Saul "'Tis Not What Man Does Which Exalts Him, But What Man Would Do!"

Vittorio Alfieri

"'Tis Not What Man Does Which Exalts Him, But What Man Would Do!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: David, the shepherd boy, recounts how he cured King Saul of his melancholic despair of pleasure in all things. David tells of his meeting with Abner, his entry into Saul's darkened tent, and his first glimpse of the king. David catalogues all of the good things of the earth for which Saul should thank heaven. On his harp, he tells of the God-given signs of order in all creatures and of men working together as a society. David sings of the joys of living and of Saul's great worth. Slowly, Saul regains his kingly habits and bearing. It is through David's deep love and desire to help that the boy suddenly attains a mystical glimpse of Truth. He breaks off singing and speaks aloud of the perfection of God's plan: "All's love, yet all's law." David realizes that he has been wrong in attempting to cure Saul without honestly seeking God's help. He wishes to save, redeem, and restore the king, but God alone can grant him success, for it is God's will that is the basis for all creation. David compares his own human abilities with those of the Divine:

I will?–the mere atoms despise me! Why am I not loth
To look that, even that in the face too? Why is it I dare
Think but lightly of such impuissance? What stops my despair?
This–'tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do!
See the King–I would help him but cannot–the wishes fall through.
Could I wrestle to raise him from sorrow, grow poor to enrich,
To fill up his life, starve my own out, I would–knowing which,
I know that my service is perfect. . . .