"Goliath of Gath"
By Phillis Wheatley

  • Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Students of Marymount University, James West, Amy Ridderhof
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London : Printed for A. Bell, 1773Page images are sourced from two copies of the first edition housed in the Library of Congress.Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, 1999Online SGML text from the University of Michigan HTI. SGML markup edited to conform to LiC parameters, including changes to element and attribute case, ligatures, and other special html characters.

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Wheatley, Phillis. "Goliath of Gath", Printed for A. Bell, 1773, pp 31-42. Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthologydev.lib.virginia.edu/work/Wheatley/wheatley-goliath. Accessed: 2021-12-03T12:29:28.871Z

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31 GOLIATH OF GATH. I SAM. Chap. xvii. 1YE martial pow'rs, and all ye tuneful nine, 2Inspire my song, and aid my high design. 3The dreadful scenes and toils of war I write, 4The ardent warriors, and the fields of fight: 5You best remember, and you best can sing 6The acts of heroes to the vocal string: 7Resume the lays with which your sacred lyre, 8Did then the poet and the sage inspire. 9Now front to front the armies were display'd, 10Here Israel rang'd, and there the foes array'd; 11The hosts on two opposing mountains stood, 12Thick as the foliage of the waving wood; 13Between them an extensive valley lay, 14O'er which the gleaming armour pour'd the day, 15When from the camp of the Philistine foes, 16Dreadful to view, a mighty warrior rose; 17In the dire deeds of bleeding battle skill'd, 18The monster stalks the terror of the field. 32 [copy 2] 19From Gath he sprung, Goliath was his name, 20Of fierce deportment, and gigantic frame: 21A brazen helmet on his head was plac'd, 22A coat of mail his form terrific grac'd, 23The greaves his legs, the targe his shoulders prest: 24Dreadful in arms high-tow'ring o'er the rest 25A spear he proudly wav'd, whose iron head, 26Strange to relate, six hundred shekels weigh'd; 27He strode along, and shook the ample field, 28While Phoebus blaz'd refulgent on his shield: 29Through Jacob's race a chilling horror ran, 30When thus the huge, enormous chief began: 31"Say, what the cause that in this proud array 32"You set your battle in the face of day? 33"One hero find in all your vaunting train, 34"Then see who loses, and who wins the plain; 35"For he who wins, in triumph may demand 36"Perpetual service from the vanquish'd land: 37"Your armies I defy, your force despise, 38"By far inferior in Philistia's eyes: 33 [copy 2] 39"Produce a man, and let us try the fight, 40"Decide the contest, and the victor's right." 41Thus challeng'd he: all Israel stood amaz'd, 42And ev'ry chief in consternation gaz'd; 43But Jesse's son in youthful bloom appears, 44And warlike courage far beyond his years: 45He left the folds, he left the flow'ry meads, 46And soft recesses of the sylvan shades. 47Now Israel's monarch, and his troops arise, 48With peals of shouts ascending to the skies; 49In Elah's vale the scene of combat lies. 50When the fair morning blush'd with orient red, 51What David's sire enjoin'd the son obey'd, 52And swift of foot towards the trench he came, 53Where glow'd each bosom with the martial flame. 54He leaves his carriage to another's care, 55And runs to greet his brethren of the war. 56While yet they spake the giant-chief arose, 57Repeats the challenge, and insults his foes: 34 [copy 2] 58Struck with the sound, and trembling at the view, 59Affrighted Israel from its post withdrew. 60"Observe ye this tremendous foe, they cry'd, 61"Who in proud vaunts our armies hath defy'd: 62"Whoever lays him prostrate on the plain, 63"Freedom in Israel for his house shall gain; 64"And on him wealth unknown the king will pour, 65"And give his royal daughter for his dow'r." 66Then Jesse's youngest hope: "My brethren say, 67"What shall be done for him who takes away 68"Reproach from Jacob, who destroys the chief, 69"And puts a period to his country's grief. 70"He vaunts the honours of his arms abroad, 71"And scorns the armies of the living God." 72Thus spoke the youth, th' attentive people ey'd 73The wond'rous hero, and again reply'd: 74"Such the rewards our monarch will bestow, 75"On him who conquers, and destroys his foe." 35 [copy 2] 76Eliab heard, and kindled into ire 77To hear his shepherd-brother thus inquire, 78And thus begun? "What errand brought thee? say 79"Who keeps thy flock? or does it go astray? 80"I know the base ambition of thine heart, 81"But back in safety from the field depart." 82Eliab thus to Jesse's youngest heir, 83Express'd his wrath in accents most severe. 84When to his brother mildly he reply'd, 85"What have I done? or what the cause to chide?" 86The words were told before the king, who sent 87For the young hero to his royal tent: 88Before the monarch dauntless he began, 89"For this Philistine fail no heart of man: 90"I'll take the vale, and with the giant fight: 91"I dread not all his boasts, nor all his might." 36 [copy 2] 92When thus the king: "Dar'st thou a stripling go, 93"And venture combat with so great a foe? 94"Who all his days has been inur'd to fight, 95"And made its deeds his study and delight: 96"Battles and bloodshed brought the monster forth, 97"And clouds and whirlwinds usher'd in his birth." 98When David thus: "I kept the fleecy care, 99"And out there rush'd a lion and a bear; 100"A tender lamb the hungry lion took, 101"And with no other weapon than my crook 102"Bold I pursu'd, and chas'd him o'er the field, 103"The prey deliver'd, and the felon kill'd: 104"As thus the lion and the bear I slew, 105"So shall Goliath fall, and all his crew: 106"The God, who sav'd me from these beasts of prey, 107"By me this monster in the dust shall lay." 108So David spoke. The wond'ring king reply'd; 109"Go thou with heav'n and victory on thy side: 110"This coat of mail, this sword gird on," he said, 111And plac'd a mighty helmet on his head: 37 [copy 2] 112The coat, the sword, the helm he laid aside, 113Nor chose to venture with those arms untry'd, 114Then took his staff, and to the neighb'ring brook 115Instant he ran, and thence five pebbles took. 116Mean time descended to Philistia's son 117A radiant cherub, and he thus begun: 118"Goliath, well thou know'st thou hast defy'd 119"Yon Hebrew armies, and their God deny'd: 120"Rebellious wretch! audacious worm! forbear, 121"Nor tempt the vengeance of their God too far: 122"Them, who with his omnipotence contend, 123"No eye shall pity, and no arm defend: 124"Proud as thou art, in short liv'd glory great, 125"I come to tell thee thine approaching fate. 126"Regard my words. The judge of all the gods, 127"Beneath whose steps the tow'ring mountain nods, 128"Will give thine armies to the savage brood, 129"That cut the liquid air, or range the wood. 130"Thee too a well-aim'd pebble shall destroy, 131"And thou shalt perish by a beardless boy: 38 [copy 2] 132"Such is the mandate from the realms above, 133"And should I try the vengeance to remove, 134"Myself a rebel to my king would prove. 135"Goliath say, shall grace to him be shown, 136"Who dares heav'ns monarch, and insults his throne?" 137"Your words are lost on me," the giant cries, 138While fear and wrath contended in his eyes, 139When thus the messenger from heav'n replies: 140"Provoke no more Jehovah's awful hand 141"To hurl its vengeance on thy guilty land: 142"He grasps the thunder, and, he wings the storm, 143"Servants their sov'reign's orders to perform." 144The angel spoke, and turn'd his eyes away, 145Adding new radiance to the rising day. 146Now David comes: the fatal stones demand 147His left, the staff engag'd his better hand 39 [copy 2] 148The giant mov'd, and from his tow'ring height 149Survey'd the stripling, and disdain'd the fight, 150And thus began: "Am I a dog with thee? 151"Bring'st thou no armour, but a staff to me? 152"The gods on thee their vollied curses pour, 153"And beasts and birds of prey thy flesh devour." 154David undaunted thus, "Thy spear and shield 155"Shall no protection to thy body yield: 156"Jehovah's name -- no other arms I bear, 157"I ask no other in this glorious war. 158"To-day the Lord of Hosts to me will give 159"Vict'ry, to-day thy doom thou shalt receive; 160"The fate you threaten shall your own become, 161"And beasts shall be your animated tomb, 162"That all the earth's inhabitants may know 163"That there's a God, who governs all below 164"This great assembly too shall witness stand, 165"That needs nor sword, nor spear, th' Almighty's hand: 40 [copy 2] 166"The battle his, the conquest he bestows, 167"And to our pow'r consigns our hated foes." 168Thus David spoke; Goliath heard and came 169To meet the hero in the field of fame. 170Ah! fatal meeting to thy troops and thee, 171But thou wast deaf to the divine decree; 172Young David meets thee, meets thee not in vain; 173'Tis thine to perish on th' ensanguin'd plain. 174And now the youth the forceful pebble slung 175Philistia trembled as it whizz'd along: 176In his dread forehead, where the helmet ends, 177Just o'er the brows the well-aim'd stone descends, 178It pierc'd the skull, and shatter'd all the brain, 179Prone on his face he tumbled to the plain: 180Goliath's fall no smaller terror yields 181Than riving thunders in aerial fields: 182The soul still ling'red in its lov'd abode, 183Till conq'ring David o'er the giant strode: 184Goliath's sword then laid its master dead, 185And from the body hew'd the ghastly head; 41 186The blood in gushing torrents drench'd the plains, 187The soul found passage through the spouting veins. 188And now aloud th' illustrious victor said, 189"Where are your boastings now your champion's dead?" 190Scarce had he spoke, when the Philistines fled: 191But fled in vain; the conqu'ror swift pursu'd: 192What scenes of slaughter! and what seas of blood! 193There Saul thy thousands grasp'd th' impurpled sand 194In pangs of death the conquest of thine hand; 195And David there were thy ten thousands laid: 196Thus Israel's damsels musically play'd. 197Near Gath and Ekron many an hero lay, 198Breath'd out their souls, and curs'd the light of day: 199Their fury, quench'd by death, no longer burns, 200And David with Goliath's head returns, 201To Salem brought, but in his tent he plac'd 202The load of armour which the giant grac'd. 42 203His monarch saw him coming from the war, 204And thus demanded of the son of Ner. 205"Say, who is this amazing youth?" he cry'd, 206When thus the leader of the host reply'd; 207"As lives thy soul I know not whence he sprung, 208"So great in prowess though in years so young:" 209"Inquire whose son is he," the sov'reign said, 210"Before whose conq'ring arm Philistia fled." 211Before the king behold the stripling stand, 212Goliath's head depending from his hand: 213To him the king: "Say of what martial line 214"Art thou, young hero, and what sire was thine?" 215He humbly thus; "the son of Jesse I: 216"I came the glories of the field to try. 217"Small is my tribe, but valiant in the fight; 218"Small is my city, but thy royal right." 219"Then take the promis'd gifts," the monarch cry'd, 220Conferring riches and the royal bride: 221"Knit to my soul for ever thou remain 222"With me, nor quit my regal roof again."