Saul And David
``An evil spirit lieth on our King!''
So went the wailful tale up Israel,
From Gilgal unto Gibeah; town and camp
Caught the sad fame that spread like pestilence,
In the low whispers of pale maiden lips,
And tones, half--stifled by religious awe,
Outbreathed from hearts that else had known no fear.
There stood a Boy beside the glooming King,
Whose serfish garb was strangely dissonant
To the high bearing and most gentle air
That waited on his beauty; health and joy,
Tho' tempered now by sorrowing reverence,
Lay on his rose--red cheek; transcendent love
Rounded his brow; and when the deli'cate hand
Swept o'er the chords of that sweet instrument,
With which it long had been his use to fill
The lonely measure of his pasto'ral hours,--
It would have been no weak idolatry
To shroud your eyes and feel your heart beat strong,
As in the presence of one fresh from heaven,
Come down to save that doomed and deso'late man.
A strain of war,--a deep and nervous strain
Of full and solemn notes, whose long--drawn swell
Dies on the silence, slow and terrible,
Making the blood of him who listens to it
To follow the great measure; every tone
Clear in its utterance, and eloquent
Above all words: there was the settled tramp
Of warriors faithful to ancestral swords;
There was the prayer that was not all a prayer,
But rising in a suppliant murmuring
Grows to a war--cry,--``Victory, oh God!
For Israel's God and Israel, victory!''
Then came the onset,--chord fast following chord,
In passio'nate clang, as if the conscious harp
Were prodigal of all its life of sound,
To give that awful feint reality.
From off the couch, at one enormous leap,
To where his helmet and long--shadowing spear
And brazen target hung beside the wall,
Bounded the King, and graspt the quive'ring arms.
He raised his hand, and, as to gathe'ring hosts,
Shouted, ``Where's Jonathan?--he is not here;
Watchman, look out! I cannot find my son;
Here is the Ark,--there is the Philistine,--
There too is Jonathan! On, Israel,--on!
Alloo! Alloo!'' He ceast; and while the short
Heroic blaze flared and died out, he cried,
In a most faint and miserable voice,
``He is not there,--the foe!--he is within!''
And fell upon his face, even as before.
The harper paused; and when a struggling tear
Dropt on the string from his uplifted eye,
The spirit of the strain was changed;--awhile
An under--current of discordant tones
Went trickling on, beneath the random fingers,--
Till, from a labyrinth of tangled notes
Came up with placid step a shape of sound
Distinct and fine--proportioned, redolent
Of love,--a fair old Hebrew melody,
Most plaintive numbers, born of that pure time,--
That golden--shaded, half--revealèd time,
When Israel's patriarchs fed their wealth of herds
About the myrrhine shades of Araby,
And eve'ry passion out of their chaste hearts
Gusht freely forth, and wove a sepa'rate song.
But, more than all, to the tormented King
That rythm was full of memo'ries;--fold by fold
The grey loose veil of long--forgotten Time
Shrunk back before the mystic minstrelsy;
He was once more the simple Benjamite,
The gallant Boy, the innocent, the brave,
The choicest and the goodliest of his peers;
He was once more the owner of a life
Whose moments were all feathered, and kept cool
From scorching passion by continuous airs
Of gaysome hope and self--contenting joy.
Awful command and peri'lous empery
The diffi'cult mean of power,--the hard, hard, task
To be at once a lord and servitor,
To rule allotted kingdoms and obey,
The caster of the lot, the King of Kings,
Had set no snaring choice before him, then.
How often in the vain and weary guest
When he pursued his father's wande'ring droves
All down the slopes of pleasant Ephraim
Thro' Shalisha and Shalim, had his ear
Drunk in the burthen of that antique tune
Giving him brotherhood with stranger--lands:
Oft too the maid, whose image ever lived
Within his breast, stronger than all real things,
Returning homeward when the' expiring Sun
Mingled its life--blood with the waning light,
Had clothed her long farewell in that rich form,
While he, expecting on some distant height
His starlit watch, sent back such loud response
As made a chorus of the echoing hills.
As when the surges of the midland sea,
Break on the carious, citron--fruited, shore
Of Western Italy in morn's grey prime,
Slowly above the coasting Apennine,
The sun appearing meets the wallowing foam
And pierces it with light, till eve'ry wave
Loses its frowning aspect and now sports
About the myrtles, showe'ring precious gifts,
Rare diamond globes and flecks of liquid gold:
So to the fury of the darkened Spirit
The sunrise of that harmony unveiled
Its beauty, making beautiful, so fell,
Transformed from out its former terri'ble shape,
The passion into tender sympathy.
Tears, blessed tears, in full profusion burst
From the dry sockets, breaking up the dams
And foul embankments, arts of ill had raised
Against all holy natu'ral impulses.
From the prostration of his body' and soul
Saul rose, but as a man who long had lain
Wasted by dire disease,--pale, sorrowful,
Yet calm and almost smiling in his woe.
And did He not rejoice, that marve'llous youth,
To see his pious mediating work
Consummated? Glowed not his downy cheek
With a serene delight, while fade away
The notes in linge'ring trills and solemn sighs?
But is his countenance of other hue
When Saul, in gene'rous gratefulness profuse,
Proffers him jewels, wealth, and titled name,
Or other gift, whate'er his soul might crave.
A pallid tremor swept across his face,
As with a suppliant but determi'nate mien
He speaks, ``Oh! deem not, deem not, gracious Lord!
That I, of mean estate, dare scorn the boon
Thy sove'ran bounty would pour forth on me,
But yet no gems, no gold, no praise for me!
Glory and praise and honor be to Him,
In the great circle of whose single will
I and my harp are most poor instruments,
His mightiness and goodness to proclaim.
Go forth into the clear and open air,
Look at all common things, and thou wilt find
The form of all this outward Universe
Is as the Body of the Living God:
And eve'ry movement, odour, shade, and hue
Is animate with music as divine
As lute, or harp, or dulcimer: to thee,
The' anthemnal voice of aged cataracts,
The jovial murmurings of summer brooks,
The carol that emblazoned flowers send up
From the cold earth in spring--time, the wild hymn
Of winter blasts sitting among the pines,
And the articu'late pulse of that large heart
Which beats beneath the Ocean, will be parts
Of the eternal symphony sublime,
In which the Maker of all worlds reveals
The spirit--depths of his untiring Love;
If then all Nature, rightly askt, can do
What I have done, how dare I claim reward?''
In sooth it was a wondrous sight to see
How far above the proud and vaunted king,
In all the moral majesty of being,
That moment stood the God--selected child.
Thrice through the chamber with irreso'lute step
Saul paced, and prest his hand upon his temples,
As if to hide the passing cloud of shame,
Then answe'ring not a word, and motioning
That David should retire, in thoughtfulness
Or prayer, he past into the outer hall.
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