Five smooth stones
It was young David, lord of sheep and cattle,
Pursued his fate, the April fields among,
Singing a song of solitary battle,
A loud mad song, for he was very young.
Vivid the air -- and something more than vivid --
Tall clouds were in the sky -- and something more --
The light horizon of the spring was livid
With a steel smile that showed the teeth of war.
It was young David mocked the Philistine.
It was young David laughed beside the river.
There came his mother -- his and yours and mine --
With five smooth stones, and dropped them in his quiver.
You never saw so green-and-gold a fairy.
You never saw such very April eyes.
She sang him sorrow's song to make him wary.
She gave him five smooth stones to make him wise.
The first stone is love, and that shall fail you.
The second stone is hate, and that shall fail you.
The third stone is knowledge, and that shall fail you.
The fourth stone is prayer, and that shall fail you.
The fifth stone shall not fail you.
For what is love, O lovers of my tribe ?
And what is love, O women of my day?
Love is a farthing piece, a bloody bribe
Pressed in the palm of God -- and thrown away.
And what is hate, O fierce and unforgiving ?
And what shall hate achieve, when all is said ?
A silly joke that cannot reach the living,
A spitting in the faces of the dead.
And what is knowledge, O young men who tasted
The reddest fruit on that forbidden tree?
Knowledge is but a painful effort wasted,
A bitter drowning in a bitter sea.
And what is prayer, O waiters for the answer ?
And what is prayer, O seekers of the cause ?
Prayer is the weary soul of Herod's dancer.
Dancing before blind kings without applause.
The fifth stone is a magic stone, my David,
Made up of fear and failure, lies and loss.
Its heart is lead, and on its face is graved
A crooked cross, my son, a crooked cross.
It has no dignity to lend it value ;
No purity -- alas, it bears a stain.
You shall not give it gratitude, nor shall you
Recall it all your days, except with pain.
Oh, bless your blindness, glory in your groping !
Mock at your betters with an upward chin!
And when the moment has gone by for hoping.
Sling your fifth stone, O son of mine, and win.
Grief do I give you, grief and dreadful laughter ;
Sackcloth for banner, ashes in your wine.
Go forth, go forth, nor ask me what comes after ;
The fifth stone shall not fail you, son of mine.
Go forth, go forth, and slay the Philistine.
Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
Text added to the website: 2010-01-25.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:32
Line count: 54
Word count: 466
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