Charles Lamb

(10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834 / London)

David - Poem by Charles Lamb

It is not always to the strong
Victorious battle shall belong.
This found Goliath huge and tall:
Mightiest giant of them all,
Who in the proud Philistian host
Defiëd Israel with boast.

With loud voice Goliath said:
'Hear, armed Israel, gatherëd,
And in array against us set:
Ye shall alone by me be met.
For am not I a Philistine?
What strength may be compared to mine?

'Choose ye a man of greatest might:
And if he conquer me in fight,
Then we will all servants be,
King of Israel, unto thee.
But if I prove the victor, then
Shall Saul and all his armëd men
Bend low beneath Philistian yoke.'
Day by day these words he spoke,
Singly traversing the ground.
But not an Israelite was found
To combat man to man with him,
Who such prodigious force of limb
Displayed. Like to a weaver's beam
The ponderous spear he held did seem.
In height six cubits he did pass,
And he was armed all o'er in brass.

Him we will leave awhile, and speak
Of one, the soft down on whose cheek
Of tender youth the tokens bare.
Ruddy he was and very fair.
David, the son of Jesse he,
Small sized, yet beautiful to see.
Three brothers had he in the band
Of warriors under Saul's command;
Himself at home did private keep
In Bethlem's plains his father's sheep.

Jesse said to this his son:
'David, to thy brothers run,
Where in the camp they now abide,
And learn what of them may betide.
These presents for their captains take,
And of their fare inquiries make.'
With joy the youth his sire obeyed.-
David was no whit dismayed
When he arrivëd at the place
Where he beheld the strength and face
Of dread Goliath, and could hear
The challenge. Of the people near
Unmoved he asked, what should be done
To him who slew that boasting one,
Whose words such mischiefs did forebode
To the armies of the living God?

'The king,' they unto David say,
'Most amply will that man repay.
He and his father's house shall be
Evermore in Israel free.
With mighty wealth Saul will endow
That man: and he has made a vow;
Whoever takes Goliath's life,
Shall have Saul's daughter for his wife.'

His eldest brother, who had heard
His question, was to anger stirred
Against the youth: for (as he thought)
Things out of his young reach he sought.
Said he, 'What moved thee to come here,
To question warlike men? say, where
And in whose care are those few sheep
That in the wilderness you keep?
I know thy thoughts, how proud thou art:
In the haughtiness of thy heart,
Hoping a battle thou mayst see,
Thou comest hither down to me.'

Then answered Jesse's youngest son
In these words: 'What have I done?
Is there not cause?' Some there which heard,
And at the manner of his word
Admired, report this to the king.
By his command they David bring
Into his presence. Fearless then,
Before the king and his chief men,
He shows his confident design
To combat with the Philistine.
Saul with wonder heard the youth,
And thus addressed him: 'Of a truth,
No power thy untried sinew hath
To cope with this great man of Gath.'

Lowly David bowed his head,
And with firm voice the stripling said:
'Thy servant kept his father's sheep.-
Rushing from a mountain steep
There came a lion, and a bear,
The firstlings of my flock to tear.
Thy servant hath that lion killed,
And killed that bear, when from the field
Two young lambs by force they seized.
The Lord was mercifully pleased
Me to deliver from the paw
Of the fierce bear, and cruel jaw
Of the strong lion. I shall slay
The unrighteous Philistine this day,
If God deliver him also
To me.' He ceased. The king said, 'Go:
Thy God, the God of Israel, be
In the battle still with thee.'

David departs unarmed, save
A staff in hand he chanced to have.
Nothing to the fight he took,
Save five smooth stones from out a brook;
These in his shepherd's scrip he placed,
That was fastened round his waist.
With staff and sling alone he meets
The armëd giant, who him greets
With nought but scorn. Looking askance
On the fair ruddy countenance
Of his young enemy-'Am I
A dog, that thou comest here to try
Thy strength upon me with a staff?'
Goliath said with scornful laugh.
'Thou comest with sword, with spear, with shield,
Yet thou to me this day must yield.
The Lord of Hosts is on my side,
Whose armies boastful thou'st defied.
All nations of the earth shall hear
He saveth not with shield and spear.'

Thus David spake, and nigher went,
Then choosing from his scrip, he sent
Out of his slender sling a stone.-
The giant uttered fearful moan.
The stone though small had piercëd deep
Into his forehead, endless sleep
Giving Goliath-and thus died
Of Philistines the strength and pride.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

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