Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Saul
by [?]


I

Said Abner, “At last thou art come! Ere I tell, ere thou speak.
Kiss my cheek, wish me well!” Then I wished it, and did kiss his cheek.
And he, “Since the King, O my friend, for thy countenance sent,
Neither drunken nor eaten have we; nor until from his tent
Thou return with the joyful assurance the King liveth yet,
Shall our lip with the honey be bright, with the water be wet.
For out of the black mid-tent’s silence, a space of three days,
Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants, of prayer nor of praise,
To betoken that Saul and the Spirit have ended their strife,
And that, faint in his triumph, the monarch sinks back upon life.

II

“Yet now my heart leaps, O beloved! God’s child with his dew
On thy gracious gold hair, and those lilies still living and blue
Just broken to twine round thy harp-strings, as if no wild heat
Were now raging to torture the desert!”

III

Then I, as was meet,
Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose on my feet,
And ran o’er the sand burnt to powder. The tent was unlooped;
I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and under I stooped;
Hands and knees on the slippery grass-patch, all withered and gone,
That extends to the second enclosure. I groped my way on
Till I felt where the foldskirts fly open. Then once more I prayed,
And opened the foldskirts and entered, and was not afraid
But spoke, “Here is David, thy servant!” And no voice replied.
At the first I saw naught but the blackness; but soon I descried
A something more black than the blackness–the vast, the upright
Main prop which sustains the pavilion: and slow into sight
Grew a figure against it, gigantic and blackest of all.
Then a sunbeam, that burst thro’ the tent roof, showed Saul.

IV

He stood erect as that tent-prop, both arms stretched out wide
On the great cross-support in the centre, that goes to each side;
He relaxed not a muscle, but hung there as, caught in his pangs
And waiting his change, the king serpent all heavily hangs,
Far away from his kind, in the pine, till deliverance come
With the spring-time,–so agonized Saul, drear and stark, blind and dumb.

V

Then I tuned my harp,–took off the lilies we twine round its chords
Lest they snap ‘neath the stress of the noontide–those sunbeams like swords!
And I first played the tune all our sheep know, as, one after one,
So docile they come to the pen-door till folding be done.
They are white and untorn by the bushes, for lo, they have fed
Where the long grasses stifle the water within the stream’s bed;
And now one after one seeks its lodging, as star follows star
Into eve and the blue far above us,–so, blue and so far!

VI

–Then the tune, for which quails on the cornland will each leave his mate
To fly after the player; then, what makes the crickets elate
Till for boldness they fight one another: and then, what has weight
To set the quick jerboa a-musing outside his sand house–
There are none such as he for a wonder, half bird and half mouse!
God made all the creatures and gave them our love and our fear,
To give sign, we and they are his children, one family here.

VII

Then I played the help-tune of our reapers, their wine-song, when hand
Grasps at hand, eye lights eye in good friendship, and great hearts expand
And grow one in the sense of this world’s life.–And then, the last song
When the dead man is praised on his journey–“Bear, bear him along
With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets!” Are balm-seeds not here
To console us? The land has none left such as he on the bier.
“Oh, would we might keep thee, my brother!”–And then, the glad chaunt
Of the marriage,–first go the young maidens, next, she whom we vaunt
As the beauty, the pride of our dwelling.–And then, the great march
Wherein man runs to man to assist him and buttress an arch
Naught can break; who shall harm them, our friends?–Then, the chorus intoned
As the Levites go up to the altar in glory enthroned.
But I stopped here: for here in the darkness Saul groaned.