Goliath and David  
by Robert Graves
(In public domain)
With additional lines by Michael L. Charters

If I am Jesse's son said he,
Where must that tall Goliath be?

For once an earlier David took 
Smooth pebbles from a 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 cubit's 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! 
(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 foward, chokes . . . and dies. 
And look, spike-helmeted, grey, grim, 
Goliath straddles over him. 

Added lines:

When Jesse hies out on the field,
Young David's death is then revealed.
He lifts him up with arm that shakes,
Oh woeful sounds that father makes.
He peers up at the giant tall,
And with a loud and tortured call -
In words that only he can speak -
While tears run freely down his cheek:
"Why takes't thou my child from me?
Why such an ogre must thou be?
Dids't thou not children ever bear
That thou could strike without a care?"
Goliath's arms and face then fell,
And looked he like no one could tell,
His spear he took and laid it by;
There was a teardrop in his eye.
He placed a hand on David's head,
And words of sorrow then he said.
"Coulds't I take back my saber stroke,
And with a finger gently poke
The handsome lad I would.
I'll kill no more, that life is done,
I'll off to find my only son."

© 2010 M. Charters, Sierra Madre, CA.