happy match
Between them; let her know, how chaste a flame
Possest his breast, and court her in his name,
Conduct her safe, that she might be his wife,
Partaker of his fortunes during life.
The message told; wise Abigail, who knew
How great, how good, how wise, how just, how true,
Prince David was, how pious and how dear
To God, and also to the crown how near,
Did not take state upon her, nor require
Time to consider, and be courted higher;
But, by an humble phrase, exprest consent,
And mounting, well attended, with them went:
To David, who with joy did her receive,
And each, in heart, did to the other cleave.
About this time too, or not long before,
David, who long had been afflicted sore,
For loss of Michal, and now hopeless grown,
That he should e'er enjoy her as his own,
Married Ahinoam, a goodly dame,
Of Jezreel, who out of Judah came,
So that he now was doubly wived, and might
In their sweet conversation take delight.
At once was David of the two possessed,
With father's joy, and brother's beauty blessed;
The first by Abigail was signified,
The latter named his Jezreelitish bride.
This made him Michal's absence better bear,
Supplied by two, so virtuous and so fair;
For she, her cruel father, more to vex
Poor David, and his state the more perplex,
Had to another given; and did constrain
Th'unwilling dame her nuptial bed to stain.
O impious man! who gave her for a snare
To David, as he stuck not to declare, (Sam 18)
Which she not proving, in revengeful rage,
He to another did her soon engage.
A TIME of respite David had enjoyed
While Samu'l's funeral the king employed,
A time of joy, wherein he might at leisure,
Refresh himself with undisturbed pleasure;
But now his troubles hasten on again,
And he must now repeat his former pain;
He now for self-defence had need prepare,
Lest Saul be on him ere he be aware.
For Saul to Gibeah was no sooner come,
But the false Ziphites there to him run,
Inform him, David does near them reside,
And in their woods, himself and men does hide;
Offer their service, urge the forward king
To come, and with him strength enough to bring.
This invitation, added to the fire
In Saul's own breast, kindled so strong desire
Of taking David, that he forthwith rose
From Gib'ah, and in quest of David goes,
Leading three thousand with him, men well tried,
Valiant and strong, in whom he could confide;
These he into the woods of Ziph did draw,
And pitched in the hill of Hachilah.
David, mean-while, informed by his scouts,
That Saul lay camped somewhere thereabouts,
In the ev'ning ventured from his hold to try,
Saul's strength and disposition to descry.
Come to the camp, he saw where Saul did lie
Within the trench, his spear just sticking by
His bolster, and a cruse of water near,
His thirst to quench, and spirits also cheer.
This seeing, unobserved straight back he goes,
Fetches Abishai, unto whom he shows
Saul, Abner, all the soldiers fast asleep,
No sentinel awake, the watch to keep.
Fain would Abishai give the fatal stroke,
To free his master from the tyrant's yoke,
And much he pressed, and hard he begged for leave,
To strike a blow might Saul of life bereave.
But noble David, in whose gen'rous breast,
Loyal and pious principles did rest,
Flatly forbade it; saying, ‘God forbid,
‘That I should so myself from trouble rid;
‘The Lord forbid that I mine hand should stretch
‘Against the Lord's Anointed. Such a wretch
‘May I never be! I'll leave him to the Lord,
‘Who works by various ways besides the sword;
‘But take,’ said he, ‘his water-pot and spear,
‘By which my innocency may appear.’
This, undiscovered, done, they both withdrew,
And from a distant eminence in view,
To Abner, David loud directs his call,
The gallant Abner, Saul's brave general:
Alarmed he starts, and cries, whose tongue does ring
So shrill? speak softly, lest you wake the king.
Ah! are not you a valiant man? but where,
Said David, is your vigilance and care,
For there came one unto the king's bed-side,
Whom none of all your sentinels decried,
By whom the king might have been slain, had I
Not interposed. Who now deserves to die?
And that the truth thereof may plain appear,
See here his cruse of water and his spear.
By this time Saul, awaking with the noise,
And startling at the sound of David's voice,
Cried, ‘Is it you, my son?’ Yes, yes, it is,
Said David; wherein have I done amiss?
Since I to you, O king, am always true,
Why! O why thus, do you my life pursue?
If you thus hunt me by the Lord's command,
May he accept an off'ring at my hand;
But if this mischief, by the sons of men,
Be raised against me with design, O then,
Accursed of the Lord be they, who strive
Me from the inheritance of God to drive,
As if they said, to other gods be gone,
Yet I resolve to serve the Lord alone,
And therefore trust in his support through all,
That to the earth my blood may never fall.
How mean a thing it is, that Israel's king.
An armed host into the field should bring,
To seek a flea! Are men of wisdom wont.
With armies after partridges to hunt!
No greater I than these may counted be,
If I, great prince, compared am to thee.
Not more did David's rhetorick prevail
On Saul, than that which never used to fail
With him, and such as he, the fight of's spear
In David's hand; whereby he knew how near
David to him had been, while fast asleep,
He lay at David's mercy (none to keep
The stroke off from him) who might with one blow,
Have sent his soul down to the shades below;
Yet did not hurt him. This the better part
Of Saul's ill nature reached, and in his heart
Kindled a spark of gratitude, from where
Sprang an acknowledgment of his offence;
Frankly, as once before, in like distress,
His error, folly, sin, he does confess.
Son David, I have greatly sinned, said he,
I beg your pardon, pray return to me;
Full well I know, that I have played the fool,
And broke the precepts taught in virtue's school;
But never more will I against you rise,
Because my life was precious in your eyes.
The Lord, said David, once again had put
Thee in my pow'r; I eas'ly might have cut
Thy thread asunder. God so deal with me,
As I have faithful been and kind to thee.
When David ceased, Saul did his blessing give,
Wishing he in prosperity might live;
Then parting, Saul returned to his place,
And David to his camp directs his pace.
End of the Second Book
Long had the Hebrew common-wealth been torn
By civil jars, since first the sacring horn
On David's head, from rev'rend Samuel's hand,
Had emptied been by God's express command:
While the tall son of Kish, with armed force
Begirt (the flow'r of Israel's foot and horse)
Left nothing unattempted to bring down
The son of Jess', the rival of his crown;
The princely youth, by envy doomed to fall,
Because his virtues far exceeded Saul:
Who can recount the jeopardies, which he
Was daily in, while he was willing to flee
From cave to rock, from one hold to another,
And safety for his aged sire and mother
In Moab seek; himself enforced so flew
To Achish, Israel's utter enemy!
Who the great Philistine so lately slew,
Is glad now to a Philistine to sue
For shelter; driven by domestick foes,
To beg from foreign enemies repose;
Adullum, Mizpeh, Hareth, Keilah, Ziph,
En-gedi, Paren, and the craggy cliff
Of Hachilah, the rocks where wild goats breed,
Witness the hardships borne by Jesse's seed.
A sabbath now of years was fully run,
Since David's causeless troubles first begun,
When the Almighty, having throughly proved,
The faith and love of him he throughly loved,
Said, ‘'Tis enough.’ And with that word decreed,
The means whereby his David should be freed.
The Philistines again invade the land,
The tall but trembling king is at a stand;
From God departed, he of God is left,
Of counsel and of courage both bereft;
What course, in this so great a strait, to steer,
He wist not, between necessity and fear;
The prophet, from whose heaven-inspired breast,
Counsel did use to flow, was gone to rest;
God, nor by urim did in that extreme,
Vouchsafe to give an answer, nor by dream,
Though sought unto. In vain does man expect,
Deliv'rance by the hand he does reject.
Deserted thus of God, the faithless king
Himself upon the infernal pow'rs does fling;
Consults a witch, and her imploys to raise
The prophet Samuel, who many days
Had with his fathers slept. O blinded wretch!
To think a silly witch had pow'r to fetch
A sacred prophet from his peaceful rest;
Or devils, after death, could saints molest.
Yet, by the apparition which she brought,
Was Saul of his approaching ruin taught,
And found it true. The Philistines prevailed,
The strength of Israel with their courage failed;
Numbers were slain, the rest with terror fled,
And Saul's three sons were found among the dead;
He sorely wounded, and in blood imbrued,
By chariots and by horsemen close pursued,
Bids his own squire, left he should be abused,
Dispatch him quite; but he, through fear, refused;
Despair then prompting, on his sword he fell,
Who dared against the King of kings rebel.
Such was the end of disobedient Saul,
Whom God the first to Israel's crown did call;
For not performing God's express command,
Perish he must, and that by his own hand;
He that spared Agag, doomed by God to death,
With his own hand lets out his vital breath.
Monarchs, beware; let this great monarch's fall,
For ever be a warning to you all.
WHILE this so great discomfiture befell,
For their king's sake, the host of Israel;
While streams of reeking blood did float the plain,
And Gilboa was loaded with the slain,
The all commanding Providence took care,
That his anointed prince should not be there,
And, by an extraordinary way,
Kept him from danger and from guilt that day.
The great disposer of all human things,
Who, at his pleasure, makes and unmakes kings,
Who has the hearts of princes in his hand,
And can our foes to be our friends command,
He had the heart of Gath's fierce king inclined,
To be to David in affliction kind.
Achish did Ziklag unto David give,
Where he with his retinue safe might live;
Heaped favours on him, promised great rewards,
No less than to be captain of his guards;
But he must to the battle with him go,
And help to give his king an overthrow.
How great a strait must David now be in,
Having no other choice, than death or sin!
Death, if he should refuse to fight; and sin,
In fighting Israel for the Philistin.
Thus sorely exercised, it may be guest,
Such thoughts as these might fill his troubled breast.
How can I draw my sword against my king,
And not upon myself the odium bring
Of foul rebellion! I, who never dared
Attempt his life, although he sought mine first?
I dare not, knowing him by God appointed,
Stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed.
I well recall, how I within was smote,
When I but cut the skirt from off his coat;
What may I then expect, but wrath divine,
If he should fall by any stroke of mine!
But say, the king were safe: yet how can I,
Whose sword has troops of Philistines made fly,
Who purchased Michal with the parted skins
Of four times fifty slaughtered Philistines?
I, who the daring'st champion of their crew,
They looking on, in single combat slew,
And, God assisting, with a single sling,
Deliv'rance did unto my country bring;
Shall I now for the Philistines go fight,
And draw my sword against an Israelite!
Shall I assist God's heritage to bring
In thraldom to the uncircumcised king!
Shall I upon myself incur the guilt,
Of all the blood which may that day be spilt.
In Israel! The Lord forbid that I
Should ever yield to such a villany.
But yet, if I refuse my men to lead,
With Achish to the field, and cannot plead
A fair excuse; what can I think but he
Will then forward treat me as his enemy!
What can I then expect for me and mine,
But present death! or that he will confine
Myself and men in prison close, until
He may our blood with ling'ring torments spill.
Shall I, this mischief to prevent, comply
With his commands, at least-wise seemingly?
Shall I unto my present fortune yield,
And briskly draw my forces to the field;
Shall I with Achish to the battle go,
As if I were to Israel a foe;
Then, when the battle's joined, wheel about,
And help to give the Philistines a rout?
No! that were base; and I had rather die,
Than stain mine honour with such treachery!
Exiled from mine own land, I hither fled
To seek a shelter for my hunted head;
I found a kind reception with this prince,
And in his favour I have stood e'er since;
To me his bounty has extended been,
No less than if I were a Philistine;
In me he does repose a special trust,
And God forbid I should be less than just;
Ungrateful to a proverb I should be,
Should I betray him to his enemy;
Death rather choose! than such an infamy,
On David, on an Israelite, should lie.
While David thus did many thoughts revolve,
Not knowing what with safety to resolve,
Save in the rear, with Achish on to go,
And wait on God for counsel what to do;
The God of David his deliv'rance wrought,
And fairly him from this dilemma brought.
The princes of the Philistines, to whom
Their king's new favourite was now become
An eye-sore; not well pleased before to see,
Court-favours heaped upon a refugee;
And now observing, that their easy king,
Not only David and his men did bring
To battle, but had ranged them by his side,
As if in them he chiefly did confide;
Their emulation could no longer hide,
But, with a discontented murmur, cried,
‘What do these Hebrews here!’ The king would willing
Their discontents allay, but tried in vain;
The more he David's courage, conduct, praised,
The more against them he their choler raised;
Their wrath brake forth. ‘This fellow make,’ said they,
‘Return unto his place, left he betray
‘Us in the heat of fight, and by that wile,
‘Himself unto his master reconcile;
‘For, by what means can he procure his peace
‘With Saul so well, as by the heads of these?
‘Command him, therefore, back; for, surely, know
‘He shall not with us to the battle go.’
They stoutly urge. The king is willing to yield,
And David forthwith is dismissed the field.
Thus God, when he his saints has throughly tried,
Can ways unthought for their escape provide.
JOY now abounding in his thankful heart,
Jesse's fair son does from the camp depart,
And towards Ziklag, with a nimble pace
Marches, his loyal consorts to embrace;
But ere the sun thrice set, his joy was checked,
By a disaster he did least expect.
Approaching near the place where stood the town,
To his surprize he found it levelled down,
Burnt to the ground, and in its ashes laid,
And all that was therein away conveyed;
No living soul was left that might inform,
Who were the authors of this dismal storm.
Who can conceive the horror that possessed,
On that afflicting sight, poor David's breast!
Amazed he stood, like one that's struck with thunder,
Filled with astonishment and silent wonder;
His blood retiring to his trembling heart,
Left a cold sweat upon each outward part;
Heart-rending sorrows did, without controul,
Imprison all the powers of his soul;
Grief forced a vent at last, and out did pour,
Through his fainting eyes, an easing show'r;
Tears flowed amain; he wept until the store,
Of tears was spent, and he could weep no more.
When sighs did passage to his grief afford,
And speech was to his falt'ring tongue restored,
He more obdurate must have been than stone,
Whose heart had not been tend'red with his moan;
The loss of Ziklag something was, much more
That of the people with their wealthy store;
But with the deepest groans he did bewail,
His lost Ahinoam and Abigail;
His sorrows to complete, his little host,
For there was no man but had something lost,
Were on the point to mutiny, and fall
With stones upon their guiltless general.
His reason now did to return begin,
Out of that stupor grief had plunged it in,
And calling back with nimble diligence,
His spirits and his intellect'al sense,
His piety did first itself exert,
Sure token of a right religious heart.
Fear, bane of noble actions, off he shakes,
And in the Lord his God fresh courage takes,
His blood enkindles, and his spirits boil,
With strong desire to regain the spoil,
The living spoil, if life did yet remain,
In his two consorts and their youthful train;
His flaming eye sparkles an angry threat,
And just revenge his active pulses beat.
Yet would he not on this adventure move,
Until he had tried, how God would it approve.
How happy should we be! How would success
Crown all our actions! how would heav'n bless
Our essays, if in all we undertake,
We first the Lord our counsellor would make.
The priest is called; the sacred ephod brought;
God's counsel, in his own direction sought;
The answer is propitious. Out he went,
With his six hundred men; two hundred spent
With their hard march, were by the rest forsook,
Not able to get over Besor-brook.
Not far had David with the rest advanced,
When an Egyptian in the field they chanced
To find, who being sick, and hunger pined,
Was by those sacking rovers left behind;
Him they refreshed with long-wanted food,
And by him, when recovered, understood,
That their old enemy, th'Amalekite,
It was had done them this so great despite;
By him too, oath of safety first be'ng giv'n,
(Oaths then were lawful, by the God of heav'n)
Was David guided to the place where they,
In jovial merriment securely lay;
Of Ziklag's dainties they a feast had made,
And with their plunder drove a merry trade;
From eating, they to dancing fell and drinking,
How soon they must the reck'ning pay, not thinking;
When on a sudden, David in does pour
His men upon them, like a thunder-show'r.
Could you observe, in what a furious way,
A lion leaps upon his trembling prey;
So on the Amalekites the Hebrews flew,
Than lions fiercer, having in their view
Their captived wives and children, and the fire,
Of smoking Ziklag to inflame their ire.
The slaughter 'till the next day's ev'ning held,
The earth with slain was covered, rivers swelled
With blood of Amalek that there ran,
For of them all escaped not a man,
Except four hundred who, perhaps, by night,
On camels mounted, saved themselves by flight.
During the time this bloody work did last,
The captive dames, with hands and eyes up-cast,
Implored the God of Israel to bless,
The arms of their deliv'rers with success;
But when destroyed they saw their enemies,
Their thankful joy brake through their sparkling eyes;
And, as Andromeda, when from her chain
Released, she saw the frightful monster slain,
So looked Ahinoam, so Abigail,
When they their dearest David saw prevail.
The slaughter over, and the field now cleared,
So that no living enemy appeared,
The victors and their new redeemed dames,
(Those love, these love and gratitude inflames)
Together run with nimble-footed paces,
And clasp each other in most sweet embraces.
When they had paid the debt long due to love,
The Hebrew captain did from there remove,
And toward Ziklag took again his way,
With his recovered spoil, and with the prey
Of Amalek. To Besor-brook they bend,
Where his recruited men did him attend;
To them, as to the rest, he does divide,
Their share o' th'booty, and to Ziklag hide;
From where he, of the spoil, unto his friends,
In all the coasts about, rich presents sends.
TWO days in Ziklag now had David stayed,
To view the ruins which the fire had made;
But most his thoughts on Israel's camp did run,
And feared the worst, not knowing what was done;
When on the third, lo, one with running spent,
Earth on his head, and all his garments rent,
Came from the camp, and falling at his feet,
Did with good news, as he supposed, him greet.
He told, how Israel from the battle fled,
That of the soldiers multitudes were dead;
That Saul, and Jonathan his son, were slain;
At those great names, David could not refrain,
But forthwith asked him, by what means he knew
What he reported of Saul's death was true.
He, hoping some advantage would accrue,
Confessed his prince, at his request, he slew,
And to confirm the truth of what he said,
Saul's crown and brac'let at his feet he laid.
As one that stooping something up to take,
Claps his unwary hand upon a snake,
Doth with a sudden fright, first backward start,
His scared blood retiring to his heart,
Then at a farther distance, trembling stands,
With fainting countenance and palsied hands;
So startled David at the unlooked for sight,
Of that which some would gaze on with delight,
Th'imperial crown; by which he surely knew,
That what the fellow told him was too true.
Grief seized his spirit; he with garments torn,
Together with his men, for Saul did mourn;
For Saul he mourned, though Saul to him had been,
A fiercer foe than any Philistine;
For Saul he mourned, though Saul his life had sought,
And him into extremest dangers brought;
For Saul he mourned, though by the death of Saul,
He knew the kingdom unto him would fall.
Thus generous minds, even with their enemies,
In adverse fortunes can't but sympathize.
For Jonathan, as for an only brother,
Or as a virgin for her constant lover,
So mourned he; for between them two had past,
A friendship that beyond the grave must last;
Immortal friendship! Never two were twined
More close; they had two bodies, but one mind.
Patroclus to Achilles was less dear;
Hylas to Hercules not half so near;
Not Pylades did more Orestes love;
Nor Damon to his Pythias truer prove;
To Pirithous more close not Theseus
Did cleave; nor Nysus to Euryalus;
Than did to David princely Jonathan,
From the blest day their friendship first began;
Their souls were so commixed, that none could tell,
Which loved most truly, either loved so well;
Jonathan's love to David strongly ran,
And David's flowed as strong to Jonathan:
So that e'en yet, we in a proverb have it,
[Strong as the loves of Jonathan and David]
'Twas for his friend, for such a friend as man
Scarce had before; 'twas for his Jonathan
That David mourned; and who enough could moan,
The death, untimely death, of such an one.
But, from particulars, his grief did call,
To mourning for the tribes in general;
The house of Israel was wounded deep,
What Isra'lite could hear it, and not weep!
Not weep a flood! the people of the Lord,
Are fallen by the uncircumcised's sword;
This, to his sorrow, set the flood-gates ope,
And to his melting grief gave boundless scope.
Nor would his single sorrow serve the turn,
But all his men together with him mourn;
Saul's death and Jonathan's he did not fail,
In most pathetic language, to bewail;
But, sure, the stifling grief that filled his breast
For Israel, could not be in words exprest.
When sorrow now its force had somewhat spent,
And flowing tears to grief had given vent,
The messenger, who did the tidings bring,
Having confest that he did kill the king,
Was, self-convicted, unto death appointed,
And killed, for having slain the Lord's anointed.
That justice done, David from Ziklag rose,
By God's direction, and to Hebron goes.
HAIL! noble hero, favourite of heaven,
To whom a royal diadem is given!
Welcome to Hebron! Lo, thy people bring
Their presents to their new-elected king.
No sooner was it known, that Jesse's son
Had Ziklag left, and was to Hebron gone,
But Judah's nobles there did resort,
And, with a splendid train, did fill his court;
Judah, the tribe to which he did belong;
Judah, the tribe of all the tribes most strong.
The men of Judah, as with one consent,
From all their cities unto Hebron went,
They went with hearts full of affection fraight,
His safe arrival to congratulate;
No sooner met, but David they install,
King over Judah in the room of Saul,
The sacred oil they on his temples shed,
And set the imperial crown upon his head;
The court they make, and all the city ring,
With joyful acclamations to their king.
Scarce were the coronation triumphs o'er,
Scarce the new king his diadem had wore,
When he again must draw his late sheathed sword:
“Short are the joys external things afford.”
A son of Saul's survived his father's death,
Twice twenty years of age, named Ish-bosheth,
Him Abner did to Mahanaim bring,
And, o'er the house of Israel, made him king.
Thus Israel and Judah were divided,
While either party with their own king sided;
Hence civil wars between the tribes arose,
And former friends degen'rate into foes;
They that were linked by nature and by grace,
Each other now in hostile manner chase,
The sword devoureth kin on either side,
And Hebrews' hands in Hebrews' blood are dyed.
When long these hateful civil wars had lasted,
And Israel's strength was thereby greatly wasted,
(For weaker grew the house of Saul, the longer
The war endured, and David's house grew stronger)
Then awful Providence, by means unthought,
The war and faction to a period brought.
To Rizpah, who had been Saul's concubine,
'Twas thought that Abner did too much incline;
This Ish-bosheth resenting with disdain,
Charged Abner that with Rizpah he had lain;
High-stomached Abner, who could nothing brook
That touched his honour, such displeasure took
At this reproach, that he resolved to bring
All Israel over unto Judah's king;
Nor would he in a covert manner go
To work, but boldly told his master so.
Forthwith to David messengers he sent,
To make his peace, and then in person went
To Hebron; after he had first inclined
The Israelitish princes to his mind.
Him David graciously received, and made
A royal entertainment while he staid;
And then in peace dismissed him, to effect
The grand affair which Abner did project.
Not far from Hebron yet was Abner gone,
When Joab ent'red (David's sister's son)
Who on some military enterprize,
Had absent been against the enemies,
With David's men of war (for, over all
His uncle's forces he was general)
And, having giv'n his enemy the foil,
Was just returned laden with the spoil.
When Joab heard that Abner had been there,
Received and sent away again with care,
His passion rose so high, it made him fling
Undutiful reflections on his king.
Zeal he pretended for his prince's state,
But underneath did lurk revenge and hate;
For, 'twas not long before, at Gibeon fight,
That Abner and his men be'ng put to flight,
Asael, Joab's brother, him so hard
Pursued, that Abner standing on his guard,
In's own defence, and sore against his will,
To save himself was forced the youth to kill;
His brother's blood, in Joab's eye still reeks,
And he a season to revenge it seeks.
He after Abner sends, in David's name,
(Unknown to David) to return.—He came;
Deceitful Joab received him at the gate
With feigned kindness, hiding inward hate,
As if he had some secret to impart,
Took him aside, and stabbed him to the heart.
Thus fell the valiant Abner: thus did die
A brave commander through base treachery;
Thus princely Joab did his honour stain,
With Abner's noble blood, ignobly slain.
When unto David's ear the news was brought
Of the foul murder by his nephew wrought,
It pierced his royal heart; apt words he lacked,
To speak his just abhorrence of the fact;
Yet in unstrained terms himself he freed,
From being conscious of so foul a deed.
‘I and my kingdom guiltless are,’ he said,
‘Of Abner's blood; on Joab be it laid,
‘And may it on his house for ever rest,
‘May sword or famine him and his infest;
‘May his posterity be never free,
‘From leprous ulcer or infirmity.’
Then for the funeral he order gave,
And wept a show'r of tears on Abner's grave;
Joab to rend his clothes he did command,
And, at the grave, begirt with sackcloth stand;
After the bier himself in mourning went,
And in an elegy his grief did vent;
The people join their tears, o'er Abner weep,
And, for his death, a solemn mourning keep.
TOO late did Ish-bosheth his error find,
In having alienated Abner's mind
From his affairs; too late did he repent
His hasty rashness, when he saw the event.
'Twas not without good cause, that nature set
A double guard before the tongue; and yet
That nimble member, it's too often found,
Nor lips, nor teeth can keep within its bounds,
But out it breaks; a few unwary words,
More mischief do than twice as many swords.
Saul's inconsid'rate son, 'tis like, never thought
His taunt would such a dire effect have wrought;
But martial spirits no affront can brook,
That on their honour like a stain does look;
And, therefore, even kings themselves had need,
How they their subjects disoblige, take heed.
When fame had sounded Abner's hasty death
Into the ears of drooping Ish-bosheth,
A trembling seized him, and his spirits fail,
His hands grew feeble, and his face grew pale;
And he, though yet no danger did appear,
Himself abandoned to unmanly fear;
This abject mind made some neglect him more,
Who did not over-value him before.
Two sons of Rimmon, the Be-erothite,
The off-spring of the wily Gibeonite,
Were under Ish bosheth in some command,
Each was, perhaps, the captain of a band;
These, by some means, intelligence had got,
That Israel's princes a revolt did plot,
And hoping to advance their fortunes higher,
For David did against their Lord conspire.
Their prince into his chamber had retired,
As there, at noon, the sultry clime required,
And being both with heat and grief opprest,
Had thrown himself upon his bed to rest;
The resolute assassins there came,
One Baanah styled, Rechab the other's name;
Poor Ish-bosheth asleep supinely lay,
Him on his bed, the traitors basely slay;
Then, from his bleeding corpse his head they take,
And, through the plain, with speed for Hebron make.
Arrived, to David forthwith they address,
And in such terms as these themselves express:
‘Behold, great prince, the head of Ish-bosheth,
‘The son of Saul, thy foe who sought your death;’
And, instantly, the mangled head they shewed,
A ghastly sight, in purple gore imbrued!
The sight struck horror in the standers-by,
But indignation flamed in David's eye;
He paused; then with a tone that made them quake,
To this effect he to the traitors spake:
‘As the Lord lives, who has my soul,’ said he,
‘Redeemed out of all adversity,
‘When one to Ziklag came, and tidings brought
‘That Saul was dead’ (who, for his tidings, thought
He at my hand, a good reward should gain)
‘I caused him to be seized on, and slain;
‘How much more then, when wicked men have shed
‘A righteous person's blood upon his bed,
‘In his own house: shall I not now require
‘Of you his blood, and make your death your hire?’
This said, at his command his ready guard,
The treason, with the tritors death reward;
Their hands and feet cut off, upon a spear
Were hanged in public to make others fear;
This justice done to Ish-bosheth, his head
In Abner's sepulchre was buried.
The Israelitish elders, who before
To David did incline, do now much more;
Their way is opened by the untimely death
Of their own king, unhappy Ish-bosheth;
Their journey, therefore, they to Hebron take,
And to this purpose unto David spake:
‘Behold, great prince, thy bone and flesh are we,
‘And e'en while Saul was king, yet you were he
‘That led us out, and brought us in again,
‘Be pleased, therefore, over us to reign;
‘For God has said, “You shall my people feed,
“And be a captain over Israel's seed.”
Their message David, with majestic grace,
Received, and all the elders did embrace;
A solemn league before the Lord they make,
That he not them, nor they should him forsake;
Then forth the consecrated oil they bring,
And over Israel anoint him king;
All hearts are glad, joy reigns in ev'ry eye,
Which shouts and public triumphs testify;
The vocal nymph the news to fame reports,
Whose trumpet sounds it into foreign courts.
When the solemnities were at an end,
Which on the coronation did attend,
And all things settled; the twice crowned king,
A royal army to the field did bring,
Wherewith the insulting Jebusites he beat,
And made Jerusalem his royal seat;
The Philistines he smote, who were so bold,
To come and brave him even in his hold;
The Moabites he fully did subdue,
And mighty Hadadezer overthrew;
The Edomites he tributary made,
And Syria having smarted, was afraid;
Abusive Ammon he chastised, and tamed,
And for his prowess, through the east was famed.
And yet not more for that, than for his love
To Jonathan, which did itself approve
Long after Jonathan, unhappy prince,
In battle fell, not for his own offence,
But for his father's. Friendship that is brave,
Doth death survive, and lives beyond the grave.
David, now having got a little rest,
Bethinks him how his love may be exprest
To Jonathan, his dear deceased friend,
In his posterity; and to that end,
Inquires if any yet remained of all,
Descended from the family of Saul,
To whom he, for the sake of Jonathan,
Might kindness shew. They call to mind a man
Whose name was Ziba; him they seek and bring
To court, and straightway he informed the king,
That Jonathan had yet a son, by name
Mephibosheth, who of his feet was lame;
For he, poor child, when tidings came that Saul
And Jonathan were slain, received a fall
Out of his nurse's arms, when, in the fright,
She sought to save him by too hasty flight;
By which disaster he, alas! became
A cripple ever, both his feet were lame.
Him David sent for, and with special grace
Receiving, did at his own table place,
Assuring him, he for his father's sake,
Like care of him as of his own would take;
Then all his grandfather's and father's lands,
Restoring to him, Ziba he commands
To take the charge thereof, the land to till,
And make the best of't, to his utmost skill,
And bring the profits to his master's son,
That he in handsome port might live thereon.
Mephibosheth, with kindness overcome,
Tho' lame in feet, was neither rude nor dumb;
But both by gesture and expression showed,
The highest marks of humble gratitude.
THE highest pitch of honour now attained
By David, and the sov'reign power gained;
Thrice had the consecrating oil been shed,
In solemn wise on his majestic head,
His temples cinctured with a double crown,
The house of Saul, his rival, quite brought down;
His enemies of him did stand in awe,
And to his neighbours round he gave the law;
His arms brought conquest home; his very name
Struck terror where his armies never came;
Secure he sat upon his awful throne,
By others feared, beloved by his own;
All things to make him happy did conspire,
In want of nothing reason could desire.
But how unsafe is greatness! ah, how nigh
Unto prosperity does danger lie!
Beguiling pleasures do on greatness wait,
And vice, still lurking, lies at pleasure's gate;
If in its slips, and hard it is, I doubt,
Where pleasures have free course, to keep it out,
Virtue it does insensibly destroy,
And brings forth treble grief for single joy.
This David found; and ere he was aware,
Was taken and betrayed in pleasure's snare.
It came to pass, one evening, when the heat
Abated was, which in that clime was great,
That David from his easful bed arose,
And to his palace roof for air he goes;
There walking to and fro, his wand'ring eye,
A naked woman bathing, did espy.
The sight surprized him; yet he pleasure took,
On that attractive object still to look,
For scarcely had he seen so fine a creature
For shape, complexion, and for lovely feature.
Poor David's nature, now set all on sire,
His breast inflaming with undue desire;
He looked and burnt; he burnt and looked again,
Nor power had from looking to refrain;
His eyes betrayed his heart; now yield he must
Himself a captive to unruly lust.
Ah! how unsafe it is to let the eye
Into the privacies of women pry!
How dangerous to let the Devil catch
The mind a roving from its inward watch!
David was guarded strong enough, no doubt,
To hinder any mischief from without,
But he that will secured be from sin,
Must keep a strict and constant guard within.
Now all his thoughts poor David does employ,
The party how to find, and to enjoy;
He makes inquiry, and does quickly find,
One that knew both the woman, and his mind;
By him he understood the beauteous dame
Was Amiel's daughter, Bath-sheba her name,
And that she was the brave Uriah's wife,
Uriah loved her as he loved his life.
This known, the king, impatient of delay,
Sends messengers; the woman they betray,
And bring her to him; she by him conceives,
And then returning home, the palace leaves.
How miserable is that prince's state,
On whom a set of parasites do wait!
How sad is his condition who must trust
Such as will pander to his lawless lust!
Had they, whom David sent the dame to bring,
Been worthy of a place about a king,
They would have run the hazard of his blame,
To save their master from so foul a shame;
They would have represented to his view
That od'us evil in its proper hue;
They would have tried all means, have strove, have prayed,
And, rather than have acted, disobeyed.
But ah! such faithful courtiers are as rare
As crows in streams, or fishes in the air.
No help from his had David; they he sent
Were in so bad a work too diligent;
He spake the word, they ran; their errand tell,
Prevail, the woman bring; by her he fell;
He fell, who had such high attainments known,
To whom such special favours God had shown;
He who so late before the ark did dance,
Now could not stand against a woman's glance;
Surprized by a temptation, down he fell,
Who the sweet singer was of Israel;
He from the holy path, aside did start,
Who once, a man was after God's own heart.
Ah! who can hope when such men fall, to stand
Without an eminent supporting hand!
Our life's a war, temptations all assail,
And, without strong resistance, will prevail.
Not kings, we see, can stand, however good
They are, when once they yield to flesh and blood:
After fair Bath-sheba had been at home
Time long enough to know, her fruitful womb,
By which she was not apt to be beguiled,
Gave her assurance that she was with child,
Forthwith she private notice thereof sent
To David, public scandal to prevent;
This put poor David to his shifts to find
How he the husband and the world might blind.
MEAN-WHILE Uriah from his home had been,
Seeking immortal fame by arms to win,
Him David straightway sent for home, that he
A cloke to their adultery might be;
Unthinking that he then must be too late,
To cover an amour of such a date.
No sooner good Uriah did receive
The king's command, but forthwith taking leave
Of Joab, to the court his course he bent,
And to his sovereign did himself present;
The king inquires; Uriah does relate,
Both Joab's welfare, and the army's state.
When he had made an end, and night came on,
The king, impatient till he saw him gone,
Dismissed him, and advised him haste to make,
Down to his house, and there refreshment take.
Then from his presence forth Uriah went,
And after him a royal mess was sent,
The king concluding he would home repair,
Himself to solace with his (faulty) fair.
No farther went Uriah than the gate
Of David's house, where servants used to wait,
With whom, his old acquaintance, he consorts,
And unto them the war's success reports;
When bed-time came, among the guards he kept,
And, soldier like, among the soldiers slept.
Troubled was David, when he heard by some
Next morn Uriah had not been at home;
Yet hiding what he could, his discontent,
He for Uriah to his presence sent,
And with a seeming pity, when he came,
Him in such words as these, did gently blame.
‘What was the matter, over-hardy knight,
‘You went not down unto your house last night?
‘Came you not from your journey, tired and spent?
‘Why are you of yourself so negligent?
‘I thought you might have borne a bed less hard,
‘Than are the matted benches of my guard;
‘I therefore sent you home to take your rest,
‘Where I supposed you might enjoy it best;
‘Hereafter, of youself more careful be;
‘You thinks not what your loss would be to me.’
With humble thanks Uriah thus replied:
‘Israel and Judah with the ark abide
‘In tents; lord Joab lies with his men
‘In open fields encamped; shall I then
‘Go to my house to eat, and merry make,
‘And pleasure in my wife's embraces take?
‘The Lord forbid! As lives your soul, O king,
‘I will not be persuaded to this thing;
‘I shun whatever courage would abate;
‘Soft pleasures do the mind effeminate.’
Thus spake Uriah. And let none suppose
It droped by chance, or from a soldier rose,
But heedfully observe it with an eye,
That can through words a Providence descry;
For God was hedging David's way about,
That David's guilt might to his shame break out.
When David had Uriah's answer weighed,
He plainly saw, unless he were betrayed,
He never should by him effect the end
For which he for him from the camp did send;
New measures, therefore, David now does take,
Contrives how he Uriah drunk may make,
Looks on him with a more familiar face,
And now receives him into special grace;
So seems he in Uriah to delight,
As if he were the only favourite.
His feigned kindness quickly grew so great,
That now Uriah must with David eat,
He makes him drink, and drink, and drink again,
Until with rich wines he overcharged his brain.
Thus sin to sin, thus guilt he adds to guilt,
Nor stops until Uriah's blood be spilt;
Thus the allowed commission of a sin,
Not seldom serves to let another in.
Uriah now is drunk; the grapie juice
Has of his reason robbed him of the use;
With sprightly wine inflamed, who would have thought
But his wife's embraces would he have sought?
Yet neither drunk nor sober, could he be
Persuaded either house or wife to see;
But with the guards at night again he lay,
And, snoring, slept his drunkenness away.
The king now hopeless, and enraged to think
That neither by his flattery, nor drink,
He could his end obtain; and, harder grown,
(For sin repeated hardens any one)
Resolves, at last, a desperate course to try,
And murder join unto adultery;
No way to save his honour did remain,
He thought, unless he got Uriah slain;
For since he found, that not by any wile,
He the resolved Uriah could beguile,
He saw, that if he allowed him to live,
He never would the injury forgive;
But, if not seek revenge, at least proclaim
The wrong he allowed, and his prince's shame.
Thus reasoned David; on this policy,
The king concludes, Uriah needs must die.
He that had allowed too much wrong before,
Lest that discovered be, must allow more;
Uriah's guiltless blood must now be spilt,
To make a covering for David's guilt.
But oh! the guilt of guiltless blood thus shed,
Will fall with treble weight on David's head.
Ah! what is man, the best of men, when left
Unto himself, of grace divine bereft?
To Joab David does a letter write,
Commanding him that in the hottest fight,
He should Uriah in the fore-front place,
And, when he is engaged, retire a-pace,
Leaving him single in the open plain,
That by the enemy he may be slain.
The letter, which contained this dire command,
Is sent to Joab by Uriah's hand.
Uriah, void of jealousy and fear,
The fatal letter does to Joab bear;
Of his own death the instrument he's made;
How easily is innocence betrayed!
So went Bellerophon, whose milder fate
Did unto him prove more propitiate.
When Joab understood his master's mind,
He to Uriah such a place assigned,
Where, by experience, he before had found
Were valiant men that would defend their ground;
Then falling back, there left him to maintain
The fight alone: so was Uriah slain.
Thus the brave Hittite, by a plot fore-laid,
Valiantly fighting, basely was betrayed;
The first, perhaps, that ever lost his life
For not embracing his most beauteous wife.
With speed Uriah's death is signified
To David, who his joy could hardly hide.
Uriah's widow, when she heard the news,
Put on the mourning weeds that widows use,
And mourned the time; then David took the dame
Home to his house, and she his wife became;
Nor was it long before she bore a son;
But God was sore displeased with what was done.
NOW all was hushed and still. Uriah dead,
His wife translated to king David's bed;
No more by stealth, but now with open face,
The joyful king does Beth-sheba embrace,
Before his courtiers, does her court and kiss,
And, without blushing, dares to call her his;
Uriah's blood the adultery out did blot,
And how that blood was shed, is now forgot;
Dissolved in melting pleasures David lies,
And from the avenger in himself he flies;
Remorse was lost, hardness was entered in,
Sensual delights had drowned the sense of sin.
But David's God, the God who David chose,
And David loved, would not his David lose;
For though a strong temptation had prevailed,
And David swayed thereby, had grossly failed;
Yet he who hearts does search, and reins does try,
Saw yet in David a sincerity;
His prophet, therefore, God did send to rouse,
The stupid king from his lethargic drowse.
O boundless goodness! O unmeasured love!
Which did the bowels of his father move
Towards his erring child; he condescends,
And the first motion makes, for being friends;
Th'offended uses means to raise a sense
In the offender of his foul offence,
That, on repentance, he may mercy show,
And reconciliation there may flow.
Th'inspired prophet, thus to David sent,
Did, by a harmless wile, him circumvent;
And having in a parable him caught,
The king to be his own condemner brought.
‘Two men,’ said he, ‘did in one city dwell,
‘One very poor, and one in wealth did swell;
‘The rich, of flocks and herds had plenteous store;
‘The poor man had, in all the world, no more
‘But one small ewe-lamb, which he bought and fed,
‘And choicely with his children nourished;
‘Of his own cup it drank, and for its meat
‘He grudged it not the same himself did eat;
‘He let it in his bosom lie at night,
‘For, as a daughter, it was his chief delight.
‘Now when a stranger to the rich man came
‘To visit him, so void was he of shame,
‘That, sparing all his own, he took and dressed
‘The poor man's lamb, to entertain his guest,’
With strict attention did king David hear
The prophet's tale; then made it soon appear
How quick his sense was of the poor man's wrong,
And what to the rich oppressor did belong;
Against the man his hot displeasure brake,
And to the prophet Nathan thus he spake:
‘As lives the Lord, let him be never so high,
‘The man that this has done shall surely die:
‘Nay, death shall not suffice, but furthermore,
‘He four times over shall the lamb restore;
‘Because, that having plenty of his own,
‘He did this thing, and has no pity shown.’
So spake the king; but little thought, alas!
That he this sentence on himself did pass.
How partial is the nature of mankind!
Quick-sighted at another's fault, but blind
Unto our own! ourselves how apt to spare,
But unto others, how severe we are!
He that could with an over-hasty breath,
For a less fault, pronounce another's death,
Could just before abuse his neighbor's wise,
And him, without remorse, deprive of life.
No sooner did the heavy sentence come
From David's lips, but Nathan set it home;
Disguises laid aside, the seer began:
“My message is to you —You are the man!”
How great was now the guilty king's surprise!
Might have been seen in his dejected eyes;
His conscious blood into his face did flush,
And brought upon his cheeks a scarlet blush,
Which lasted not, but in a while did fail,
And was succeeded by a faintly pale,
As if the guiltless blood he lately spilt
Had there flowed, to evidence his guilt,
And then retiring, back again had fled
To show the stained ground where it was shed.
A great disorder in his face appeared,
As well from what he felt, as what he feared;
His hands, like one that had the palsy, shook;
His trembling knees against each other strook;
Silent he sat, his spirit almost gone,
While the inspired prophet thus went on:
‘Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel,
‘Who in most awful majesty does dwell,’—
“I over Israel you appointed king,
“And out of all your troubles you did bring;
“Out of the hand of Saul you I did save,
“And unto you your master's house I gave;
“Into your arms your master's wives I cast,
“And to youIsrael made, and Judah fast;
“And if all this had been too small a store,
“I would have added such and such things more.
“Why then did the Lord's command you despise
“To do the thing that's evil in his eyes?
“Uriah you, with Ammon's sword have slain,
“And with his wife, as with your own, have lain;
“Now, therefore, never shall your house be free
“From sword, because you have despised me,
“Who from the sheep-cote set you on the throne,
“And took Uriah's wife to be your own.”
‘Thus says the Lord,’—“Behold, I'll evil raise
“Out of your house against your sev'ral ways;
“Your wives, before your eyes, from you I'll take,
“And let your neighbor of them strumpets make;
“He with your wives in open view shall lie,
“Regardless who looks on, or who stands by.
“You secretly have wrought, and in the dark,
“But on you I will set a public mark;
“For I will cause this justice to be done
“Before all Israel, and before the sun.”
Thus said, the prophet stopped.—The wounded king,
Who of his guilt, now felt the piercing sting,
Defense had none to make; no art did use
His soul offence to palliate or excuse;
But fetching from his very inmost part
A doleful groan, which seemed to rend his heart,
His quivering lips let fall this mournful word,
“Ah me!—I sinned have against the Lord.”
A sigh the sentence closed; a sigh that came
So warmly out, it might his lips inflame;
But that his melting eyes a plenteous shower
Of tears upon his cheeks and beard did pour.
Short the confession was; yet that it flowed
From a true penitent, the accent showed;
It reached the prophet's heart, and gained belief
Of the sincerity of David's grief;
For God, repentance, if it is sincere,
Accepts, though short in words it does appear.
Such David's was; yet was it not in vain,
The gladdened prophet alters now his strain,
And with an healing word does thus begin;—
‘The Lord has also put away your sin;
‘You shall not die.’ O! who would be so base
To sin against such undeserved grace!
‘However, (thus the prophet did proceed)
‘Because you great occasion by this deed
‘Has given wicked men the Lord to scorn,
‘The spurious child, which unto you is born,
‘Shall surely die.’ His word was verified,
For, on the seventh day, the infant died.
The prophet now, his message fully done,
Had left the king, and to his house was gone;
But what he from the Lord had to him said,
On David's heart a deep impression made;
His conscience, which before did slumbering lie,
Now thoroughly wakened, in his face did fly,
And charged him home; he felt the wounds within,
Which, on his bleeding heart, were made by sin.
Ah! who his grinding sorrows can express!
Or speak the hundredth part of his distress!
His galling grief, his pity-moving moans,
His deep-fetched sighs, and his heart-rending groans!
Himself we find, could not deliver these,
Without the help of great hyperboles.
How earnest was he! with what fervency
Unto his God did he for pardon cry!
‘Have mercy on me, O my God!’ he cried,
‘And for my sins your face not from me hide;
‘Purge me with hyssop, cleanse me from my sin,
‘And wash me thoroughly from all guilt within:
‘Create in me a clean heart, and renew
‘Within me, Lord, a spirit right and true;
‘O! from your presence cast not me away,
‘Nor take your spirit from me, Lord, I pray;
‘Uphold me with your free spirit; restore
‘The joy of your salvation as before.’
Such moving supplications, day and night,
He did pour forth, which I nor can recite,
Nor need; for he has couched them in such verse
As my short-winded muse cannot rehearse.
Suffice it, therefore, that the reader know
He did not pray in vain; but prayed so,
That not only pardon did he obtain,
But his lost favor did with God regain.
God grant, whoever sins like him may be
As true a contrite penitent as he!
End of the Third Book