Phillis Wheatley ( )

Goliath of Gath

      1 SAMUEL, Chap. xvii.

  YE martial powrs, and all ye tuneful nine,
  Inspire my song, and aid my high design.
  The dreadful scenes and toils of war I write,
  The ardent warriors, and the fields of fight:
  You best remember, and you best can sing
  The acts of heroes to the vocal string:
  Resume the lays with which your sacred lyre,
  Did then the poet and the sage inspire.
    Now front to front the armies were displayd,
  Here Israel rangd, and there the foes arrayd;
  The hosts on two opposing mountains stood,
  Thick as the foliage of the waving wood;
  Between them an extensive valley lay,
  Oer which the gleaming armour pourd the day,
  When from the camp of the Philistine foes,
  Dreadful to view, a mighty warrior rose;
  In the dire deeds of bleeding battle skilld,
  The monster stalks the terror of the field.
  From Gath he sprung, Goliath was his name,
  Of fierce deportment, and gigantic frame:
  A brazen helmet on his head was placd,
  A coat of mail his form terrific gracd,
  The greaves his legs, the targe his shoulders prest:
  Dreadful in arms high-towring oer the rest
  A spear he proudly wavd, whose iron head,
  Strange to relate, six hundred shekels weighd;
  He strode along, and shook the ample field,
  While Phoebus blazd refulgent on his shield:
  Through Jacobs race a chilling horror ran,
  When thus the huge, enormous chief began:
    Say, what the cause that in this proud array
  You set your battle in the face of day?
  One hero find in all your vaunting train,
  Then see who loses, and who wins the plain;
  For he who wins, in triumph may demand
  Perpetual service from the vanquishd land:
  Your armies I defy, your force despise,
  By far inferior in Philistias eyes:
  Produce a man, and let us try the fight,
  Decide the contest, and the victors right.
     Thus challengd he: all Israel stood amazd,
  And evry chief in consternation gazd;
  But Jesses son in youthful bloom appears,
  And warlike courage far beyond his years:
  He left the folds, he left the flowry meads,
  And soft recesses of the sylvan shades.
  Now Israels monarch, and his troops arise,
  With peals of shouts ascending to the skies;
  In Elahs vale the scene of combat lies.
    When the fair morning blushd with orient red,
  What Davids fire enjoind the son obeyd,
  And swift of foot towards the trench he came,
  Where glowd each bosom with the martial flame.
  He leaves his carriage to anothers care,
  And runs to greet his brethren of the war.
  While yet they spake the giant-chief arose,
  Repeats the challenge, and insults his foes:
  Struck with the sound, and trembling at the view,
  Affrighted Israel from its post withdrew.
  Observe ye this tremendous foe, they cryd,
  Who in proud vaunts our armies hath defyd:
  Whoever lays him prostrate on the plain,
  Freedom in Israel for his house shall gain;
  And on him wealth unknown the king will pour,
  And give his royal daughter for his dowr.
     Then Jesses youngest hope: My brethren say,
  What shall be done for him who takes away
  Reproach from Jacob, who destroys the chief.
  And puts a period to his countrys grief.
  He vaunts the honours of his arms abroad,
  And scorns the armies of the living God.
     Thus spoke the youth, th attentive people eyd
  The wondrous hero, and again replyd:
  Such the rewards our monarch will bestow,
  On him who conquers, and destroys his foe.
     Eliab heard, and kindled into ire
  To hear his shepherd brother thus inquire,
  And thus begun: What errand brought thee? say
  Who keeps thy flock? or does it go astray?
  I know the base ambition of thine heart,
  But back in safety from the field depart.
     Eliab thus to Jesses youngest heir,
  Expressd his wrath in accents most severe.
  When to his brother mildly he replyd.
  What have I done? or what the cause to chide?
    The words were told before the king, who sent
  For the young hero to his royal tent:
  Before the monarch dauntless he began,
  For this Philistine fail no heart of man:
  Ill take the vale, and with the giant fight:
  I dread not all his boasts, nor all his might.
   When thus the king: Darst thou a stripling go,
  And venture combat with so great a foe?
  Who all his days has been inurd to fight,
  And made its deeds his study and delight:
  Battles and bloodshed brought the monster forth,
  And clouds and whirlwinds usherd in his birth.
   When David thus: I kept the fleecy care,
  And out there rushd a lion and a bear;
  A tender lamb the hungry lion took,
  And with no other weapon than my crook
  Bold I pursud, and chas d him oer the field,
  The prey deliverd, and the felon killd:
  As thus the lion and the bear I slew,
  So shall Goliath fall, and all his crew:
  The God, who savd me from these beasts of prey,
  By me this monster in the dust shall lay.
   So David spoke.  The wondring king replyd;
  Go thou with heavn and victory on thy side:
  This coat of mail, this sword gird on, he said,
  And placd a mighty helmet on his head:
  The coat, the sword, the helm he laid aside,
  Nor chose to venture with those arms untryd,
  Then took his staff, and to the neighbring brook
  Instant he ran, and thence five pebbles took.
  Mean time descended to Philistias son
  A radiant cherub, and he thus begun:
  Goliath, well thou knowst thou hast defyd
  Yon Hebrew armies, and their God denyd:
  Rebellious wretch! audacious worm! forbear,
  Nor tempt the vengeance of their God too far:
  Them, who with his Omnipotence contend,
  No eye shall pity, and no arm defend:
  Proud as thou art, in short livd glory great,
  I come to tell thee thine approaching fate.
  Regard my words.  The Judge of all the gods,
  Beneath whose steps the towring mountain nods,
  Will give thine armies to the savage brood,
  That cut the liquid air, or range the wood.
  Thee too a well-aimd pebble shall destroy,
  And thou shalt perish by a beardless boy:
  Such is the mandate from the realms above,
  And should I try the vengeance to remove,
  Myself a rebel to my king would prove.
  Goliath say, shall grace to him be shown,
  Who dares heavns Monarch, and insults his throne?
     Your words are lost on me, the giant cries,
  While fear and wrath contended in his eyes,
  When thus the messenger from heavn replies:
  Provoke no more Jehovahs awful hand
  To hurl its vengeance on thy guilty land:
  He grasps the thunder, and, he wings the storm,
  Servants their sovreigns orders to perform.
     The angel spoke, and turnd his eyes away,
  Adding new radiance to the rising day.
    Now David comes: the fatal stones demand
  His left, the staff engagd his better hand:
  The giant movd, and from his towring height
  Surveyd the stripling, and disdaind the fight,
  And thus began: Am I a dog with thee?
  Bringst thou no armour, but a staff to me?
  The gods on thee their vollied curses pour,
  And beasts and birds of prey thy flesh devour.
     David undaunted thus, Thy spear and shield
  Shall no protection to thy body yield:
  Jehovahs nameno other arms I bear,
  I ask no other in this glorious war.
  To-day the Lord of Hosts to me will give
  Victry, to-day thy doom thou shalt receive;
  The fate you threaten shall your own become,
  And beasts shall be your animated tomb,
  That all the earths inhabitants may know
  That theres a God, who governs all below:
  This great assembly too shall witness stand,
  That needs nor sword, nor spear, th Almightys
  The battle his, the conquest he bestows,
  And to our powr consigns our hated foes.
     Thus David spoke; Goliath heard and came
  To meet the hero in the field of fame.
  Ah! fatal meeting to thy troops and thee,
  But thou wast deaf to the divine decree;
  Young David meets thee, meets thee not in vain;
  Tis thine to perish on th ensanguind plain.
    And now the youth the forceful pebble slung
  Philistia trembled as it whizzd along:
  In his dread forehead, where the helmet ends,
  Just oer the brows the well-aimd stone descends,
  It piercd the skull, and shatterd all the brain,
  Prone on his face he tumbled to the plain:
  Goliaths fall no smaller terror yields
  Than riving thunders in aerial fields:
  The soul still lingred in its lovd abode,
  Till conqring David oer the giant strode:
  Goliaths sword then laid its master dead,
  And from the body hewd the ghastly head;
  The blood in gushing torrents drenchd the plains,
  The soul found passage through the spouting veins.
    And now aloud th illustrious victor said,
  Where are your boastings now your champions
   Scarce had he spoke, when the Philistines fled:
  But fled in vain; the conquror swift pursud:
  What scenes of slaughter! and what seas of blood!
  There Saul thy thousands graspd th impurpled sand
  In pangs of death the conquest of thine hand;
  And David there were thy ten thousands laid:
  Thus Israels damsels musically playd.
    Near Gath and Edron many an hero lay,
  Breathd out their souls, and cursd the light of day:
  Their fury, quenchd by death, no longer burns,
  And David with Goliaths head returns,
  To Salem brought, but in his tent he placd
  The load of armour which the giant gracd.
  His monarch saw him coming from the war,
  And thus demanded of the son of Ner.
  Say, who is this amazing youth? he cryd,
  When thus the leader of the host replyd;
  As lives thy soul I know not whence he sprung,
  So great in prowess though in years so young:
   Inquire whose son is he, the sovreign said,
  Before whose conqring arm Philistia fled.
   Before the king behold the stripling stand,
  Goliaths head depending from his hand:
  To him the king: Say of what martial line
  Art thou, young hero, and what sire was thine?
   He humbly thus; The son of Jesse I:
  I came the glories of the field to try.
  Small is my tribe, but valiant in the fight;
  Small is my city, but thy royal right.
   Then take the promisd gifts, the monarch cryd,
  Conferring riches and the royal bride:
  Knit to my soul for ever thou remain
  With me, nor quit my regal roof again.

Phillis Wheatley's other poems:
  1. A Funeral Poem on the Death of C. E. an Infant of Twelve Months
  2. On the Death of a Young Gentleman
  3. A Hymn to the Evening
  4. On Virtue
  5. Thoughts on the Works of Providence

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