Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SOLOMON'S PARENTS, by GORDON BOTTOMLEY



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SOLOMON'S PARENTS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Do I turn to poison? Am I corrupt?
Last Line: How they grew.
Subject(s): Bathsheba (Bible); David (D. 962 B.c.); Solomon (10th Century B.c.); Women In The Bible


BATHSHEBA.
DO I turn to poison? Am I corrupt?
Shall I breed worms invisibly and yearn?
Each time I suckle him he thrills me less;
Something departs that does not come again,
Chilled by acts of my insensible flesh.
O, he was got in sin; it was my sin:
'Tis a poor God to punish a little baby
Trustingly ignorant of punishment
Or any other evil -- and I am a Queen
Hoarding so much to lose and suffer and bear....
I and the King, the King who never comes,
Why are not we belittled for his sake.
I do not believe it -- such a bygone sin --
And God will never follow such unjust ways.

ATARAH.
Madam, he will not sleep; he must be fed.

BATHSHEBA.
What is it I am distilling out of me?
Poppies ooze whiteness, O so innocent.
My body turns instinctively to sin,
Even when I never know.... It will remember.
Where is the King? Tell him that soon he must kill me
If he would save his child.

HAGGITH.
Madam, the King
Has fasted in the Temple seven days,
And will not hear nor see nor even feel.

BATHSHEBA.
Ay, would he save himself by much fasting?
His child, too, might save himself by fasting.

ATARAH.
Madam, we dared not tell you: the old prophet
Has doomed your child, and so the King must pray.

BATHSHEBA.
Ay, Nathan; Nathan is too old to live.

ATARAH.
I went to hang the Queen's silver robe
With heavy fringe in the second treasure-house;
I heard a sick voice through the lattice
And feet pacing in the court below
And Nathan said "Give me the King's justice --
The years weary my mind; the earth is evil.
There is a man too rich with many flocks,
A man in this city, to whom there came
A guest before whom his pride faded:
He lessened no unnumbered flock to feast him,
But took by night a poor man's only lamb
Because it had been fed with daintier food
And had grown tender in a poor man's bosom.
How shall this wrong-doer remember his sin?"
The footsteps stayed; my lord laughed "Old Nathan,
Am I a fox? Dost take me in a snare?"
Then silence, but I waited; the air waited....
Again my lord, coldly and like slow bites
"I am glad I sinned; I am glad that I repent;
I am sorry for my sin; I shall sin again --
Shall I not sin if life stand still without it?"
Then Nathan "Crafty to slay with a foe's sword,
A sword shall pierce your own soul also.
Has not the God reft many wives for you
From a great King? When were your eyes made God's?"
(O Madam, keep still; the child will grow uneasy.)
Again my lord "Do I not repent
This sin that makes me proud; shall not joy
Grow from this sin while life lets love endure?
I can pay after that. Is it not well?
Who made me with a heart that needs to sin?
He knows that thus I best fulfil His need.
I am grieved that I must sin, grieved in my heart,
Weary with this long labour for which I am chosen."
Then Nathan "You cannot perish ere the end;
But the dumb child you thieved by assault of sin
Shall suffer for you to make you suffer more;
It shall die, echoing your sin."
Again my lord "'Tis ever His turn the last;
I know the child is sick, I will pray to Him
And fast and hurt myself until He is pleased.
I am spent with this long work of shewing His power."

HAGGITH.
O pity! O look, look! O, the child!
Hard woman, you have refused your breasts too long --
See, his sunk belly shivers; he is dead.
Will not your breast ache when you cannot ease it?

BATHSHEBA.
Little one, little one, part your lips -- I touch you;
Close to me, close in to me, O closer to me --
You shall not go, my arms can hold you for ever --
Will you not take this nipple so tiny and wrinkly,
So warm to play with, so pretty? Nor the other?

ATARAH.
Haggith, go to the King; bring hither the King;
Bid him leave his selfish comfort of prayer.

BATHSHEBA.
There are trances; there are swoons; ways for souls
To try timidly the unknown path
Yet with one foot hold open the door behind them.
If I were dead should I not please myself,
Go where I chose? That must be, I being I.
He will return when he has grown a little --
Just enough to know I am his need.

KING DAVID, at the door.
Bathsheba, is he cold? Quite, quite dead?

BATHSHEBA.
Gracious One, Arbiter of him and me,
Do you step down to us from your heights,
Your mountain-tops where you commune with God?
My lord, this is no temple fit for you;
You do so well to peer round the door-post --
One stretched hand shews shadows between your fingers,
Expressing more than your beard-hidden face.
Are you so eager to have your sin paid for?
My child is dead because you have stolen me,
Because you stole him also, from Uriah --
Shall I be still tormented for your sin?

KING DAVID.
You say something: I know not: I am hungered.
If I take my hand away I shall drop.
You sound angry; I have done nothing more....
O, kneel upon my body and end the pain.

BATHSHEBA.
Ah, I am hungry too; I am very hungry --
Hungrier than the stars for Fate to fall;
I am hungry for that which will not come again.

KING DAVID.
I am hungry? Which is hungry? Is... it... she?

HAGGITH, softly to Atarah.
Her under-robe is creasing against the silk:
Is it her breasts lifting themselves up?

ATARAH.
Hush! Watch! I think she will go to him....
Her hands open -- the child will fall.... She is there.

BATHSHEBA.
See, I crouch here; let yourself slip down;
My bosom shall save you. Yes, yes, it shall save you;
My bosom shall save you, you who trusted the God.
Ah...h, he is blind, with wondering dry eyes;
Only his mouth remembers the touch of life,
The taste of life -- he has found it -- O, the rill,
The trill in my heart, the gleaming in mine eyes.
Even my neck was sore, as with unshed tears:
It is all gone. You wicked beautiful one,
You must not hurt me. Do not close your eyes.
Yes, close your eyes upon me like more lips.

Wise lips that know so much
When you open, when you touch,
All you feel I can see,
Heart of me.

Lift your hands, O so high;
Do not apples hang above you
In your weak eyes' tiny sky?
Ah, they love you.

KING DAVID.
Bathsheba, dread is the night that has fallen on us.
Has not the falling of night always drawn us together?
Will it not now?

BATHSHEBA.
Press them, they were made for you,
Often gathered, always new,
Moist with furtive mother-dew.
How they grew.





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