King David, by Lucy Bate

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Cast and Set

Act I

One side of the tent is open. David, Jonathan, and Michal sit on the floor inside, on pillows. There is one chair, an armchair, on which King Saul is seated, a footstool in front of it, and a couch along one wall of the tent.

David is composing a psalm, and playing on his harp.  There is a satchel beside him; also a pile of reeds, used for wrapping the harpstrings. The psalms may be sung or spoken, to the harp accompaniment.

DAVID

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want for anything.

(He harps.)

(changing the line) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall want nothing.

What do you think? (Jonathan shrugs.)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

(David harps.)

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He restoreth my soul.

SAUL

(groaning) He guideth me.

DAVID

I'm sure He does,

SAUL

He guideth me

DAVID

in straight paths for His name's sake.

(He harps.)

Thou preparest me a table --
(changing the line) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
My cup runneth over.

SAUL (wildly)

I would have a cup.

J0NATHAN

A cup of water. Father? (no answer,)

DAVID

A cup of red wine, King Saul? (No answer.)

JONATHAN

Or white wine?  (No answer.)

DAVID

Or milk? (No answer.)

JONATHAN

Or pomegranate juice?

DAVID

Or another juice?

MICHAL

A cup of soup, Father?

SAUL

A cup! Just a cup!. -- Just a cup. -- A cup of air.  A cup, for Saul, of air.

(Jonathan brings Saul an ornamental clay cup.)

JONATHAN

This was your father's. Father, well-turned in Gibeah.

(Saul smashes the cup. Silence. Then Michal sweeps up the fragments.)

SAUL

Play.

(David harps.)

DAVID

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
For Thou art with me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
(carefully) My cup runneth over.

(They look at Saul, apprehensively.)

SAUL

Give me water.

(Michal brings Saul a goblet of water.)

(refusing it)  In a cup. Running over.

(She brings him a cup of water. He drinks.)

Now give me tables.

MICHAL

Tables?

SAUL

The tables of Moses that are kept in the ark of the covenant.

DAVID

The ark is in Kiriath-jearim. We are in Hebron.

SAUL

Play.

DAVID

(harping.) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

SAUL

I was a shepherd once.

DAVID

Even as I, my lord.

SAUL

I was seeking my sheep that had strayed, at the behest of my father, Kish. Kish me.

MICHAL

What?

SAUL

I said: kiss me.

MICHAL

Willingly, Father.

(She kisses him.)

SAUL

Kish was my father. I had come to the land of Zuph, seeking my sheep. The prophet Samuel saw me. “Behold the man of whom I spoke.”  And he anointed me the first king of Israel.  Up till then we had been led by judges.  Play.

(David psalms, Saul speaking simultaneously.)

DAVID

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall
not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul.

He guideth me in straight paths for His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil

For Thou art with me.

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

SAUL

And later Samuel said to me, after I was anointed king (when I had not destroyed the flocks of the Amalekites, as required by the Lord, as reported by Samuel), Samuel said: “The Lord has rejected you from being king.”

And when I did not wait for Samuel in Gilgal, when we were at war against the Philistines, even as now, when I offered the burnt offering myself, Samuel having tarried, Samuel said: “The Lord would have established your kingdom upon Israel forever, but now your kingdom shall not continue.”

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

(loudly) Mine enemies!

Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(muttering) Samuel said; “The Lord would have established your kingdom forever, but now your kingdom shall not continue.” And he said: “The Lord has sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him to be prince over His people.”

Mine enemies!  They are all about me.

MICHAL

He means the evil spirits that torment him.

SAUL

I do not. Mine enemies the Philistines. The Philistines! (to Michal) See?

(Goliath stalks past the tent. He is a tail man, made to appear even taller by the enormous platform sandals he wears.)

(pointing) See.

DAVID

Goliath.

GOLIATH

Israelis'. Little Israelis'.
I am a Philistine, You are Saul's servants.
Go and choose a man from among you -- if you can find one.
Let him come down to me.
If he can fight me and kill me, we'll be your servants.
But if I prevail against him, you'll be our servants.
Hey, Jews? Hey? Jews? Hey?
Hey, I hear that the man who kills me will marry your kind's own daughter.
Hey? Jews?
Give me a man that we may fight together.
Hey? Jews? Hey? Come kill me? Hey? Come kill me!

(He exits.)

SAUL

This is the seventh day he has taunted us.

DAVID

Will no one take him on?

SAUL

Not even I.

JONATHAN

He is nine feet tall, Goliath.

MICHAL

And a warrior from his youth.

DAVID

(to Saul) Which daughter will you give in marriage to the man who kills Goliath?

SAUL

Either.  Both.

DAVID

For your daughter Michal, I will fight Goliath.  For the sister of Jonathan.

SAUL

You are a boy.  Goliath is a man of war.  Also, you are a promising musician.

DAVID

When I kept my father's sheep, I killed bears and lions with my hands. I'll fight Goliath.

JONATHAN

With bare hands, David?

DAVID

Yes!! The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from this Philistine. -- (He reconsiders.)  Well, no.  We have a device among the shepherds of Bethlehem with which we kill beasts at a distance.

(He takes a sling out of his satchel.

SAUL

(taking the sling) What do you do with it? Twiddle it? -- Toss it? — Juggle it?

DAVID

(taking it back) You fit a small stone in the thong; you draw hack the thong, loose the stone --

SAUL

And the giant falls dead on the ground.

DAVID

Yes; dead; or stunned; no matter.

SAUL

(dryly) That I'd like to see.

DAVID

I'll show you!

SAUL

Tomorrow.  Play.

(David puts away his sling, and harps.)

DAVID

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil-doers came upon me to eat up my flesh,
Even my adversaries, they stumbled and fell.

MICHAL

You should write down these psalms of yours, David.

JONATHAN

He does.

DAVID

Some of them.

Though a host should encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear.
Though war rise up against me,
I will be confident.

SAUL

Do not attach too much importance to your songs, David.

DAVID

A psalm that is pleasing to the Lord in the month of Tishri will please Him in Elul, I believe.

One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

SAUL

But Samuel said to me: “Your kingdom shall not continue.”  Who knows what pleases the Lord?  I was only offering the offering at the appointed time; but Samuel says I was supposed to wait for him.  I was thinking of thrift when I spared the Amalekite flocks.  But Samuel said I had profited from a people I had slain, and therefore I had laid blood guilt upon my people.  Who knows what pleases the Lord? -- My head is aching. -- One day He comforts me; the next, torments me.

DAVID

His absence is your torment. He is not.

SAUL

Stay away from poetry, David, or the Lord will desert you. -- Would you be as I am?  Would you be as I am?  I was a poet ones.

DAVID

(offering his harp) Sing then.

SAUL

I will. Another day. I am in pain. My head aches.  Stroke it, Michal.

(She comes to him.)

Don't touch me. -- Sing.  But I will sing to you another day.  And I will tell you how the Lord treats those who sing.  Sing.

(David harps.)

DAVID

Ascribe to the Lord, 0 ye sons of might,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Worship the Lord.
The voice of the Lord makes the hinds to calve,
And strips the forest bare;
And in His temple all say: “Glory.”

(David binds the reeds about his harp.)

Have I your leave to kill Goliath?

SAUL

You have my leave to try.

DAVID

And shall I have your daughter Michal afterward?

SAUL

Only if you succeed.

(The lights dim.)

(Offstage a chorus of women sings. Or the -women may come onstage, singing and dancing, with timbrels and lyres.)

CHORUS OF WOMEN

Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.

Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.

SAUL

(offstage) Let that song be stopped!

CHORUS OF WOMEN

Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.

(The lights rise again, on David and Jonathan, inside the tent. David has his harp, and a heap of reeds beside him, as before.)

DAVID

When the Lord gives over to us the Philistines entirely
And there is peace in Judah and in Israel;
When Jerusalem is taken;
When King Saul is well;
When the walls are built,
And the Ark of the Lord, the vessel of the law, is brought to the city of Jerusalem,
And a temple is built to house the Ark in Jerusalem,
Then you and I will go out in the city, Jonathan,
Laughing and bragging of old exploits,
Saying,
"Then we were boys in Gibeah, we were boys in Hebron.
Now we are men in holy Jerusalem."

JONATHAN

"Then we were warriors in Gibeah, we warred in Hebron.
Now we are men of peace in Jerusalem."

DAVID

(harping.)

I have pursued my enemies, and overtaken them;
Neither did I turn back till they were consumed.
I will give thanks to You, 0 Lord, among the nations.

And King Saul will be well, and he will rule well over Israel.

JONATHAN

May it happen that way.

DAVID

You and I were together in Gibeah, Jonathan, and in Hebron.  We were together in Geshur.  In Geshur I took Maacah for my wife,

JONATHAN

I have one wife. She is more than enough.

DAVID

I have four; I play them against each other.  But Michal is the foremost of my wives. --

JONATHAN

We were together in Gibeah.

DAVID

And later, much later, when I am king —
For the prophet Samuel says I will be king --
When Jerusalem is taken and the walls are built,
Then you will sit at my right hand, Jonathan,
And I will sit at your left hand;
Michal your sister will sit at my left hand,
Queen of Israel.

JONATHAN

May it all happen, David.

DAVID

(harping)

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name,

JONATHAN

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.

DAVID

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us,
As a father has compassion upon his children,
So has the Lord compassion upon them that fear Him.

I look forward to the children of Michal, the nieces and nephews of Jonathan.

JONATHAN

My father also looks forward to them.
"In them shall Saul be continued."
Meribaal my son is a wild, young baby.
He walked at ten months and cut teeth at four months;
He climbs like a gibbon, he clambers and dances.
He runs faster than a child twice his age, your son Amnon.
From this I conclude Meribaal will be a warrior not to be ashamed of,
And an athlete of prowess, and a graceful dancer.
But my father has no patience for Meribaal,
Since he is not to be king.
Neither is my father patient with the son of David and Ahinoam, nor with the son of David and Maacah.
But for the son of David and Michal, who has not yet conceived,
Meribaal's cousin, not yet conceived,
My father has infinite affection.
Well, and Meribaal and I, we are not jealous.
Meribaal will teach his cousin to run and to jump;
Meribaal will teach his cousin to dance and to clamber.

DAVID

And your son will sit one day at my son's right hand.

(harping)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard;
Even Aaron's beard,
That comes down upon the collar of his garments.

JONATHAN

And makes a shocking stain.  What would his wife say?

DAVID

I know what Michal would say: "Oh, David, David, what a way to dress."

(They laugh.  Saul enters.)

SAUL

(loudly) Why are you laughing?  Why have you got your harp?

DAVID

We are laughing with delight at your triumph over the Philistines.  And the harp's to make music.

SAUL

Make music.

(He stretches himself out on the ground, brooding.  David harps and psalms, Jonathan joining in.)

DAVID AND JONATHAN

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon

(They begin to laugh.)

the beard,
Even Aaron's beard,
That comes down upon the collar of his garments.

(David and Jonathan are greatly amused.)

SAUL

So music is a joke.

JONATHAN

There can be good humor, even in poetry.

(Saul takes up a spear and throws it at Jonathan, missing him, but narrowly.)

It's a fine day.  I'll go outside awhile.  I'll take my little son for a walk.

(Jonathan exits.)

DAVID

It was I who composed the song, not Jonathan.

SAUL

When I cast my spear at you I will not miss.  Play.

DAVID

(harping)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell --        '

SAUL

Not that song!

DAVID

(harping)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want --

SAUL

Not that song!

DAVID

(harping)

0 Lord my God,
I cried unto You,
And You kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

SAUL

What do you know of the pit?!

DAVID

Sing praise to the Lord, 0 His godly ones,
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime.

SAUL

All night I weep,
But joy may come in the morning.

DAVID

(pleased) That's not bad.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
But joy comes in the morning.

SAUL

I was a poet once.  I told you once.

DAVID

Why did you give it up?

SAUL

One spirit invites another.

DAVID

What does that mean?

SAUL

(not answering) I was a poet.

DAVID

(offering his harp) Sing then.

(Saul accepts the harp.  He plays on it awhile, experimenting.  Then:)

SAUL

I sang as follows when Jonathan was a baby:

Jonathan among the dandelions
Is like sunlight upon sunlight,
Laughter upon laughter,
Sunlight upon laughter in Gibeah,
Jonathan in the yellow dandelions.

And when Michal my youngest was born, I sang:

How you are unlike me,
Michal my daughter,
Being little,
Hairless,
And incapable of speech.
Yet you are my flesh
And of my bloodline.
You are my birthright;
I, yours.
In your sons shall Saul continue.

On the birth of Merab, my eldest daughter, 1 also made a song.  On the birth of my son Eshbaal I made a song.

When I kept sheep in Gibeah I sang:

Small sheep
In the eyes of the lion,
Great sheep
In the eyes of the grass,
I will protect you
While I may.
I will keep you from the lion and the bear.
I will keep you from straying
While I may.

But they strayed to Zuph, and I sought for them in many regions, and in the city of Zuph I met Samuel, and he anointed me.

And on the occasion of Samuel's anointing me:

I am not worthy
Of honor above the people.
I am melancholic.
I am prone to inner musings,
I am prone to weariness of spirit,
I am disposed to solitariness,
I, Saul,
Son of Kish.

After that I made no more poetry, except to prophesy.  Poetry is dangerous.  So also is prophecy, but I prophesied. — You asked me why.  Why was I a poet?  No; you asked me why poetry was dangerous.  I will tell you why:  poetry is dangerous,. but the making; of poetry is triply dangerous.  Now ask me why.

DAVID

Why.

SAUL

Because a spirit of the Lord comes upon them that prophesy, and a spirit that is from the Lord comes upon them that sing.  Who opens a door to a spirit opens a door.  Who knows what will come in that doorway another day?  My head aches.  Play.

I must put an end to war.  There will be no peace in Saul, I mean in Salem, until these wars are ended.  Play.  No peace in king, I mean in Kiriath-Jearim, where the ark resides.  Play.

DAVID

Give me my harp.

SAUL

(holding the harp close to him) Take it.

(David goes to Saul and takes the harp.)

This poetry will give you headaches too.  Mark my words, David.  If it weren't for these pains that distress me, I might have been -- I might have done -- (shouting) I cast a spear at my son Jonathan who will not succeed me. — (pause; ingratiatingly) I would not have done so, except that I suffer from cramps.

DAVID

(clinically) Cramps too.

SAUL

When I cast my spear at you I will not miss.  Play.

DAVID

(harping)

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Forget not His benefits.

I sing to the Lord, King Saul, and not to myself and not of my own concerns. Therefore the Lord looks with favor on my songs, and the spirit of the Lord will not desert me.

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

You sang of your children and your sheep and your melancholy temperament.  I sing of the Lord, our shield in battle, and the glory of the Lord our God.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.

SAUL

The Philistines are massed in Mount Gilboa.  I must go up against them and make peace.

DAVID

(harping)

The glory of God thunders,
Even the Lord upon many waters.

SAUL

I said I must go up against the Philistines.

DAVID

(soothingly) Yes, sire; you must.

(harping)

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars.

SAUL

I must go up against the Philistines,  Now.

DAVID

The voice of the Lord makes the hinds to calve,
And strips the forest --

SAUL

Now! -- My belt.

(David brings Saul his belt.  Saul does not move to take it, so David puts it on him.)

Not so tight.  I have cramps. — My spear.

(David brings Saul his spear, which he takes.)

I flung it at Jonathan.  I will fling it at a Philistine.  I will fling it at you.

(David flinches, involuntarily.)

Not today.  Tomorrow.  Today I will kill the Philistines.  Tomorrow I will kill you.  Then won't the blood guilt be on me!  And Samuel thought I could bring down guilt on the people by sparing a few sheep.  (boasting.) Once I slaughtered a whole tribe of Gibeonites and I got no blood guilt.

Get away from Hebron, David.  Get away. God's Anointed.  Saul will kill you.  He has sent you flying before; he will do it again.  An evil spirit torments him.  Get away.

David has stolen the birthright of Jonathan.
The birthright of Jonathan
David has stolen.
Him Samuel anointed; him: David.
David is the Lord's Anointed,
Saul's successor,
And Jonathan is utterly deprived.

I am making poetry again! -- My bow.

(David gives him his bow.  He puts it over his shoulder.)

Do I look fit for battle?

DAVID

Yes, sire.

SAUL

I will fetch my son Jonathan.  I will fetch all my sons except my son Eshbaal.  Eshbaal I will not fetch.  I will fetch an army.  We will all go up to Mount Gilboa together and kill the Philistines.  Today Gilboa, tomorrow Jerusalem!  It's all half desert anyhow.  And Saul, I mean Salem --and Zaul, I mean Zion -- and I, I mean Israel (pronounced with a long "I") --will be at peace.  It is hard to lead the nation to blessedness in time of war.

DAVID

Israel?

SAUL

Israel.

How good and how pleasant it is,
Brethren in unity.

Tell no one I am suffering from headache.

DAVID

Yes, sire.

SAUL

The mountain air will cure me.  I had no headaches when I kept flocks in Gibeah. — My flask.

(David brings him a flask.)

Wish me well, David.

DAVID

I do, sire.

(Saul starts to go; stops.)

SAUL

How do you get on with Michal?

DAVID

She is a perfect wife, and in appearance resembles her brother Jonathan.  She has missed her monthly.

SAUL

Her what?

DAVID

That's what she calls it.

SAUL

Well, David, that's good news. -- Wish me well again, David.  Peace approacheth.

DAVID

I wish you well, King Saul.

(Saul exits.  The lights dim.)

(The lights rise, on David, and Michal nearby.  David plays on his harp, a dirge.)

DAVID

Thy beauty, 0 Israel, upon thy high places is slain!
Lo, how the mighty are fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.

(Michal comes closer to David, but he does not notice.)

Ye mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew nor rain upon you,
Neither fields of fruits;
For there the shield of the mighty was cast away,
Saul and Jonathan, the lovely and the pleasant
In their lives, even in their death they were not divided.
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

(Michal comes still closer to David, but he does not notice.)

Who clothed you in scarlet
And adorned you with gold.
Lo, how the mighty are fallen in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan upon thy high places is slain!
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan;
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me;
Wonderful was thy love to me,
Passing the love of women.

(Michal leaves.  He does not notice.)

Lo, how the mighty are fallen,
And the weapons of war perished!

(He turns to Michal, but she has gone.  He speaks:)

Saul is dead in Mount Gilboa.  Jonathan is dead in Mount Gilboa; and his brothers, all but Eshbaal, are dead.  The people are fled from the battle in Mount Gilboa, and many of the people also are fallen and dead.

Meribaal, the son of Jonathan, was crippled at the plain of Jezreel, near Mount Gilboa.  Him also Saul fetched, to observe the battle with the Philistines, Meribaal who loved to clamber.  He is crippled in both feet.

Lo, how the mighty are fallen,
And the weapons of war perished!

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan.
Wonderful was thy love to me,
Passing the love of women.

(He harps.)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard;
Even Aaron's beard,
That comes down upon the collar of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon
That comes down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing,
Even life forever.

(The lights dim.)

(The lights rise again.  It is seven years later.  David is seated in the armchair, his arms on its arms, his head back, his feet on the footstool.  He is resting, not brooding; he is contented.  Michal enters.)

MICHAL

(serenely) The soldiers are marching four abreast in the city of Jerusalem.

DAVID

(levelly) The Philistine soldiers?

MICHAL

(indulgently) Oh, David! -- ours!

DAVID

Why are they marching in order?  They are not mercenaries.

MICHAL

Joab and I thought --

DAVID

Joab and you?!!

MICHAL

Joab is a general.  And I am the daughter of Saul, who was king.

DAVID

I am a general too.  And I am the present king.

MICHAL

Joab says, David, and I agreed with him, we must keep the troops in order. Therefore he ordered them to march abreast.

DAVID

They are not troops any longer.  They are citizens now.  The Lord our God remembered us and the Philistines are conquered.  Let Israelites walk where they will.

MICHAL

(subdued) Very well.  I'll speak to Joab.

DAVID

Never mind.  I'll take care of it.

(pause)

MICHAL

You will need your troops again, David.  Don't be fooled.  The Philistines are broken to the west, but to the south lie the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, we are at war with the Ammonites even now; to the north the Arameans.

DAVID

Also to the north the Phoenicians.

MICHAL

With them you have made a treaty.

DAVID

Yes, I have.  Don't tell me how to manage my borders.  Let me and my men rejoice in the capture of Jerusalem — not four abreast.

MICHAL

(subdued) I'll speak to Joab.

DAVID

I said I would take care of it.

(He stands up.)

MICHAL

David, I do rejoice with you.  You know I do.

DAVID

(turning to her; gently) Yes, I know, Michal.

MICHAL

When I saw you on the battlements of Jerusalem, as before in Gath, as before in Rephaim, I rejoiced in your achievement.

DAVID

(cooler) You were also thinking, on those battlements, but for an accident of war, would have gone my father Saul, my brother Jonathan.

MICHAL

I was not!

DAVID

No, you were not.  You were thinking: on those battlements, but for an accident of gender, might I have gone, I, Michal, the child of Saul.

MICHAL

I was not!  Each sex has its own task, given to it.  To men, to fight in battles and build the cities.  To women, to establish order in the home.

DAVID

A poor part, isn't it?

MICHAL

Not at all.  We attend our husbands.  They build and fight for us, a fair exchange.

DAVID

Marching four abreast -- so much tending we do not need.

MICHAL

Well, go on.  Speak to Joab.  Tell him, let the men run helter-skelter in the high city of Jerusalem.

DAVID

They will walk, of course.  The Philistines aren't chasing them.

MICHAL

And that is the main thing, David!  You have driven out the Philistines, David, and freed Israel from the foreign enemy.

DAVID

Not I but the Israelites and the Lord our God.  Not I but the children of Israel and the Lord of Hosts.

MICHAL

Sing a song about it, the way you used to do.

(She takes his harp, bound with reeds, and unbinds it.)

DAVID

I am out of the custom.

MICHAL

(giving him the harp) You were singing just the other night, an old song from the days you fled my father.

(David sits, and harps.)

DAVID

They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
And go round about the city.
They wander up and down for food.

MICHAL

That's the one.  Now sing a new song.

DAVID

That one can apply to the capture of Jerusalem too.

You, 0 Lord, shall laugh at them.
You shall have all nations in derision.

MICHAL

Sing a new song, David.

(David harps awhile, then sings.)

DAVID

The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at My right hand,
Until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The rod of your strength the Lord will send out of Zion;
Yours is the dew of your youth.
The Lord has sworn, and will not repent:
”You are a priest forever.”
The Lord at your right hand
Crushes kings in the day of His wrath.

(pause)

MICHAL

You see.  You just had to get in the way of it. -- I'll write it down for you, so we won't forget it.  (sweetly) Sing another.

DAVID

I will sing again when I bring the ark of God to Jerusalem.

MICHAL

(approving) Yes, that will be a fit occasion.

DAVID

(dryly) Very fit.

MICHAL

(placating) I have missed my monthly.

DAVID

Your what?

MICHAL

My time of month.  My -- my fountain.

DAVID

Your what?

MICHAL

(humbled) My menstrual period.

DAVID

(matter-of-factly) That's very nice, dear.

MICHAL

You know what that means, David?

DAVID

My son Absalom will have a half-brother.

MICHAL

Well, let's not get our hopes up.

DAVID

Oh, there's no doubt, my dear.

MICHAL

Now, it may not happen.

DAVID

But it has happened.  Amnon, my eldest, is Absalom's half-brother. --

MICHAL

Alright, David, have it your way.  From now on I won't tell you when I miss my monthly.

DAVID

Oh, tell me, tell me.  Just don't make a big deal of it, Michal.  It has happened before.

MICHAL

But this time I feel sure.  I am three weeks overdue.

DAVID

Feeling is everything.

MICHAL

It is a great grief to me, David, that I have borne no children.

DAVID

I regret it also, Michal.  But I try not to dwell on it.

(pause)

MICHAL

My son will be born in Jerusalem, after the ark has been brought to Jerusalem. Your wife Ahinoam's son was born in Gibeah, and so was your wife Haggith's son, and your wife Maacah's son was born in Hebron.  But our son will be born in Jerusalem, David, in the city of David, near to the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God.  In him Saul's line will be continued.  Let us call our son Eshbaal, after my brother who was murdered.

DAVID

Oh, splendid idea, Michal.  Unless it's a girl.

MICHAL

Then my second-born may be a son, Eshbaal.

DAVID

We'll name all your sons Eshbaal. -- Bind my harp, will you, Michal?  It's time I spoke to Joab.  You and I have been talking quite a while.  It's time my soldiers were freemen, walking, not marching, in the capital city.

(He exits.  Michal takes up his harp.  She plucks it, aimlessly at first; then strums it.  She does not know how to play it, but she establishes a rhythm with it.)

MICHAL

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan.
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me.
Wonderful was thy love to me,
Passing the love of women.

(She strums.)

(singing)

It’s all bound to change
It's all bound to change
When my baby is born in
The bright summer morning
It's all bound to change

Take your son upon your knee
Tell me that he looks like me
Take him on your other knee too
I'll tell you that he looks like you

It's all bound to change
It's all bound to change
When my baby is born in
The bright summer morning
It's all bound to change

Women can make songs too.  Women's songs, in our own fashion.

A childless wife is like a broom --
Sweep the empty floor of an empty room.
A fruitful wife is like --

Oh, a fruitful wife is honored among the women.  She is honored among the people.

It's all bound to change
It's all bound to change
When my baby is born in
The bright summer morning
It's all bound to change

Perhaps I like women's songs better.  They are more tuneful.

Sing to me of your love for me
Sing to me all tenderly
Say you love wherever I go
Say you love whatever I do
Say you love me tenderly
Say that you think well of me

It's all bound to change
It's all bound to change
When my baby is born in
The bright summer morning
It's all bound to change

(She binds David's harp with the reeds.  Bathsheba enters.  She is younger than Michal, and prettier.)

I have missed my monthly, Bathsheba!  I am three weeks overdue!

BATHSHEBA

(warmly) I'm so glad for you, Michal.

MICHAL

My sister Merab has five sons.  I expect a son too.  I shall name him Eshbaal.

BATHSHEBA

After your brother who was murdered by David's men?

MICHAL

David had no part in it.  He put the murderers to death.

BATHSHEBA

Yes; of course.

MICHAL

In my son, Saul's line will be continued.

BATHSHEBA

That will be a blessing for Israel.

MICHAL

How well you understand; I feel you are my good friend.  I wish you'd come earlier, Bathsheba.  David was here.  I want you to meet him.  David must know all my friends, my new ones especially.

BATHSHEBA

I would be honored to meet the king, if the occasion should arise.

(The lights dim.)

(The lights rise again, on the two women.)

MICHAL

I have missed my monthly, Bathsheba!  I'm almost two weeks overdue!

BATHSHEBA

(absently) I'm so glad for you, Michal.

MICHAL

My sister Merab has five sons.  I expect a son too.  I shall name him Eshbaal. In him Saul's line will be continued.

BATHSHEBA

It will be a blessing for Israel.

(Music, coming nearer -- trumpets, cymbals, harps.  Shouting and singing.)

Listen to the music, Michal!

MICHAL

I have had some false alarms --

BATHSHEBA

Listen! --

MICHAL

But this time I feel sure.

BATHSHEBA

Feeling is everything.  Listen to the music!  They are bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem!

(David enters, leaping and dancing, followed by two men with the ark, a wooden chest overlaid with gold, about four feet long, two feet wide, and two feet deep, ornamented with two gold cherubim.  The ark may be carried, or drawn in a cart.  A crowd follows, making music.  (Or the crowd may be suggested by projections or lights, or by music only.))

(as David dances) See how King David rejoices in the coming of the ark!

MICHAL

(tight-lipped) Oh, see how King David rejoices.

(David dances, and the people sing.)

CHORUS

The ark of God is brought to Jerusalem.

FIRST VOICE

Rejoice, make merry, be glad.

SECOND VOICE

0 Israel, rejoice.

THIRD VOICE

0 ye people, rejoice.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

The ark resided at Kiriath-Jearim.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

The ark resided at Both Obed-Edom.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

The ark was built in the days of Moses.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

At the foot of Mount Sinai, in our sojourn in the wilderness.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

The ark was constructed by Bezalel of Judah.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

He built it of acacia wood.  He overlaid it with gold.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

Overlaid with gold, and the cover is gold.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLO

Angels adorn it.  With their wings they cover it.  The ark wherein are kept the tablets of the law.

FIRST VOICE

The law that the Lord gave Moses,

SECOND VOICE

Graven in stone,

THIRD VOICE

For a covenant.

CHORUS

The ark is brought to Jerusalem. --

SOLO

To the city of David in the reign of King David in the days of David the king.

CHORUS

Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.

MICHAL

(bitterly) That old song, now.

CHORUS

Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.

(Nathan comes forward.  He is young.  His appearance is unconventional; he may be hunchbacked; or shabbily dressed.)

NATHAN

Thus says the Lord to me; thus says the Lord: "Go and tell my servant David:

'I took you from following the sheep, that you should be prince over My people Israel.  I have been with you, and I have cut off all your enemies.  I will make you a great name, like the name of the great ones that are in the earth.

"'And when your days are fulfilled,' thus says the Lord to David, 'I will set up your son after you and establish his kingdom.  I will be to your son for a father, and he shall be to Me for a son.  I will chasten him; but My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul.  But your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever; and your throne shall be established forever.'"  Thus says the Lord.

DAVID

Who are you?

NATHAN

I am Nathan the prophet.

DAVID

You must come to me and prophesy again.

(Nathan exits.)

CHORUS

Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.

(David dances again.)

DAVID

(dancing) Who am I, 0 Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me so far?  You are great, 0 Lord God} there is none like You; neither is there any God beside You.

(He opens his linen robe, dancing.  From the tent, Michal watches, appalled.)

You alone are God, and Your words are truth.  May You bless the house of Your servant; may the house of David continue forever before You.

(He throws off his robe.)

MICHAL

Oh, see how King David makes festival.

(David psalms.)

DAVID

0 give thanks to the Lord,
Ye seed of Israel,
Ye children of Jacob, His chosen ones.

0 give thanks to the Lord; for He is good;
For His mercy endures forever.
Gather us together, 0 God of our salvation, and deliver us from the nations.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.

PEOPLE

Amen.

DAVID

Hallelujah!

(Michal rushes from the tent, to David.  Bathsheba follows.)

MICHAL

Amen.  Well; the king of Israel has certainly honored himself today.

DAVID

(misunderstanding her intention) Not I, but the Lord, I honor.

MICHAL

Oh, yes; honor, indeed.  Oh, you have quite proved your manhood today, David, leaping and dancing and singing in the streets, and undressing in front of your handmaids.  Pick up your robe.  Oh, the king of Israel has gotten himself honor today.

DAVID

(quietly) We'll talk it over later, Michal.  Not in front of the populace. Please.

MICHAL

"Please"!  The Lord's anointed, Saul's supplanter, the spouse of the daughter of Saul -- "please."  Oh, you are vile and base in Saul's daughter's sight. I despise you in my heart.  Get dressed!

DAVID

(still quietly) Not before the ark of God, Michal.  Please.

MICHAL

Before the ark indeed.  Get dressed!

(She picks up David's robe and gives it to him.  He takes it, and throws it back on the ground.)

(to the people, loudly) Observe, 0 Israelites; observe, servants and handmaids of David; observe how the king of Israel has gotten himself honor today.

(pause)

DAVID

(to Michal) Before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all your father's house; before the Lord, who appointed me prince over Israel; before the Lord I will make merry.  And I will be vile and I will be base in my own sight.  And with the handmaids you have spoken of, with them I will get my honor.

(pause)

MICHAL

I have missed my monthly.  I am two weeks overdue.

DAVID

You'll get your period tomorrow.  First thing in the morning.  After that there'll be nothing to worry about.  The house of David will endure, the house of Saul will not.  I'll get my honor with handmaids, not with you. And the daughter of Saul will have no child by David, to the day of her death.

(pause)

MICHAL

We'll talk it over, David.  I have missed my monthly.

(David turns his back on her.  To Bathsheba, as if Michal were not there:)

DAVID

And who are you?

BATHSHEBA

I am Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

DAVID

You are beautiful to look upon, Bathsheba. -- Come with us, Bathsheba.  We are going to the city.  (to the populace) Take the ark to the tent I have pitched for it, in the midst of the city.

(The people begin to exit, silently.)

Make music as you go.  You bear the ark of God.

(They are still silent.)

Cymbalists, sound the cymbals!  (Cymbals sound.) -- Harpers, harp!  (The music begins.) -- The psalteries! — The trumpets.

(singing)

The ark of the covenant —

SOLOIST

The ark of the covenant --

PEOPLE

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

DAVID

0 Israel, rejoice.

SOLOIST

0 ye people, rejoice.

PEOPLE

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

DAVID

The ark was built in the days of Moses.

PEOPLE

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

SOLOIST

At the foot of Mount Sinai, in our sojourn in the wilderness.

PEOPLE

The ark is brought to Jerusalem.

(The people exit, with music and rejoicing, followed by David and Bathsheba.)

BATHSHEBA

(as they are going; shyly) The psalm you sang was beautiful. King David.

DAVID

It was mostly cribbed, and the rest of it will be cribbed. -- You are beautiful to look upon, Bathsheba.

BATHSHEBA

I am pleased to find favor in the eyes of my lord the king.

(They exit, leaving Michal alone.  She goes into the tent again, and takes up David's harp.  She strums it, tunelessly, rhythmically.  She sings;)

MICHAL

It's all bound to change
It's all bound to change
When my baby is born in
The bright summer morning
It's all bound to change

Sing to me of your love for me
Sing to me all tenderly
Say you love wherever I go
Say you love whatever I do

(Distressed, she lays aside the harp, and goes to the side of the tent that is open, and closes it.  Inside, she sings again:)

It's all bound to change
It's all bound to change...

(The lights dim.)

(Voices only:)

DAVID

When we go to war with the Ammonites, Joab, when we lay siege to the city of Ramah, send Uriah the Hittite —

JOAB

The soldier Uriah -- the husband of the woman Bathsheba --

DAVID

Send him to the forefront of the battle.

(The lights rise.  Inside the tent David is harping, Bathsheba singing.  Bathsheba opens the tent.  She is pregnant.  On the ground inside the tent quilts are laid out to make a bed, somewhat in disarray. David is sitting on one of them.)

BATHSHEBA

(singing)

May there be sheep upon your hills,
Horses in your stable.
May your children be like olive plants
Round about your table.

(David harps.  Bathsheba folds the quilts and puts them away.)

DAVID

(harping)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity
And in sin my mother conceived me.

BATHSHEBA

(folding the quilts) What is that?

DAVID

A new psalm.  Do you like it?

BATHSHEBA

No.

DAVID

(smiling) Neither do I.

BATHSHEBA

(singing)

My love is like a merchant ship
Over many waters.
May your wife be like a fruitful vine
In your inner chambers.

(putting the quilts away) Will you make my son your heir? -- if it's a boy.

DAVID

I don't know.

BATHSHEBA

(serenely) We'll see how he shapes up.

(Bathsheba sits next to David.)

I had no children by Uriah, and that was a sorrow to us.  Uriah was a good soldier, wasn't he?

DAVID

And a gallant captain.

BATHSHEBA

He died in battle, a fit ending; for a soldier.  So he was spared the knowledge that I was with child, not by himself.

(pause)

DAVID

(harping)

Deliver me from bloodguilt, 0 God, my saving God.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have crushed may rejoice.

BATHSHEBA

It was not the Lord who crushed Uriah, but the fierce Ammonites in the city of Rabbah. — I wept awhile; but I was the king's favorite, and that was a comfort to me.

(David puts his arm around her.)

(leaning on his shoulder) I am looking forward to when our baby is born.

DAVID

So am I.

BATHSHEBA

You have other children.

DAVID

All are dear to me, and this one also;
All the boys and the girls,
The small ones and the ones that are half grown;
Even Amnon, who is on the verge of manhood;
Even Adonijah, the son of Haggith;
Even Tamar, the daughter of Maacah;
Even Absalom, the son of Maacah,
Even Absalom, who has a gift for music.

BATHSHEBA

Like his father.

DAVID

We'll see how he shapes up.

BATHSHEBA

(singing; contented; leaning on his shoulder)

May there be sheep upon your hills,
Horses in your stable.
May your children be like olive plants
Round about your table.

The city sits upon the hill,
A princess with her women.
May you see peace all the days of your life
And your children's children.

(They are content to be together. -- Michal enters.)

MICHAL

Nathan the prophet has come to see you, David.

DAVID

Tell him to cone in. (Michal exits.)

BATHSHEBA

I know Nathan.  He's the one who prophesied when you danced before the ark. He has come to say my son shall be your heir.

(Nathan and Michal enter.)

DAVID

Welcome to Jerusalem, Nathan.

NATHAN

Oh, I am well come, and come in time, but not in time enough.  But in time for this lady's time, for that I am in time.

BATHSHEBA

(uncertainly) Welcome to Jerusalem.

NATHAN

Listen.  There were two men in one city, one rich, the other poor.  Listen to me.  The rich man had many flocks and herds.  The poor man had nothing except one ewe lamb.  Listen.  It grew up together with him and his children.  It ate of his supper and drank of his cup, and lay in his bosom, and was to him as a daughter.  Listen to me.  A traveler came to the rich man.  Rather than take from his own flock to feed the traveler, the rich man took the poor man's lamb and served it to the traveler.  Listen; was that justice?

DAVID

As the Lord lives, the man that did this deserves to die.

NATHAN

You are the man.  Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: "I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's daughter for a wife.  Then why," says the Lord, "have you despised the word of the Lord and done that which is evil in My sight?  You have smitten Uriah the Hittite, and you have taken his wife to be your wife."

BATHSHEBA

David didn't kill my husband.  The Ammonites killed him.

NATHAN

(to Bathsheba) With the sword of the children of Ammon, David killed Uriah.

Listen to me, lady.  David ordered his general to send Uriah to the forefront of the battle, and he ordered Joab to retire, and Uriah was smitten, and he died.  (to David) For the child this lady bears was conceived in adultery.  Listen to me now.  It is written: "The man that commits adultery with another man's wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death."

DAVID

That is between the Lord and me.

NATHAN

Through his prophets, the Lord speaks. --

DAVID

Who told you about my dealings with my generals?

NATHAN

Your wife.  (David looks at Bathsheba.)  Not that wife; (indicating Michal) this wife.  Your wife of long years' standing.

MICHAL

A child could have guessed it.  Joab confirmed it.

NATHAN

"Now, therefore," says the Lord, "as Uriah the Hittite was smitten with the sword, the sword shall never depart from your house.  You have despised Me," says the Lord.  "You have slain the Hittite and taken his wife.  Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house," says the Lord.  "And the sword shall never depart from your house."

BATHSHEBA

(as if from a distance) Is it true, what he says, David?

DAVID

I have sinned against the Lord.

NATHAN

The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.  But because you have blasphemed the Lord, the child that is born to you, Bathsheba's child, shall surely die.  And the sword shall never depart from your house. (noticing Bathsheba) Are you not well, lady?

BATHSHEBA

I am in labor, David.

DAVID

The baby's early.

BATHSHEBA

It is not exceedingly early. --

DAVID

Go to your own house, Nathan,  (dryly) When I need a prophet I will call on you. -- Michal, fetch midwives and many women.

MICHAL

I'll call those that are needed. (She exits.)

DAVID

(to Nathan) You also fetch midwives.  Then go home.

(Nathan exits.  David unfolds a quilt.)

(to Bathsheba) Come; lie down.

BATHSHEBA

(frightened) The baby's early.

DAVID

It is not exceedingly early.  Come; lie down.

(He lowers the side of the tent.)

(from inside the tent) Lie down.

1st MIDWIFE (inside the tent)

Lie own.

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

You must lie down, Bathsheba.

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

It may stave off your labor.  Lie down.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

My baby's early.

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

It is not exceedingly early.  Lie down.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

Nathan the prophet said -- (she moans.)

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

Come; lie down.

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

It may stave off your labor.

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

Lie down.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

I will lie down. -- My baby's early.  Nathan the prophet said -- (She moans again.)

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

Just lie still; lie still; lie still.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

Nathan the prophet said my baby would die!

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

Let this be the test of the prophet.  Lie still; lie still.  (Bathsheba moans.)  Lie still.

MICHAL (inside)

Leave her with the women.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

I want him to stay.

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

This is a matter for women.  Lie still.

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

Lie still.  (Bathsheba moans.)

(David leaves the tent and sits in front of it.)

BATHSHEBA (inside)

My baby's early.

MICHAL (inside)

It is not exceedingly early. (Bathsheba moans.)

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

Lie still.

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

Lie still.

MICHAL (inside)

Lie still.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

I want to see David.

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

This is a matter for women.

MICHAL (inside)

David is not far off.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

Nathan the prophet said my baby would die.

MICHAL (inside)

Let this be the test of the prophet. (Bathsheba moans.)

BATHSHEBA (inside)

I want my husband.

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

This is a matter for women.

MICHAL (inside)

David is not far off.

(Michal comes to David outside the tent, with his harp.)

(giving him the harp) Here, let her hear that you are not far off.

DAVID

The baby is early.

MICHAL

It is not exceedingly early.  And if she lies quiet, the birth may be staved off. -- My brother Jonathan was born as early, and he thrived.

(She exits into the tent.  David harps.)

DAVID

(harping)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Be gracious to me, 0 God, in Your mercy.
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions;
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done that which is evil in Your sight.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth to the innermost parts.
Make me to know wisdom in my inmost heart.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have crushed may rejoice.

(Michal enters from the tent.)

MICHAL

She is bearing down now.  The birth will be soon.

DAVID

Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, 0 God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

MICHAL

So it might have been with the daughter of Saul.  But it is Bathsheba, not I.

DAVID

I remember Saul.

Cast me not away from Your presence, 0 God.
And take not Your holy spirit from me.

(Michal exits into the tent.)

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, 0 God of my salvation.
So shall my tongue sing aloud of Your righteousness.
0 Lord, open my lips,
And my tongue shall declare Your praise.
You delight not in sacrifice, else I would give it;
You have no pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, You will not despise.

BATHSHEBA (inside)

(joyfully) David!

DAVID

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, You will not despise.

(Michal enters from the tent.)

MICHAL

The baby is born, a son.  It is doing well.

DAVID

And the mother?

MICHAL

She also is doing well.

DAVID

Then Nathan the prophet was mistaken.

MICHAL

So it would seem.

(Michal and David exit into the tent.)

2nd MIDWIFE (inside)

Does the babe suckle well?

1st MIDWIFE (inside)

It is too young to suckle.  It will suckle tomorrow.

(The lights dim.)

(The lights rise.  Michal raises the side of the tent.  Inside the tent, David is holding the baby, rocking it.  Bathsheba is beside him.)

DAVID

Is he suckling yet?

BATHSHEBA

He is too young.  He will suckle tomorrow.

MICHAL

You are too rough with him, David.

DAVID

I am not, am I, little one?  (bouncing: the baby) Little one.  Little one.

(The lights dim.)

(They rise again.  David is holding the baby, as when the lights dimmed.)

DAVID

Is he suckling yet?

BATHSHEBA

He is too young.  He will suckle tomorrow.

MICHAL

Put him in his cradle.  He is too young to be played with.

(Bathsheba takes the baby from David.)

I will put him away.

(Michal takes the baby, and exits.  The lights dim.)

(They rise again.)

DAVID

Is he suckling yet?

BATHSHEBA

He is too young.

DAVID

Feed him with a spoon.

BATHSHEBA

He can't keep the milk down.  He will keep it down when he suckles.  He will suckle tomorrow.

(Bathsheba exits.  The lights dim.)

(They rise again.  Michal enters, with a bowl.)

DAVID

Is the child suckling yet?

MICHAL

He is not.  I have brought --

DAVID

Tomorrow is his circumcision.

MICHAL

Perhaps he will suckle then.  I have brought your dinner.  It is venison and barley.

DAVID

I will eat later.

(Michal sets down the tray and exits.  The lights dim.)

(They rise again.  Michal enters, with a second bowl.)

MICHAL

I have brought your dinner.  It is fish and wheat.  (She sets it down, and takes up the other bowl.)  You did not touch the venison I brought you.

DAVID

No.  Is the child suckling?

MICHAL

No.

(Michal exits, with the first bowl.  The lights dim.)

(They rise again.  Bathsheba enters, with a third bowl.  She sets it down beside the second bowl and sees that it is untouched.)

BATHSHEBA

(coming to him) Will you not eat, David?  Shall I lose my baby and my husband also?

DAVID

The child has not suckled?

BATHSHEBA

No.  My baby has not suckled.

(Bathsheba exits, with the second howl.)

DAVID

(praying)

I beseech You, Lord, to let this child live.
For what has he done against You?
It is I, only I, that have sinned.
Then let this infant live
In Your mercy, 0 Lord.

(The lights dim.)

(They rise again.  Michal enters, with a fourth bowl.)

MICHAL

You must eat. King David.  I have brought you roast lamb and lentils.

DAVID

Is the child still alive?

MICHAL

He is alive.

DAVID

Go tend to him then.

(Michal exits.)

(praying)

I beseech You, Lord, let the child live.
I know my transgressions.  My sin is ever before me.
Do to me according to my sin; to me, and not to him.
And let this little one thrive,
I beseech You, 0 Lord.
And let this little one prosper,
I beseech You, Lord,
To tell Your praises
And walk in Your ways.

(The lights dim.)

(The lights rise.)

DAVID

Have mercy on this small one
On account of his goodness.
Spare him, 0 Lord.

(Michal enters.)

MICHAL

You must eat.

DAVID

Is the child alive?

MICHAL

He is still alive.

DAVID

Go.  Tend him.

(Michal exits.)

It was I who sent Uriah into battle;
I ordered Joab to retire from him.
I, I only, caused Uriah's death.

Look upon the child.  See his littleness.
He is all little as a lentil is.
He is well-formed as a lily-flower.
He is my heart's darling and his mother's delight.
He has held my finger.
He has opened his eyes.
He is as beautiful as the sunlight over the waters,
Even the waters of Galilee.

How thin and pale the child is, going hungry.
He is pale and stunted.
Unless Thou letst him suckle, he will not live.
Neither can he hold my finger now, being frailer than he was when he was born.
Neither does he open his eyes any more.

Thou delightest not in sacrifice.
Surely as he is innocent, he will live;
For I am mindful of my sin, and my sin is ever before me.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, You will not despise.

(Michal and Bathsheba enter.  They whisper together.)

MICHAL

(whispering) You must tell him.

BATHSHEBA

(whispering) I am afraid.

MICHAL

(whispering) You must tell him.

BATHSHEBA

(whispering) If I tell him, he will kill himself.

DAVID

(loudly) Is the child dead?

BATHSHEBA

He is dead.

(pause)

DAVID

Bring me some bread. --

I am hungry.  I have not eaten.  Bring me some bread.

(Bathsheba exits.)

MICHAL

What's this?  You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive.  Now that it's dead you want to eat?

DAVID

While the child was alive, I said: "Who knows?  The Lord may be gracious." But now he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?

(Bathsheba enters, with bread.)

I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.

(Bathsheba gives him the bread.  He breaks off a piece and eats it. He breaks another piece and gives it to her.)

You also must eat, Bathsheba.  You have gotten thin, with worrying over the child, that now is dead.

(She eats.)

Now we will have barley.

MICHAL

I will get it.

(Michal exits.)

DAVID

(giving Bathsheba more bread) You must eat. -- You will bear me another son, Bathsheba.  And I will name him my heir.  And that will be a comfort to you.

(The lights dim.)

(The lights rise on Michal and Absalom, outside the tent.  Absalom is aged about 14.)

MICHAL

Bathsheba has borne another son, Absalom.  She has named him Solomon, and David has named him his heir.

ABSALOM

My brother Amnon will not be pleased.

MICHAL

No.

ABSALOM

My brother Adonijah will not be pleased.

MICHAL

No.

ABSALOM

My cousin Meribaal will not be pleased.

MICHAL

No.

ABSALOM

And I am not pleased.

MICHAL

No.

ABSALOM

I am too young to dispute my father's decisions.

MICHAL

You will get older.

ABSALOM

Yes.  I will, won't I?

(Blackout.)

Act II