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Oh for that spirit which inflam'd my breast
With sudden fervour, when among the seers
And holy sages my prophetic voice
Was heard attentive, and th' astonish'd throng,
Wond'ring, exclaim'd, — “ Is Saul among the pro-
Where's that bold arm which quell’d th’ Amalekite,
And nobly spar'd fierce Agag and his flocks ?
'Tis past ! the light of Israel now is quench'd :
Shorn of his beams, my sun of glory sets !
Rise Moab, Edom, angry Ammon rise!
Come Gaza, Ashdod come! let Ekron boast,
And Askelon rejoice for Saul is — nothing.
Ab. I bring thee news, O king!
My valiant uncle!
What can avail thy news? A soul oppress'd
Refuses still to hear the charmer's voice,
Howe'er enticingly be charms. What news
Can sooth my sickly soul, while Gath's fell giant
Repeats each morning to my frighten'd hosts
His daring challenge, none accepting it?
Ab. It is accepted.
Ha! by whom? how, when ?
What prince, what gen'ral, what illustrious hero,
What vetran chief, what warrior of renown,
Will dare to meet the haughty foe's defiance ?
Speak, my brave gen’ral ! noble Abner, speak!
Ab. No prince, no warrior, no illustrious chief,
No vetran hero dares accept the challenge;
But what will move thy wonder, mighty king,
One train'd to peaceful deeds, and new to arms,
A simple shepherd swain !
No more of this slight tale, it suits but ill
Thy bearded gravity; or rather tell it
To credulous age, or weak believing women :
They love whate'er is marvellous, and doat
On deeds prodigious and incredible,
Which sober sense rejects. I laugh to think
Of thy extravagance. A shepherd's boy
Encounter him whom nations dread to meet!
Ab. Is valour, then, peculiar to high birth?
If Heav'n had so decreed, know, scornful king,
That Saul the Benjamite had never reign’d.
No: glory darts her soul-pervading ray
On thrones and cottages, regardless still
Of all the artificial, nice distinctions
Vain human customs make.
Where is this youth ?
Ab. Without thy tent he waits. Such humble
Fir'd with the secret conscience of desert;
Such manly bearing, temper’d with such softness,
And so adorn’d with ev'ry outward charm
Of graceful form and feature, saw I never.
Saul. Bring me the youth.
He waits thy royal pleasure.
[Exit ABNER. Saul. What must I think? Abner himself is brave, And skill'd in human kind : nor does he judge So lightly, to be caught with specious words And fraud's smooth artifice, were there not marks Of worth intrinsic. But, behold, he comes,
The youth, too, with him! Justly did he praise
The candour which adorns his open brow.
Re-enter ABNER and DAVID. Dav. Hail, mighty king !
Behold thy proffer'd champion ! Saul. Art thou the youth, whose high heroic zeal Aspires to meet the giant son of Anak?
Dav. If so the king permit.
Why, what experience has thy youth of arms ?
Where, stripling, didst thou learn the trade of war?
Beneath what hoary vet'ran hast thou serv'd ?
What feats hast thou achiev'd, what daring deeds ?
What well-rang’d phalanx ; say, what charging hosts,
What hard campaigns, what sieges hast thou seen?
Hast thou e'er scald the city's rampir'd wall,
Or hurld the missile dart, or learn'd to poise
The warrior's deathful spear? The use of targe,
Of helm, and buckler, is to thee unknown.
Dar. Arms I have seldom seen. I little know
Of war's proud discipline. The trumpet's clang,
The shock of charging hosts, the rampir'd wall,
Th' embattled phalanx, and the warrior's spear,
The use of targe and helm to me is new.
My zeal for God, my patriot love of Israel,
My rev'rence for my king, behold my claims !
Saul. But, gentle youth, thou hast no fame in arms.
Renown, with her shrill clarion, never bore
Thy honour'd name to many a land remote;
From the fair regions where Euphrates laves
Assyria's borders, to the distant Nile.
Dav. True, mighty king! I am, indeed, alike Unblest by fortune and to fame unknown; A lowly shepherd swain of Judah's tribe: But greatness ever springs from low beginnings. That very Nile thou mention'st, whose broad stream Bears fruitfulness and health through many a clime, From an unknown, penurious, scanty source Took its first rise. The forest oak, which shades Thy sultry troops in many a toilsome march, Once an unheeded acorn lay. O king! Who ne'er begins can never aught achieve Of glorious. Thou thyself wast once unknown, Till fair occasion brought thy worth to light. Far higher views inspire my youthful heart Than human praise : I seek to vindicate Th'insulted honour of the God I serve.
Ab. 'Tis nobly said. Saul.
I love thy spirit, youth: But dare not trust thy inexperienc'd arm Against a giant's miglit. The sight of blood, Though brave thou feel'st when peril is not nigh, Will pale thy ardent cheek. Dav.
Not so, O king! This youthful arm has been imbru'd in blood, Though yet no blood of man has ever stain'd it. Thy servant's occupation is a shepherd. With jealous care I watch'd my father's flock: A brindled lion and a furious bear Forth from the thicket rush'd upon the fold, Seiz'd a young lamb, and tore their bleating spoil. Urg’d by compassion for my helpless charge, I felt a new-born vigour nerve my arm;
And, eager, on the foaming monsters rash'd :
The famish'd lion by his grisly beard,
Enrag'd, I caught, and smote him to the ground.
The panting monster, struggling in my gripe,
Shook terribly his bristling mane, and lash'd
His own gaunt, gory sides; fiercely he ground
His gnashing teeth, and roll'd his starting eyes,
Bloodshot with agony; then, with a groan
That wak’d the echoes of the mountain, died.
Nor did his grim associate ’scape my arm;
Thy servant slew the lion and the bear;
I kill'd them both, and bore their shaggy spoils
In triumph home: and shall I fear to meet
Th' uncircumcis'd Philistine? No: that God
Who sar'd me from the bear's destructive fang,
And hungry lion's jaw, will not he save me
From this idolater ?
He will, he will !
Go, noble youth! be valiant and be blest!
The God thou serv'st will shield thee in the fight,
And nerve thy arm with more than mortal strength,
Ab. So the bold Nazarite* a lion slew : An earnest of his victories o’er Philistia!
Saul. Go, Abner; see the youth be well equipp'd
With shield and spear. Be it thy care to grace him
With all the fit accoutrements of war:
The choicest mail from my rich armory take,
And gird upon his thigh my own tried sword,
Of noblest temper'd steel
I shall obey.
* Samson. See Judges, chap. xiv.