A TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH FROM AN AULD SCOTS BALLAD (Based on an even
older one in 1 Sam.17.)
I have a narrative I wish to relate. I hope you will like it, but if not,
that is a matter of indifference to me. It concerns a small boy who later
became well-known. He lived in one of the northern suburban areas of Glasgow
and his name was David.
David's father had been without remunerative employment for several
years, So the family decided to emigrate. They travelled to Gourock and
embarked on a ship, eventually arriving in Judea.
The Judean environment was not exactly compatible with their tastes, it
being foreign, and there were no establishments for the retailing of
fermented liquors. There is an abundance of sand there, but cement is in
short supply, so most people lived in rudimentary shacks or, occasionally,
in a small tent.
The inhabitants of Judea were all Jews; the discovery of which fact, for
those of the protestant persuasion originating in northern Glasgow, called
for some adjustment of attitude. David, however, had no objection. "There is
a superficial resemblance to Saltcoats." he remarked to his mother. "I
agree," said his older parent, "except that there is a dearth of
precipitation. In fact, it seems to be an excellent environment for the
upbringing of children."
However, it would appear that the Jews were receiving a great deal of
provocation from their neighbours, the Philistines - at least that is what
we understand they were called. The person who was causing them the most
concern was a gentleman of considerable size and strength named Goliath who
originated in Gath.
Goliath it seems, was about fourteen feet tall, and he spent his time
causing general mayhem. The leader of the Jews found himself becoming
somewhat irritated so he decided to call a meeting to try and resolve the
The people wandered down, without great enthusiasm, to the assembly hall
provided by the local authority. Among the assembly was David, who, by way
of contrast, had needed little persuasion to attend. The Jewish leader did
not prevaricate, and he told them, "This unbalanced man is causing havoc
amongst us. The only way to deal with him is to call for a courageous
volunteer to take the situation in hand."
As he said this, he scanned his listeners, hoping to detect some sign of
a spontaneous offer to deal with the situation. However, no-one seemed
enthusiastic, and no offer was made. Then David stood up and called out, "I
am prepared to give the situation my immediate concern and action." Then,
turning to his Father he said, "Would you be so kind as to pass me the
necessary equipment which is at present in your custody, so that I can deal
with this Philistine problem?"
His Father, however, was considerably embarrassed and accused David of
over-reaching himself. Acknowledging the Jewish leader he advised him to pay
scant attention to the boy since he was inclined to over-estimate his own
However, the leader was, in the circumstances, willing to take advantage
of any offer of assistance. He shook David's hand and then repeated the
process with his Father and Mother. "I appreciate your proposal very much,"
he said, "May I suggest that you employ Glaswegian methods of assault?
However, the use of weapons of extreme violence I do not consider to
be desirable, since we wish to emerge from the dispute with credit."
This was agreed and they departed to the place where Goliath, in his
tent, was taking his ease. His tent was rather large, but nevertheless
inadequate, such was his size. The enclosure of his feet obviously posed a
The boy hailed him as they approached. "Kindly emerge!" he imperiously
demanded, "and prepare to defend yourself."
After a slight delay, there emanated from the tent, a voice which carried
such force that the ground appeared to quiver.
Then emerged a man whose appearance suggested that he would have no
difficulty in elevating a large female music hall entertainer from the
ground without mechanical assistance. In comparison with him, a certain
wrestler, whose size had hitherto been likened to a haystack, was reduced to
a seven-stone weakling. He had a comprehensive hirsute appearance and his
visage, disfigured by acute and chronic acne, was in no wise mollified by
the warts on his nose. In fact, he conveyed a nightmare-like effect.
His untended beard was reminiscent of a mattress, the seams of which had
become unstitched. The lateral measurement of his shoulders was
approximately 2.13 metres and his chest bore superficial resemblance to one
of the major products of the former Govan shipyard.
Projecting his voice with considerable force, he addressed David as
follows: "Do not dare to approach further, you small contemptuous person, or
I will box your ears, apply corrective measures to your hind-quarters and
cause undue oscillation to your lower mandible. You will then hastily return
to your Mother in a state of distress!"
But David replied, "In order to put such threats into effect you will
undoubtedly require military assistance. I am not in the least perturbed by
the apparent superiority of your bulk!"
However, aware as he was that the big man was becoming somewhat
irascible, David fitted a small pebble into the sling of his catapult,
rapidly extended the elastic, and struck the Philistine in the exact centre
of his forehead.
As might be expected, Goliath succumbed to this stupefying blow so that
his communications became incoherent.
He had on frequent occasions over-indulged in alcoholic beverages, but
had never, hitherto, become unconscious as a result thereof. Furthermore, he
was distressed to realise that he had been overcome by a much smaller and
David remarked that size both increased momentum on falling, and is not
an essential adjunct of quality. What, furthermore, is sauce for the goose,
is also sauce for the gander, and the hoarding of small increments results
eventually in the accumulation of considerable bulk. (He added other
somewhat nonsensical remarks which are of little consequence)
It was not long before Goliath became unaware either of his plight or of
his environment; he uttered just one unprintable epithet, overturned and
breathed his last. David delivered the coup de grace to ensure his
passing, and then proceeded to remove his head with his pocket-knife.
The large gentleman's associates gathered round and removed the corpse to
the local mortuary, There, the result of the post-mortem was unexpected,
regarding the cause of death.
It was discovered that it was not the blow to the temple, delivered by
David, which had caused Goliath's demise, but something which had not,
hitherto, been considered.
He had been over-indulging the previous evening and had reinforced his
usual consumption with spirits, in the mistaken assumption that this would
improve his prowess on the following day. He was undoubtedly subject to
alcoholic addiction, and at the precise moment that he was struck, he
succumbed to liver-failure.
Now, what lesson can we draw from this account, remembering that David
did not, in fact, have a part in Goliath's death?
Just this, if you meet a man who is more than twice normal height, and
whose weight you judge to be approximately 320 stones, do not try to emulate
the example of David. On the contrary, do not tarry upon the order of your
going, but retreat as rapidly as possible from his immediate presence.
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004