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Goliath and David

Written by: Robert Graves | Biography
 | Quotes (8) |
 (For D. C. T., Killed at Fricourt, March, 1916)

Yet once an earlier David took 
Smooth pebbles from the brook: 
Out between the lines he went 
To that one-sided tournament, 
A shepherd boy who stood out fine
And young to fight a Philistine 
Clad all in brazen mail. He swears 
That he’s killed lions, he’s killed bears, 
And those that scorn the God of Zion 
Shall perish so like bear or lion.
But … the historian of that fight 
Had not the heart to tell it right. 

Striding within javelin range, 
Goliath marvels at this strange 
Goodly-faced boy so proud of strength.
David’s clear eye measures the length; 
With hand thrust back, he cramps one knee, 
Poises a moment thoughtfully, 
And hurls with a long vengeful swing. 
The pebble, humming from the sling
Like a wild bee, flies a sure line 
For the forehead of the Philistine; 
Then … but there comes a brazen clink, 
And quicker than a man can think 
Goliath’s shield parries each cast.
Clang! clang! and clang! was David’s last. 
Scorn blazes in the Giant’s eye, 
Towering unhurt six cubits high. 
Says foolish David, “Damn your shield! 
And damn my sling! but I’ll not yield.”
He takes his staff of Mamre oak, 
A knotted shepherd-staff that’s broke 
The skull of many a wolf and fox 
Come filching lambs from Jesse’s flocks. 
Loud laughs Goliath, and that laugh
Can scatter chariots like blown chaff 
To rout; but David, calm and brave, 
Holds his ground, for God will save. 
Steel crosses wood, a flash, and oh! 
Shame for beauty’s overthrow! 40 
(God’s eyes are dim, His ears are shut.) 
One cruel backhand sabre-cut— 
“I’m hit! I’m killed!” young David cries, 
Throws blindly forward, chokes … and dies. 
And look, spike-helmeted, grey, grim,
Goliath straddles over him.