NOW spent the alter'd King, in am'rous Cares, The Hours of sacred Hymns and solemn Pray'rs: In vain the Alter waits his slow returns, Where unattended Incense faintly burns: In vain the whisp'ring Priests their Fears express, And of the Change a thousand Causes guess. Heedless of all their Censures He retires, And in his Palace feeds his secret Fires; Impatient, till from Rabbah Tydings tell, That near those Walls the poor Uriah fell, Led to the Onset by a Chosen Few, Who at the treacherous Signal, soon withdrew; Nor to his Rescue e'er return'd again, Till by fierce Ammon's Sword they saw the Victim slain. 'Tis pass'd, 'tis done! the holy Marriage-Knot, Too strong to be unty'd, at last is cut. And now to Bathsheba the King declares, That with his Heart, the Kingdom too is hers; That Israel's Throne, and longing Monarch's Arms Are to be fill'd but with her widow'd Charms. Nor must the Days of formal Tears exceed, To cross the Living, and abuse the Dead. This she denies; and signs of Grief are worn; But mourns no more than may her Face adorn, Give to those Eyes, which Love and Empire fir'd, A melting Softness more to be desir'd; Till the fixt Time, tho' hard to be endur'd, Was pass'd, and a sad Consort's Name procur'd: When, with the Pomp that suits a Prince's Thought, By Passion sway'd, and glorious Woman taught, A Queen she's made, than Michal seated higher, Whilst light unusual Airs prophane the hallow'd Lyre.
Where art thou Nathan? where's that Spirit now, Giv'n to brave Vice, tho' on a Prince's Brow? In what low Cave, or on what Desert Coast, Now Virtue wants it, is thy Presence lost?
But lo! he comes, the Rev'rend Bard appears, Defil'd with Dust his awful silver Hairs, And his rough Garment, wet with falling Tears. The King this mark'd, and conscious wou'd have fled, The healing Balm which for his Wounds was shed: Till the more wary Priest the Serpents Art, Join'd to the Dove-like Temper of his Heart, And thus retards the Prince just ready now to part.
Hear me, the Cause betwixt two Neighbors hear, Thou, who for Justice dost the Sceptre bear: Help the Opprest, nor let me weep alone For him, that calls for Succour from the Throne. Good Princes for Protection are Ador'd, And Greater by the Shield, than by the Sword. This clears the Doubt, and now no more he fears The Cause his Own, and therefore stays and hears: When thus the Prophet: – –In a flow'ry Plain A King-like Man does in full Plenty reign; Casts round his Eyes, in vain, to reach the Bound, Which Jordan's Flood sets to his fertile Ground: Countless his Flocks, whilst Lebanon contains A Herd as large, kept by his numerous Swains, That fill with morning Bellowings the cool Air, And to the Cedar's shade at scorching Noon repair. Near to this Wood a lowly Cottage stands, Built by the humble Owner's painful Hands; Fenc'd by a Stubble-roof, from Rain and Heat, Secur'd without, within all Plain and Neat. A Field of small Extent surrounds the Place, In which One single Ewe did sport and graze: This his whole Stock, till in full time there came, To bless his utmost Hopes, a snowy Lamb; Which, lest the Season yet too Cold might prove, And Northern Blasts annoy it from the Grove, Or tow'ring Fowl on the weak Prey might sieze, (For with his Store his Fears must too increase) He brings it Home, and lays it by his Side, At once his Wealth, his Pleasure and his Pride; Still bars the Door, by Labour call'd away, And, when returning at the Close of Day, With One small Mess himself, and that sustains, And half his Dish it shares, and half his slender Gains. When to the great Man's table now there comes A Lord as great, follow'd by hungry Grooms:
For these must be provided sundry Meats, The best for Some, for Others coarser Cates. One Servant, diligent above the rest To help his Master to contrive the Feast, Extols the Lamb was nourished with such Care, So fed, so lodg'd, it must be Princely Fare; And having this, my Lord his own may spare. In haste he sends, led by no Law, but Will, Not to entreat, or purchase, but to Kill. The Messenger's arriv'd: the harmless Spoil, Unus'd to fly, runs Bleating to the Toil: Whilst for the Innocent the Owner fear'd, And, sure wou'd move, cou'd Poverty be heard. Oh spare (he cries) the Product of my Cares, My Stock's Encrease, the Blessing on my Pray'rs; My growing Hope, and Treasure of my Life! More was he speaking, when the murd'ring Knife Shew'd him, his Suit, tho' just, must be deny'd, And the white Fleece in its own Scarlet dy'd; Whilst the poor helpless Wretch stands weeping by, And lifts his Hands for Justice to the Sky.
Which he shall find, th' incensed King replies, When for the proud Offence th' Oppressor dies. O Nathan! by the Holy Name I swear, Our Land such Wrongs unpunished shall not bear If, with the Fault, th' Offender thou declare.
To whom the Prophet, closing with the Time, Thou art the Man replies, and thine th' ill-natur'd Crime. Nor think, against thy Place, or State, I err; A Pow'r above thee does this Charge prefer; Urg'd by whose Spirit, hither am I brought T' expostulate his Goodness and thy Fault; To lead thee back to those forgotten Years, In Labour spent, and lowly Rustick Cares, When in the Wilderness thy Flocks but few, Thou didst the Shepherd's simple Art pursue Thro' crusting Frosts, and penetrating Dew: Till wondring Jesse saw six Brothers past, And Thou Elected, Thou the Least and Last; A Sceptre to thy Rural Hand convey'd, And in thy Bosom Royal Beauties laid; A lovely Princess made thy Prize that Day, When on the shaken Ground the Giant lay Stupid in Death, beyond the Reach of Cries That bore thy shouted Fame to list'ning Skies, And drove the flying Foe as fast away, As Winds, of old, Locusts to Egypt's Sea. Thy Heart with Love, thy Temples with Renown, Th' All-giving Hand of Heav'n did largely crown, Whilst yet thy Cheek was spread with youthful Down. What more cou'd craving Man of God implore? Or what for favour'd Man cou'd God do more? Yet cou'd not These, nor Israel's Throne, suffice Intemp'rate Wishes, drawn thro' wand'ring Eyes.
One Beauty (not thy own) and seen by chance, Melts down the Work of Grace with an alluring Glance; Chafes the Spirit, fed by sacred Art, And blots the Title AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART; Black Murder breeds to level at his Head, Who boasts so fair a Part'ner of his Bed, Nor longer must possess those envy'd Charms, The single Treasure of his House, and Arms: Giving, by this thy Fall, cause to Blaspheme To all the Heathen the Almighty Name. For which the Sword shall still thy Race pursue, And, in revolted Israel's scornful View, Thy captiv'd Wives shall be in Triumph led Unto a bold Usurper's shameful Bed; Who from thy Bowels sprung shall seize thy Throne, And scourge thee by a Sin beyond thy own. Thou hast thy Fault in secret Darkness done; But this the World shall see before the Noonday's Sun.
Enough! the King, enough! the Saint replies, And pours his swift Repentance from his Eyes; Falls on the Ground, and tears the Nuptial Vest, By which his Crime's Completion was exprest: Then with a Sigh blasting to Carnal Love, Drawn deep as Hell, and piercing Heaven, above Let Me (he cries) let Me attend his Rod, For I have sinn'd, for I have lost my God.
Hold! (says the Prophet ) of that Speech beware, God ne'er was lost, unless by Man's Despair. The Wound that is thus willingly reveal'd, Th' Almighty is as willing should be heal'd. Thus wash'd in Tears, thy Soul as fair does show As the first Fleece, which on the Lamb does grow, Or on the Mountain's top the lately fallen Snow.
Yet to the World that Justice may appear Acting her Part impartial, and severe, The Offspring of thy Sin shall soon resign That Life, for which thou must not once repine; But with submissive Grief his Fate deplore, And bless the Hand, that does inflict no more.
Shall I then pay but Part, and owe the Whole? My Body's Fruit, for my offending Soul? Shall I no more endure (the King demands) And 'scape thus lightly his offended Hands? Oh! let him All resume, my Crown, my Fame; Reduce me to the Nothing, whence I came; Call back his Favours, faster than he gave; And, if but Pardon'd, strip me to my Grave:
Since (tho' he seems to Lose ) He surely Wins, Who gives but earthly Comforts for his Sins.