A LITTLE way farther to guide thee I go
Where the footing is firm and the waters are low;
Then we part, O my King,—thou once more to thy throne,—
I to dwell, in the house of my fathers,—alone.
Yet think not, O David, one pang of regret
Would tempt the recall of the youth I have set
In thy presence; the strong-armed, the true-hearted one,—
Last gift of my loyalty,—even my son.
Ere my hand to the husbandman’s toil had been trained,—
Or my foot to the slow-moving flocks had been chained,—
I, too, would have marched in the long line of spears,—
With the youthful, the courtly, the brave for my peers.
The days when I dreamt but of battle!—The lamp
Which all night I kept burning,—that if from the camp
One straggler should come, I might, hang up his sword
And hearken how prospered the cause of the Lord!
How my heart used to beat; how my veins used to thrill
From freezing to fever,—from fever to chill,—
When the voice of the Philistine rang through our coasts,
Defying,—unanswered,—the Lord God of Hosts.
How I prayed day and night,—ay, with many a tear,—
“Lord, shorten the time till Thy champion appear!”
And if fearing or hoping myself to change blows
With the giant,—God bidden,—I know; and God knows!
Ah, it was not for gain,—and it was not for fear,—
That I wore not the warrior’s glittering gear:—
My father,—my mother!—the heart-strife was done!—
For Saul had his thousands and they had but one.
I am old, but King David, I cannot forget
My hot-hearted youth; so my boy shall not fret
’Mid the safety and sameness of flocks and of fields
While the soldiers of Israel burnish their shields.
The Lord be thy keeper, henceforth and for aye,
My son whom I love!—And when I am away
Be thy spirit as now,—pure and lofty, and bold,—
Thy strength still unwasted; thy heart never cold.
When thy soul with the minions of darkness must fight,
The Great King lend thee weapons and armour of light.
No hindrance are they,—like the harness of Saul
To the boy from the folds.—May’st thou bear them through all!
All blessings be thine which the promise foretells!—
And, oh, when the heart of thy eldest born swells
At thy stories of many a soldierly deed,—
Tell how one, not a soldier, served Israel in need.
The men are fast forming again into rank;
The river is forded; we part on the bank.
Haste where welcome awaiteth thee, David, this day,—
For the joy of the people ill beareth delay!—
The Lord give thy children the love-guarded crown,
When the King and his servant in dust have lain down!—
Till the hope of the nations thy lineage shall close,—
God’s arrows be sharp in the hearts of thy foes!