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The Missing Cross to Purity


Thomas Ellwood's

DAVIDEIS

The Life of King David in Poetry

Continued

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BOOK IV

 

Chapter I


Tho' the sharp sentence, which in too great haste
Th'unwitting king upon himself had placed,
Was mitigated by the clemency
Of David's God, that David might not die;
Yet did the prophet in God's name declare
That he would evil against him prepare,
Which should in his own family arise,
And on him bring the sorest exercise.

This was the doom, though more at large exprest,
By which poor David was to be distrest,
Which, though protracted, yet would certain be;
For who can alter a divine decree?
Judgments denounced may linger; but at length
They fall more heavy, and with greater strength;
Sometimes the stroke does at a distance stand,
Yet that which brings it on is near at hand;

So in this case some years did intervene
Between the sentence and the tragic scene;
Yet that which led thereto did closely lurk,
And in short time did thus bring on the work.

Of all the many sons which David had,
Amnon, the eldest, was a topping lad,
Who of the Jezreelite, Ahinoam,
Was born soon after she to Hebron came.
A daughter also David had, whose name
Was Tamar, a most beautiful young dame;
Sister she was to Absalom the fair,
David's third son, so noted for his hair.

On this half-sister-princess Amnon cast
A wanton eye; affection grew so fast
Upon him, that, not daring to discover,
For shame or fear, what an unlawful lover
He was; he pined away, his cheeks grew pale,
His flesh did waste, his strength began to fail;
The fiery passion, in his bosom pent,
Did inward burn, for want of outward vent.

A friend he had, who unto him was near
Of kin, a friend peculiarly dear,
His father's brother's son, named Jonadab,
Quick-sighted, and too wise to be a blab.

He well observing how from day to day
His princely kinsman pined and fell away;

For which, since he no outward cause could find,
Concluded something did afflict his mind;
Wherefore, a proper season having got,
He put the question close, inquiring what
It was that on his nature did prevail,
So as to make his countenance look pale,
And flesh decay; imploring not to hide
Ought from his friend in whom he might confide.

Prince Amnon, by his friend thus closely prest,
His love, though not without a blush, confest;
The princess Tamar 'tis, said he, I love:—
Oh, that my love should so eccentric move!
I love my own half-sister, who did spring
From the same root, as I myself, the king;
I love, ah me! I love, yet love in vain,
Hopeless the object of my love to gain.
This is my case; the heat of my desire
Consumes my nature, sets me all on fire.

When Jonadab, than whom no man alive
Knew better how a mischief to contrive,
Had heard the case, he soon discovered what
Would Amnon please, and thus he laid the plot:

Go, take your bed, said he, and for a trick,
Put on your night-cap, pretend that you are sick;
And when your father comes to see you, say,
Give leave, I pray, my sister Tamar may
Come to me, and before me dress some meat,
That seeing her prepare it, I may eat.

He went no farther; for he knew the prince
Was quick enough to understand his sense;
And if he could but draw the longed-for dame
Within his reach, knew how to quench his flame.

Amnon, the counsel liking, forthwith took
His bed upon it, and, with puling look,
Dissembled sickness; quickly the report
Of Amnon's illness reached the royal court.

The king in haste to Amnon does repair,
To see his ailing son, the kingdom's heir;
This gave fair room for Amnon to request
He might eat something by his sister dressed;
The king consents, and does his mind declare,
That Tamar should to Amnon's house repair,
And there, by his direction, dress such meat
For him, as he, poor heart! could like to eat.

The princess Tamar did no sooner hear
Her father's order, but with filial fear,
And nimble steps, she to her brother hies,
Who on his bed, dissembling sickness, lies;
She asked him how he did, and did bemoan
His danger; but more justly might her own.
The courteous mien, fresh beauty of the dame,
Did more and more the lecher's lust inflame:
She asked him what he would please to have her make
For him to eat; he pitched upon a cake:
She to the work addressed herself with haste,
Tempered the flour, and wrought it into paste:

Her milk-white hands, and slender fingers, frame
The pliant paste, till it a cake became;
Then having baked it also at his fire,
(Each turn and motion height'ning his desire),
She brought it to him; but he put it by,
His room was overfilled with company:
But order given that it cleared should be,
And none left in it but himself and she;
He then requested that she would draw near
And bring the mess; she did so without fear.
But when, alas! within his reach she came,
He laid fast hold upon the lovely dame;
Then taking her about the neck, he kissed her,
And bluntly said, ‘Come lie with me, my sister.’

Surprised, the damsel trembled, and would willing
Have from him got; she strove, but strove in vain;
He held her fast; she then began to plead,
And for her honor, thus did intercede:

‘Oh! force me not, my brother! I entreat
‘Thee to consider, that the sin is great;
‘Great in itself, greater in you to me,
‘So nearly linked by consanguinity;
‘Forbear, I pray forbear, thy lust restrain;
‘Thine honour, mine, our father's, do not stain
‘With such infamy; you know full well,
‘No such thing may be borne in Israel.
‘Should you defile me, where could I abide!
‘Where find a hole my shamed head to hide!

‘You too, the heir of our great father's crown,
‘Born to the kingdom, bred in high renown,
‘Thy father's darling, and the people's joy,
‘What will become of you, if you destroy
‘Their hopes by perpetrating such a crime
‘As this? well might you future curse the time
‘You ever saw Tamar; for you then (ah me!)
‘But as a fool in Israel would be;
‘Regard your honour, mine, our family,
‘And rob me not of my virginity:
‘Force me not, brother, force me not; but rather
‘Ask me in marriage of our royal father;
‘He to bestow me on you will not fail:—
‘O let my prayers and tears with you prevail!’

This said, she with her tears bedewed his face;
But he, whom lust had quite bereft of grace,
Her most importune prayers would not hear,
But to her supplications stopped his ear,
And being stronger, did by force deflowerd
The princely dame, resisting to her power.

Great is the difference between lawful love
And lawless lust. That does itself approve,
By its effects to be indeed divine,
As having a cœlestial origin;
That constant is, and by enjoyment grows
Still stronger, which its innate virtue shows:

But the other, which is miscalled love, and must,
If rightly named, be styled filthy lust,

From sensual concupiscence does flow,
Which shews its parentage is from below;
This likes to take a taste of every one,
Dally with all, but constant be to none;
And this, how hot soever it does burn,
After enjoyment, can to hatred turn.

Such love was Amnon's, whose uncurbed desire,
After his sister, set him all on fire;
He burned, he flamed, consumed, and needs would die,
Unless he might with his own sister lie;
Yet, when he once his brutish end had gained,
And, by a rape, his sister's honour stained,
He, in a moment, changed his amorous theme,
And flew as high in the opposite extreme;
He, who but now was over hot and bold,
Is now become to her exceeding cold;
He, that in nothing else could take delight,
But her fair face, now loaths and shuns the sight;
She, who before his heart did captivate,
Is now become the object of his hate;
He hates her now; he hates her now much more,
With perfect hatred, than he loved before;
He hates her so, he can't her presence bear,
But every hour she stays, he thinks a year;
That nothing might to shew his hate be lacking,
He rudely bids her—up, away, be packing.

This surly carriage added to the grief
She had before, nor knew she where relief,

Oppressed, to find; she told him, on her part,
There was no cause he thus should break her heart;
Wished him to weigh whether this would not bring
Greater displeasure on him from the king.

He the deaf ear to all she said did turn,
And churlishly did at her counsel spurn;
Then called his man, and sternly bid him put
That woman out, and fast the door to shut.
He did so. She, poor princess, did lament
The double injury; forthwith she rent
Her royal robe, of several colors made,
With which king's virgin-daughters were arrayed;
The lovely tresses of her well-set hair,
Her trembling fingers, through deep sorrow tare:
Then putting ashes on her head, she laid
Her hand thereon, and mournful accents made,
While to her brother Absalom's she went,
Where she more freely might her case lament.

As soon as Absalom the ravished dame
Did see, well knowing also where she came,
He straight suspecting what had her befell,
Begged of her that she would not stick to tell
Him how it was with her; whether Amnon had
Abused her, and from there she was so sad.
She, blushing, rather to acknowledge, chose
Her wrong by looks, than shame by words disclose,
He understood her; and considering
How dear prince Amnon was unto the king;

How high in favour of the court and town
He stood as heir-apparent to the crown,
Concluded in himself 'twould be but vain
To hope for justice, if she should complain;
Therefore he wished his sister to conceal
The wrong sustained, until he could deal
With Amnon for it: she submits to wait;
And lived with him, but much disconsolate.

Absalom's guess was right, that it would be vain,
For Tamar of prince Amnon to complain
Unto the king; for though he very wroth
Is said to be, yet was he no less loath,
When to his ear this foul transgression came,
To lay on Amnon punishment or shame.

But Absalom did bear the thing in mind,
And in due time to be revenged designed;
For in his heart he could not choose but hate
The man that dared his sister violate,
How near, or high soever: such a stain
Will hardly be got out till he is slain
That gave it; therefore Absalom is set
Amnon to kill, when he fit time can get.

Chapter II


TWICE had the restless and unwearied sun
His yearly course throughout the zodiack run,
Before Absalom a season fit could find,
To execute the vengeance he designed
On Amnon for the wickedness he wrought,
In the dishonour he on Tamar brought;
But now a sit occasion did present,
And he to take it too, was fully bent.

A great sheep-shearing, at his country seat,
Had Absalom, at which a noble treat
He meant to make, and there to invite
The king and court, then Amnon there to smite.

To court he hastens, and acquaints the king,
In humble manner, with his sheep-shearing;
Entreats that he, at the set time and place,
His feast would with his royal presence grace.

To suit his state, and his retinue large,
The king considered, would enhance the charge;
He pleaded this, and handsomely refused,
And hoped his son would hold the king excused.


It suited well; and sure he liked it best,
Without the king, so Amnon were his guest;
Amnon, for whom the entertainment's made,
Whom to destroy, the subtle train is laid.
Yet crafty Absalom, the more to hide
His bloody purpose, still himself applied
With greater earnestness to gain the king
To come, and with him all his sons to bring,
But all in vain; the king will not be won
By his entreaties to oppress his son;
Yet, that he might his good acceptance show,
His blessing he upon him did bestow.

Then Absalom, by this emboldened, prest
To let his brother Amnon be his guest.
Why Amnon? asked the king. Because, said he,
Amnon, in dignity, is next to thee .
The gentle king, from all suspicion free,
And overcome by importunity,
Yields, that not Amnon only, but the rest
Of the king's sons should go at his request.

The point thus gained, now Absalom does part
From court, and hastes with unrelenting heart,
Unto his country seat, that he might there
The proper means to his design prepare.

Then of his servants, calling to him such,
As in his cause, he knew would never grutch.

Their lives to lose; he thus the matter breaks,
And in such terms as these his purpose speaks:

‘Mark well (said he) when Amnon at the feast,
‘Shall have drunk high, and over-charged his breast
‘With gen'rous wine; when I say, Amnon smite,
‘Fall on, strike home, fear not, but kill him quite:
‘Remember, it is I that give command;
‘Be valiant then, and to your weapons stand.’

Accordingly, his brethren being come,
And all the guests, to feast with Absalom,
He, that he Amnon might the more beguile,
His hatred hiding with a feigned smile,
Embraced, caressed him, and for special grace,
He straight preferred him to the chiefest place;
Plied him with sprightly wines, till he perceived
The wine had him of sense well nigh bereaved,
Then starting up, he gave the fatal word,
‘Smite Amnon.’ Forthwith each assassin's sword
Was sheathed in him, ev'ry one let fly
At Amnon, until Amnon dead did lie.

But oh! the dreadful tumult that it made
Among the guests! each held himself betrayed;
The royal stock were most of all perplexed,
Of whom each feared his turn would be the next,
Which to prevent, all to their mules did hie,
And back to court, fear adding wings, did fly.

But tho,' with utmost speed they cut their way,
Yet long-tongued Fame made greater haste than they,
The babbling dame before them got to court,
And of the sad disaster made report;
And as her nature is to magnify
Th'ill news she bears, not sticking at a lye,
She, to exaggerate the crime, did feign
That Absalom had all his brothers slain,
So that not one of them alive was left,
But of his sons the king was quite bereft.

Such doleful news sufficient was to shake
The strongest mind, and make the heart to ake;
The king with garments rent, upon the ground
Himself did cast, his sorrows did abound,
And all his servants, with their garments rent,
The loss of so much royal blood lament.

This Jonadab observing, he who gave
The counsel which brought Amnon to his grave,
He begged the king not to believe that all
His sons were slain, Amnon alone did fall;
That this which he related was most true,
He could assure him; for, said he, I knew,
Long since that Absalom, from the very hour
Wherein his brother Amnon did deflow'r
His sister Tamar, had his death designed,
And only waited until he could find
A season for't, which since he now did gain,
He caused his brother Amnon to be slain,

Thereby to sacrifice, to Tamar's honour,
Him that had brought so great reproach upon her.

By that time Jonadab his tale had told,
Which scarce as yet could gain belief, behold
The king's sons entered, in a frightful maze,
And on the king, as he on them, did gaze,
Until he and they into loud weeping brake,
And in sad accents mutual sorrow spake.

Mean-while young Absalom, to save his head
From stroke of justice, for protection fled
Unto his grandfather's, king Talmai's court,
Where he might hope for safety and support:
But David long did Amnon's death bewail,
Which yet could not Uriah's countervail.

This is the second instance may be given
Of the fulfiling that decree of heaven,
By God denounced on David, when he says,
“From your own house, against you sev'ral ways,
“I'll evil bring.”—First, Amnon did deflower
His daughter Tamar, put into his power
By him; than which, ah! what more foul dishonor,
Poor, harmless princess, could have come upon her?
What home-bred mischief on himself could fall,
Which could a worthy mind more deeply gall?

This seemed the first; and scarcely two years after
His son and heir had thus defiled his daughter,

That injury her brother did repay,
And in revenge the wretched Amnon slay.
Had David justice upon Amnon done,
He might have mended, and not lost his son.
This was a cutting evil, and must need
Strike deep, and cause a father's heart to bleed:
This was the second stroke, by which that word
Was verified:—David, beware the third.

Chapter II


NOW had prince Absalom three winters spent
At Geshur, whither he for safety went,
When David, having for his Amnon shed
A flood of tears; but seeing he was dead,
His grief subsides, and soon paternal love,
Its place resuming, in his breast does move
To Absalom, right heir to Israel's throne,
Now Amnon's dead, and Chileah also gone.

This hankering mind, Joab's observing eye,
Did in the king, his uncle, soon espy,
And being glad to find it, sought a way
How he might Absalom to court convey,
Not doubting but, if he could that obtain,
The royal favour he would soon regain;
This to effect, a wily train he laid
The king to circumvent; who, thus betrayed,

Unwittingly should pardon Absalom,
And that once done, should then recall him home.

To Tekoah he sent, where then did dwell
A woman who in wisdom did excel;
Her he instructed, when arrived, to dress
Herself in mourning weeds; then get access
To David's presence, and before him feign
She mourned, for a son of her's was slain
By his own brother, whom the family
Rose up against, condemning him to die;
Then, to beseech the king her son to save
From being buried in his brother's grave.

Instructed thus, she to the court did go,
And, as a suppliant, herself did throw
At the king's feet; and being asked the case,
Her artful tale she told, which took such place
In the unwary king, that thus he spake:
‘Go home; and proper care for you I'll take.’
She, glad of this, did yet her suit renew,
Once and again, until the king she drew
To say, ‘Thy son for this shan't lose an hair;’
And this he did not only say, but sware.

When thus the wily dame the king had wrought
To grant unwittingly the thing she sought,
Obtaining leave, the matter home did bring,
And fairly did apply it to the king;
Told him, that he was that avenger, whom
She feared, on the behalf of Absalom,

Besought him to consider, that unless
He pardoned him, and did his people bless
With their beloved Absalom; nor he
From danger could, nor they from fear be free;
She begged that he, as father and as king,
Would pardon Absalom, and home would bring
His banished, and him again restore
Unto the grace in which he stood before.

The king, himself now finding over-reached,
As once before, when Nathan to him preached
That saving sermon; with this odds, that he
Was guilty then, but now from guilt was free;
Injoined the woman, that she should not hide
From him the thing he asked, but should confide
In him; that he would no advantage take
Against her; she consenting, thus he spake,
‘Is not the hand of Joab in this thing?’
She owned it was. Then Joab hither bring,
The king replied.—And Joab being come,
He gave command, ‘Go fetch the young man home.’

The general's countenance his joy displayed,
And thanks returned, and low obeisance made;
To Geshur's splendid court with speed he flies;
The prince received him with a glad surprise:
The welcome news through all the court resounds;
The joy was gen'ral, yet in decent bounds,
On Absalom's account, who ever since
He came to Geshur, like a noble prince,

Himself conducted wisely and so well,
No complaisance could Absalom's excel;
So gentle, courteous, and so princely fair;
Each heart was gained by his obliging air;
His smiles were honours, ev'ry courtier strove,
Himself to render worthy of his love.
This him to them so feelingly endears,
They could not think of parting without tears;
Yet go he must: affection, friendship, all
Must vail, and yield to a paternal call:
Tho' duty seemed to claim the greatest share,
Yet int'rest here no little weight did bear.

With Joab therefore Absalom returns
From Geshur to Jerusalem, and burns
With thirsty hopes, and expectation great,
Of highest favour from the royal seat.

But, Oh! the disappointment it must bring
To his aspiring mind, when from the king,
Joab returning, let him understand,
It was to him the king's express command,
That he should straight to his own house resort,
And not attempt to shew himself at court.
For well the king considered 'twas not meet,
Although his love was great, his son should see't,
Nor that he him to special grace should take,
Who had so lately made his heart to ake.

Though, therefore, circumvented by a wile,
He had recalled him from his self-exile,

And saved his life from danger of the law,
He held it best to keep him still in awe,
Hoping, in time, he to a better sense,
Might thereby bring him of his great offence.

When two full years prince Absalom had lain
Under confinement, not without disdain,
That he had not been allowed in that space
His father to salute, or see his face;
Impatient of restraint, he now did send
For Joab, both his kinsman and his friend,
To try if he, howe'er he sped, would bring
Him to the longed-for presence of the king.

But truly Joab, who perhaps might find,
How to his son the king did stand inclined,
Would not at first, nor second summons come;
Which usage so provoked prince Absalom,
That he resolved, since fair means seemed to fail,
He would try by rougher methods to prevail;
He bid his servants, therefore, set on fire
A field of Joab's. Joab, to inquire
The cause of this abuse, did quickly come,
And this blunt answer had from Absalom:

‘You know I for you sent, once and again,
‘But you from coming to me did refrain,
‘No other means being left, I this did take,
‘To see if int'rest would you kinder make;
‘You to the king now allow me to send,
‘And beg him to my life to be put to end,

‘Rather than under this restraint me keep,
‘Confined so, that abroad I may not peep.
‘Why did you me, a most unhappy wretch!
‘From grandsire Talmai's court in Geshur fetch,
‘Under pretence, that I should be restored
‘Unto the favour of my royal lord?
‘Better it were, I there might go back,
‘Where I nor liberty, nor love, did lack,
‘Than here remain, where I no comfort have,
‘But what arises from a hoped for grave;
‘Therefore beseech the king I once did grace,
‘With the fair aspect of his royal face;
‘If live I may not in his gracious eye,
‘Let me not live at all; I choose to die.’

Though Joab gladly would himself excuse
From going on this errand; yet refuse
He knew not how; the prince hard presses for it,
And he overcome, does trudge away to court.
Come there, he a proper season waits,
And then so aptly to the king relates,
The moving case of his beloved son;
His father's fondness soon he gained upon,
Affection helped his judgment to betray,
And to the prince's suit prepares the way;
For now affection made his judgment doubt,
If he against his son should still hold out,
He might endanger, ere he was aware,
The driving of his son into despair;
Wherefore he ordered Joab straight to bring
Absalom to his presence; th'only thing

By both desired. Joab, o'erjoyed, does haste
To Absalom, and brings him back as fast.
He to the king does all submission show,
And at his royal feet himself does throw;
The king in kindness lifts him from the ground,
Glad such humility in him was found;
Embraces and salutes him with a kiss,
In sign he pardoned what he had done amiss.

Chapter IV


OH, the intemp'rance of the ambitious mind!
To no due bounds or medium confined!
How does it swell! how does it soar on high!
As if it willing would climb above the sky.

This topping temper soon itself did show
In Absalom, and wrought his overthrow.
He that at home, confined but t'other day,
Greatly depressed in mind, obscurely lay,
O'erwhelmed almost with grief and cold despair,
No sooner felt the warmth of courtly air,
But as the winter-fly, whom heat does bring
To sense, begins to buz and take the wing;
So he the royal favour feeling, straight
Took wing, and soared above his proper state.


Unsteady nature, varying like the wind,
Hurries to each extreme the unstable mind;
At sea becalmed, we wish some brisker gales
Would on us rise, and fill our limber sails:
We have our wish; and straight our skiff is tossed
So high, we are in danger to be lost.
At land we would be foremost, make a stir,
And ride at neck-and-all, with whip, and spur;
We would be, would have all, are loath to stay
For future rights, 'till Providence make way.

This is the nature of ambitious man,
Soaring as fast, as high too as he can;
Whereas, would we but bridle our desire,
Until the due time, we might rise safely higher.

This was the ruin of this goodly prince,
Let loose too soon; his lofty mind e'er since,
Aimed nothing lower than the highest seat,
Thought nothing for himself, too good or great;
He on the crown looked with a longing eye,
Nor spake, nor dreamed of ought but monarchy,
And whensoever he saw the royal throne,
Could scarce forbear to call that seat his own;
His own it might have been, would he have staid
Until his father's head was fairly laid;
But his impatience thought each day a year,
Each year an age, until the throne was clear;
Nor would he stay 'till Providence should make
His way to the crown, but his own way would take.


Accordingly, he did assume such state,
As far transcends the highest subject's rate;
Horses he did, and chariots too provide,
And fifty men, in whom he could confide,
To run before him; which might seem to be
Either for state, or for security.
High state it shewed, if these his lackeys were;
A strong defence, if he did them prepare
For his life-guard. On which soever account
It was, it did a subject's state surmount.

This pomp, however, made the people gaze,
And in the mob did admiration raise;
For vulgar eyes with gaudy shews are caught,
And, from admiring, to submission brought;
But he had no other ways to circumvent
The better sort, and thus to work he went:

Early each morn he to the court would go,
And there, beside the gate, would stand, that so
Whatever suitor to the king did come
For judgment, must pass by prince Absalom;
Then would he call him near, and ask his name,
What his affair might be, and where he came;
Then feigning a concern the matter might
Go well, he did say, ‘Take care your cause be right:’
But then with down-cast look, and shaking head,
Added, ‘The king has no man in his stead
‘Deputed you to hear;’ so that though right
Your cause should be, you do suffer by might.

Then, in a kind of discontented tone,
As if he did the people's case bemoan,
He did mutter something; then would make a stop,
And in a softer tone this wish would drop:—
‘Would I were made chief justice in the land!
‘That every man who has a cause in hand,
‘Might come to me, and I would do him right,
‘How poor soever; none should oppress by might;
‘Would I were on the bench, that I from there
‘Might equal justice unto all dispense!’

When thus himself he had artfully extolled,
And thereby the poor suitor had cajolled
To bow before him, and obeisance make,
Into his arms he would the client take,
Hug, and embrace him, nor would him dismiss
Till he had charmed him with a treacherous kiss.

Thus did the son, by such alluring arts,
Bereave the father of his people's hearts,
And draw them to himself; while the good king,
Of all things, least suspected such a thing.

By this time Absalom is thought to be
Forty years old, and finding now that he
So strong a party had, that he dared venture
Upon the crown, by force of arms to enter,
And drive his too kind father from the throne,
Which he, among his faction, called his own;
He held it best, yet policy to use,
His royal parent further to abuse,

And gain some time, from his beguiled father,
That so he might his scattered forces gather,
Unto a gen'ral rendezvous, and then
Pour on the king a mighty host of men.

For this end, therefore, to the court he went,
And that he might be sure to circumvent
The king, this feigned tale he did devise,
His treason with religion to disguise.

‘While I at Geshur did an exile live,
‘I vowed a vow, that if the Lord would give
‘Me favour in your sight, and bring me home,
‘That I in peace unto this place might come,
‘Then would I to the Lord an offering make
‘At Hebron, where I life at first did take;
‘Now, therefore, gracious sire, be pleased, I pray,
‘To grant your servant leave, that go I may
‘To Hebron, and perform the vow I made
‘Unto the Lord.’ The good king thus betrayed
By feigned words, said, ‘Go in peace.’ He might
Have better said, ‘Come back in peace at night.’
But wise men, good men, allowed are sometimes
To fall into the snares their former crimes
Have for them laid; thus this unwitting king
Helps forward that which must upon him bring
The judgment long since giv'n; Uriah's blood (Sam 12)
Is not yet silenced, but still cries aloud.


To Hebron now prince Absalom does post,
And sends his scouts abroad, through every coast
Of Israel, that they might notice give
To all his friends who did dispersed live
In all the tribes; that when they once should hear
The trumpet sound, they should for him appear
In arms embodied, and wherever they came
Among their neighbours they should him proclaim,
And that not faintly, but in lofty strain,
Say, ‘Absalom does now in Hebron reign.’

With Absalom too from Jerus'lem went
Two hundren chosen men, who his intent
Knew nothing of, but went unto his feast,
By which his strength and numbers were increased;
For these were men of choice abilities
For war; as well to fight, as to advise.

But he for counsel chiefly did rely
Upon Ahithophel, whose fame so high
Was in esteem, that whatsoever he said
Was as the oracle of God obeyed;
Him who had counsellor to David been,
Absalom now did to his faction win;
And from his city, Giloh, did the wretch
To his head-quarters now at Hebron fetch;
And now this foul conspiracy grew strong,
The people did so thick to Hebron throng.

Chapter V


WHILE thus the son, with a disloyal mind,
His father to dethrone by force designed,
Some loyal subject, who had notice got
Of both the preparation and the plot,
Sped to the court, that he might timely bring
The news, howe'er unwelcome to the king,
That he might not, although he were betrayed,
At unawares be slain, or prisoner made.

Half breathless rushing in, he therefore said,
‘Alas! my lord, O king, you are betrayed!
‘The men of Israel are from you rent,
‘And Absalom to crown are fully bent;
‘Him they already have proclaimed king,
‘And mean your scepter from your hand to wring;
‘So universally they take his part,
‘As if in this they all had but one heart,
‘And he is drawing out his troops apace,
‘As if he aimed to seize you in this place.’

So strange a message, so unthought a thing,
No wonder if it did surprise the king;
Yet did it not from him his judgment take,
Nor him so wholly void of counsel make,
But that he thought 'twas better leave the city,
Than hazard it unto the rebel's pity.

Calling his servants, therefore, ‘Come,’ said he,
‘Since we're betrayed, arise and let us flee;
‘If Absalom should find us in this place,
‘He'll sack the town, perhaps, if not deface
‘The royal buildings, and, us to despite,
‘The people also, that are in it, smite.
‘Whereas, if we be gone, us he'll pursue,
‘So place and people may that hurt eschew.’

This said, and in his house ten women left,
He, of his native courage not bereft,
Marched forth; his household-servants him attend,
And unto Kidron-brook their course they bend.

When there arrived, his little troop he musters,
More like the gleanings than the thickset clusters
Of a full vintage; yet enongh to shew
He had some friends yet left, though but a few.

Besides his household, which was large, went o'er
Six hundred fighting men, who long before
Had been companions of his suff'ring state
Under king Saul, and whom no adverse fate
Could make to flinch, or so far to transgress
The bounds of loyalty, as in distress
To leave him; these his veteran soldiers were,
And in his cause, would sell their lives full dear;
These were his life-guards, men of wond'rous might,
Strong, hardy, brave, and valiant in fight.


With these the gallant Ittai did consort
The noble Gittite lately come to court;
The king observing him approach the brook,
Thus kindly to the gen'rous alien spoke:
‘Why should you unhappily take a part
‘In my misfortunes, who a stranger art
‘But lately come; return into the city,
‘You yet are safe; and it would be great pity
‘That I should draw you into danger, who
‘Neither knows what to do, nor where to go;
‘Take back your brethren, therefore, and abide
‘With the new king, until God the cause decide,
‘And for the kindness you to me do show,
‘May truth and mercy always with you go.’

The noble Gittite, with a brave disdain,
Heard out the king; but then could not refrain
From telling him how much himself he held
In honour bound to serve him in the field;
He, therefore, solemnly protested, that
He would not leave him in his adverse state,
But, with his leave, wherever he should bend
His course, he would upon him there attend;
Come life or death, he never would him forsake,
But with him to the last his lot would take.

So brave a resolution needs must cheer
The king, not much inurred to let in fear;
Then passing on together without stay,
They to the wilderness direct their way.


But Zadock and Abiathar, who were
At that time priests, and of the ark took care,
Fearing some injury it might receive,
If at Jerusalem they it should leave,
Had brought it with them; which when David saw,
He stopped, and with a reverential awe,
To Zadock said, ‘Bear back the ark again
‘Into its place, and let it there remain;
‘For, if the Lord should me vouchsafe the grace,
‘That I once more with joy may see his face,
‘He'll bring me back, and I shall then behold
‘His habitation, as in days of old.
‘But if he thus say, “I have no delight
“In David;”—lo, I stand here in his sight,
‘Ready to bear, with unrepining mind,
‘What he to do to me, shall be inclined;
‘For well I know his judgments all are just,
‘And in his mercy I repose my trust.’

The ark disposed; yet was not David clear,
He something had to say in Zadock's ear;
He therefore asked him, ‘Are you not a seer?
‘You, and Abiathar too, your peer?
‘You, therefore, both will out of danger be,
‘Your office giving you immunity;
‘Return into Jerusalem, and stay
‘As near to Absalom as well you may;
‘Explore his counsels, pick up what you can,
‘And send it to me by some trusty man;
‘Your son and his, fit messengers may be
‘To bring intelligence from you to me;

‘I in the plain above will stay until
‘I hear from you how things go, well or ill.’

Then parting, with the ark the priests go back;
The king went forward, though with pace but slack;
Grief now seized deeper, from a sense that he,
Must from the ark of God thus banished be,
And that by his own son (rebellious child!
To whom he had ever been but over mild)
But then considering, that the Lord his God
Did him chastise in mercy with his rod,
He called to mind Uriah's blood, and wept,
Watering with tears the ground whereon he stepped;
Barefoot he went, and had his hoary head,
Sure sign of highest grief, close covered;
But when he had, at length, attained the top
Of Olivet, he there did make a stop,
And worshipped the Lord with humble heart,
Kissing the sacred hand which made him smart.

While here he stayed, good Hushai came to meet him,
And with his kind condoling strains did greet him;
Hushai, his faithful servant and true friend,
Whom hearty sorrow made his garment rend,
And earth to lay upon his mournful head;
Hushai at court, to courtly counsels bred,
Hushai than whom, the king no servant had,
More able, nor to serve his lord more glad.

The king at sight, concluding where he best
Might be disposed, to serve his interest,

Said to him, ‘If you pass on with me,
‘You unto me will but a burden be;
‘Go, therefore, to the city, and salute
‘King Absalom; that done, prefer your suit,
‘That you may be his servant, as you were
‘His father's faithful servant in days reserve;
‘By this means you the counsels of the great
‘Ahithophel may, for my good, defeat.’
Then him directing how he might convey
Intelligence, each took his proper way.

Not far had David gone beyond the top
Of Olive's mount, when he another stop
Was willing to make; there Ziba ready stood,
Holding two asses, laden both with food,
Fine manchet, summer fruits, and luscious wine,
Whereon the king might, when he pleased, dine.

Well might the king suppose this present came
From his friend's son, Mephibosheth the lame,
Since Ziba brought it, who full well he knew
Was steward to Mephibosheth. This drew
The king to ask, ‘Where is your master's son,
‘That he came not?’ False Ziba thereupon
Replied, ‘He at Jerusalem does stay,
‘Blown up with hopes; nor did he stick to say,—
‘Now shall the house of Israel restore
‘To me the crown which my grandfather wore.’

The king, not Ziba's treachery suspecting,
Too easily believed him; and reflecting

On the detestable ingratitude,
Which he supposed Mephibosheth had showed,
Not having time to hear the cause, forsook
The course of justice, and, for granted, took
The proofless charge of a designing knave,
And thereupon a partial judgment gave;
Whereby he from the innocent, unheard,
Took all he had, and all that all conferred
On the unjust accuser, who deserved
A rope much rather, had not justice swerved.
The fawning traitor having sped so well,
Upon his knees before king David fell,
And, full o'th'wond'rous gratitude he feigned,
Gave thanks for what his treachery had gained.

Near Bahurim, as David passed, appeared
A rude insulter of the vulgar herd,
From Saul descended, Shimei by name,
Who loudly railed, and cursed as he came.
‘Come out,’ said he, ‘come out, you man of blood,
‘You son of Belial, who too long has stood;
‘The Lord has now returned upon you all
‘The guiltless blood, which in the house of Saul
‘Has by your means been shed; the kingdom you
‘Usurped had, is taken from you now,
‘And given to your son; you taken are
‘In the devices of your evil heart.’

Nor stayed he here. From words he fell to blows;
Both dust and stones he at king David throws,

And on his servants, who about him were
On either side; to whom it was hard to bear.

Abishai, David's nephew, seemed to take
This most to heart, and thus the king bespake:
‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?
‘Let me go to him, and his head I'll bring.’

But David (who, although right well he knew,
That railing Shimei's charge was quite untrue,
So far as he unto the house of Saul
Applied it, where he had no guilt at all;
Yet, in the book of conscience daily read
His guilt and doom, for blood unjustly shed,
Uriah's blood, for which he knew full well,
This judgment from the Lord upon him fell)
Would not permit Abishai, for his sake,
Vengeance on cursing Shimei to take.
‘Let him curse on,’ said he; ‘for if he curse
‘By God's command, who can think him the worse?
‘Don't you behold,’ said he, ‘that my own son,
‘Who from my bowels sprang, and cause has none,
‘Usurps my throne, has kindled mortal strife
‘Among my subject, yes, and seeks my life?
‘How much more then may this rude Benjamite
‘Be borne with, though he does me great despite!
‘Let him alone. If God has bid him curse,
‘It may, perhaps, for me be never the worse;
‘Who knows, but that the Lord on me may look
‘With pity, when he sees how well I took

‘Th'affliction he laid on me; and with good
‘May me requite, for Shimei's cursing mood.’

Chapter VI


BY this time to Jerusalem was come,
In royal equipage, king Absalom;
Leading, besides his train, a numerous host
Of armed men, drawn out of every coast.

Among his friends, who made the greatest haste
Him to salute, Hushai was not the last,
He coming to his presence, cried aloud,
‘God save the king, God save the king,’ and bowed;
Under which words he might his meaning hide,
For they might well to David be applied.

Absalom had a mind, it seems, to try
Whether he safely might on him rely,
Wherefore he, at first meeting, on him played,
And, with a kind of exprobration, said,
‘How now! Is this your kindness to your friend!
‘Why went you not, that you might him defend!’

‘No, but his, will I be,’ Hushai replied,
‘Him will I serve, with him will I abide,
‘Whom God, and all the men of Israel choose,
‘None shall me of unfaithfulness accuse;

‘Should not I serve in presence of his son,
‘As I your father served; now he is gone,
‘Surely, as I was then at his command,
‘So will I for future in your presence stand.’
All which he so equivocally spake,
That each the words might in his own sense take.
Self-flattering Absalom, elate with pride,
The whole, as in his favor meant applied,
And straight, by honest guile, in part deceived,
Among his council Hushai he received.
A council called, he told them think upon
The work, and tell him what should first be done.
Ahithophel, who would not take it well,
That any but himself, should bear the bell,
Stood up, and Absalom he thus bespake:—
‘Your father's concubines directly take,
‘And in most public manner them defile,
‘Which will reputed be a crime so vile
‘That nothing ever can for it atone,
‘So will the people cleave to you alone.’
The counsel pleased, Absalom liked it well,
All praise their oracle, Ahithophel.

Forthwith a tent on the house-top was spread,
Where Absalom his father's wives should bed;
He did so, void of grace, and void of shame,
And publicly his father did defame;
By which the sentence that before from heaven,
Was by the prophet, unto David given,
Was now fulfilled, fulfilled to the extent;—
May the example still the like prevent!

Now did the treacherous Ahithophel,
Finding his wicked counsel pleased so well,
Proceed to counsel further. ‘Now let me
‘Quickly choose out twelve thousand men,’ said he,
‘And go on the pursuit this very night,
‘While David's weary, and unfit to sight;
‘So shall we strike him, and his men with fear,
‘That they'll forsake him, and we'll smite in the rear
‘The king alone, whom only you do lack,
‘To be cut off, and bring the people back.’

This counsel was approved of by all
Then present; yet king Absalom said, call
Hushai the Archite, ‘that,’ he said, ‘we may
‘Hear also what he in this case can say.’

Hushai brought in, the king to him did tell
The counsel given by Ahithophel;
Then asked, ‘Do you approve it? if not, show
‘Your reasons, and direct us how to go.’

The wary Archite, knowing very well
The haughty temper of Ahithophel,
That he might not be thought him to neglect,
Expressed his mind in words to this effect:

‘Although I know, of all that fill this table,
‘There is not in the main a man more able

‘For counsel than the great Ahithophel,
‘Who does in wisdom others far excel;
‘Yet at this time, and in the present case,
‘I must confess I cannot go his pace.

‘If you with so much speed should forward rush,
‘You'll hazard all upon too sharp a push;
‘You father is a man of war, you know,
‘And will not lodge at night among the host;
‘He now, no doubt, is in some pit or cave,
‘Where he himself, from a surprise may save.
‘Besides, both he and all his men, we know,
‘Are mighty men of valour, and will show,
‘When once engaged, no weariness in fight,
‘But, stung with fury, will exert their might;
‘Chafed, like the mountain bear of whelps bereaved,
‘With double force, as doubly they're aggrieved,
‘They'll deal their rage around, and scorn to yield,
‘To twice ten thousand men, the bloody field;
‘Whereas your men, undisciplined and raw,
‘Too likely may, when firmly stood, withdraw,
‘And turn the back, and some be overthrown,
‘Which when it shall among the rest be known,
‘Will raise a rumour throughout all your host,
‘That Absalom the field has wholly lost;
‘And where that rumour takes, it will prevail
‘To make the courage of the stoutest fail;
‘So shall you lose the day, and either die
‘Upon the spot, be taken, or forced to fly.

‘Which to prevent, my counsel is, that all
‘The men of Israel, in general,
‘From one end to the other of the land,
‘Be drawn together, like the unnumbered sand
‘On the sea-shore, and you their lord and head,
‘Into the field do them in person lead;
‘So shall we on your father and his men,
‘Fall like the dew upon the ground, and then,
‘Nor he, nor any that are with him, can
‘Escape our hands, we'll have them to a man.

‘But in some fort should he himself immure,
‘We'll there invest him round, 'till we procure
‘Ropes to the place, and draw it down by force,
‘And sink it in the rapid water-course.’

Thus Hushai, like an orator, did play
Upon his hearers' weakness, and yet they
Did not perceive it, nor his purpose see;
But prince and people did as one agree
That Hushai's counsel did by far excel
The counsel given by Ahithophel.
Nor is it strange, for it was the Lord that wrought
This change in them, that what before they thought
Was good, they now disliked; that he might bring
Justice on Absalom their self-made king.

But when Ahithophel, who never could brook
Competitor, nor on a rival look,
But racked with envy, to behold that they
Not only were resolved to disobey

His counsel, which he as direction gave,
And did expect applause and thanks to have,
But Hushai's counsel did to his prefer;
Not able, an affront so high to bear,
Saddling his ass, away he straight did trot,
And in good time, to his own city got;
Where, having wisely settled his affairs,
He to the halter's help, with speed repairs,
Which having firmly fastened to a rafter,
He stretched his neck t'avoid affronts hereafter.
There let him hang, while we look back, and heed
How Hushai's better counsel did succeed.

When Hushai had done speaking, ere he knew
How it would be accepted, he withdrew,
And to the priests, Zadock, Abiathar,
Related what had past, and what a jar
Had been in counsels, between Ahithophel
And him; and, what each had advised did tell;
But not yet knowing which would followed be,
He wished them to inform the king, that he
Might not that night lodge in the plain, but speed
Him o'er the river, that he might be freed
From death and danger, which he might sustain,
If he should stay 'till morning in the plain.

The priests' two sons without the city stayed,
For to be seen within, they were afraid,
To them their fathers, by a certain maid,
The message they should carry, straight conveyed,

Which when they had received, away they hide,
But by a youth unhappily were spied,
And thereupon pursued; but by the way
They in a well concealed, securely lay,
A matron o'er its cover having spread
Ground corn, as if to dry, for making bread;
And when the coast was clear, they posted on,
And told the message which they came upon.

David, thus warned arose, and in the night
Passed over Jordan. By the morning light,
He and the people with him all were gone,
Nor of his army missed they any one.

Chapter VII

TO Mahanaim now king David goes,
His friends to meet with, and to miss his foes;
This was the place, where Jacob long before,
God's angels meeting, did his help implore,
And gave it then this name; by which is shown
Two hosts. God's hosts of angels, and his own.

Here David friendship found, and was supplied
With needful things, while he did here abide,
Which was not long. Absalom, now an host
Had raised, of which he thought he well might boast;

Over his army he Amasa made
His general; with banners then displayed,
He over Jordan passed, a rebel right,
Against his father and his king to fight.

When David knew that his son Absalom
With a great host was over Jordan come
To give him battle, he his men drew forth,
Who, though not many, were all men of worth,
And though his army was but small, he chose
It into three battalions to dispose;
The first of these he unto Joab gave;
Abishai, Joab's brother, was to have
The second; noble Ittai led the third,
Second to none for use of spear and sword;
The king himself intended too to go
At head of them as gen'ralissimo;
But that, the people by no means would yield,
That he himself should hazard in the field;
They represented that the enemy
Would not regard, if half of them should die,
So much as if they him could take or slay,
Therefore they begged he from the field would stay,
And, if occasion should require, would send
Them succours; he was forced to condescend.

But when they marched away, he, standing by,
Showed a paternal passion in his eye;
His bowels rolled towards his graceless son,
And, as presaging that the field was won,

Thus to the sev'ral generals he spake,
‘Deal gently with the young man for my sake.’

The field now taken, and the battle joined,
The victory to David's side inclined;
But not without a cruel slaughter made
Of them that were by Absalom betrayed
Into this treason; twenty thousand fell
On his side; for, although he did excel
In numbers, yet, they fighting in a wood,
His numbers could not do him half the good
As in an open champaign plain they might,
Where they could every man have come to fight:
Hopeless, at length, the routed rebels flee,
And David's men pursue them eagerly.

The rebel Absalom now forced to run
Where'er his fell pursuers he might shun,
Confused with rage and horror, guilt and fear,
And pushing on the trackless wood to clear,
Among the boughs of a thick spreading oak,
His head was caught, and fixed as in a yoke;
His mule went on, and left him hanging there,
'Twixt earth and heaven, in the open air;
Nor could he free himself, his bushy hair,
His ornament before, was now his snare.
Him hanging thus, a certain soldier saw,
And passing by him with respectful awe,
Hasted to Joab, and to him thus spoke;
‘I observed Abs'lom hanging in an oak.’

‘And did you!’ Joab said; ‘Why did not you smite
‘Him to the ground, and kill him there out-right?
‘Had you done so, I would have kindly dealt
‘By you, and given you a soldier's belt,
‘Besides ten shekels.’ ‘O!’ cried out the man,
‘Though I a thousand shekels might have wan,
‘I would not do it; for I did plainly hear
‘Our lord the king, whom we ought all to fear,
‘A strict charge give, that none should dare to touch
‘His son, so as to hurt him. And it is much
‘But you yourself, if I this thing had done,
‘Would have, among the rest, against me run.’

Joab hastily replyed, and struck him mute;
No time had he to trifle in dispute;
Three darts he snatched, and eagerly he sprung
To where the prince now agonizing hung;
Against him he directed every dart,
And pierced him thrice, yet living, through the heart;
Then caused his armour-bearers, ten young men,
Out-right to kill him, which they did; and when
He saw him dead, he a retreat did sound,
That no more Hebrew blood might stain the ground.

Thus fell the usurper Absalom; thus fell,
He who against his father dared rebel;
Thus fell a prince, in body and in mind,
So well accomplished, that he seemed designed
For government, would he the time have stayed,
And not his royal father's throne invade.

But, blind ambition, kindling hot desire
In him, had set his boiling blood on fire;
He thought his father drew too long his breath;
Nothing would serve him but the crown or death.
The crown he missed; a cruel death he found;
Stabbed, hacked, and hewed, with many a ghastly wound.

His mangled body to a filthy pit,
Near to the place he fell in, they did commit;
And, without ceremony, load on his bones
With a huge heap of undistinguished stones,
Which must have served him for a monument,
Had not he, in his life-time, with intent
To keep his name up, having then no son,
Set up a pillar with his name thereon;
Which unto after-ages did remain,
And bore his name long after he was slain.

The field then won, and the unhappy head,
Of this unnatural insurrection dead,
Their care was next what cautious terms to use,
In sending to the king the unwelcome news.

Some strife arose who should the tidings bear,
And divers for the office forward were;
Young Ahimaaz, good old Zadock's son,
Of Joab begged that he therewith might run;
But Joab doubting that it would not be
Acceptable, unwilling was that he,

Whom he well loved, should go; and rather chose
One less respected than his friend to expose.
For though the victory was cause of joy,
The death of Absalom would that destroy;
He therefore bid black Cushi go and tell
The king the matter, just as it befell.
He ran; but Ahimaaz not content,
Unless he too on the same errand went,
Did press so hard for leave to run, that he
Got leave, but by mere importunity;
Then setting forth, and running by the plain,
He so much ground did of the blackmore gain,
That he got first to court, and that did tell,
Which needs must please, for he said, ‘All is well.’

But when the king, whose heart was set upon
The welfare of his disobedient son,
Asked, ‘Is the young man safe?’ poor Ahimaaz,
Not knowing what to say, did on him gaze;
Loth to confess what he could not deny,
Nor yet well knowing how to put it by;
Of that, which with the king was the main chance,
He, too well knowing, pleaded ignorance.

Then standing by, as bid; in Cushi ran,
And to relate his message thus began:—

‘Tidings, my lord the king, for you this day
‘The Lord avenged hath, so that all they
‘That rose against you now are overcome.’
‘But,’ cried the king, ‘How is't with Absalom?

‘Say, is the young man safe?’ Cushi replies,
‘So may it be with all yours enemies,
‘As 'tis with him.’—This David understood,
And from his eyes straight gushed forth a flood
Of melting tears. Paternal pity wrought,
And overwhelmed each prudential thought.
Up stairs he went, and as he went he cried,
‘O my son Absalom! would I had dyed
‘For you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’
And thus he cried, and still he kept alone;
His face he covered, and let loose the rein
To boundless grief, of noble acts the bane;
This turned the triumph, proper for the day,
To mourning; the brave soldiers slunk away
As men ashamed; they who the field had won,
Stole in, as if they from the field had run.

Chapter VIII


THIS was to Joab told, who weighing well
How this behaviour might the courage quell
Of all the army, or raise discontent,
Which might be doubly dangerous in the event;
For soldiers, if themselves they slighted find,
Will shift their sides as nimbly as the wind;
He, that he might his duty not forsake,
Went to the king, and, soldier-like, thus spake:

‘You faithful servants, who have risked their lives,
‘You to preserve, thy children, and your wives,
‘You ashamed have, by showing you extend,
‘More love to enemies than to your friends;
‘Youf carriage this day shows you do not heed
‘Or prince, or servant; for in very deed,
‘If Absalom had lived, it's plainly seen,
‘And we all died, you well pleased had been.
‘Therefore arise, go forth, and kindly speak
‘Unto your servants, else away they'll break
‘Before the morning; for I boldly dare
‘Unto you, by the God of Israel swear,
‘That if you do not come in the people's sight,
‘There will not tarry one with you this night;
‘And that will be worse to you, I avow,
‘Than all the evil you has felt 'till now.’

By this bold speech, perhaps more necessary
Than either decent, or discreet and wary,
Joab so roused the king, that off he threw
His wailing fit; and being a prince that knew,
To his condition how to suit his hand,
And to oblige, as well as to command,
He hastened down unto the city gate,
And there, as heretofore, in public sate;
Which known, the people who before had fled,
Each to his tent, as if they had no head,
Now flocked unto him, and with deaf'ning sound
Of joyful acclamations him surround.

And now a gallant emulation rose
Among the tribes, each to be foremost chose,
In showing their affection to the king,
And striving him in triumph home to bring.
This first among those men of Israel fell,
Was thought, whom Absalom had made rebel,
Who that they might wipe off the guilt and stain
Of that foul crime, and credit so regain,
Spurred one another on, and seemed to vie
Which should most signalize his loyalty
In bringing back the king, whom now they praise,
Recount his merits, and admire his ways.

But Judah, his own tribe, too backward were,
And too regardless of the common care;
This drowsy negligence did grieve the king;
That therefore them, he to a sense might bring
Of what became them, he a message sends
To Zadock and Abiathar his friends,
Commanding they should to the elders speak
From him, and thus the matter to them break:

‘Why are you to bring back the king the last?
‘Why are you slow, when others run so fast?
‘Have you forgotten ye my brethren are,
‘My bones and flesh, so have a greater share
‘In me than others? Why do you let slip
‘The season, and let others you out-strip
‘In love and loyalty? This caution take,
‘And to yourselves advantage of it make.’

He bid them also-to Amasa say,
(Amasa, gen'ral but the other day
Of all the rebels) ‘Are not you to me
‘A kinsman near by consanguinity?
‘Return to your allegiance without dread,
‘And be my general in Joab's stead.’

By these and other such engaging arts,
He wrought so strongly on the people's hearts,
That Judah, sensible they had been slack,
Now hastened to him, to conduct him back.

Got over Jordan, Shimei was the first,
(Shimei, by whom he was so lately cursed,
And rudely treated) who, the tide thus turned
Contrary to his expectation, mourned,
Or seemed to mourn; perhaps the crafty knave
Might sorrow feign, his guilty head to save;
His guilt and danger now impelled him in,
To beg king David's pardon for his sin.

He, therefore, pushing in with Judah, led
A thousand Benjamites, himself the head,
To shew, perhaps, what interest he had,
(Which was the worse in one that was so bad)
Or if occasion were, his cause to plead,
And for him with the king to intercede;
This traitor was the first who met the king,
And on his knees Peccavi thus did sing:

‘Let not my gracious lord, the king,’ said he,
‘Impute this day iniquity to me,
‘Nor bear in mind what I perversly said,
‘And did against him, when he was betrayed,
‘For I your servant know, that I therein
‘Am guilty of an execrable sin,
‘Therefore I, with the first, am hither come
‘To wait upon my lord, and bring him home;
‘Pardon, my lord, O king, my fault, I pray,
‘Let me find mercy at your hand this day,’

Before the king could any answer make,
Abishai, Zerviah's forward son thus spake:
‘What, shall not Shimei be put to death!
‘That rebel Shimei! who with pois'nous breath,
‘Did rail upon and curse the Lord's anointed;
‘What less than death can be to him appointed!

This sounded harshly in good David's ear,
And that to him he quickly made appear;
‘For what,’ said he, ‘have I with you to do,
‘Ye busy sons of Zerviah, that you,
‘On all occasions, still contrive to be,
‘As much as in you lies, averse from me?
‘Shall any man be put to death this day
‘In Israel? The Lord, and I, say nay;
‘For have not I, think ye, good cause to know,
‘That I so lately near an overthrow,
‘Still king of Israel am, by Heaven's grace;
‘Which should with you, as well as me, have place;

‘For since the Lord this day does me restore
‘Unto the throne on which I sat before,
‘It ought to be a day of thankful joy,
‘Which no sad execution should annoy.’
Then turning unto Shimei, ‘You,’ said he,
‘Shall not be put to death for this by me.’

End of the Fourth Book

 

BOOK V

Chapter I


Among the rest, whom love or int'rest drew,
To meet the king, false Ziba came, who knew,
When once his master came in David's sight,
His base deceit would then be brought to light;
That therefore he might still retain the place
He had by falsehood gained in David's grace,
He with his fifteen sons, and twenty men,
Came with pretence to bring him home again.

But now Mephibosheth, (who being lame,
Was not so nimble) in due season came,
To clear himself from Ziba's false report,
And on the wretch his treachery retort.

When David asked, ‘Why went you not with me,
‘Mephibosheth?’ ‘My lord, O king,’ said he,

‘My faulty servant, Ziba, me deceived,
‘And helpless me, he of his help bereaved;
‘I ordered him to saddle me an ass,
‘That I thereon unto the king might pass,
‘Not able else to go; away he slipped,
‘And me of means to follow wholly stripped.
‘Nor is that all; but he has slandered too
‘Thy servant to my lord, with words untrue,
‘But well I know, my lord, the king, is wise,
‘Do therefore what shall seem good in your eyes;
‘I plead no merit, all I have I place
‘To the account of yours abundant grace.’

‘Enough,’ replied the king, ‘my word shall stand,
‘You and your servant shall divide the land.’

Thus having wronged Mephibosheth before,
In stripping him, unheard, of all his store,
That wrong he by a somewhat less wrong salves,
And does the wronged man justice but by halves.

Mephibosheth not only was most clear
From Ziba's charge, as plainly did appear,
But also had so true a mourner been
For David's trouble, that he never was seen
To dress his feet, though lame, nor trim his beard,
Nor in clean linen ever had appeared
To cheer his body, from the very day
In which the king distressed went away,

Until the day he came again; which made
His case the harder, being duly weighed;
Yet he, good man, for joy the king was come
In peace and safety to his royal home,
Regardless what might to himself befall,
Cried, ‘Ay, let Ziba, if he will, take all.’

We heard before of certain men that came
To bring the king supplies at Mahanaim,
Of these Barzillai was, the Gileadite,
Who did the king support with great delight;
The sense whereof did so affect the king,
That to Jerusalem he willing would bring
The good old man, that there he might have showed
The highest marks of royal gratitude.

But good Barzillai did to go refuse,
And by his hoary age himself excuse;
‘I am,’ said he, ‘full fourscore years of age,
‘And therefore, with good reason, may presage,
‘My days cannot be many; I am past
‘The pleasures of a court; I cannot taste
‘My food with relish; 'twere an oversight,
‘For me in vocal music to delight,
‘My ears too heavy to distinguish sounds,
‘And me the harbinger of death surrounds;
‘Why then should I a further burthen be
‘Unto my lord the king? O no! let me
‘Wait on you over Jordan, and return
‘Unto my city, and my parent's urn,

‘That there, among my people, I may die,
‘And in my parents' sepulchre may lie;
‘But, lo, my son, thy servant Chimham, he
‘Shall wait upon my lord, and always be
‘At your command; him to you I commit,
‘And you may do to him what you think fit.’

‘That I'll perform,’ said David, ‘and to you
‘Will give besides what you shall ask of me.’
This said, the good old man he kindly kissed,
And, with his royal blessing, him dismiss.

Then marched he on, attended very well
By Judah, and one half of Israel,
That half or part, be it supposed to be,
Which was not from the late rebellion free,
And therefore now would more officious seem
That they their shaken credit might redeem.

But now again a fresh contention rose
Between them, which of friends soon made them foes.

These men of Israel could not now contain
Their anger, but did to the king complain
Of Judah, that they stole from them the king,
That they alone might him o'er Jordan bring;
The ground of which they did not understand,
And therefore did their reasons now demand.


The men of Judah briskly answered thus:
‘Because the king is near a-kin to us.’—
More brisk than true.—‘David indeed was so,
‘But not as king; kings are a-kin, we know,
‘To all their subjects, and alike to all
‘That faithful are to them, both great and small.’
‘Why,’ added Judah, ‘do ye then contend?
‘We did our duty without selfish end,
‘We neither eat at the king's charge, nor yet
‘Received from him a gift or benefit.’

‘But we,’ the men of Israel replied,
‘Have that to say which will the cause decide,
‘For we have ten parts in the king, while you
‘Cannot pretend, at most, to more than two;
‘Why then, since we the greater number are,
‘Did ye despise us, and proceed so far
‘As to bring back our sovereign lord the king
‘Without consulting us, and thereby bring
‘Contempt upon us?’ Thus they brawl and chide,
And toss the fiery ball from side to side;
But Judah's words, in this contention, fell
More hot and fierce than those of Israel.

Chapter II


HOW needful 'tis hot anger to suppress,
Wrath to repel, for wrath is all excess!
Not to give way to passion; nor too high
Resent an apprehended injury;
Much less to let the tongue, upon debate,
Break loose in words which may exasperate;
For often words, like flint and steel, strike fire,
And thereby the contention raise the higher:
So have I seen, what from a sparkle came,
Blown by hot breath into a furious flame.

Thus, in the present contest, it befell
The men of Judah, and of Israel;
The men of Israel did resent too high
A slight offence; Judah at them let fly
A thund'ring volley, in such cutting words,
As wounded deeper than the sharpest swords,
And made the Israelites almost repent
That e'er to wait upon the king they went.

This being observed by Sheba, Bichri's son,
A Benjamite, who there that day run
Among the rest, not willing to let go
So fit a time his factious mind to show;

He blew a trumpet, and each Israelite
To fresh rebellion did thus invite:

‘No part have we in David, nor possess
‘We any share now in the son of Jess’ ;
‘Wherefore, O Israel, to your tents betake
‘Yourselves forthwith, and Jesse's son forsake.’

So spake this man of Belial, and so did
The men of Israel, straight away they slid
From David, and with nimble paces run
After rebellious Sheba, Bichri's son;
But Judah clave entirely to their king,
And him in honour safely home did bring.

When thus returned, the first thing by him done
Was to shut up those concubines his son
Defiled had; to whom he did allot
Fit maintenance, but then forward used them not.

That done, he did Amasa to him call,
Whom he designed to make his general,
And bid him all the men of Judah raise,
And draw them up before him in three days,
Away Amasa went, but longer staid,
Although what haste he could, he doubtless made;
The king, uneasy at Amasa's stay,
As knowing danger rises from delay,
Abishai to him called, and bid him take
The forces ready; after Sheba make

With all the speed he could, lest he should get
The fenced towns his treason to abet.

Out marched Abishai, leading Joab's men,
The Cherethites and Pelethites; but when,
Upon the way Amasa in did fall,
He took the chief command as general.

Joab, not by the king expressly sent,
Yet loving action, with his soldiers went,
And envying Amasa, as indeed
He envied all who might himself succeed,
He managed so, that from its sheath, his sword
Dropped unawares, as of its own accord,
And quick as though he would not seem to stand,
He snatched it up, and bore it in his hand.

Amasa saw it, but suspected not
That Jo'b therein against him had a plot;
For taking it to be an accident,
He was, for his own safety, less intent.
Joab advanced, and, under feigned show
Of kindness, asked him, ‘Brother, how does do?’
And kissing him, most treach'rously the while,
A deadly wound he gave him with a smile;
Out dropped his bowels, there Amasa lay,
Welt'ring in gore amidst the public way.
So died a great and valiant man; so fell,
By treachery, a prince in Israel.


On Joab with Abishai went in quest
Of Sheba, leaving one to tell the rest,
That he who favoured Joab, and who was
For David, after Joab on should pass;
Which, notwithstanding, as the men drew nigh
The place where murdered Amasa did lie,
They made an halt, nor would a step advance,
But gazing stood, like people in a trance;
Which one observing, quickly, as behoved,
Amasa's corps out of the way removed,
Into a field, and covered it; which done,
The warlike people after Joab run.

Sheba, meanwhile, through all the tribes had past,
And to the city Abel came at last,
His kindred Beerites joined him on the way,
To share with him the fortune of the day.

Here Sheba fixed, the place was fortified;
Here Joab besieged him, and his force applied.
Sheba within resolves, but all in vain,
The town against the assailants to maintain;
The siege grows hot, the engines shake the wall,
The next assault is like to make it fall;
Which done, the fur'ous soldiers straight rush in
With sword in hand, and so the city win;
Unthinking, in their heat the people slay,
And, afterwards, they seize upon the prey.


Foreseeing this, a prudent city-dame,
Straight to prevent it, on the bulwark came,
And cried to the besiegers, ‘Hear, O hear,
‘And speak, I pray, to Joab, to come near,
‘That we may treat a little.’—Straight he came,
Not thinking much to parley with a dame;
Rough, though he was, she his attention won,
An ancient custom urging, thus begun:—

‘In old time they,’ said she, ‘were wont to say,
‘At Abel surely, they will counsel pray;’
And so the matter ended.—Thus she tripped
This bold commander, who, through haste, had slipped
The law of heraldry, which did provide
That peace should first be offered, fair means tried, (Deu 20)
Before a siege was laid; which had he done,
He needed not this hostile course have run.

Thus having gently pinched him, because
He had not well observed the fecial laws,
She told him, though her citizens and she,
Both faithful were and peaceable, yet he
Sought to destroy a city, known full well
To be a mother too in Israel.
Then asked him, how he could the siege advance
To swallow up the Lord's inheritance.

This startled Joab. ‘Far be it from me,
‘That I unjustly should destroy!’ said he,

‘The matter is not so; but ye protect
‘A rebel who king David does reject,
‘The son of Bichri, Sheba is his name,
‘To you, and all true Israelites a shame;
‘Deliver him alone, and I in pity
‘To you will raise my siege, and free your city.’

‘Nay,’ said the woman, ‘sure if that be all,
‘His guilty head we'll throw you over the wall.’
Then to her citizens the woman went,
And did to them so wisely represent
The case, their danger; which so close she put,
That from his shoulders Sheba's head they cut,
And it immediately to Joab threw;
Who seeing that, a peaceful trumpet blew;
They raised the siege, and to their tents retired,
And much the matron's wisdom all admired.

Chapter III


THESE two rebellions quelled, which of late
Gave such disturbance to the civil state,
The court new-modeled was, removes were made
Of ministers, some old aside were laid,
Only fierce Joab, who was now more bold,
Than welcome to the king, his place will hold.


A standing army David mustered then,
Consisting of three hundred thousand men,
Which into twelve brigades divided were,
Answering to the twelve months of the year;
In each brigade were twice twelve thousand, and
A thousand officers did them command;
These took their turns, in times of peace, to be
A month on duty, and eleven free;
And as their month returned, in ev'ry year,
Did each brigade at court, in arms, appear;
But all, in time of war, did ready stand,
On sound of trumpet, to obey command;
These to the field king David often drew,
His enemies, on all sides, to subdue.

Four fields he with the Philistines did fight,
To each of which they brought a man of might,
An Anakim, one of Goliath's race,
Whom David's warriors did not only chase,
But single-handed did them singly slay,
And, each time bore the victory away.

We read of British Arthur, and his table
Of warlike knights (which some account a fable)
But grant it true: they never might compare
With David's worthies, as their deeds declare;
Which whoso lists, may, if he please to look,
Read at his leisure in the sacred book.


Not less concerned was this pious king
God's honour to promote, his praise to sing,
Advance his worship, celebrate his name,
And others, with like godly zeal inflame.

The ark of God, which long before had been
The scorn and scourge of the proud Philistine,
And with Abinadab had since remained,
Who, for his entertaining it, had gained
Great blessings from the Lord; the zealous king,
With Israel and Judah, went to bring
Unto Jerusalem, but, through mistake,
Erring, the sacred law they plainly brake.

The Levites, sons of Kohath, ought to bear
The ark upon their shoulders; they to spare
Their shoulders, learning the Philistian art,
Stick not to clap the ark into a cart;
God's ark they trust to stumbling oxen, which
Might have the ark o'erthrown into a ditch;
The oxen stumbling, caused the ark to shake,
Well-meaning Uzzah care thereof does take,
Puts forth his hand, and holds it lest it fall,
And instant dies, which terrifies them all.

The Lord's a sovereign prince, and won't permit
That man shall vary from his law a whit;
The law was plain and easy, all must say,
The fault upon the Levites only lay.

Displeased was David, that through their defau't,
This sudden death was on poor Uzzah brought;
And since the stroke by God himself was giv'n,
Much David feared the Majesty of heav'n,
Lest of the matter he should disapprove,
As well as manner, e'en the ark's remove;
Not daring therefore at that time to bring
The ark unto Jerusalem, the king
Left it at Obed-Edom's, who was blest,
During the time the ark with him did rest.

But three months after, on maturer thought,
The ark into Jerusalem was brought,
In its due order, and was placed there,
In a fair tent which David did prepare;
For he, before he would attempt again,
What he before had enterprised in vain,
Convening priests and Levites, did declare,
‘None but the Levites ought the ark to bear;
B'ing therefore charged themselves to sanctify,
That to the ark they safely might draw nigh,
And take it up; which had they done before,
They had not allowed what they now deplore;
Then on they go, and as they go, rejoice,
Accomp'nying instruments with sound of voice.

But none, of all the company more glad,
Appeared to be than David, who was clad
In linen-ephod, and did leap and dance
Before the ark with joyful countenance.


Queen Michal, in his dancing, David 'spies,
And, looking on him with disdainful eyes,
Brake forth in taunting terms; for which she was
Condemned her life in barrenness to pass:
Sore punishment indeed! which her did bind
From bearing him who was to save mankind.
The ark thus brought, and, with triumphant grace
And due devotion, settled in its place,
The pious king, who did before it dance,
Now studied how God's honour to advance.

The priests and Levites he disposed in courses,
As he before had done his martial forces,
To each his proper service he assigned,
Which they should execute with willing mind;
Some to burnt-offerings and sacrifices,
With rites belonging to those exercises;
On instruments of music some to play,
And praise the Lord upon each solemn day;
To prayer some; some to give thanks, some bless
The Lord, and seek his wonders to express.

Nor staid he here; his right religious mind,
To build an house for Israel's God inclined;
A sacred temple he designed to build,
Which with majestic glory should be filled.

This godly purpose of his royal heart,
The pious king to Nathan did impart;

The godly prophet, of the motion glad,
That he might strength to his intentions add,
Too hastily, without command, said, ‘Go,
‘And what is in yours heart to do, that do,
‘For God is with you .’ The good man in this,
Through strong desire to have it done, did miss.

For that same night the Lord his prophet bid
Go tell his servant David (which he did)
‘That in your heart it was, an house to raise
‘To me, wherein to celebrate my praise,
‘I take it well; but therefrom you are freed,
‘Thy will, by me, is taken for the deed;
‘You shall not build the house, for you have led
‘Great armies to the field, much blood has shed;
‘But when your head is laid, a peaceful king,
‘Who of your seed, and from your loins shall spring,
‘Shall build my house, which must be built in peace:
‘Who builds for God, from war and blood must cease.’

Submissive David, with an humble mind,
Intirely to the will of God resigned,
In solemn manner did to God express
His hearty thanks, and his great Name did bless;
And still, with diligence himself applied,
Materials for the building to provide;
Gold, silver, precious stones, brass, iron, wood
Of divers sorts; whatever seemed good
For choicest use, he in abundance stored;
Won from his enemies by dint of sword;

To which he added so much of his own,
As drew his princes, when it once was known,
Chief fathers, captains, rulers, to express,
By their free offerings, their thankfulness:
All which the king to Solomon demised,
With such instruction as the Lord advised,
Assigning to each part its proper use,
To build and ornament the sacred house.

Chapter IV


DURING the reign of David, there had been,
Three years successively, no ease between,
A raging famine, which did sore oppress
The Israelites, and brought them to distress.

The long duration of this pinching dearth,
Which pined the people, and defaced the earth,
Made David of the Lord the cause inquire,
Which against Israel had provoked his ire.
The answer was, ‘It was for faithless Saul,
‘And for his bloody house, this plague did fall
‘Upon the people;’ which perhaps was due,
Since by their help, the Gibeonites he slew.

How, when, or why, he did this fact commit,
Is not delivered in the sacred writ;

We only read, he did it in his zeal
For Israel's and Judah's common-weal.

Some think it was when he the witches slew,
And sought to exterminate the infernal crew; (Sam 28)
Though when e'en that was done, is not so clear
From holy writ, to be ascertained here.

The Gibeonites were not of Israel,
Although they with the Israelites did dwell;
They of the Amorite, a remnant were,
A people Israel's sword was not to spare;
Which they fore-knowing, by a crafty wile,
Good Joshua and the princes did beguile.

These, feigning that ambassadors they came
From a far country, did a story frame,
That they so long had on their journey been,
That their provisions, which was plainly seen,
Were grown corrupt; their bread which hot from home
They said they brought, was mouldy now become;
Old leathern bottles rent and bound they shew,
Which they affirmed, when they set out, were new;
Their tattered clothes, and clouted shoes, did make
The Israelites give heed to what they spake;
And, being by this stratagem betrayed,
An unadvised league they with them made,

To let them live; and all the princes sware.
By Israel's God, whose justice will not spare
The man or people, that in vain shall take
His sacred name, but them examples make.

Well near four hundred years this league was kept
Inviolate, till all the judges slept,
And the good prophet Samuel was gone
To rest, and wicked Saul yet filled the throne;
And probably it was not very long
Before his end he did this cursed wrong,
For had it early been, it may be thought,
The punishment had in his time been brought.

When now king David, on inquiry, knew
What 'twas that on the land this judgment drew,
He called the Gibeonites, and bid them say
What they would have him do to take away
The guilt of blood; and how he might atone
For the injustice Saul to them had done;
That satisfaction given, they might bless
The Lord's inheritance with such success,
That he appeased, might his heavy hand
Remove, and smile again upon the land;
For justice God regards; and therefore he,
How low so'er the wronged party be,
Will righted have, before he will remove
The rod wherewith he does chastise in love.
The Gibeonites replied, ‘Its not our will,
‘That for our sakes, thon any man should kill

‘In Israel; nor Saul's possessions crave;
‘The only thing which we desire to have,
‘The man who us so cruelly annoyed,
‘And who would us entirely have destroyed;
‘Let seven of his sons, without delay
‘Delivered be to us, that them we may
‘Hang up in Gibeah, unto the Lord.’
To their demand king David did accord.

Small choice he had, out of Saul's house to take
Sev'n men, atonement for Saul's sin to make;
Mephibosheth, he had a special care,
For Jonathan his father's sake, to spare;
Having regard to friendship, and the oath, (Sam 20)
Which long before had passed between them both.

Of all Saul's son, but two were now alive;
Unhappy they, that they did him survive,
To undergo an ignominious death
For his offence; of these Mephibosheth
The younger was; Armoni was the other,
Both sons of Rizpah, their afflicted mother;
Five sons of Merab, to make up the tale,
He pitched upon. Merab might well bewail
Her double loss; of David first, and then
Of her five sons, a set of proper men;
For had she married David, which of right
She should have done, she, without question, might

Have still enjoyed her sons, herself have been
A joyful mother and an happy queen.
The number thus complete, the king commands
They should be given up into the hands
Of the wronged Gibeonites; they, in a word,
Hung them up man by man, before the Lord.

This needful execution being done,
When barley-harvest was but new begun,
And the dead bodies being to remain
Unburied, 'till the Lord, by sending rain,
(The want of which was the next cause of dearth)
Should his acceptance shew, and bless the earth:
Religious Rizpah, that she might defend
These uninterred bodies, did attend
During the time, as well by night as day,
That neither bird nor beast might on them prey;
For which end, on the rock where they lay dead,
She a pavilion did of sackcloth spread.

Which pious act of hers, when David heard,
After the Lord propitious had appeared,
He took the bones of Saul, which did remain
At Jabesh. Gilead, where they long had lain,
Together with the bones of Jonathan,
His noble friend, a brave and worthy man,
And gathering up the bones of these, who now
Had hanged been, he on them did bestow
A funeral, and did them all inter
In Kish, their father's proper sepulchre.

Which done, according to the king's command,
The Lord was pleased again to bless the land.

Chapter V


WHEN now the Lord had his anointed blest,
As well with inward peace as outward rest,
Having subdued his enemies, and made
His neighbours round about him all afraid
Him to offend, so that he now could say
Unto his friends, ‘This is the happy day (Psa 118)
‘The Lord has made; let us with tuneful voice,
‘And thankful heart, in this his day rejoice.’

When to this peaceful state the happy king
Had thus attained, that he could sweetly sing
Psalms of thanksgiving, while his fingers played,
And on his harp melodious music made;
The restless adversary of mankind,
Who mischief always had to man designed,
Envying the happiness which now befel,
Under so good a king, poor Israel,
Did with a thought his royal breast inspire,
Which quickly set both heart and head on fire;

It kindled in him an ambitious mind
To know his strength, and strongly him inclined,
Unmindful of the Almighty's will, to dare,
To number all the people fit for war.

To Joab, therefore, as his general,
He gave command to go and number all
The people fit for war, in every tribe,
And in a muster-roll their names describe,
That he might thereby know (vain mind, alas!)
How strong in military force he was.

The snare which David saw not, Joab saw,
And laboured David from it to withdraw,
But all in vain; the king was fully bent
To have his will; Joab about it went
Unwillingly; and, in some ten months' time,
Returning, showed the king his strength and crime.

For he no sooner the account gave in,
But David, smitten in himself, his sin
Confessing, said, ‘I sinned greatly have
‘In that which I have done; and now I crave
‘Thy pardon, Lord; and do most humbly pray,
‘That thou'lt be pleased to take my sin away;
‘Ah! sensible I am, that herein I
‘Have erred, and done exceeding foolishly.’

Next morning God, in high displeasure, sent
His prophet to denounce a punishment

To David for his sin. The prophet goes,
And thus his message does to him disclose:

‘Thus saith the Lord, three sorts of punishment
‘I set before you, and am fully bent
‘One of them to inflict; but leave to thee
‘The choice, which of them shall inflicted be;
‘Choose therefore one, which I to you may do,
‘For your offence shall not unpunished go.
‘Shall three years more of famine in your land, (Chron 21)
‘Which three years has already suffered, stand?
‘Or will you, for three months together, flee
‘Before your enemies, and chased be?
‘Or shall, throughout your land, the pestilence
‘For three days rage, to punish your offence?’
‘Be now advised,’ said God, ‘think well what word,
‘I shall from you return unto the Lord.’

Here the gradations sink, as it appears,
From months to days, and unto months from years;
Three months of bloody war, 'tis likely may
As many as three years of famine slay;
And three days pestilence, accounted are
To equal three months of devouring war.

Great was the strait poor David now was in;
Ah! what but straits attend presumptuous sins?
Which of the three to choose he's unprepared:
To choose was favour; but the choice was hard.


Famine the land had felt too late before;
That too would first and most affect the poor,
Himself it would not reach; to whom he knew
The rod was chiefly, though not only, due.

Like reason was of war. In person he
Might be for three months time from danger free;
Besides, if Israel should be beat, and fly
So long and oft, it might the enemy
Embolden of their strength, or cause to boast,
And to blaspheme the Lord, the God of Hosts.

These therefore waved, the king resolved at last,
Himself into the hand of God to cast.
‘Into the hand of God,’ said he, ‘let's fall,
‘And humbly unto him for mercy call;
‘His mercy's great, I by experience know,
‘He will, upon repentance, mercy show:
‘In him I trust, to him, distressed, I fly,
‘And on his tender mercies I rely;
‘But let me not into the hands of man
‘Be cast, for he will do the worst he can.’

The choice thus made, the pestilence is sent
Throughout the land, the angel swiftly went,
Waving his flaming sword, whereby there fell
Seventy thousand men in Israel,
In three days time; but when the angel came
To shake his blade against Jerusalem,

The royal city, the imperial seat,
The cabinet of what was choice and great,
The mournful king, with Israel's elders, clad
In sackcloth, with their countenances sad,
Fell on their faces at the dreadful sight
Of that devouring blade, stretched out to smite
The people; and the trembling king thus poured,
His supplication forth before the Lord:

‘Ah! am not I the man that gave command
‘The people should be numbered through the land?
‘'Tis even I, that did this sin commit,
‘O that I only suffer might for it!
‘On me and on my house, O Lord, I pray,
‘Be pleased for what remains, thy hand to lay!
‘But not upon the people in this city,
‘Oh! on these harmless sheep, I pray have pity,
‘And let not them be plagued for my offence,
‘Accept my pray'r, regard their innocence.’

This earnest supplication heaven pierced,
And the remainder of the doom reversed;
The Lord repenting, to the angel said,
‘It is enough; now let your hand be stayed.’

The angel stood, when this blest word was given,
By Ornan's threshing floor, between earth and heaven,
And Ornan (or Araunah), when he spied
The angel, ran with his four sons to hide.


But David, be'ng by Gad instructed, went
To buy the threshing-floor, with full intent
To rear an altar in that very place
Unto the Lord, and there to seek his face.

Araunah looking forth, and see'ng the king
Approaching, on the ground himself did fling,
The cause inquiring, which had brought him there,
Which, in so great a prince, must great appear.

‘My business,’ answered David, ‘is to buy
‘Of you your threshing-floor, that thereon I
‘May raise an altar to the Lord, and see
‘If by peace-offerings he appeased will be;
‘That so, his just displeasure be'ng allayed,
‘The plague inflicted on us, may be stayed.’

‘O,’ said Araunah, ‘let my lord the king
‘Accept the ground, you need nothing bring;
‘The oxen for burnt-offerings, and the wheat
‘Accept for the meat-offering, I entreat.
‘The threshing instruments may serve the turn,
‘Instead of wood, the offerings to burn;
‘And may you by the Lord accepted be,
‘As sure as these are freely given by me.’

‘No, hold,’ said David, ‘do not think that I
‘A begging came; I came indeed to buy,
‘And buy I will, and that too at full price;
‘What's not my own I will not sacrifice,

‘Nor will I that, for which I give no costs,
‘Pretend to offer to the Lord of Hosts.’

The price then set, and paid, an altar there
King David to the Lord his God did rear,
And thereon offered, to appease the Lord,
Burnt-offerings, and peace-offerings, and implored
His gracious pardon; and the Lord, who knew
That David's heart was right, his sorrow true,
Vouchsafed to answer him by fire, which came
From heav'n upon the altar, in a flame;
By which he showed his anger was appeased,
And he with David's sacrifice was pleased.

Thus ceased the plague, with seventy thousand slain,
By which so many fewer did remain
To serve the king; and though the Lord thought sit
To spare the man that did the sin commit,
Yet in his kingly state, in part he died,
At least was wounded through his people's side;
For kings and subjects are co-relatives,
The one must die, unless the other lives.
Herein, however, Divine Providence,
Suited the punishment to the offence;
That since of numbers David willingly would boast,
He of his number seventy thousand lost.

Chapter VI

AGE now, and the expence of blood in war,
To weakness had reduced the king so far,
That though against the cold they did him arm
With store of clothes, they scarce could keep him warm;
Wherefore they for a fair young virgin sought,
Whom, having found, unto the king they brought;
Her name Abishag, she a Shunamite,
Who on the king should wait both day and night.
She stood at hand, to serve him all the day,
And when night came, she in his bosom lay;
Whereby her natural heat she did impart
Unto the king, which did refresh his heart.
Thus led she a concubinary life,
Yet did the king not know her as a wife.

His eldest son, then living, was a prince
Of an aspiring mind, who, ever since
The death of Absalom, himself did hold
Heir to the crown, and thereupon grew bold;
His name was Adonijah, which does sound
A ruling lord, and such he would be found;
A goodly man, for personage, was he,
And from correction had been always free;

For the king's lenity to him was such,
He never had displeased him so much,
As but to say unto him,—O my son,
What is the cause you so or so have done?

He long had cast his eye upon the throne,
As counting, if not calling, it his own;
And reckoned he sustained no little wrong,
In that his father sat upon't so long;
But now his father's age and feeble state,
Made him resolve he would no longer wait,
But take possession of the royal crown,
Ascend the throne, and thrust his father down.

In order thereunto, he did provide
Chariots and horsemen, for both guard and pride,
And fifty men, who should before him run,
Like as his brother Absalom had done.

Then into the conspiracy he drew
Joab, his father's general, who he knew,
Among the soldiery, great interest had,
And to his cause, could strength and credit add;
Abiathar, the priest, he also got
To join with him, and consecrate his plot.

Both he and Joab had stood right before,
When Absalom rebelled; and to restore
The king they laboured hard, unto his crown;
What pity 'twas they now the pail kicked down,

Joab, indeed, some color might pretend
For his defection; he might apprehend,
Not without reason, since he lost his place,
He stood but loosely in the royal grace.

But for the priest, no cause as yet we see,
Which might, in his excuse, alleged be;
Unless it were, what among such does run,
An aptness to adore the rising sun;
David declined apace, ready to set,
Young Adonijah ready up to get.

The plot now being ripe, the time at hand,
Wherein he meant all Israel to command,
He made a royal feast, fat cattle slew,
Both sheep and oxen, and to it he drew
His brethren, the king's sons, even every one
Of them, excepting only Solomon;
And with them Joab and Abiathar,
And all the men of Judah, though they were
The king's own servants, and with them too most
Of the brave captains of his father's host,
Who, when the wine their spirits did inflame,
Should Adonijah, for their king, proclaim.

Just in the nick, the prophet Nathan got
The knowledge of this execrable plot,
And wisely weighing how he might prevent
The dire effects thereof, away he went

Unto Queen Bathsheba, and her surprised
With the relation of it; then advised
Her to the king immediately to go,
And open to the king, the matter so,
That he danger deeply in may take,
And to prevent it, due provision make.
And, added he, while you yet speaking are
Unto the king, I'll come and take your part.
Then her instructing, how she should begin
The matter, he withdrew, and she went in.

Come to the presence of the king, she bowed,
After such manner as they then allowed;
And, being by the king asked what she would,
She in such terms as these, her business told:
‘You once, my lord, unto your handmaid did swear,
‘By the Almighty, who does witness bear,
‘That after you, your servant Solomon
‘Should reign and sit upon his father's throne;
‘Yet now behold, Adonijah does reign,
‘And he has oxen, and fat cattle slain
‘In great abundance, and a feast has made,
‘To which your other sons are all betrayed,
‘That they may own his title; the only one
‘Excluded, is your servant Solomon;
‘But upon you, my lord, O king, the eyes
‘Of Israel are, that you, before you dies,
‘Should plainly tell them who, when you are gone,
‘Shall succeed you upon your royal throne;

‘Which to do if, my lord the king should fail,
‘And Adonijah's treason should prevail,
‘When you, my lord, shall with your fathers sleep,
‘The thought whereof, occasions me to weep,
‘It then shall come to pass, offenders we,
‘My son and I, shall then reputed be.’

While yet she spake, the prophet Nathan came
Into the anti-chamber; and his name
Sent in, he did for quick admittance sue,
And, being introduced, the queen withdrew.

The prophet quickly his obeisance made,
And to the king in haste, abruptly said,
‘Do you, my lord, O king, indeed ordain,
‘That Adonijah after you shall reign?
‘Or have you said, When to rest I am gone,
‘I will that he shall sit upon my throne?
‘For he this day has made a royal feast,
‘And to it has invited many a guest,
‘All the king's sons, except prince Solomon,
‘Unto his feast, at his request, are gone;
‘And Joab, with the captains of the host,
‘He does caress, not sparing any cost;
‘Nor is Abiathar the priest the least
‘Among his guests, to bless the traitorous feast;
‘All whom, that he may richly entertain,
‘Fed cattle in abundance he has slain,
‘They eat, drink, sing, loud acclamations give,
‘And cry, “Long may king Adonijah live.”


‘But me your servant, and your brightest son
‘(Best of your sons) the brave prince Solomon,
‘He has not called, nor Zadock the good priest,
‘Nor yet Benajah, to his treacherous feast.
‘Is this thing, by my Lord's appointment done,
‘And to your servant, it you have not shown?
‘Or has aspiring Adonijah chose
‘This time to seize the crown, and you depose?’

He stopped. But what had been already said,
On David's mind a deep impression made;
He had not yet the sad effects forgot,
Of his son Absalom's disloyal plot,
How hard it with him went, what dangers he
Was in, how he was willing for life to flee;
Which now, so weak he was, he could not do,
But must, whatever befell him, undergo;
He therefore to this sore resolved to apply
A speedy and effectual remedy.

He therefore said, ‘Call Bathsheba to me:’
She soon appeared with awful modesty,
And stood before him; Nathan out was gone,
Leaving the king and Bathsheba alone,
To whom the king thus spake, and with an oath,
Did what he said confirm, between them both.

‘As lives the Lord, who has redeemed me
‘From all distress, I now declare to thee,

‘As I engaged solemnly before,
‘When by the God of Israel I swore,
‘Assuring you, that Solomon your son,
‘Should me succeed, and sit upon my throne;
‘That will I certainly perform this day;
‘Thine eye shall see it done without delay.’

The queen, most humble rev'rence having made,
Only, ‘Long live my lord king David,’ said.
By which, we may suppose, she wished that he
Might still reign on, and be from troubles free.

But he, upon the matter more intent,
For Zadock, Nathan, and Benajah sent,
To whom he gave in charge, that they should straight
Take of his servants, both for strength and state,
Sufficient numbers, and should cause his son
(The Lord's beloved, Jediah) Solomon,
On the king's mule, in royal pomp to ride,
The priest and prophet walking by his side,
With royal guards before him, and behind,
And all the people, that were well inclined,
Until they came to Gihon's little stream,
Which from the court parted Jerusalem.
‘Let Zadock there, and Nathan him anoint,
‘For him I, king over Israel appoint,’
Said David, ‘in my stead, upon my throne
‘To sit, and henceforth take it for his own.

‘And when he is anointed, forthwith sound
‘The trumpet, and let all the people round,
‘With joyful acclamations, call upon
‘The Lord, and say, “God save king Solomon;”
‘Then bring him up, that he, as I ordain,
‘May over Israel and Judah reign.’

‘Amen,’ replied Benajah; ‘and, O may
‘Thy gracious God Amen unto it say;
‘As with my lord the king, the Lord has been,
‘So may he too with Solomon be seen;
‘And may his throne transcend your throne as far
‘As other thrones to yours inferior are.’

This said, away they all together go,
Zadock the priest, Nathan the prophet too,
Captain Benajah with the king's life guard,
The Cherethites and Pelethites, prepared
The king's command to execute, and those
To slay who should them in the work oppose.

The priest, out of the tabernacle took
An horn of oil, and down to Gihon-brook
They lead prince Solomon in royal state;
Priest, prophet, people, gladly on him wait;
And there the priest, upon his princely head,
From out his horn, the sacred oil did shed;
The trumpet then was blown, and thereupon
The people cried, ‘God save king Solomon’

Their throats were then distended, and the sound
Of trumpets was by that of voices drowned;
Triumphant noises through the air did break,
And their transporting joys did loudly speak;
Such acclamations made, such shouts were given,
As seemed to rend the earth, and pierce the heaven.

Chapter VII


BY this time Adonijah, and the rest
Who had been entertained at his feast,
Their banquet past, were ready now to bring
Him forth in public, to proclaim him king;
Buoyed up with confidence of their success,
A priest attending them the work to bless,
And the old general Joab at their head,
The military forces up to lead;
When, on a sudden, the rebounding cries
Of Solomon's attendance, them surprize;
They heard and started; and the more they hear,
The more they're with amazement struck, and fear.
‘What,’ said old Joab, when he heard the sound
Of trumpets, and the shouts which trumpets drowned,
‘May we suppose the cause of this to be?—
‘The city in an uproar seems to me.’

While he yet spake, came one unto the door,
Who had been proling out some time before,
Jonathan, who was son unto the priest
Abiathar, of traitors not the least,
Who having been abroad upon the scout,
Had seen the work the city was about.

Him, Adonijah seeing, said, ‘Come in,
‘And tell us what the matter is.—Begin,
‘For you a man of noted valour are,
‘And usually good tidings does impart;
‘Say, what's the bus'ness?’—‘Ah, alas!’ said he,
‘My tidings now will not be good to thee;
‘For, verily, our lord king David now
‘Has Solomon made king.’ Then told him how,
Were, and by whom it managed had been,
And what relating to't, he had heard or seen;
Adding, ‘the people's joy for their new king,
‘They so expressed, as made the city ring;
‘And that the noise is, which ye now have heard,
‘The cause of which is justly to be feared,
‘For Solomon now on the throne does sit,
‘And does to every one what he thinks fit.’

At this report, the guests were all afraid,
And slipped away; not one among them staid
With Adonijah. He, as well he might,
Deserted thus, fled in a grievous fright
Unto the altar, of its horns laid hold,
Hoping that sacred place now, as of old

It had to others done, might him protect;
At least till he might other means project,
His pardon to obtain. This being laid
Before king Solomon, he thereon said,
‘If he himself a worthy man will shew,
‘There shall for this no punishment ensue;
‘But if hereafter he again shall try
‘Ill practices against me, he shall die.’

Then Solomon sent messengers to bring
Him from the altar down unto the king;
He came, and to the king himself did bow,
Which showed he did his sov'reignty allow;
The king dismissing him, this only said,
‘Go to your house, do well, and be not afraid.’

This gentle dealing the ancient king approved,
No doubt, because Adonijah he loved;
And, therefore, probably was glad to see
In his successor so much lenity;
Which made him, when his courtiers came to wait
Upon him, and with joy congratulate
This great deliv'rance, bow himself, and say,
‘Blest be the Lord, even Israel's God this day,
‘Who, while I'm living, has vouchsafed one
‘Of mine own sons to sit upon my throne.’
The sense whereof did make this godly king,
Unto the Lord, his Nunc dimittis sing.

And now the days of David drawing nigh,
Wherein, by course of nature, he should die,
He of king Solomon his leave did take,
And unto him he thus at parting spake:

‘I go the way of all the earth,’ said he,
‘Be strong, and let the man appear in thee.
‘God's sacred charge observe throughout your days,
‘And walk uprightly in his holy ways;
‘His statutes keep, his high commands obey,
‘His judgments dread, his doctrines all display,
‘That in whatever your hand does undertake,
‘You may the Lord to you propitious make;
‘Then will the Lord confirm his word, which he
‘Most graciously did speak concerning me,
‘When he, some years ago, was pleased to say,

‘If yours shall take good heed unto their way, (Sam 7)
‘With all their heart, and all their soul to walk,
‘In truth before me, justice never baulk,
‘Then will you never want a favored son
‘To sit upon the Israelitish throne.’

This said, he Solomon instruction gave,
How he hereafter should himself behave,
To some who had from their allegiance swerved;
And others, who of him had well deserved:
Then having seen full threescore years and ten,
And forty passed in a glorious reign,

He with his fathers slept, and was interred
In his own city, which he most preferred;
And which, to honour him, then forward became
The royal sepulchre for men of fame.
And now my muse, might she so high presume,
Would write this epitaph upon his tomb.

EPITAPH.

Here lies king David, whose sharp sword did quell
The fiercest enemies of Israel.
Here the sweet singer lies, whose various state,
The psalms by him composed, do relate.
Here lies the man, who (for the greatest part)
Did walk according to the Lord's own heart.
His body in the grave below does rest:
His spirit lives above, among the blest.
FINIS.

 

 

 


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