Circuit Judge

infant samuel

That charming biddable infant, Samuel,

(The child whose mother made a little cloak)

Raised in the Temple by Eli the priest

Precocious on the rare times when he spoke;

This boy grew to manhood in troubled times

The Philistines menaced Israel every year

They wanted to offload the Holy Ark;

The trophy evoked superstitious fear;

Now Samuel was a jack of many trades:

Able to slay a sacrificial beast

And make the offering on the altar,

Circuit judge, General, seer, acting priest.

His beard was sparse and fair and he was young,

Twenty-four, and the Israelites would joke,

‘The judge is twelve years old,’ they used to say,

To add gravitas, he would wear a cloak.

His mother, Hannah, was still living then –

She had a house in Rama; when she died

Samuel took up residence in the house.

All Israel looked upon him as a guide.

Samuel’s two sons, like Eli’s, were delinquent

Samuel, not so young, became grey of beard;

And still the Philistines grew in number,

While Israel, without respite, watched and feared.

One day a crowd showed up in Rama,

The elders of Israel, quite a gathering;

Samuel emerged and asked what they wanted.

They said ‘Give us a king! Give us a king!’

God spoke to Samuel, which was how things worked,

And told him ‘Give the people what they ask,

It is I, Anochi, whom they reject,

Not you,’ but still Samuel abhorred his task.

‘A king,’ he told the crowd, ‘will take your sons,

And your daughters and use them as his slaves,’

But who can dissuade a mob with reason?

Be heeded by a crowd which rants and raves?.

To be like other nations, they avowed,

This was what they wanted; this was their thing.

Samuel perceived their fervour with dismay.

‘Give us a king!’ they roared. ‘Give us a king!’