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The Fall Of Nineveh. Book The Fifteenth - Poem by Edwin Atherstone
Meantime Sardanapalus, with the pride
Of victory made drunken, as with wine,--
Self--glorying, said: ``Lord of the earth am I!
Who shall control me? what can harm me now?''
And when the captains of the cars and horse
Who had pursued,--returned, and said to him,
``Arbaces is gone down into the pit;
Thine enemies are scattered like the dust,''--
More swelled his heart with glory of his might:
Unto the music of the flatterer's tongue
More pleased he listened; every fear shook off;
And, with a madman's leap, into the flood
Of sensual joys plunged headlong. For, not now,
As erst, amid his concubines alone,
Or some few chosen revellers, he sat:
The hall immense--in which, from end to end
Ere it could reach, must a strong warrior's arm,
At utmost strain the chosen arrow send--
Now often with unnumbered golden lamps
Blazed through the night. The roof of burnished gold
Poured sunshine down; the walls of porphyry,
Bright gleaming; and the jasper pillars vast,
Up to the proud roof shooting,--flung the light,
As from the face of polished mirrors back.
At costliest tables, ebony and gold,
And ivory, with rarest gems inlaid,--
On silken couches, stiff with woven gold,
His nobles, captains, and chief ministers,
And women of the city, beautiful,
Radiant in garments of all delicate hues,
Sat at the frequent feast. From golden cups,
Rich wines they quaffed; from vessels of pure gold,
On every luxury which the fruitful East
Could yield, they feasted. Music, dance, and love,
Followed the banquet; and the morning sun
On the unfinished revel oft arose.
So did the king his good resolves forget.
And when Azubah, prostrate at his feet,
Pardon for her unhappy father sued,
Harshly did he repulse her. ``Twice have I
At thy sole prayer life granted him. Fool he,
Who, for the third time, would the viper trust,
That twice had striven to sting him! Then, desist:
Both canst thou never serve. Him leave, or me:
My palace, or his prison--which thou wilt--
That choose; the other quit, and murmur not.''
Azubah then wept bitterly; and went
Unto her father, to abide with him.
When her Rabsaris saw; and heard that she
A prison, with her father, rather chose,
Than a proud palace, with Assyria's lord,--
His stern heart melted: on her neck he fell;
Embraced, and kissed her; and wept out aloud.
Yet loved she still the king; and many a sigh
Breathed after him, and murmured oft his name.
Nor was the haughty monarch all unmoved
When that best loved one went: but his proud heart
'Gainst her he strove to harden; and in thoughts
Vain--glorious to seek comfort. ``Lo the Mede,
The boastful, and the terrible, is fallen!
His iron arm, that made the thousands quail,
Is now as potter's clay; his dreadful voice,
Hushed as a last year's tempest: that fierce eye
Which, like the lightning, flashed upon his foes,
Dull as cold ashes lies. Ah! rebel base!
So is thy glory vanished as a dream!
Where be thy armies now? thy countless foot;
Thy steel--clad horsemen; and thy charioteers;
Wherewith thy boast was, the eternal walls
To overthrow; and leave no stone behind?
Even as the fleecy clouds of yestermorn
That the wind scattered, have they passed away.
So have they perished! so shall perish all
Who impiously their hands against the king
Have lifted; or his bidding set at nought!
Woe to you, men of Bactria! on you next
The avenging arm shall fall. The sword shall smite
Your captains; and your soldiers shall be given
For slaves unto the nations. Ah, accurst!
When, in my trouble, I did send to you,
And say; `behold the rebel waxeth strong;
Haste to me, then, and in my battles stand,'--
Ye would not hearken; but my bidding scorned;
And, laughing, mocking, went upon your way.
But now, because it hath been said to you,
`The king hath vanquished all who 'gainst him stood:
Hath trod them like the sand beneath his feet:
Return ye, then, obedient; and bow down
Before him; and your sin shall be forgiven:
Yea, ye shall wealth, and fame, and honors have;
For the king's vengeance now is satisfied;
And blood shall flow no longer'--because thus
It hath been told you, lo! you hither come,
As to a joyous banquet. Now ye send
And say, `upon the twelfth day will we come:
And, as the king hath promised, even so
Surely will he deal with us.' Rebels! fools!
The riches that ye look for, shall be stripes!
Your honors shall be mockery, chains, and death!
So shall your insolence meet fit reward;
And every heart of all the nations quake,
And tremble at the anger of their lord.
But, meantime, ere the tenth day, will I feast
My armies on the plain; and gladden them;
And make them strong to tread the rebel down!''
Thus in his heart revolved the subtle king;
But his design to no man would make known;
Lest, haply, to the Bactrians might be told
The fate which waited them; and they might 'scape.
Then, that same day, as at the feast he sat,
Amid his nobles and his valiant men,
He spake to them, and said: ``Behold, each day
The king, his nobles, and his captains feast:
But the brave soldiers, who his battles fought,
Feast not at all. This shall no longer be.
Through camp, and city, thus be it proclaimed.
`The fourth day hence, upon the northern plain,
Shall the whole army banquet: and the king,
His lords, and captains, and chief ministers,
Shall eat and drink among them. For two days,
From noon till midnight, shall they hold the feast.
Of all delicious things, abundantly
Shall every man partake; and richest wines
Their hearts shall gladden, and their arms make strong.
But, on the seventh day, shall the legions pass
Before the king, for combat all arrayed;
And then his farther purpose will he speak.'''
He ended; and, with tumult of acclaim,
The nobles and the captains all rejoiced;
And clapped the hand, and cried, ``long live the king.''
But they whose task it was, at once went forth;
And, as the king had spoken, made proclaim.
Then all within the city shouted loud;
And all the host throughout the camp; for joy
Filled every heart; and every voice cried out,
``Long live Sardanapalus, king of kings!
May the king live for ever!'' On that night,
The king, and twice a thousand lords, and chiefs,
Who with him revelled, drunken were with wine,
And wantonness; and great their folly was.
But, in the city, and throughout the camp,
The sound of preparation for the feast,
All night was heard. Through the wide opened gates,
Went forth unceasingly the loaded wains:
Hammer, and axe, and saw, their labor plied:
Voice answered voice; with fires the plain was bright;
And all the city, with the torches' flare.
Upon the morrow; and the second night;
And till the fourth day, at the hour of noon,
The sound of labor ceased not. Through the camp,
Huge fires incessant blazed. Of sheep, and goats,
And oxen, and all creatures yielding food,
Were slain innumerable. And of fruits
Delicious, from all climes, was gathered there,
As for a feasting nation. Of all wines,
Rosy, and golden hued, and luscious drinks,
Great was the abundance. With unnumbered tents,
The champaign broad was covered; every tent
Wide open, and the tables spread within.
'Midst of the camp--as if by magic built,--
Gorgeous, and vast--high soaring over all--
Stood the pavilion of the king of kings.
Six cubits from the ground, the floor was laid:
Its length a hundred cubits; and its breadth
A hundred: fifty cubits was its height.
The wood was cedar; and, on every side,
Were cedar stairs capacious. Pillars strong
Of cedar, at due distance placed apart,
The roof supported. With rich purple silk,
Spattered with gold, was every pillar wreathed.
Green were the silken cords; the tassels gold:
The dome--like canopy was silk, sky--hued;
And, all around, a silken network fringe,
Pale green, with threads of gold entwisted, hung.
The silken curtains, of pale amethyst,
Were wide withdrawn, and to the pillars looped
In graceful sweep; so that by every eye
The rich interior well might be beheld.
Full in the centre, underneath the dome,
Where stood the couch and table of the king,--
Another cubit still the floor was raised.
Rich stuffs of crimson hue a carpet made.
The tables for the guests were ebony,
With gold inlaid: the couches were rich stuffs,
Embroidered thick with silver: but the couch
Of the voluptuous monarch was of silk;
Purple, and stiff with gold, and golden fringed.
His massive table was of beaten gold;
And every vessel that upon it stood
Was gold, or silver; or some lustrous stone,
By cunning workman wrought. The serving men
Who at the feast should wait,--in garments white,
With silver edged, were clothed: around their necks
Were collars of pure silver; and their loins,
With belts of purple silk, gold--edged, were girt,
And buckles of pure gold. So gorgeous shone
The great pavilion of Assyria's king.
A spear--cast round it, was there vacant space:
A circle, then, of splendid tents, for those,
Nobles, or chiefs, who with the king sat not;
And still beyond, in circles widening still,
The tents thick clustered, of that countless host.
'Twixt the pavilion, and the Nisroch gate,
A broad smooth path was left: on either hand,
A line of bright--eyed girls, and smiling boys,
In gay attire, all bearing choicest flowers,
To cast before the coming of the king.
With many a glance impatient now they looked
Along the path, expecting when the gate
Should open: and the eyes of every man,
That could behold it, on the gate were fixed:
For now the noon was passed; the feast was spread;
And for the presence of the king, alone,
The myriads waited. Soon was heard a shout
Within the city; then the clangor shrill
Of silver trumpets; the clear cymbal's ring;
The sound of many instruments sweet--toned;
And choiring voices singing joyfully.
Anon the brazen portal opened wide,
And the bright train came forth. In garments white,
Gold--edged, and bearing chaplets in their hands,
Came first a troop of youths, and virgins young:
The singers, male and female, then, in robes
Azure, and silver--rimmed; and, after them,
The trumpeters, in scarlet and in gold;
And the musicians in great multitude.
On horses, gorgeously caparisoned,--
Short space behind, a band of captains came;
And haughty nobles, flaming all in gold,
Jewels, and festive robes magnificent.
Them following close, a troop of jocund boys,
And girls, in vesture of bright emerald,
Gold--fringed, came onward, dancing airily:
And then, with glory dazzling every eye,
The sun--like chariot of the king of kings.
Eight cream--white horses, glittering all with gold;
Tossing the head, and champing on the bit;
With flashing eye, arched neck, and nostril spread,
Foot high uplifted, and impatient snort,
Drew on the blazing car. By every steed,
A captain of the guard walked heedfully.
Alone within his chariot sat the king:
The burning crown was on his head; his robe
Was like one waving diamond. Behind,
In splendid chariots, rode his concubines,
Richly arrayed, but every countenance veiled.
Last of the glittering train, another troop
Of nobles, and of captains, on their steeds
Came riding haughtily; with gold and gems
All glittering, as though each a king had been.
Still, as the wondering multitude looked on,
They lifted up the voice and cried aloud,
``God save the king! long live Assyria's king!
Long live Sardanapalus, king of kings!
May the king live for ever!'' To the sound
Of instruments, and voices singing loud
Triumphant hymns, the dazzling pageant moved.
As slowly through the lines the monarch rode,
The joyous girls and boys their flowers cast down
Before him; on one knee bent gracefully,--
Drooping the arms, and bowing low the head,--
Then rose; and, when the whole proud train had passed,
Behind it went in orderly array,--
As they joined in, uplifting each the voice.
And, as the king went onward, all the host,
Hands waving, heads uncovered, swelled the hymn.
The sound of voices rose magnificent.
'Midst of the camp arrived,--with aspect proud,
Yet smiling, from his chariot came the king;
And, with his nobles and his mighty men,
Before him, and behind him, moving slow,
To the pavilion mounted. But, with him
His concubines went not; for, at the feast,
Before the eyes of all that multitude,
Unveiled they might not sit. When ceased the hymn,
They in their chariots to the city went.
The virgins, and young children of each sex,
Went also; but the stronger boys remained,
And roamed where'er they would. At distance placed,
Round the pavilion the musicians sat,
That, when the king should order, they might play.
Then, when the monarch, and his lords and chiefs,
Each in his due degree, had sat them down,--
By sound of trumpets was the signal given,
The banquet to begin. So, through the day
They feasted; and the hearts of all were glad.
Of every savoury thing the soldiers took
Abundantly; of spices, and of wines
The richest, and of every luscious fruit.
Throughout the spacious camp was heard the sound
Of timbrel, sackbut, harp, and dulcimer;
Of singers, male and female; now alone,
And now full choiring in triumphant hymn.
And, as the eve drew on, with the cool breeze,
The damsels of the city came abroad;
And with the nobles and the captains danced;
And with the soldiers,--each in her degree.
In bright attire were even the humblest gay:
The prouder, in rich robes of gorgeous hue;
Linen, like snow; silk, light as gossamer.
Their gleaming anklets were of burnished gold;
And golden chains, and strings of pearls, and gems,
Circled their necks: their ear--rings were pure gold,
And jewels; and their zones, of Tyrian dye,
Round the slim waist, with buckles of fine gold,
And gems, were clasped. Adown the shoulders, some,
Had dropped the ambrosial ringlets, waving loose;
Some, the rich tresses into graceful knots
Had woven; and in golden net--work bound,
Or strings of orient pearl. With jest, and laugh,
Flushed cheek, and sparkling eye,--foot, light as air,
And arm upflung, untired they trod the dance.
Great was the gladness over all the plain.
The monarch looked around him, and rejoiced;
Nor spared the wine--cup; but drank fearlessly;
And in his proud heart said, ``Am I not now
A god amid these numberless? Who shall shake
My throne eternal? who again shall dare
Forbid the banquet, or the joys of love?
Have I not feasted? have I not drunk deep?
Have I not revelled 'mid my concubines,
Even till the sun arose? and hath aught ill
Fallen therefore on me? But, where now is he,
The pale--browed prophet who, with insolent tongue,
The banquet, and the water, and the fire,
Bade me to dread: and evil still denounced,
Unless unto his God, to Israel's God!
Obedient I should bow, and pardon sue?
Fool! madman! his own doom he knew not; mine
Still less could he have known. From the dark pit
His prescience saved not him: but I, the mocked,
The threatened, live; and over all the earth
Am great and glorious, even as a God.
Away, away then with the idle dream
Of the gaunt seer, famine and frenzy--bred;
I'll think no more on't.'' Thus the infatuate man--
Even while the bolt was pointed at his head,
Boasted, and scoffed at heaven. Swift flew the hours;
Loud grew the revelry. When, at length, he knew
That every man had drunken plenteously,--
The king bade criers go throughout the camp
Commanding silence: and, when all was still,
To others thus he spake. ``Proclaim ye now
And say, `let every man throughout the camp,
Take in his hand a vessel filled with wine;
And stand attentive. What the king shall speak,
Soon will be known to all: and, those same words,
Let every man speak also: afterward,
When the king drinketh, shall the trumpets sound,
Signal thereof: and, then, let every man
Drink likewise, and leave not a drop behind!''
Then, when the criers had his will proclaimed,
And every man had taken in his hand
A wine--cup, and in silence waiting stood,--
Slowly uprose the king, and lifted high
A brimming goblet. The resplendent bowl
Seemed as one ruby,--for the Day--god now
Was setting, and red glory on it poured.
A moment he stood silent, and looked round;
Then, with a strong voice, gave he out the word,--
``EAT, DRINK, AND LOVE: NOUGHT ELSE IS WORTH A THOUGHT.''
Promptly as speaks the thunder to the bolt,
Thousands of voices echoed it: from them
Catching the gay words, tens of thousands spake:
Hundreds of thousands heard, and shouted them.
After they all had spoken, and were still,
The monarch put the goblet to his lips,
And the quick trumpets told it. Every man
Raised then his cup, and drank, and left no drop.
Then sat the king: but still his nobles stood,
And all the host; for the musicians now,
And singers, a loud hymn of praise began:
``Sardanapalus, king of kings,'' they sang,
``And lord of lords; sole ruler o'er all earth;
The great, the terrible, the armipotent.''
The monarch, on his couch reclining, heard;
And his vain heart more mad with pride became.
As ceased the hymn, the multitude sat down;
Again filled high their cups; and revelled on.
When now the sun had set, and twilight come,
The rich pavilion, by unnumbered lamps
Of gold, with oil of sweetest perfume fed,
As with a second sunshine was lit up.
Likewise the tents, where sat the lords and chiefs,
With lamps of silver and perfumëd oil
Shone brightly: but the soldiers, through the camp,
Kindled huge fires, that far along the plain,
And on the brazen gates, and walls, and towers,
And palaces, a trembling radiance flung.
Loud roared the countless fires: more loud the din
Of all those myriads in their revelry.
As, flushed with wine, the king upon his couch,
With eye half closed, reclined; a timid hand,
Touching his robe, he felt; and, at his feet
Kneeling, beheld Azubah. Her soft eyes
With tears were filled; her countenance was pale,
And sorrowful: her trembling hands she clasped,
And gently said, ``My father!'' But the king
Looked angrily, and cried, ``What dost thou here--
A public spectacle! Thou knowest 'tis vain.
Never shall he be free! Away! away!''
Yet did she not desist: with streaming eye,
And quivering lip, ``Oh! at the feast think thou
Of him that sitteth lonely! when thy heart
Is glad, oh! think of him that mourns!'' Yet still
Unto her words the king would not give ear:
But yet more sternly spake; and stretched his hand
To thrust her from him. ``Hence, fond woman; hence;
Lest that mine ire be kindled; and he die.''
But on his hand she seized, and held it hard:
``Hear me, O king, oh! hear me! Grant my prayer,
Or my life, too, thou takest.'' And while thus
She spake imploringly, and struggled still
To hold his hand, she from his finger stole
The signet; and he knew it not; so wrath
And wine confounded him. Then, when his hand
He snatched away, and yet more sternly spake,--
She rose; and, answer making not, retired:
Mounted her chariot--to the prison flew--
Showed the dread sign which none might dare resist,--
And said, ``bring forth my father instantly,
For the king calleth for him.'' Doubting nought,
The jailer from the captive took the chains;
Rich robes put on him, that more fittingly
In presence of the monarch he might stand;
And brought him forth. The driver first dismissed,
Rabsaris climbed the car; seized rein and scourge,--
Looked for a moment in his daughter's face,
Lost in amazement,--spake not--then drove on.
But, as they rode together, she the truth
Told to her father; and he blessëd her.
A little way, as through the northern gate,
And to the plain, intent to pass, he drove;
But, leftward turning suddenly, sped on;
Through nearest western gate the city left;
And o'er the bridge, rejoicing, urged his flight.
Within the camp, meantime, the revelry
Yet hotter grew: wine, music, woman's smiles,
Inflamed all hearts; and each to each oft said,
``Eat, drink, and love: nought else is worth a thought.''
Long had the sun gone down: upon his couch
The monarch lay,--his eyes, with wine, and sleep,
Heavy, and dim. But now before him stood
A damsel, beauteous as a flower of spring:
A dulcimer was in her snow--white hand;
And, as she played, a song of love she sang,
That stirred, and melted him. Her gem--starred zone,
As heaved and fell her bosom, might have seemed
With smiles now brightening, darkening now with sighs.
An atmosphere divine, the breath of love,
Like glory round the sun, encompassed her.
Her face was radiant as the pearly cloud
Of summer's dewy dawn: her hair like night,
When no star shineth. As she lifted up
The dark--fringed curtain of her lustrous eye,
'Twas like the glance of moonlight through swift clouds.
Her voice was soft as cooing of young dove
In a spring evening, when the nightingale
Singeth alone; yet breathed voluptuously
As the warm south, when flowers are in their bloom,
And the rain softly droppeth. The king's soul
Was melted at her voice: her lustrous eye
She turned upon him; and his breast was flame.
But now, among the nobles and great chiefs
With the king feasting,--a drear whisper ran:
Gay hearts were troubled; anxious faces met;
For, from the east, beyond the noisy camp,
Came men who said, ``far off, as if in air,
Is sound like tramp of armies hurrying on!''
As spread the whisper, some turned pale; and some
Smiled in derision: many toward the king
Looked timidly; yet none dared speak to him;
For still the damsel sang; and all his soul
Was ravished by her beauty. But, at length,
Hurriedly flying through the astonished camp,
Came a scared horseman,--from his courser leaped,--
Up the pavilion stairs sprang at a bound,--
With wild eye, like a maniac, glared about,--
Then, as with death--shriek, cried ``Break up! Break up!
Eastward is heard a great host pressing on!
The earth is shaken by their horses' hoofs.''
Amazement then came over every man:
All started to their feet: some, terror--blanched,
Stood staring on their fellows: some, more bold,
Went hurriedly,--bent low before the king,
And told the tidings. Nought afraid was he:
Was he not conqueror--king of kings--earth's lord?
Were not Arbaces, and his rebel horde,
Scattered like chaff, or slain? The Bactrians, too,--
Were they not marching blindfold to the snare;
To scourgings, bonds, and death? What should he fear?
With smile complacent, then, he answered them.
``Think ye I heard not, clearly as yourselves,
What spake yon foolish? Of a verity,
He whispered not. But ye his ignorance
Know not as I. A host, indeed, may come;
But not as yet. The sound that hath been heard,
Is but the night--breeze, roaring in the fires:
They flare, as newly fed. Then, sit you down;
Fill to the brim your cups; be high in mirth;
And vex the king no more, lest he be wroth.
EAT, DRINK, AND LOVE: NOUGHT ELSE IS WORTH A THOUGHT.''
So he, and yet another goblet drained:
Then lay him down; and on the damsel fixed
His hot and glazing eye; and bade her sing.
But Salamenes the pavilion left
With hasty step, and sprang upon his steed.
Nebaioth, Jerimoth, and other chiefs,
Quickly went after him; and eastward rode
Impetuously, that they the truth might learn.
Swiftly throughout the camp the rumour flew:
Dance, song, harp, timbrel, mirthful sports, were stilled.
Gay women, laughing boys, at once stood mute;
Gasped as they heard; turned pale, and toward the gates,
Speechless with terror fled.
More dark, meantime,
And ghastly, grew the faces of the men,
Who with the king yet sat; for evil news,
Aye worse and worse, from trembling group to group,
In hurried whisper ran: yet their dread lord
None dared again approach. The wine--cup still
Oft tasted he; till soul and sense were dulled
As in a dream: and even the damsel's voice--
For yet she sang, though tremblingly, and faint,
And blanched with awe--seemed scarce to move him now.
But, suddenly, far off, loud panic--cries,
And the dread trumpet--scream--signal of flight,--
Shot horror through all hearts. The wretched king
Rose staggering, stony--eyed, with arms outspread;
A look like his who riseth from the grave.
The nobles and the captains also rose,--
By the great terror so confounded all,
That no man knew which way to look, or move.
Louder and louder yet the tumult grew;
With harsher, quicker blasts the trumpets screamed.
Anon, a nearer cry, a wild shrill yell,
As of delirious myriads, rent the air;
``The Medes! the Medes! the Medes!'' From East to West,
From North to South, o'er all the camp it flew.
They in the city heard: from street to street,
From wall to wall, the cry of terror ran.
From the pavilion, lords and captains fled;
And, with the fainting damsel, all alone
The king was left. Yet, the first shock o'ercome,
``Bring me my arms,'' he stammered, ``spear, and sword;
Shield, armour, chariot. I will wither them!''
But, bounding upward with a leopard's spring,
Nebaioth came, and caught him by the arm:
``Haste, haste,'' he cried, ``thy chariot standeth nigh:
Fly to the city; for the cup accurst
Hath overcome thee; and no strength remains
To bear thee in the strife. Nay--linger not;
For, if the king be slain, Assyria falls.''
Yet speaking, with a vigorous arm he drew
The tottering monarch: nor resisted he,
For soul and strength were quelled. But, as he went,
The damsel in a swoon upon the floor
Outstretched he saw;--and, with thick utterance, said;
``Take first the maid, and bear her to the car;
Else will I not go with thee.'' Speaking thus,
Upon a couch he sank, and would not move:
Nor heeded that the priceless regal crown,--
Even as a peasant's cap, flung carelessly
From the hot brow,--had fallën to the ground.
Nebaioth, then, the maiden in his arms
Lightly uplifted; with a rapid step
The stairs descended; to the chariot climbed,
And placed her safe within. As from a sleep,
She wakened; gazed about her, and sat up.
Then to the king Nebaioth hurried back:
``Haste, haste, my lord,'' he cried; ``safe in thy car
The damsel sits; but the crowd thickens fast;
And, if we be entangled in the midst,
Ill may befall the king.'' While yet he spake,
O'er all the sounds of tumult rising high,
A distant voice he heard, that through his soul
Sent shuddering: ``'Tis the dreadful Mede!'' he said;
``The grave hath given him up to punish us!''
Yet to the king he told not what he heard;
But with more eagerness still drew him on,
And with more anxious urging. All his words,
To a deaf ear were spoken. Pale as death,
With slackened joints, glazed eyes, and quivering lips,
Feebly the monarch tottered; muttering still,
``The banquet! Ha! the banquet! Lo! 'tis come,
The prophet's threat!--What said he? `Eastern king,--
Lords, captains, armies--midnight revelry . . .
Chariots and horse come on them! . . . Blood, like rain! . . .
Dead, thick as hailstones! . . . Tempest then, and flood . . .
Then earthquake . . . Fire . . . Destruction . . . Not one stone
Upon another left! . . . Flood . . . Earthquake . . . Fire!'''
Still muttering thus, Nebaioth drew him on:
Into the chariot raised him: sprang himself:
His right arm round him twined, lest to the ground,
Unaided, he might fall: to Dara then
Gave signal; and the horses bounded on.
Continually, with voices lifted high,
They called to clear the way; for, torrent--like,
The fear--struck myriads hurried toward the wall;
Thick covering all the ground. With fires the plain,
As 'neath a crimson sunset, hotly glowed;
And, as they onward moved, Nebaioth oft
Looked anxiously behind; for still the noise
Of horse and cars advancing, nigher came,
And the pursuers' shoutings. But the king
In a deep stupor sat; nor uttered word;
Nor looked around; nor aught appeared to see.
Nor spake the damsel aught; but, with her robe,
Covered her face, and trembled, and bowed down.
Still on they moved; though slowly; for the press
Relaxed not; and, 'neath horse, and chariot wheels,
They feared their friends to crush. But louder, soon,
And louder, rose behind them the dire din:
And when, as they the nearest gate drew nigh,
Nebaioth backward looked,--at hand he saw
The lofty chariots, and the straining steeds,
Like swift waves coming on; and, over all
High eminent, the tower--like form beheld
Of the dread Mede; and, over every sound,
His strong voice heard, inciting to pursuit.
To Dara then he called; ``On! on! lash on!
Drive like the hurricane! Call to clear the way,--
For, close upon us the arch--rebel comes,
Nor can the king resist.'' Both then at once
Shouted vehémently; ``Make clear the way,
Or be down trodden! Get from out the way!''
While thus he cried, Dara the horses smote,
That, like swift leopards darting on their prey,
Forward they hotly bounded. Through the throng,
Wide opening, they dashed on; and cleared the gate.
Glad was Nebaioth then; ``The king is safe!''
Joyfully cried he: but, even while he cried,
An arrow struck the damsel in the neck.
She spake not; struggled not; nor felt the wound;
But, stone--like, from the chariot dropped down, dead.
A second shaft Nebaioth's right arm grazed;
Slightly the monarch wounded, and flew on.
Roused by the smart, the king his head uplift,
And opened wide his eyes; but, instantly,
In a deep stupor sank again; nor knew
Whence came the pain; nor whitherward he went.
But the torn robe Nebaioth saw, and blood
Down trickling; and, when now they had advanced
Short space within the city, thus he spake.
``Dara, the king is wounded, sore oppressed,
The palace yet far off;--I counsel, then,
That rather to my house he should be borne:
There--the leech summoned, and the sore bound up,--
In quiet might he rest, and slumber off
The accursëd wine--fumes. 'Vantage this, beside,
That, should he rouse anon, and gather strength
To mingle in the conflict,--to the gates
Will he be nigher.'' Him the youth obeyed.
Then, when the car had stopped; and to the house
The monarch had been carried; thus again
To Dara spake Nebaioth: ``Keep thou now
The chariot and the steeds within the court;
Lest enemies know the king is in the house:
But, be thou ready, when the word shall come,
To bring them on the instant; for, even yet,
May he go forth: send, therefore, for his mail,
His shield, and arms, that all may be at hand.''
As thus advised, the anxious charioteer
Did instantly: and, when the gates were closed,
That no man from without the car might see,--
He bade the grooms before the horses place,
As harnessed yet they stood, corn steeped in wine.
At every horse's head, a trembling groom
Stood feeding him: and, after they had fed
Abudantly, with hand upon the rein,
Each stood in silence, waiting the command.
Nigh to the chariot, with a restless foot,
Walked Dara to and fro; his bosom torn,
With thoughts conflicting, as the dreadful roar
Of havoc from beyond the walls he heard.
Meantime, upon a couch Nebaioth laid
The helpless king; his gorgeous robe took off,
And searched the wound. Like a keen knife, the shaft
Had lanced the arm, and still oozed forth the blood;
But injury was slight. A bandage then,
With tender hand, he bound upon the sore;
Disposed, for easiest rest, the passive limbs;
Then sat, to watch, and ponder. ``What were best?
There to attend the waking of the king,
And aid his going forth? or speed to fight?
The soldier, not the nurse.'' Long time he mused;
But, by the thickening uproar of the field,
Unbearably stirred at last, sprang sharply up;
Gazed for a moment on his senseless lord;
Called on the gods to shield him; and passed out.
Yet, ere departing, he his sister sought,
And briefly thus. ``Beloved Rebekah, thou,
With thy handmaidens, hasten to the king;
And silently keep watch. Quick messengers
To Peresh have been sent: again I send;
Then arm me, and go forth. Yet, to what end!
Surely we have the gods displeasëd much,
Or not thus wrathfully would they have given
Our myriads to the sword! Farewell at once.''
So speaking, on her cheek a kiss he pressed,
And hastily withdrew; his armour donned;
Snatched spear, sword, shield--went forth--on his mailed steed
Vaulted,--and, like an arrow, cleft the air.
Dense was the throng that poured within the gate;
And long he labored, ere, against its rush,
A path he forced, and stood upon the plain.
Burst on him then a roar, as though earth gaped,
To let out hell. Hither, and thither, rolled,
Like battling waves along the howling beach,
The fear--struck multitudes. For life, for life,
Was all their struggle: honor, victory, now,
Unthought of quite: for, by their long debauch,
Enfeebled were they; arms, or armour, none
Had any man; and terror withered them.
Within the angle of a jutting tower,
Screened from the torrent of the fugitives,
Nebaioth for a time, despairingly,
The direful rout beheld; and with his soul
Thus questioned. ``Sight of misery and dread!
Whither, oh whither shall I go! how hope
To render help! Upon the timid sheep,
Chased by the ravenous tiger, I as well,
To turn and face their enemy, might call,
As on this throng unarmed, and terror--struck.
And, were my voice the thunder,--in this din,
No man could hear me! Shall I tamely, then,
Stand, to behold the slaughter, and to die?
Or shall I not in thick of battle plunge;
And slay, ere I be slain? Is this the night
Predoomed; and by strange prophets oft foretold;
When the imperial city, like a torch
Extinguished, shall go out, and be no more?
And this, at last, the fell destroyer then;
The vanquished, the annihilated Mede?
Said not the men who came from long pursuit,
`Arbaces is gone down into the pit!
Thine enemies are scattered like the dust,--
Like clouds of yesterday are gone for aye?'--
Falsely, then, spake they to Assyria's king,
To lure him to destruction? But, themselves
Are, also, in destruction overwhelmed!
Ah miserable! how have we been lulled
In hollow safety! Our foundations we
Have laid upon the earthquake's bed; and cried,
`Surely our walls shall stand for evermore!'
On a smooth water have we sailed along,
Even to the cataract's brink; and, foolishly,
Said to ourselves, `let us lay down the oars,
And toil no longer; for our labor now
Is over; and the gentle stream will bear
Our vessel pleasantly; then, let us feast,
And sport, and lay us down to sleep!' But lo!
We have awakened midway down the abyss!''
Thus pondering, an armed horseman he beheld,
Forth issuing; and to meet him went; for, now,
He saw 'twas Jerimoth. The face was stern,
Pallid, and anxious. Soon as he perceived
Nebaioth coming, Jerimoth approached;
And, close to his ear, with voice uplifted high,--
For deafening was the uproar,--sharply thus:
``Why linger'st here? the battle is not lost.''
``Lead on,'' was the quick answer; and, at once,
Both horses spurned the ground. In his right hand,
Each warrior bore a spear; loose at his back,
The shield was slung; the sword was on his thigh.
Then, as they rode, thus Jerimoth pursued.
``Their horse and chariots, first, like torrent--flood,
Swept camp, and plain; and toward the river chased
Our unarmed soldiers: but, long after them,
Breathless, disordered, came their infantry.
With such as hastily had been equipped,
Them to encounter, Salamenes flew;
And, near the Well of Giants, backward drove.
To him I hasten now. By his command,
I sped into the city, to make known
Where conflict had begun; and send quick aid.
Ere long it will be here. The armouries all
Are open thrown; and they who make escape,
Snatch weapons thence, and hurry back to fight.
Our chariots, too, and horse, in multitudes,
Are hasting to the contest. If awhile
We can the onset of their foot resist,
Our horse and chariots from the gates will pour
Upon their horse and chariots in the rear;
And so divide their battle: but, meantime,
Into the river myriads will be driven,
Ere we can help; and myriads by the sword
Will perish! Oh accursëd be this night!
Accursëd our own folly! And the king--
What shall I say--If he hath sense to hear,
How hears he the hell--chorus of this field!
But word hath gone about that he is slain.
Even as he passed the gate, behind him close,
The chariot of Arbaces was beheld,
Pursuing; and his arrows flying thick.
A shaft, 'tis said, hath wounded him to death.''
``Nay--for the king fear not,'' Nebaioth said;
``In my own house he resteth; and his wound
Is nought. His steeds and chariot ready wait
To bring him forth, when from his brain shall pass
The stupor of the wine--cup. But, great gods!
When, when shall pass away this night's disgrace!''
O'er the dead--sprinkled plain, as best they might,
Hasting, and talking thus,--they saw, at length,
With Salamenes, a great force of foot,
In slow retreat, yet fighting valiantly.
But, backward looking, they, with joy, beheld
Assyrian horsemen likewise, and no few,
Though all unordered, yet with aspect firm,
Advancing to their aid. Nebaioth then;
``Abide thou here the coming of the horse;
That to the onset in more fit array
Thou may'st conduct them. I, meantime, will speed
To Salamenes, and make known to him
What thou hast seen, and what the help at hand.''
``Wise are thy words,'' said Jerimoth; ``be it so.''
Speaking, he turned. Nebaioth onward flew;
And to the Assyrian foot advancing, cried,
``Now, now, ye valiant men--put forth your strength:
The field is not yet lost. Brave Jerimoth,
With numerous horse, draws nigh: the king yet lives,
And will come forth to victory. For your wives,
Your children, and your parents, and your homes,
Conquer, or nobly perish.'' Calling thus,
Still on he flew; till, in the thick of fight,
Armed with a sword and shield alone, he saw
The noble Salamenes; by his voice,
And valiant deeds, inciting to resist.
Approaching him, Nebaioth from his horse
Hastily leaped, and, with quick utterance, thus.
``The armouries are thrown open. As they 'scape,
The soldiers thence snatch arms, and hurry back.
The chariots, too, and horse, in multitudes,
Are hasting to the contest. Close at hand,
With many horse, even now is Jerimoth.
But, wherefore, in this conflict perilous,
Unmailed art thou? Great prince, be wise as brave.
Bethink thee, on thy fate Assyria's hangs;
With thee we live, or die. Mount, then, my steed;
Haste to the city, and thine arms put on.
In my own house the monarch resteth safe,
And little hurt; but still with soul and strength
Crushed by the wine--cup: and to thee alone
Must all now look for help. Away, away!''
Breathless with toil, the prince no word replied;
But grasped Nebaioth firmly by the arm;
Looked in his face with melancholy smile;
Sprang on the panting steed; and rapidly
Rode toward the nearest gate. Nebaioth then
Ardently bounded to the battle's front,
And roused the soldiers' courage. Jerimoth
Came also with his horsemen furiously,
Breaking the Median ranks, and scattering;
So that a moment balanced seemed the fight.
But nothing now might long the foe resist:
For, every instant, with terrific cries,
And confident of victory, came on
Fresh numbers; that the Assyrians, overborne,
Again, though bravely combating, retired.
Meantime, the Median chariots, and the horse,
Terribly thundering, toward the river drove
Myriads, and tens of myriads, with great noise
And carnage inexpressible. The steeds,
Amid the heaps of trampled, and of slain,
Stumbled continually: the chariot wheels,
As in deep roads, were clogged. With pity filled,
Then cried Arbaces; ``Trumpeters blow out,
To cease from slaughter.'' But, in that dire din,
The blaring trumpets were as infants' toys,
Blown in their sport: and, mad with victory,
For conquest yet athirst, reluctantly,
The soldiers ceased from slaying. On them still
Incessantly Arbaces called aloud,
To and fro riding: louder, and more loud,
Still blew the trumpets. When he could be heard,
And when both armies for a moment paused,--
Upstanding in his chariot, his strong voice
He sent abroad, and cried; ``Cease now from fight:
And you, Assyrians, hear me, and fly not.
Why should ye perish all? Let every man
Who will the tyrant leave; and truly join,
For life or death, in our most holy cause,--
Pass now the bridge; and he shall be unharmed.
Let every Mede make room, that they may pass;
And let the men who hear me, in both hosts,
Proclaim aloud my words, that all may know.''
Then were the hearts of the Assyrians glad;
And cheerfully from man to man were sent
The tidings; and a loud acclaim ran on,
``Long live Arbaces! may the tyrant fall!''
While thus they cried, still toward the bridge they moved,
And every Mede made way. Arbaces, next,
To Azareel thus spake: ``Abide thou now,
With all thy horse and chariots, in this place:
And, when the Assyrians shall have crossed the bridge,
See thou that none return. But, when I send
Spearmen, and archers, who shall guard the pass,
Then to the battle, with thy valiant men,
Hasten thou back; for, haply, even this night,
Into our hands the city may be given.''
Thus having spoken, in the van he rode,
And called aloud: ``Now turn your horses' heads,
And drive into the camp; for, in our rear,
The foe will gather strength.'' Throughout the host
Soon flew the word; and quickly all wheeled round.
But Azareel, with horse and chariots, stayed;
That, when the Assyrians should have passed the bridge,
No man might thence return. So these. Meantime,
Through every gate that faced the northern plain,--
Like the full spring--tide up a river's mouth
Driving and roaring,--the Assyrians fled:
And, in a counter current, also thronged
From every gate, fast as they could be armed,
Horsemen, and charioteers, and foot, all hot
To plunge into the hurly of the fight.
Within the city was there uproar dire:
All voices were uplift, all feet astir.
Along the northern wall, to light the field,
And aid the fliers to escape, huge fires
Were kindled, and ten thousand torches waved.
Meantime, his noble heart with grief oppressed,
Across the plain, and through the crowded gate,
Flew Salamenes. In Nebaioth's house,
Stretched on a bed, the helpless king he found;
And, close beside him, with a proffered cup,
Which, with his trembling hand, he still repelled,
Peresh, the good physician. Round the couch,
Rebekah, with her handmaids, stood and wept.
When Salamenes entered, thus the king,
With faint voice, but a kindling eye, began.
``Why art thou here? Is all lost utterly?
And hath the city then already fallen?''
To him the prince. ``Thine enemies, O king,
Not yet within the city have set foot;
Nor is the battle lost. To thee I come,
To know if still thou can'st not issue forth,
And from destruction save it. For, thy helm,
Seen in the fight, would be a fiery star,
To lead the soldiers on.'' To him the king:
``The accursëd poison of the grape--juice yet
Doth blind mine eyes, and stupify my brain:
As by a leaden load, my limbs are pressed;
And my heart's blood is cold. With thee alone
Would I have speech, and briefly, that again
Thou may'st go forth.'' Rebekah, at these words,
With Peresh, and the handmaidens, withdrew.
To Salamenes then thus said the king.
``The glory of this mighty Nineveh
Is passing like cloud--shadow. On her throne,
No child of mine shall sit. Her giant walls
Shall be cast down; her stately palaces,
Be heaps of blackened ashes: slaves her sons;
Her beauteous daughters shall be concubines!
In my brief dream, since on this couch I lay,
Thus hath it surely been revealed to me.
Never again can I her armies lead;
For shame sits heavy on my head, that thus,
In pride and foolishness, I have brought down
Destruction on us. In the hour of fight,
Mine arm hath not been feeble, nor my heart
Afraid: but, in the time of revelry,
Blind have mine eyes been; and my thoughts all vain!
But thou art not the slave of thy desires;
And all thy thoughts are wise: thou, rather, then,
Go forth; my armies lead; my people save!''
But Salamenes knelt beside the couch;
Pressed close the extended hand, and softly said;
``Let not the king too harshly blame himself;
Nor let his soul be utterly cast down.
From hard adversity men wisdom learn;
And he that hath his fault sincerely owned,
Hath half redeemed it, too. The weight, O king,
Will from thy limbs be taken; and thy heart
With a new life will glow: and thou wilt yet
Go forth unto thine hosts, and lead them on;
And, at thy presence, will the battle turn.
Rise then, O monarch of Assyria, rise;
Put on thine arms--go forth--thy people save!
But, ere too late, arise: for, now, indeed,
With aspect black and terrible lowers Fate!''
Sardanapalus, at these words, arose,
And upright sat. Death--pale his countenance was;
Trembled his limbs; his eyes were wild and bright.
He spake not yet; but pointed toward the camp,
And listened; for terrific was the din.
At length thus hoarsely,--``Hence; put on thy mail,
And speed unto the plain. I too, anon,
Will arm, and issue.'' Joyful at that word,
Then Salamenes kissed the monarch's hand,
Arose, and went his way. To Peresh, next,
Thus said the king; ``Now give me of thy cup,
That strength may come to me. That done, retire;
For I would be alone.'' So he, and drank:
Then lay him down; and fain would have reposed.
But, with a heavy grief his soul was crushed,
And sleep fled from him. On the prophet's words
He thought, and said; ``the banquet hath indeed,
To me more fearful than the battle been!
Oh that I had but listened to his voice!
Then had I 'scaped this misery! Fool! oh fool!''
Meantime, his armour Salamenes donned;
Sprang on his horse, and hurried toward the field.
Passing an armoury, whence came soldiers forth,
Equipped for combat,--he the queen beheld,
Within her car, nigh the great central gate;
And, as the soldiers hasted by, she called
Continually, and said; ``Be strong; fear not;
Fight for your agëd parents, and your wives,
Your sisters, and your children, and your homes!
Turn not your backs on this rebellious horde!
Let not your sons be taken for their slaves;
Let not your beauteous daughters, and your wives,
Become their servants, and their concubines!
Die rather, nobly die! Call on the gods,
Call on the gods in battle; and your arms
Shall have the strength of giants! Valiant men,
On to the fight! Let not your foes rejoice
In this their cunning: let not your great city,
This mighty Nineveh, the queen of earth,
Be made the den of rebels, or wild beasts!''
With words like these, incessantly she cried
Unto the soldiers; and their hearts made strong.
When Salamenes this beheld, and heard,
More nigh he drew; stretched out his hand, and said;
``My sister! my dear sister!'' She to him,
``Brother! my dearest brother! But, alas!
Why art thou not in battle? And oh! where,
In this dread hour, is he?'' She faltered; wrung
Convulsively her hands; and on her face
Pressed them, as if on her his shame had fallen.
Then Salamenes; ``Wounded, and borne down
By sore distemperature, the king, as yet,
Refrains from combat; but, in little while,
Will rise, and arm for fight. Yet, seek not thou
To stir him; for thy voice will be as wine
To strengthen every man that heareth thee.
Not utterly is yet the battle lost.
Our foot, and horse, and chariots, toward the plain
Are crowding fast; and thither now haste I.''
Then to the soldiers, as they hurried forth
From out the armoury, he called aloud:
``Let every man that fighteth upon foot,
Speed toward the Well of Giants,--there the foe
His foot hath also: but let every horse,
And every chariot, toward the river fly;
For there the horse and chariots of the Mede
Rage unresisted. Now, let every man
That these things heareth, cry them out aloud,
That all may know. And thou, my sister, send
To every gate, within the northern wall,
And every armoury, to make them known.''
Thus having spoken, he threw up the rein,
And toward the field rode forth. Him, as he passed,
All knew; and called down blessings on his head.
In the great square of Jupiter, there stood,
Around the giant statue of the god,
Altars, and many priests who sacrificed,
And called upon his name. Their heads were bare,
Their faces pale, and withered up with fear.
A moment Salamenes paused, and cried,
``Ye holy men, what tokens?'' Nought they spake;
But lifted up the hand, and shook the head.
On then he rode; and, having passed the gate,
Nigh to the wall a numerous throng beheld,--
Chariots, and horse, and foot: but strange dismay
Upon them, that they knew not what to do.
Him soon they saw, and shouted out his name;
And he, with cheerful voice, to animate
And order them began; when, at full speed,
Came riders, with wild looks, who cried aloud;
``The chariots and the horsemen of the Medes
Have in the river driven our myriads;
And now are this way hasting; trampling down,
And slaying all before them.'' With strong voice,
Then Salamenes cried, ``Fear not, fear not!
But hear my words; and look that all obey.
Let every charioteer and horseman, now,
Skirting the wall, straight toward the river speed;
And on the rear of the audacious foe,
Break like a thunder--bolt. But, full in front,
Let all the archers and the slingers go
To meet them; and drive on them deadly hail.
Now, let all men who hear me, cry aloud,
Proclaiming to the rest.'' When this was heard,
And by a thousand voices spread abroad,--
The horse and chariots toward the river sped;
The archers, and the slingers, with strong hearts,
Went forward on the foe. Then yet again
Cried Salamenes, ``Let the spearmen, now,
And those who fight with sword, or battle--axe,
Haste toward the Well of Giants: rageth there
Fierce conflict; yet, let every man be bold,
And stand unto the death. Here will I stay,
And unto all send help.'' With cheerful voice,
The soldiers answered, and went swiftly on:
But, by the gate of Nisroch he remained;
And, as the chariots, and the horse, and foot,
Came forth, he ordered and encouraged them:
And captains to the other gates he sent,
Who in same way should stand, and give command.
Still, everywhere, before the exulting Medes,
Weak was the Assyrian's arm. Like men from sleep
Roused suddenly, their senses were confused;
Their strength was wasted by long revelry.
Nebaioth, with the foot; and Jerimoth,
With all his fiery horsemen, rapidly
Backward were driven; for, in a mighty stream,
The Median and the Bactrian foot poured on,
Flooding the camp. And, when the Assyrians saw
That, with the Medes, the Bactrians had conjoined,--
More sank their hearts; and they cried fearfully;
``We are betrayed! Fly to the city, fly!
The Bactrians with the Medes are 'gainst us come!
Men of Assyria, to your city fly!
Fly to the city, and shut fast the gates!''
Thus crying, thousands turned their backs, and fled.
And, of the horsemen also, many turned,
And toward the city flew,--crying aloud,
``The Bactrians with the Medes are 'gainst us come!
Fly to the city, men of Nineveh,
And shut the gates! we are betrayed! fly, fly!''
When Salamenes,--standing nigh the gate
Of Nisroch yet,--this outcry heard, his heart
Sorely was troubled. Flinging up his arms,
He looked to heaven, and said. ``All ruling gods,
Our fate is in your hands! This night, perchance,
Your doom is that we perish! Yet despair
Is impious; for your counsels who can know?
Who then shall dare forestall them? Hear me, gods!
If past forgiveness we have angered you,
Then must we fall; and prayers, and tears, are vain.
If but to punish, not destroy, ye stretch
The arm of wrath--in mercy stay it now;
For great our misery is!'' Dropped then his hands;
His head sank down, and he groaned bitterly.
But, strength and heart recovering soon, again
Erect he stood, and resolutely thus.
``Yet, come what may, man in his own hand holds
Honor, or infamy. To live, or die,
He may not choose; but, life with infamy,
Or death with honor, in his choice remains,
And who can waver? Come ten thousand deaths,
Rather than ages of ignoble life!''
He said, and, flinging to his horse the rein,
Vehémently into the battle rode,
Plunging, as in a torrent. But, meantime,
Among the Assyrian foot, the Median cars
And horse drove irresistibly,--like wolves
Amid the sheep, rending and scattering them.
Nor, when the archers, and the slingers came,
Could they before the shock a moment stand:
For, in the van of fight Arbaces rode;
And terrible as Death his aspect was.
Ahab, not less, and Abdolonimus,
And every Median captain, furiously
Drove on them: and Belesis still cried out,
Foretelling victory, and the city's fall.
Among the Assyrian force, there stood a man
Of Astaroth, named Anak: for his size,
And strength prodigious, o'er a thousand spears,
The captain chosen. But, the mighty bulk,
A little heart contained. Above all men,
Did he Belesis hate; for that the first
Was he, against the king to counsel war.
When, now, the chariot of the priest he saw
Nigh toward him coming, frenzy filled his soul:
His spear he hurled; next, from a fire plucked forth
A huge brand, fiercely blazing, and, on high
Lifting it, aimed and threw. With sullen roar,
And trailing smoke and flame, it cleft the air;
Full in the faces of the horses struck,--
Scorching their eyes; staggering, bewildering them;
That they ran backward; suddenly wheeled round,
And, with harsh jar, the chariot overthrew.
Rejoiced the Assyrians then; and every man,
Example taking, from the fires snatched brands,
And hurled them 'mid the enemy; that, now,
Terror and great confusion covered them.
The steeds drew back,--sprang upright,--leaped aside,--
Struggled, and shrieked: cars were together jammed,--
Axles snapped short,--poles broken,--wheels torn off;
And tumult inconceivable arose.
Then more and more the Assyrians were rejoiced:
Arrows, and stones, darts, lances, in thick shower,
They poured among their foes; and ceaselessly
Hurled flaming brands; with bitter mockery,
Laughing to scorn their enemies sore perplexed.
But now the soldiers, on both sides, plucked brands,
And flung them at their enemies. Anon,
Tent after tent caught fire, and streamed aloft;
The clouds grew red before the sudden flame;
The air was hot, and smoky, like the breath
Of furnace; and the roar was terrible.
As when, at night, on ocean long becalmed,
That, 'neath the downright burning of the sun,
Hath gendered shining creatures numberless,
And sleeping fires phosphoric,--a strong wind
Awakes, and lifts the waters,--near, and far,
On every curling wave the flashes ride;
With every roll, and every back recoil,
Shaking their sparkling lamps, that all the deep
Seems kindling into flame,--so vast, so bright;
So tossing restlessly its fires about;
So in continuous motion, to and fro,
Rising, and falling, seemed the battle--plain.
But, not long time could the Assyrians boast
Their chance--given triumph; for the horse, anon,
Of their strong enemy, with doubled rage
Burst in among them: and the chariots, too,
Fast as they freed themselves, came thundering on.
All frantic were the coursers; for the fires,
Before, behind, around, flared fearfully:
Yet, furiously the drivers shouted, smote,
And 'mid the throng impelled them,--that, as mire,
The mass was trampled. Hideous shrieks arose,
Howlings and cries: and, as the scattered fires
And blazing tents went out, a darkness fell
O'er all the field, that dimly every man
Beheld his enemy. Belesis now,
Who from his fall unharmed had 'scaped, and rode
With Necho, the Arabian, in his car--
Seeing the darkness gather, and the force
Of the Assyrians in confusion dire,--
Toward the bright city pointing, cried aloud,
``Behold! upon his wall, the enemy
Hath kindled fires, to guide you on your way!
Drive on, then, to the gates! linger not here
To slay these miserable! To the gates,
Speed cars, horse, foot; for, haply, even this night,
Into our hands may God the city give!''
Arbaces also, with a mighty voice,
Cried, ``Smite your horses now, and force the way!
On to the gates! the gates! This night, perchance,
The city shall be ours.'' As they cried out,
So every captain, every soldier cried:
And, like some mighty current of the main,
Changing its course, gulf--drawn, or turned by rocks,
The Median host 'gan wheel,--when, suddenly,
On their right hand, and in their rear, arose
Sound of new onset: for the Assyrian horse
And chariots that had toward the river gone,
Exultingly drove on them. In the gloom,
Not well they saw their foe; nor them the Medes
Aright could see,--their numbers and their strength
To tell: but furiously together rushed
The opposing hosts; and dreadful uproar rose,
And tumult inexpressible. But now,
When those who from the wall o'erlooked the plain,
Beheld the fires put out,--then also they
Their fires extinguished; for they said, ``Behold,
Our soldiers hope in darkness to escape!''
So in a thick obscure both armies stood,
Mingled together; and no man might know
Which way to move; and no man dared to strike,
Or speak; for, whether enemy, or friend,
Beside him stood, he knew not. Gory War,
As struck by sudden apoplexy, slept.
No sound was, save the blowing of the steeds,
The restless foot, and champing on the bit;
The clash of armour, as dropped momently,
Some wounded warrior; and, of all that host,
The thick laborious pantings; the dull creak
And grind of iron wheels together locked;
The groan of pain, the long, deep gasp of death.
Comments about The Fall Of Nineveh. Book The Fifteenth by Edwin Atherstone
Poems About Silver
- 1. The Fall Of Nineveh. Book The Fifteenth , Edwin Atherstone
- 2. At Bay , Zoe Nyght
- 3. In Time Of Silver Rain , Sean Finley
- 4. Rising Star , AHO Speaks
- 5. Under The Silver And Over The Gold , Joseph Rollitt
- 6. The Violin , Silas Weir Mitchell
- 7. Over Priced , Matthew Temple
- 8. Beamish Moon. , Tapashya Das
- 9. Midnight Ride , Demon Eastoe
- 10. Small Fish , Carol B. Rice
- 11. Jim’s Mad , Suzae Chevalier
- 12. Life , valerie montanez
- 13. True Love , Purus
- 14. Uncaring Shores , Bill Mitton
- 15. Bsilver Needles , Barry A. Lanier
- 16. Tip Tapping , daubmir nadir
- 17. Shannon, Silver Goddess, Flow To Sea , Tomás Ó Cárthaigh
- 18. Silver And Gold , Davina Caddell
- 19. A Moonlit Walk , sadaf khan
- 20. Happiness Is …. , Khadim Hussain
- 21. Morning Heralds , Paul Josef
- 22. Silverfishes , dan hightower
- 23. The Rose Of Corbye - Canto The Second , Robert Anderson
- 24. Medulla Poetarum Romanorum - Vol. Ii. (.. , Henry Baker
- 25. The Kalevala - Rune Viii , Elias Lönnrot
- 26. The Kalevala - Rune Xii , Elias Lönnrot
- 27. The Kalevala - Rune Xlvi , Elias Lönnrot
- 28. The Kalevala - Rune Xxv , Elias Lönnrot
- 29. An Idyll Of The May , Kate Seymour Maclean
- 30. For James Joyce At The Beginning Of Days.. , mary douglas
- 31. Werewolf , Ryan Brodesser
- 32. The Train , SUDARSAN VASUDEVAN
- 33. Night (Twilight) , Clark Ashton Smith
- 34. Olympics 2012 , douglas scotney
- 35. The Journey , Declan Barwell
- 36. Silver Band , The Queen's Dagger
- 37. Silver Fields , Raven Syke
- 38. The Wolf , Patrick William Kavanagh
- 39. Let It Pass , TheNameless Poet
- 40. Just A Minute! , Pamela Ann Frances Crane
- 41. The Lone Wolf , Shane Labossiere
- 42. Cliburn In Moscow , mary douglas
- 43. The Silver Fairy , Alice Anne Gordon
- 44. Treatisewfgsp , Parme Hice
- 45. Baby, You Could Draw Hearts On My Life W.. , J Knight
- 46. The Fairy Clock , Virna Sheard
- 47. My Fair Silver Maiden , cameron bird
- 48. The End , ashley ellison
- 49. The Kalevala - Rune Xli , Elias Lönnrot
- 50. The Kalevala - Rune Xviii , Elias Lönnrot
New Silver Poems
- The Brown Urchin, Anwer Ghani
- The Brown Urchin, Anwer Gani
- There Are, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- The Silver Pot., Gangadharan nair Pulingat..
- Silver, Luo Zhihai
- Cliburn In Moscow, mary douglas
- London Bridge Is Falling Down, Anonymous British
- Let It Pass, TheNameless Poet
- New Sources Of Gold And Silver, Edwin Tanguma
- 'That Silver Line', Shania K. Younce
- carpe diem