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By Jim Vasquez
They sang of me with symbols loud,
With trumpet and the lyre,
They cheered an army marching home,
In soldiers' stark attire.
"Ten thousand he has slain," they cried,
As earth 'neath countless feet,
Reverberated from the sound,
And from the rhythmed beat.
"Great David's hand this triumph bright,
Has wrought for all to see,
His might laid waste the wretched foe,
And brought us victory."
And thus my name exalted was,
For every battle won,
In Zion did I rule supreme,
As Israel's honored son.
And quick was I to praise our God,
In joyous song replete,
But yet had I a thing to learn,
In which I found defeat.
An enemy much greater than,
The one in battles far,
Was close within to do me harm,
And all my honor scar.
In truth this story will I tell,
Of one who stood so tall,
Of how he then forsook his God,
Of how a prince did fall.
I walked the rooftop one clear night,
'Midst bracing springtime air,
I'd risen from my bed a while,
My soul was restless there.
I'd sent my army far to fight,
With Joab in command,
Quite confident of victory I,
'Neath his most able hand.
And as I thought just what the news,
Would on the morrow bring,
To give us cause to celebrate,
And every lass to sing,
I stopped abruptly when I saw,
This most alluring sight,
For there atop another roof,
By dim and fading light,
A woman bathed so unconcerned,
So innocent and pure,
So unaware she could be seen,
And every fair contour.
I looked and knew within my fold,
I hardly could find one,
Who matched her beauty, and as for,
Her graceful body, none.
I looked, I say, and then I looked,
Again and yet again,
I let my eyes enjoy the feast,
Regarding not, just then,
The ways of God that I had learned,
The truths I'd often shared.
From these I turned my thoughts away,
And then was I ensnared.
I sent to ask just who she was,
And when they said to me,
Her husband was away from home,
To fight the enemy,
At my command to my estate,
Was she forthrightly led,
And to my private quarters, then,
And to my very bed.
I questioned not my actions for,
Quite overcome was I,
Fulfilling burning appetites,
That swiftly had come nigh.
I sent her home, quite satisfied,
Was I, my passions quelled,
The thing was past, the matter o'er,
No guilt within me welled.
But then one day she sent me word,
(Quite out of mind she'd been),
She was with child. How cruel, how sharp,
This vestige of my sin!
But still no guilt did I allow,
To guide my chosen way,
I had her husband sent to me,
And on that very day,
"Go home," I said, "enjoy your wife,
Take leave of all your men,
And when you've rested up a bit,
I'll send you back again."
He bowed and left but spent the night,
Beside the palace door,
Disdaining home, his wife and bed,
While on the cold, hard floor.
And then I knew the matter was,
More serious than I thought,
As king it hardly served to have,
A charge against me brought.
Uriah, then, would have to die,
This soldier, brave and fine,
With honor in full battle and,
Bathsheba would be mine.
I ordered Joab without fail,
As day grew long and dark,
To place Uriah near the wall,
Where archer's found their mark.
It bothered not that in his hand,
He carried what I wrote,
Containing orders for his death,
Within that fatal note.
He fell and when the news was brought,
The battle went not well,
But then a postscript did they add,
And of Uriah tell.
"Good man," I said to Joab, then,
"Let not your spirits flag,
If things one day go quite amiss,
Another day you'll brag."
Bathsheba also heard the news,
And mourned her noble spouse,
And when the days of grief were past,
I brought her to my house.
So she became my wife and I,
In heady, sanguine thought,
Was sure my days would be well blest,
Just as, for kings, they ought.
But then one day, a man appeared,
And Nathan was his name,
As God's most fearless prophet he,
Throughout the land had fame.
And, bold, he raised his voice and said,
"A poor man in the land,
Was poorer made when his lone sheep,
A rich man did demand,
"And thus depriving him of his,
Most prized, beloved beast,
He meanly took all that he had,
And made of it a feast."
And I, enraged, that such a thing,
Took place within my sway,
My judgment gave that such a man,
With his own life should pay.
And four-fold must restore the loss,
So cruel and merciless,
And thus with holy fury did,
I show my righteousness.
There was indeed within my land,
Just such a man as he,
Who, richly blest, still robbed the poor,
And made them poorer be.
But he lived not outside my walls,
Much closer did he dwell,
And in a moment did I learn,
I knew him very well.
For Nathan spoke and pierced my heart,
As only prophets can,
When, eyes ablaze, with thundering voice,
He said, "Thou art the man!"
"Your sin cannot be hid, O King,
'Tis this day known abroad,
You've brought contempt amongst our foes,
Dishonoring our God."
And in that moment I was stripped,
Of all pretense and guile,
That I had worn so faithlessly,
Dissembling all the while.
I knew without a doubt just then,
My judgment had been right,
But on myself had I pronounced,
This dark and deadly plight.
And though I'd changed, my God had not,
A God of mercy still,
Who ever pardons those who come,
With bent and broken will.
I fled from him who brought me word,
Of my most heinous deed,
And knelt within the house of God,
Most humbly there to plead.
"Have mercy, Lord, and make me clean,"
I cried in my despair,
"My sin is ever in my thoughts,
And more than I can bear.
"And from my youth, or e'en before,
I've had this bent within,
That causes me to turn aside,
And, wavering, to sin.
"With hyssop cleanse and whiter than,
The snow on Hermon's crest,
My heart in peace shall find itself,
And my low conscience, rest."
And shortly, then, I heard His voice,
In tones that still abide,
For all my sins so cruelly wrought,
His face from them would hide.
And now my story finds its end,
I say to one and all,
To him who as a monarch sits,
To him whose rule is small,
Think not your enemy is found,
In faint and distant land,
It's what's within your very heart,
Where you must take your stand.
from the Febuary 2001 Edition Jewish Magazine