Innocence Lost, Integrity Found

1. Youthful Innocence

Lonesome lad in the free outdoors,
bright-eyed boy of the grand outback,
worldly-wise beyond his mere
beardless, fresh-complexioned years –
innocence clearly beaming forth
from eyes alert at all times to:
a straying lamb, a limping ewe,
a meteorological message of
menace borne on solo cloud
from distant, hidden, raging sea;
ears habitually attuned to:
felt-soled tread of stalking lion,
or scaly hiss of subtle serpent’s
s-shaped slithering advance through grass;
slim, flexible fingers that
as soon could coax melodious notes
in tuneful praise from nearby lyre,
transporting songs of gratitude
to his ever-present Father-God,
as could project ballistic stone
from his leather sling, against
any fearsome foe that dared
attack his absent father’s flock.

2. Striding the Path of Righteousness
(righteous means ‘right’ or ‘straight’)

Tarzan-like he thrives . . . Alone?
Yoked to his all-sufficient God
– a Tarzan yet to find his Jane –
how would he cope in the world of men?

Brothers, Goliath, mad King Saul
he took in his stride, quite undeterred;
guided by faith and honesty,
walked the straight line of righteousness.

He met his snarling, burly brothers:
‘Who needs you at the battle front?
Get back to the back-of-beyond where you
belong with those few woolly-backs.
Goodbye, you are the litter’s runt!’

Bravado? Just a splurge of blather:
‘This war needs men not peach-faced brats!’
But each was just a coward at heart
whose knees had knocked like castanets
every time Goliath roared,
day after day, these six drab weeks.

Goliath! What did he make of him?
‘An airhead, though three metres high!
that dares our covenant God defy!’
He hurled with zeal from practised sling
a God-enhanced ballistic missile
that stunned and felled the hunk invincible,
as once had slumped that lumbering bear.

And mad King Saul? That bellowing lion
he calmed right down to purring kitten,
his discordant demons silenced
by sweet strains of praise to God
gently plucked from well-used lyre.

3. Complications and Compromise

Unfazed by giant, madman, beasts,
could he survive among the girls?
He’d gained submissions, wrestling men;
would this prize fighter hit the mat
when females plied smooth judo moves –
robbed of his constant innocence?

Soon King Saul had sidled up
– scale-encrusted snake-in-the-grass! –
offering his daughter as a bride
(the one who was his keenest fan:
‘David’ scrawled across her wall,
pop-star of her nightly dreams)
if he would kill a thousand troops
of the late Goliath slain by him,
and bring their penile pelts as proof
he’d finished off their regiment.

To win and wed a real princess
delivered he a double tally!

But she lied against him to the king
who gave her to another man.
. . . Then he himself began to lie
and to cheat habitually.

Later, when crowned, though he’d six wives,
still he insisted she return.
But Michal granted him no pleasure;
‘Ice Maiden’, she scorned and criticised
his zealous dance before the Lord.
Frigid, barren, she remained
fruitless till her dying day.

4. Bankrupt of Innocence

Ensconced well out of the searchlight sun,
guard-duty Conscience away on leave,
the lonesome truant from battlefield
emerged from his lair at siesta’s end
to prowl the palace parapet.
Feasting his curiosity
on scenes of servants’ domestic life
transformed by the enchanting ambience
unique to evenings in the Spring
into paradise restored,
his roving eye lens paused . . . It zoomed
and focused hungrily upon
a lithesome, lonesome young gazelle,
discreetly shielded from neighbours’ eyes
but in full view of his royal box.
This unselfconscious bathing belle,
towelling unblemished flesh
in the warm tones of the setting sun,
captured his currently under-employed
poet’s romantic imagination.
‘Gorgeous! Deserves to be a queen!’
Uriah her husband gone to war,
the king wined, dined and bedded her.

To cover his part in her pregnancy
he welcomed the soldier back from camp,
wined and dined him . . . wined him more . . .
then sent him home to bed his wife.
But with true devout integrity
the drunk man snored on palace floor,
loyal to comrades sleeping rough!
So, David wickedly engineered
a fatal accident-in-action . . .
then married the murder-victim’s widow.

David was not a man at ease;
silent lyre-strings gathered dust.

5. Integrity Implant

God’s spokesman Nathan paid a visit,
told him a tale of gross injustice.
The King of the Jungle vented all
his accumulated pent-up fury
from Saul, Goliath, bullying brothers
in a who-would-dare-defy-me? roar:
‘Whoever he is, the man must die
after paying compensation!’
– Outburst of righteous indignation? –
Methinks he doth protest too much!

The prophet, looking at the floor,
cleared his throat, ‘You are that man.’
His reservoir’s defences breached,
tear-drenched confession flowed in spate:

‘I stank of pride when I assumed
I ever was an innocent.
Born in sin! In sin conceived!
But you desire an honest heart
so you can teach me to be wise
deep within my inmost soul.
Oh, purify me from my guilt;
wash me, cleanse me through and through
until I gleam more white than snow.
Create in me a heart that’s clean;
the spirit of righteousness renew.
Give me back the joy I knew
and make me willing to obey
each hint of what you wish from me.’

Hugh Thompson
(25 March 2001)

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