Edwin Atherstone

Edwin Atherstone Poems

Meantime, within the royal maiden's bower--
Hurriedly met, in fear and trembling hope,--
Sat Dara and Nehushta. That sweet spot

Within his splendid chamber; by all flowers
Of fragrance rare and exquisite perfumed;
Beneath a silken canopy, gold--dropped,

It was a day of gloom, and strange suspense,
And feverish, and inexplicable dread,
In Herculaneum's walls. The heavy, thick,

Sunrise: Assyrian soldiers from their tents
Come forth to worship; but, when from their knees
Arising, they look round, lo! where, at eve,

On the next morrow, to the spacious plain
South of the city, Salamenes led
The Assyrian army,--for no foe was there,--

Why do ye mock me thus?--
Ye said I should behold my native place,
Immortal Sparta:--mother of the race

Meanwhile, within the heart of the dead sun,
After that glory angelic had passed out,
Long time reigned silence, night impierceable,

``Not with you to take counsel, Powers of heaven,--
For still that title ours,--in so great haste
Hither have I convoked you,''--thus began

All night, that beauteous vision of the day,--
In dreams intense, by subtle demon wrought,--
Vivid as life, to the eye of Sethos moved,

Joy was in Israel; for all hoped that, now,
A three days' journey in the wilderness
Verily should they go, and sacrifice

On the next morning early, Voice Divine
Again to Moses came. ``To Aaron say;
`Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust; that lice

Thought--swift the flight of Spirits: ere midway
'Twixt noon and evening had the sun declined;
And while, all gentleness and purest love,

Throughout the realm of Egypt, a loud voice
Of lamentation rose; for everywhere,
In the same point of time, to blood was changed

Darkness again on Israel! for the words
Of Pharaoh,--with harsh proclamation sent
Throughout the city, and throughout the land,--

In the dead hush and darkness of the night,
While in the garden all alone he walked;
For Israel mourning, pleading with his God,--

In that same moment when at Kohath's gate
Paused the bright phantom--chariot,--to the eye
Of Sethos, riding moodily alone,

On the next morrow, early, rose the king;
And sat upon his throne: at his right hand,
The heroic queen: and, all for battle dight,

Three times the glorious god of light, and life,
Along the sapphire pavement of the sky
Careering,--through the immense of space, his beams

Meantime Sardanapalus, with the pride
Of victory made drunken, as with wine,--
Self--glorying, said: ``Lord of the earth am I!

Throughout the city, and the lands around,
Soon ran the rumour that, from Israel's God,
Moses a word had brought unto the king,

Edwin Atherstone Biography

Edwin Atherstone (1788–1875) was a poet and novelist. His works, which were planned on an imposing scale, attracted some temporary attention and applause, but are now forgotten. His chief poem, The Fall of Nineveh, consisting of thirty books, appeared at intervals from 1828 to 1868. He also produced two novels, The Sea Kings in England and The Handwriting on the Wall.)

The Best Poem Of Edwin Atherstone

The Fall Of Nineveh. Book The Sixth

Meantime, within the royal maiden's bower--
Hurriedly met, in fear and trembling hope,--
Sat Dara and Nehushta. That sweet spot
Herself had chosen; from the palace walls
Farthest removed; by not a sound disturbed,
And by no eye o'erlooked,--a mossy lawn
Mid lofty trees, umbrageous, folded in;
Yet to the sunshine open, and the airs
That from the deep shades all around it breathed,
Cool, and sweet scented. Myrtle, jessamine,
Roses of richest hue; all climbing shrubs,
Green--leaved and fragrant, had she planted there;
At early morn had watered, and at eve,
From a bright fountain near, that, day and night,
Throughout all seasons, a sweet music made;
And, dancing, flashing in the sun, might seem
All liquid, living diamond. Over head,
The pliant branches, intertwined, were arched:
Flowers, some; and, some, rich fruits of gorgeous hues,
Bearing abundantly; the taste to please,
Or, with rich scent, the smell; or that fine sense
Of beauty, that in forms and colours rare
Doth take delight. With fragrant moss the floor
Was planted; to the foot a carpet rich;
Or, for the languid limbs, a downy couch,
Inviting slumber. At the noon--tide hour,
Here, with some chosen maidens, would she come,
Stories of love to listen; or the deeds
Of heroes of old days: the harp, sometimes,
Herself would touch; and, with her own sweet voice,
Fill all the air with sweetness. Oft at eve,
When to his heavenly bed the wearied sun
Had parted; and sky's glorious arch yet shone,
A last gleam catching from his closing eye,--
The palace, with her maidens, would she quit;
Through vistas dim of tall trees glide along;
Cedar, or waving pine, or giant palm;
Through orange groves, and citron; myrtle walks;
Alleys of roses; beds of sweetest flowers,--
Their odorous breathings, on the panting air,
Pouring profusely all;--and, having reached
The spot beloved,--with sport, or dance awhile
On the small lawn, to sound of dulcimer,
The pleasant time would pass: or to the lute
Give ear delighted; and the plaintive voice
That sang of hapless love: then, arm in arm,
In couples would they saunter; hearing oft
The fountain's murmur; or the evening's sigh;
Or whisperings in the leaves; or, in his pride
Of minstrelsy, the sleepless nightingale,
Charming the air with beauty of sweet sounds:
And, ever as the silence came again,
The distant and unceasing hum would list
Of that great city--as of far--off sea,
Moaning in sleep. But oft with one alone,
One faithful, loved companion, would she come:
At early morn sometimes, while every flower,
Dew--laden, like a regal crown shone bright:
When, through the glistening trees, the golden beams
Aslant their bright flood poured; and every bird
In his green palace sitting, sang aloud;
And all the air with youthful fragrance teemed,
Fresh as at Nature's birth,--her pastime then,
The flowers to tend; to look on earth and sky;
To drink the perfume of the healthful breeze,
And in the gladness of all things be glad.

But, sometimes, quite alone, as now, she met
The raptured lover: Dara then the harp,
Or dulcimer, would touch; or, happier yet,
His words of love into her listening ear
Distil, with sweeter music than from string,
Or breathing pipe, though sweetest. But the tale,
Now, was of battle; ghastly wounds, and death:
Of her loved father, and the rebel chief,
Mighty as Nimrod: how in fight they stood;
And how the foe prevailed: how he himself,
For her loved sake, the terrible warrior faced,
Her sire defending: how the clouds of horse
Came on; and from his spoil the conqueror drove:
How, last, in tumult dread they left the field;
The Assyrians flying, and the Medes in chase.
Of what might yet, unhappily, befall,
Long talk they held: and many an earnest word
Of caution gave she; in the after strife,--
Well for her father so!--forgotten not.

Meantime, with all his cars and cavalry,
To turn the battle Salamenes flew.
Direful the rout that toward them rolling came;
Horses without their riders; cars o'erthrown,
Dragged by the terrified steeds; vast hosts in flight,--
Their fear--struck faces turning as they ran,--
And horsemen recklessly amid the throng
Forcing their headlong flight, and trampling down.

That seeing, Salamenes called aloud,
And bade blow out the trumpets; the weak hearts
To strengthen, and the valiant to sustain:
Then, to a captain of the Assyrian horse
Thus spake. ``Haste to Abijah. Bid him take
One half his horsemen.'' To another, thus:
``Thou, to Abiathar hasten. Bid him take
One half his chariots. Northward both must speed;
And o'er the plain a distant circuit make,
Till on the right of that rebellious host
They shall arrive: then, like a thunder--cloud,
Let fall upon them. With the other half--
Horsemen and chariots--Asshur with the horse,
And, with the chariots, Zimri--south must speed;
In like way, o'er the plain wide circuit take;
And smite them on the left. Full in the midst
Drive every chariot; every horseman break
The rebel ranks, and trample them like mire!
To the foot, meantime, myself will hasten back;
With them to stay the flight.'' That said, his steed
Sharply he turned, and flew along the plain:
With him a cloud of horse; but all the rest,
And all the cars--as he had given command,--
Half to the left hand, to the right hand half,
Moved instantly; and loud arose the sound
Of tramplings; and the beat of rapid wheels.

Meantime, in formless mass the routed fled;
Fear in all hearts: and everywhere went up
Shrill cries, ``The king is slain! the day is lost!
Fly to the city, and shut fast the gates!''

But them, with twice a hundred thousand foot,
All hot for vengeance, Salamenes met,
And bade turn back to combat; crying aloud,
``Shame on you, cowards! whither would you fly?
Back on the foe! the king of kings yet lives;
And yet will come to conquer. Turn again!
Strike every man of you one valiant blow,
And victory is ours.'' They heard him not,
Or did not heed; so terror sank their hearts;
But wildly still pressed on--amid his ranks
Mingling confusedly; that uproar dread
Rose quickly; order to disorder changed.
From place to place flew Salamenes then,
Exhorting, and commanding: threatening now,
Now suing, now encouraging. Vain all!
Still rolled the torrent on; and nought could stay
The fury of its course. Then, waving high
His glittering sword, he lifted up his voice,
And bade his soldiers cry, ``Long live the king!
Long live Sardanapalus, king of kings!
May the king live for ever!'' At the word,
Up went the roar of myriads: bolder grew
The hearts of those who fled; and, crying aloud,
Again they faced the enemy. Yet, not long,
With this new courage, did the Assyrians stand;
Then turned again to flight; for, in their cause,
Their foes were stronger. They, for liberty,
Dared all things: but th' Assyrians, for a throne,
And for a tyrant, fighting--with weak heart
Stood in the battle; and from death shrank back.

Yet now, a little while, the scales of war
Again were balanced: for Abiathar,
With half the chariots; and, with half the horse,
Abijah,--suddenly, upon the right;
Zimri, and Asshur, like a counter blast,
Upon the left, of the exulting Medes,
In the same moment driving,--like two floods
Breaking their barriers, all before them bore;
Hurling to earth, and trampling. Yells, and groans,
Clamors of triumph, and derision rose:
The curse, the scornful laugh, the shriek of pain.

Deep in the Median host th' Assyrians drove,
And shouted ``Victory!'' But, anon, the darts
Howled round their heads; huge stones upon them smote;
Arrows, steel--headed, like a hail--cloud came;
With darkness, and a rushing as of wind.
Death--shrieks and groans went up. Men fell, and steeds;
And chariots in the throng stood motionless;
Horses and charioteers, upon the earth
Stretched lifeless. Many a hand, uplifted high,
For the death--cast--fell death--struck; many a bow--
Even while the strong arm strained the arrow up--
Dropped from a corse; and, in their swift career,
Steeds staggered, and fell dead. So raged the strife;
And neither side prevailed. That hideous din
Hearing at length, Arbaces looked behind,
And all the tumult saw. To Abner then:
``Turn round the car. They break upon our flanks,
With horse and chariots: lash the coursers on,
For peril threatens.'' Arching their strong necks,
Turned the swift steeds; the brazen wheels spun on:
And, waving high his sword, his powerful voice
The Mede uplifted; and the chariots called,
And horsemen, from pursuit. The call was heard:
A thousand voices spread it; and, at once,
Like fires stirred up, wheeled round the flashing cars.
In full career stopped short,--with quick recoil,
Came back the steel--clothed cavalry; the ground
Shaking beneath their hoofs. Before them all,
With spear uplifted, pointing onward still,
Swiftly Arbaces rode; and, as he went,
On every side a warning voice sent forth,
To clear the dangerous way. They now were nigh:
With headlong rush, right on the enemy,
Chariot 'gainst chariot, horse 'gainst horse, they drove.
Then to high heaven, rending the air, went up
Clamors terrific, curses, shrieks, and cries:
Mailed coursers, brazen cars, together clashed;
Arrows and lances hissed; falchions, and helms,
Corslets, and shields, their iron chorus sang.

Ten thousand deeds heroic now were done,
Whereof no record tells; yet endless fame
Not less deserving than the vaunted acts
Of kings and conquerors, in song renowned,
Or lying history; that praises still
Worst deeds of men; for bloody victories
Misnamed The Great; their gentler acts untold,
Or blamed for weakness. But eternal fame
Each hoped for now; and to the battle leaped;
Greedy of death, with honor. Bravely still,--
In the dread whirl of fight together brought,--
Abijah, and Abiathar, with voice,
And deed heroic, animating all,
Struggled for victory. Side by side they fought;
Each aiding each, and all encouraging;
That round them furious was the strife; and sound
Of conflict terrible. That din, at length,
Arbaces heard; and, standing up, beheld
Whence came the mischief: then to Abner thus:
``Curb hard the steeds; and let the car stand still;
That with a surer aim the death may fly
To yonder chiefs; themselves death scattering round.''
Yet speaking, from his quiver he drew forth
A polished shaft; three cubits in its length;
Straight as a sunbeam: from an eagle's wing,
The sombre plume; the gleaming head was steel,
Death--destined: this took he; and, standing firm,
With his left foot advanced,--his monstrous bow
Bent till the barb just touch upon the arch,
Then let the Fury go. Loud clanged the cord;
Shrilly the arrow hissed, eager to slay. Abijah, in that moment perilous,
O'er the right shoulder of his horse low bent,--
With both hands griping hard its slippery shaft,--
From the close bite of a cleft shield of brass,
Strove to drag forth his spear. The foe, on foot,
Firm on his left arm held the baffling shield;
And, with his sword still aiming at the face,
Sprang on to pierce him: yet the horseman's lance
Still thrust him back,--still forward drew again;
And doubtful was the strife. But, as he bent,
The jointed armour in Abijah's neck
Opened; and death went in. With eye of fire,
All life and strength, while on his restless horse
Thus fiercely battling--headlong down he fell:
For, through his neck, the arrow of the Mede
Drove to the plume: even like a flower he fell,
Shorn by the mower's scythe: his limbs collapsed;
His eyes were quenched; a senseless clod he lay.

That fatal shot Abiathar beheld,
And whence it came; for, with the bow outstretched;
The right hand at the ear; as he had stood
When from the clanging cord the Pest had flown,--
So, for a moment, watchful of the end,
Still stood Arbaces. Fired with fiercest wrath,
Abiathar unto his charioteer,
With stretched arm pointing eagerly, cried out;
``'Gainst yon accursëd! Him, in the high car
Standing erect--in his left hand a bow.--
He drops it,--lifts a lance. Dost see him now?
There--the huge rebel in the burnished helm,
Blazing like fire. He hath Abijah slain!
Force on the horses. Death to him, or me!''

Thus having cried, he turned; his bow caught up;
And many a bitter arrow 'gainst the Mede
Sent vengefully: but, widely erring, most;
For, like the sway and tumult of the deep,
Was now the clash and uproar of the fight;
Nor could his car, entangled with the rest,
Advance, or stand: but, still for vengeance keen,
All other foes disdaining, on the Mede
His eye he kept; and, ever and anon,
An arrow sent--the mark for every shaft
Him pointing out; that soon a very cloud
Of angry weapons o'er his chariot hung;
Incessantly upon his armour struck;
Upon the charioteer; and on the steeds.

Upstanding in the car, his eagle eye
Arbaces shot around; and quickly saw
The heart of that hot fire. No sooner seen,
Than from his clanging bowstring leaped a shaft,
That on the helmet of Abiathar
Touched like the glance of light: yet harmlessly
Fell not; but in the breast a warrior pierced;
And from his proud height cast him. That fell stroke,
Abiathar beheld; and to the gods
For vengeance called: then, while his bow he bent,
Prayed inwardly; ``Oh! in his rebel heart
Fix but this barb! then, life or death to me,
Deal as ye will.'' Thus he; and loosed the cord.
Thirsting for vengeance flew the gleaming steel;
But the mark struck not: yet not wholly failed;
For, through the shield of Abner, with hard clang,
It tore its way; and his unguarded arm
Pierced sharply; that, with mere surprise and pain,
He dropped the buckler, and looked wildly out,
As if to ask what stung him: flushed with shame,
Snapped then the shaft, and raised again the shield,
Burning for vengeance. Vengeance was at hand:
For, at that lucky hit, Abiathar,
Scoffing, called out; ``What! hath it touched thee then?
Ah! not the honey of rebellion hope,
Without, sometimes, the sting.'' So he, and laughed;
And with him many. But the fatal shaft
Arbaces took; stood firmly; bent the bow,
And sent forth death. Still laughed Abiathar;
But, laughing, in the air, a lance's length,
Sprang up; and fell stone dead; for, through his mail,
Crashed the steel--headed Fury; snapped the bone,
And in his heart stood fixed. Pale terror then
Seized on the Assyrians: from the invincible Mede,
Heart and strength gone, at once they turned, and fled.

But, in his chariot driving furiously,
Came Zimri; to Arbaces mortal foe.
In love, war, fame, still he his path had crossed;
But checked him never. On his fierce, dark face,
What maid would look, who, on the godlike brow,
Gold clustered; the large, radiant, deep blue eye,
Might gaze, of young Arbaces? Who his tongue,
Discordant even when love the theme, would list,
When the rich music of Arbaces' voice
Her soul might gladden? Not Hamutah she!
In love defeated, less in joust of arms,
For victory could he hope: in every strife,--
Though strong, and other might unfearing all,--
By the yet growing boy, his younger far,
Sore tried at first; soon matched; and quickly foiled:
How, then, before the man in strength mature;
The soldier, never mated, could he stand?
Yet deadly hate his strong arm stronger made;
And with the Assyrians leagued him; eager more
His hated foe to crush, than from the yoke
His country loose: for in Achmetha he,
The birth--place of Arbaces, first drew breath;
Nor of ignoble sires. But country, friends,
All ties of love, cast off--to bitterest hate
His heart he yielded. Such was he who now,--
Abiathar beholding, and the arm
By which he fell,--hot as a raging flame,
Flew onward; in his lifted hand a spear
Quivering for vengeance. Swift as arrow--flight,
Shot by his chariot. With contorted face;
Bared teeth, close locked; fire flashing from his eyes;
Passing, he hurled his lance. In haste drew back
Arbaces: and the snarling weapon flew,
Fierce as a hornet, close beneath his arm,
His steel side grazing. Instantly a shaft
In answer sent he: but far off the car
By the hot steeds was rapt; nor turned again.
Still, looking back, the frantic Zimri stood,
With arm uplifted,--mischief threatening still;
And curses shouting; till, amid the throng
Mingling, he passed. Him answered not the Mede;
Other reply intending, when fit time
Should, for his many crimes, the traitor bring
To bitter payment: but his course held on;
The flying host pursuing. On the plain
A mound there stood; perchance of some old tower
The mouldered wreck; though, of hewn stone, or clay
Hardened by fire or sun, the work of man,
No trace was; nor of that bituminous earth,
Scarce perishable, wherewith thy huge walls,
Old Babylon, were builded: or the grave,
Perchance it was, of some great conqueror;
Far back, when earth was young; whose dread renown
Should, as was thought, to its old age live on:--
What thing soe'er, all was forgotten now:
But there it stood; and far along the plain
Gave prospect. At its base alighting then,
Up ran Arbaces; and quick glances cast
O'er all the battle. As, on some small rock
Amid the stormy deep, the mariner,
Looking all round, the raging waves beholds
Outstretched immense; and their tremendous roar,
Deep and far--spreading, hears,--even such a sea,
A sea whose billows were contending hosts,
Beheld he now; and, louder far than voice
Of stormy ocean, heard the uproar there.
He saw, rejoicing; for, o'er all the plain,
Like waves before a strong wind driven along,
Moved on the foe: yet unresisting not;
For, as, against the wind, the rapid tide
Strives still, though yielding--its rebellious stream
Against the mightier tempest lifting up;
Though to be whelmed anew--so, while they fled,
Fought still the Assyrians; turning oft again;
And onset still renewing; still to fail.
Like to the tossing foam amid the deep,
The plume--topped helmets rocked; and restless light,--
As from the waters heaving to the sun,--
From the steel corslets flashed, and burning shields,
The glittering armour, and the cars of brass.

O'er all the plain such sight the Mede beheld;
Save only where,--like to a rocky ridge,
Scarce seen above the deep; but, by the roar,
Writhing, and frothing, of the broken waves,
Known to the mariner,--stood firmly yet,
With Salamenes, the fresh infantry.

Him to assault, resolved the exulting Mede:
Yet, first, across the field a searching look
Cast anxiously--if, of the opposing hosts,
By Abdolonimus led, and Jerimoth,
Might aught be seen: but, still at distance they
Held furious contest: and the burning sun
From out the gasping earth a hazy breath
Had drawn, that on the horizon trembling hung,
Dimming the bloody spot. With earnest gaze,
Awhile he looked--if either host in flight
Moving, or in pursuit, he might descry:
But, of that mighty multitude in arms,
Nought saw he: a dim twinkling mass alone;
Atoms of light in mist. Down then he strode;
Sprang to his chariot; and his host led on.

Bravely did Salamenes on that day
In battle bear him: but his soldiers' hearts
Grew lukewarm; and his enemies' like fire.
Undaunted in defeat; by toil unworn;
With voice, and valiant act, inciting still
To die or conquer--everywhere he flew.
Yet, vain his toil; his valour all in vain:
Still toward the city, with unbating speed,
Flowed on the living deluge; and to heaven
Went up the din appalling of its waves.

So, till the fiery horses of the sun,
The burning wheels down heaven's eternal bridge
Three parts had whirled, the double contests raged:
Then joined in one: for, on all sides driven back,
The Assyrians fled; and toward the city pressed.
Fierce as a madman rending at his chains,
Raged Jerimoth; with hoarse voice, ceaselessly,
Calling to stay the flight: but, like the scream
Of eagle to the tempest, was it lost:
Upon his spearmen, Ahaz called amain;
Upon his horsemen, Adriel: but their hearts
Were terror--stricken, and their arms were weak.
With all their chariots the exulting Medes
Drove on them, crushing: with thick clouds of horse,
Bore them to earth, and trod them like the grass.
So in one shapeless mass commixed they fled.

Meantime, upon his couch, Assyria's king,
Unconscious of the rout, slept heavily.
Beside him sat the queen; from his pale brow
The cold sweat wiping; on his death--like face
Anxiously gazing; or, with fearful glance
Toward the dread battle--plain, in silent prayer,
Imploring Heaven to aid. Far off, at first,
Nought saw she, save the stir, and flash of arms:
But louder every hour, and louder yet,
The uproar came; and nigher to the walls.
Still in a heavy slumber lay the king;
Nor dared she rouse him. But, ere long, defeat
And havoc hideous she espied. The shouts,
The cries, the bray of arms, the sullen roll
From all the trembling plain,--by chariot wheels
Sore smitten, and the stamp of horse and men,--
Louder and nearer came. Assyria's throne
Seemed falling; and her monarch wounded lay,
And could not help: what could her hapless queen!
Now on the king she looked; now on the field:
A host of thoughts conflicting in her rose;
And, in her soul communing, thus she said:
``What hour is this! what dreadful fate impends!
Is this great empire doomed to pass away?
Her throne of fifteen hundred years to fall?
Can that be her dread monarch,--on his couch,
Bleeding and pale, by rebel's arm struck down,--
Whose breath, but yesterday, could wield the swords
Of millions? Shall I rouse him from his trance?
Yet what avail? Could he go forth to fight?
No; he is weak; his countenance death--pale;
Hurried his breathing; and his clenching hands
Give sign of troubled sleep, and inward ail:
He cannot to the battle. . . . . Still they come!
The plain is all on fire with horrid arms!
Their tramplings are as earthquake! Ye just gods,
Speak with your thunders: fling your hottest fires
In the fierce faces of our impious foes!
Pour down your torrents, till yon arid plain
Turn to a lake sea--deep, to gulf them all,
Rebellious! that at length they may be taught
The punishment to traitors that is due!
But hark! Oh Powers Eternal aid us now!
Nigher the tempest comes: the gates ere long
Will surely burst before them! Yet remain
Within the city four score thousand men:
To battle must they. On my head the blame!''

Thus resolute, to the court she hastened down;
And, to a soldier of the household guard,
Hurriedly spake. ``Fly to Sennacherib;
And say to him, `Thus saith Assyria's lord:
Lead instantly from out the nearest gates
Thy four score thousand men, and turn the fight.
The king will arm, and follow.''' Quickly then
To another thus--``Speed to prince Dara, thou;
Bid him the royal chariot, and the arms,
Prepare, and hither bring them. Onward thence;
And to the captain of the royal guard,
Prince Tartan, say: `Have ready all thy horse;
And by the palace, at the eastern gate,
Bide the king's coming.''' Having ordered thus,
With swift step toward the chamber she went back.

Her, with wild look, Nehushta met; and cried,
``Fly! fly, dear mother! Like the rage of fire
They come against us! Multitudes of horse,--
To 'scape too happy,--from the field have fled;
Bloody, and wild with fright: nor threat, nor gold,
Can move them to return. `Assyria's fate
Is come!' they cry; `The gods decree her doom!'
Haste then, dear mother, haste! My father wake,
If yet he slumbers. Bid the chariots forth!
Fly from the city, not a moment lost;
Lest to the hands of those terrific men
We be delivered, and may perish all.''

So she, her eyes fast streaming; and to her.
The queen replied. ``Belovëd daughter, peace!
Danger is near us, but despair far off.
Who meanly flies, draws oft the peril on,
From which he flies: the brave man, by the brave
May be defeated; cowards stoop to all.
One day of loss, seals not Assyria's doom:
Her brazen gates are strong; her walls are high;
Her armies, though driven backward, valiant still;
Her riches endless, millions to call forth.
But even yet the battle is not lost:
The stormy day hath oft a smiling eve:
And he that boasts his victory at noon,
Ere sunset, may fly howling. Calm thee then:
Fresh troops are going forth; the city's guard,
With strong Sennacherib. The wearied foe
Hath no reserve; no breathing from his toil;
And must relax. The day, too, is far spent;
And, with the night, he must perforce retire;
Or burst the invincible gates. Thy father lies
In troubled sleep; nor, save at utmost need,
Dare I arouse him. Let Sennacherib
Go first; and prove his valour on the foe.
That failing; hard to think; upon the stake
All must be peril'd. Meantime, clear thy brow:
What is to come, will be; the best, or worst;
And we must bear it. A resolvëd breast
Is like a coat of steel, 'gainst which the darts
Of Fortune strike, and pierce not: cowardice
Is naked to the meanest insect's sting;
And shrinks at every breath.'' That said, she ceased;
And, with Nehushta, to the king returned.
Softly the chamber entering, a light foot
In swift retreat they heard; a closing door
Beheld; and a thin garment, white as snow,
That vanished without noise. Still slept the king:
Yet was his countenance, as by a dream,
Sore troubled. O'er him leaned the queen awhile,
Anxiously gazing: but the roar of fight
Suddenly louder rose; and to the field
Again she turned her eye. With thunder--clouds
The sky was darkening fast: large drops, wide spread,
Fell heavily: hot as a tiger's breath,
Panted the thick air. With a face perplexed,
Now on the king, now on the field, and now
On her pale child she looked; awaiting still
The onset of Sennacherib. An hour
Of terror, and of silent agony,
Thus stood she gazing. But the battle--flood
Still nigher came: and louder still the roar
Of its dread billows. Once more on the king
She looked: his face was pale; his breathing thick:
She dared not stir him. But Assyria's fate
Might on that moment hang. In her heart, then,
``I will myself go forth,'' she said. ``Of old
Went not Semiramis, the beauteous queen,
Foremost in combat; over all the east
Marching triumphant? When a woman's foot
Advances to the fight, what man will dare
To play the coward? When their queen leads on,
They must, for shame, be brave. The golden shield,
The helmet of the king, I will put on;
Will in his chariot ride. These, from the gates
Once issuing, seen, the king himself, perchance,
May I, far off, be deemed: a million men,
Now weak and trembling, will wax giants then:
What though, 'neath warrior's arms, a woman's heart
Shall be concealed; his spirit will have flown
Into their spirits; and the blow be struck
Ere the delusion cease.'' Across her mind,
Rapid as lightning, shot the noble thought:
And, to her daughter whispering, thus she said:
``Go now, belovëd child! The king anon
Will waken; and, perchance, to find thee here,
Incensed may be. To thy own chamber go;
And, as thou may'st, be calm: for mightier far
Than man is God; in Him our help must be.''

That said, her daughter's pallid cheek she kissed;
And pressed her to her heart. No word replied
The trembling girl; but her loved mother clasped
Convulsively; and, weeping, went her way.

Once more then on the king Atossa looked,
And on the field. In troubled slumber yet
Lay he: like an outrageous fire, the field
Gave out redoubled roarings; grimly dark
Beneath the thunder--roof. With trembling limbs,
But heart resolved, the diamond--flashing helm
Upon her head she fixed; the golden shield
Braced on her arm; a spear, steel--headed, seized;
And with light step, but firm, was hasting forth,--
When, suddenly, the heavens were opened wide,
And the chained lightning loosed. Like a hot blast
Across her face it swept; and with it burst
Thunder that shook the walls. Upsprang the king,
Staggering, and pale. The queen against the door
Leaned, faint, and dizzy; on her dazzled eyes
Pressing her quivering hand. With helm, and spear,
And shield equipped, when her the king beheld,
Aloud he cried--``Where am I?--who art thou?--
Atossa?--what strange frenzy--God of all!
The battle! hark!'' While speaking yet, he ran;
And, looking forth, nigh to the walls,--as seemed,--
The fearful strife beheld. With stern voice then,
``Woman! Oh! woman! thou hast lost the world!
Why didst thou let me sleep?'' ``Nay--nay--'' she cried;
``Chide me not now: thy chariot waits below;
Thy guard at the eastern gate: if on thy head
Thou canst the helmet place; and if thy limbs
Will bear thee to the combat,--go thou forth.
But, if thou canst not, lo, am I prepared;
And will not falter!'' With a sudden bound,
Sprang on the king; strained her within his arms;
On her flushed cheek one burning kiss impressed:
The bandage from his head then plucked away;
The glittering helmet seized; the golden shield,
The spear; and hurried forth. She after him
Went swiftly, crying aloud, ``Nay--go not thus:
Put on thy mail. In thee Assyria lives!
Myriads of swords will flash when thou shalt strike;
An empire will go down if thou shalt fall!
At least thy corslet take--Oh! be not mad!''

Nought heard he--in that thunder--storm of fight,
Stone--deaf to all beside. For life, or death,
Forth went he; to his chariot bounded up:
Shrill hissed the scourge: like bended bows let go,
Started the steeds: the rapid wheels streamed fire:
Earth trembled underneath. A thousand men,
His chosen guard--Assyria's noblest youth--
On Arab steeds, with gorgeous trappings decked,
His coming waited. Dazzling were their arms;
Silver, and gold, bright steel, and gleaming brass;
And helms gem--bossed, that, in the blood--red sun,
Streamed fiery splendor. When the king appeared,
At once their restless horses they let go;
And, swift as tempest, close behind his wheels,
Rode hotly to the contest. But the queen
Returned not to the chamber: she a car
Bade forth; and to the watch--tower flew again,
To gaze upon the fight. Dire rout, meantime,
Pursued the Assyrians: nor Sennacherib
Long time delayed it. Furiously at first
Into the field he flew; and, as he went,
Cried ceaselessly, and with him all his host,
``Long live the king! long live Assyria's king!
May the king live for ever!'' But, to them,
Answered deridingly their enemies,
``Assyria's king is slain! the earth is free!''
That hearing, 'gainst the foe, Sennacherib
Pressed through the fliers; calling on them still,
``Back to the battle, back! Oh! bitter shame!
Fly not like women! rather die like men!
The king is coming forth. Turn--turn again!
Turn back upon the foe--to victory turn,--
Or fly to shame; and perish as ye fly!''

So he, against the torrent of the throng,
Struggling unceasingly. But, few his voice
Heard in the uproar; and his toil seemed vain.
Yet bravely he, with his own host, awhile,
Stood in the conflict; and the onset checked.

New hope recovering then, from rank to rank
Flew Salamenes; striving in all hearts
Courage to waken, and contempt of death.
Upon the foremost Medians still he flew:
Last to retire, the readiest to advance,
A hundred deaths he dared. At his right hand,
Like a young lion mid the baying hounds,
Nebaioth fought: and, like a hurricane,
Roared Jerimoth; with all his mail--clad steeds,
Plunging in fight: and, like devouring flame,
Burned Zimri; underneath his chariot wheels,
Maniac--like, down casting foe, and friend!

But, nought the Assyrians' hearts could long sustain.
Again went up the cry, ``The king hath fallen!
Fly to the city! and make fast the gates!
Shed not your blood in vain! The day is lost!
God for the rebel fights: our strength is nought!
Fly to the city, fly!'' So cried they out;
For, like a fire, Arbaces in their rear
Awfully raged; and terror from his eyes,
And with his voice, into their hearts infused;
Their strength consuming. In his chariot, now,
Upon their chariots drove he, and their horse;
Now, leaped to earth, and in the thickest throng
Pursued the foe: and, arm to arm, was none
That dared before him stand. Belesis too,
Still in his priestly vestment only clad,
Far o'er the field was seen: nor fear had he
Of mortal weapon; for his trust was God:
Still pointed he to heaven; still cried aloud,
``On, men of Babylon, to victory on!
Into your hands hath God delivered them!
Yon haughty city ye shall burn with fire;
Shall break her gates of brass; throw down her walls,
And sweep her from the earth; for she hath been
Abominable in her wickedness:
Earth heaveth at her, and will cast her forth:
God will destroy her! Men of Babylon,
Drive them before you! pour into the gates!
God bids you on! The thunder is his voice!
Sky darkens with the terror of his wrath:
His fiery arrows is he shooting forth:
The tempest of his vengeance is let loose:
He will destroy them utterly! On! On!
Heed not the sword, the arrow, nor the spear:
God is your captain; God is your defence;
Your shield is Heaven. Shout, men of Babylon!
Cry out aloud, and say, `Great Nineveh!
The day of thy destruction is at hand!'''

Storming high heaven, went then from host to host,
Peal after peal, the cry, ``Great Nineveh,
The day of thy destruction is at hand!''

Then Abdolonimus, as with the force
Of billows overbreaking, on the foe
Drove with his chariots: the Arabian horse
Like hurricane bore them down. Far off, the king,
To battle hotly driving, heard the roar;
Oft to the sky he looked; and toward the plain;
Back toward the fast descending sun looked oft;
And for the eagle's pennons vainly longed,
Or speed of winds, that he the fatal blow
Might yet turn by. Foam--covered flew the steeds:
The bounding wheels, fire rapt, roared ceaselessly.

And now the flight, by brave Sennacherib
Brief time delayed, to wilder rout 'gan change.
He his far mightier in the conflict met,--
Arbaces; and, with fury filled, his spear
Hurled at him instantly. But, with his shield,
The watchful Mede the weapon turned aside;
Then, from his chariot leaping, swift as wind,
Sprang toward the Assyrian. At his coming, fled,
Like deer before the lion, the scared foes;
All save Sennacherib: he, dauntless, stood;
Though from that terrible arm, with life to escape,
Scarce hoping: his broad shield on high upraised;
His sword drew forth; and, lifting up his voice,
Cried out, ``Haste, haste, Assyrians! hither haste!
The fierce arch--rebel comes! the traitor--chief!
Upon him every man!'' That call, the ears
Of Salamenes and Nebaioth reached:
And, swiftly as they might, through the thick press
Their steeds they urged. But, on Sennacherib
Fell, like a thunderbolt, the dreadful Mede:
Fatal as death, the heavy battle--axe
In his strong hand uplifting,--helmet, shield,
Or other armour, of whatever proof,
Before that arm, and weapon, useless all!
The gleaming engine high above his head,
Shuddering, Sennacherib saw; and, at full stretch--
The blow to check, or turn--his buckler raised:
But, through the shield, as through thin ice, the axe
Irresistibly burst; the helmet smote askaunt;
Glanced, and passed off: as with a cymbal's ring,
From the steel helmet glanced; and wounded not:
Yet, with the shock, as if by lightning struck,
Senseless the Assyrian fell. A second stroke,
On a fallen enemy, the Mede disdained;
Shook from his axe the riven shield; turned round;
And to his car leaped up: but other foes
Against him coming, saw; hot for revenge,
Nebaioth, Salamenes; and, with them,
Horsemen, and chariots. Catching up his bow,
'Gainst them, with hasty aim, a shaft he sent;
And not in vain; for, as with arm upraised,--
His followers with loud clamors cheering on,--
Shaking a brazen dart, Nebaioth came,--
Just on the elbow's tip the arrow struck,
Grazing the bone. Down fell his arm benumbed:
The threatening dart, from his relaxing hand,
Dropped to the earth; yet still aloud he cried,
Exhorting to resist. That arrow--stroke
Saw Salamenes; and his lance upraised,
Vengeance intending: but, of his loved friend
Regardful, to him thus. ``Now get thee back;
Speed from the field, Nebaioth, while thou may:
Thou cannot aid us, wounded as thou art;
And surely wilt be slain.'' While yet he spake,--
Lifting his lance, his foaming horse he drove
Right toward the Mede. But, in their hot career,
Rider and steed fell headlong. Drawing nigh,
The Mede beheld them; and his monstrous spear
Hurled. On the throat the noble horse it struck:
Through the strong brazen mail, with hideous crash,
Burst; and sank deep. Down fell he, dead: fell down
With dreadful clang his mail--clad rider too:
The useless lance let go--with out--spread hands,
Head foremost, to the horses of the Mede,
Bruising their feet, he fell. The affrighted steeds
Started aside; and with the car ran round.

From both the hosts terrific clamors then
Went up: the Medes exulting; but their foes
Fear--struck, and sorrowing. Hastily turned these,
Calling aloud, ``Fly, fly, Assyrians, fly!
Speed to your walls: your leader is no more!
Brave Salamenes is no more! fly, fly!
Heaven is against us!'' But the Medes bore on,
Crying unceasingly; ``Rejoice! rejoice!
Into our hands hath God delivered them!
The tyrant and his chosen ones are fallen!
On to the city; on!'' So they. Meantime,
Arbaces, from his chariot leaping, stooped;
And from the earth--slight load to arm so strong,--
The senseless warrior lifted, and bore off;
Captive to hold him. But Nebaioth now,
That sight beholding, vehemently called,
Exhorting to the rescue. ``On! press on!
Strike down the rebel! save your noble chief!
Let him not perish! leave him not the spoil
Of the black traitor! Oh that this right arm
Were what it was; then should one faithful sword
Strike to redeem him! Haste, ere yet too late!
On! every man speed on!'' Incited thus,
Against the Mede a cloud of horsemen urged,
With spear and falchion: but, to aid him, flew
As many: and the tumult round him raged.

He, meantime, in a chariot that drew nigh,
His load laid down, and thus: ``Now, with all speed,
Haste from the press, Hilkiah: slack his helm,
For freer breath: but, on thy life, take heed
That he escape not: haste! away, away!''

So he; and, bounding like an antelope,
Ran to his car; leaped up; another spear
Seized, and to Abner thus: ``Turn round the steeds,
And drive into the midst. The hour is come!''
Then, standing up, and stretching forth his arms,
He called unto his legions; ``On! on! on!
The city shall be ours! Her doom is fixed!
Hark! the gods call you! To the gates! the gates!''

Toward the black, thunderous ceiling pointing up,
Thus cried he; and among the Assyrian host
Poured terror. For a time, Nebaioth strove
Their hearts to strengthen,--with soul--stirring voice
Urging them on, and toward Hilkiah's car
Pointing, and pressing forward,--but, ere long,
Borne to the earth, rider and horse went down:
And, from the trampling hoofs when he escaped,--
Bruised, stunned, and staggering,--to a car he climbed;
Bowed low his head; and swooned. Foul overthrow
O'er all the field was now: toward every gate
Terrific was the rush: nor longer strove
For victory even the bravest; hope was none!
Like lions by a swoln stream borne away,
In a stern silence struggling, back they went.
Vain to implore the fliers! none could hear;
So cried the vanquished; so the victors stormed;
So roared the thunders: step by step they went;
Blow for blow dealing; yet despairing still.

Wide stood the brazen gates: with thronging heads
The walls were thick. Women were there, with hands
Uplifted to the gods; and grey--haired men,
Their withered arms outstretching toward the plain;
Children, and beardless youths, and maidens pale.

Toward the great central eastern portal now,--
Scarce three short arrow--flights distant--horse, cars, foot,
Mingled confusedly, pressed,--that, in the gate,
Hideous and bloody would have been the crush.
Jaded with toil; with sweat and dust begrimed;
Panting for breath; for thirst agape, they came:
The glittering cars, the gay caparisons,
The shining arms, the plumes of gorgeous hue,
Blood--spattered; fouled with dust,--in such dire rout
Fled they; and, close behind, the fiery foe,
Driving them on, and slaying--when, behold!
Swift as an eagle darting from a cloud,
From out the gate a single chariot shot!
Erect the rider sat; a golden shield
Upon his left arm grasping; in his right
A spear; and on his head a glittering helm:
All else unarmed. The royal car was known;
The milk--white steeds: but who was he that rode?
Swift as a tempest came the chariot on;
And, close behind, on Arab coursers fleet,
Assyria's royal guard. Burst out, at length,
A deafening cry; ``The king! the king comes forth!
The king of kings to battle comes again!
The rebels will he scatter, like the dust;
Will trample them as grass!'' O'er all the field
Flew on the cry: from tower to tower it flew:
And every heart that for Assyria stood,
Grew valiant; every wearied arm waxed strong;
And every eye flashed light. The vanquished turned
Upon the vanquishers: the hunted prey,
On the fierce hunter turned: the cry of fear,
To calls of vengeance changed: the conqueror's vaunt
Sank into silence: and the lion--heart
Panted with sudden awe. As, when a fire
Devours the forest, and a strong wind blows,--
The roaring flames above the tall trees bow;
And, with unnumbered burning hands outstretched,
The green, umbrageous heads, resistlessly
Do seize and blacken:--which way blows the storm,
There, smoke and darkness fly; and, in pursuit,
Fierce fire and splendor: but, if backward then,
In moody madness, doth the tempest turn,--
Then backward, too, the fiery deluge rolls:
Where brightness was, lo! smoke and darkness, now!
Where darkness and thick smoke, fierce fire and light!--
Even so, before the strong, exulting Mede,
The Assyrians fled: even so the battle--storm
Veered backward: and the victors turned to flight;
The vanquished chased the victors. With a shout,
Louder than thunders, did that mighty host
Turn suddenly; and on the astonished Medes,
Drive like a hurricane. These, confused and stunned;
Heard, saw, and wavered: for, as one to four,
Their numbers were: their limbs with toil were worn:
They had no walls of refuge. All amazed,
A moment stood they looking doubtfully,--
Turned, looked again; and fled. Din twofold then
O'er all the field arose; and, from the wall,
The cry of myriads. Shrieks of joy went up;
Songs of thanksgiving; loud and frenzied prayers;
Pantings, and sobbings, wails, and laughter loud.
Women, and priests, children, and grey--haired men,
Ran to and fro; or on their knees fell down,
With hands and eyes uplifted to the gods;
For their deliverance praising; on their foes
Destruction calling down. The king, meantime,
Rushed to the victory. On the flying rear,
Chariots and horsemen drove: spears, arrows, darts,
Like hail--cloud followed them. But, as a rock
Against a thousand waves, Arbaces stood;
And dashed away, like foam, the flood of foes.
O'er every other sound his voice went forth,
Urging again to battle. Like a rock,
Now stood he, and threw back the bursting waves:
Now, like a gallant ship, with straining sails,
And proud beak lifted high, above them rode,
Resistless in his might. Belesis, too,
Upraised his voice, and cried unto the gods.
In priestly garb alone, still rode he on,
Heedless of peril; everywhere he toiled;
Still calling on the fliers to turn back;
Still victory promising. But now his voice
Waxed hoarse with shouting; and all ears were deaf.
Nor Abdolonimus, nor Azareel,
Nor dark Rabsaris, could the panic stay;
Nor all the valiant captains of the host:
For a soul--withering terror had gone forth;
And every arm was weak. So fled they on;
And so the foe pursued. But darkness now
Fell rapidly; and the big clouds, o'ercharged,
Poured down their waters. Over all the sky
The black arch thickened; and the thunders spake
Louder and deeper to the quickening bolts.

In fierce pursuit, not less, drove on the king.
But, mindful of that promise, in the bower
To loved Nehushta given,--with fervent prayer,
And admonition frequent, Dara strove,
From peril imminent to turn him back:
Nor strove, at length, in vain. But, though, ill armed,
And feeble as the monarch knew himself,
Wisely the strife he shunned; yet, to pursue
And slay, oft called he: for his brother's fate,--
Fallen, as he deemed, or captive,--maddened him;
That, recklessly, into the thickest fight,--
All admonition flinging to the winds,--
Longed he to plunge. But Salamenes now,
Unharmed, amid the van of battle rode;
Hilkiah's horses ruling; while their lord
Upon the field lay slain. From his long trance
Awakened, he the altered field had found:
The Assyrians heard triumphant; and the Medes,
Routed, and flying. Motionless awhile
Yet lay he, quick deliverance hoping now;
To the strange tumult listening anxiously;
And to his captors' voices; as, with hearts
Sore troubled, from the hopeless strife they flew.
But, when his limbs ungyved he found; and strength
Returned unto him; he no longer paused:
But--as Hilkiah backward looking stood,--
Sprang; and, a brazen javelin snatching up,
Upon the temple smote the charioteer;
That he fell dead. In the next point of time,
Hilkiah by the crest he seized; bowed back;
And cast him to the ground. Beneath the wheels,
Struggling, fell he, and died. The fallen reins
Upsnatching then,--with quick glance through the gloom
He looked; and instantly--nor far away--
His coming friends beholding, cried aloud,
And cheered them on to victory. At that cry,
Up went a peal triumphant; and his name,
From van to rear, through all the fight was borne.
The tidings glad, Assyria's monarch heard,
Rejoicing; and called out, ``Blow, trumpets, blow!
And let the battle cease; lest friend, by friend,
May in the darkness perish.'' At the word,
A single trumpet its clear summons blew:
A thousand joined; and their loud clangors sent
Up to the answering clouds. Like ocean's roar,
O'er all the plain ran then the joyful cry,
Proclaiming victory. From the contest, soon,
Both armies 'gan retire; for, with worse rage,
Came on the storm: in torrents fell the rain;
The wind arose; the lightnings thicker flashed;
Earth shook beneath the thunders. To the walls
Hasted the Assyrians; toward their camp, the Medes.

Still Jerimoth, and Zimri, victory--mad,--
In the wild hurly meeting,--through the dark
The flying rear pursued; till them, at length,
Arbaces met, and their hot frenzy cooled.
Betwixt the armies dreadless as he rode,--
The fierce assailants ever driving back;
The routed cheering,--him the furious chiefs
Beheld; and, vengeance thirsting, toward him flew:
One in his car, the other on his steed,
Together flew they. He, while yet far off,--
For the bright lightnings, ever and anon,
To sun--light glare the thickening darkness changed,--
The chiefs descrying, bade his charioteer
Against them drive. A gleaming lance on high
Shaking, to throw, came Zimri; and, with dart
Of flaming brass, in his uplifted hand,
The horseman. Both sides eagerly advanced;
The charioteers their coursers urging on
To swiftest speed. But, ere they met, died out
The lightning torches; and thick blackness fell;
Blackness abrupt and deep. Darkling they met;
Wheel 'gainst wheel grinding fire,--clashed--and flew on.
Each, as they crossed, by the red glimmer saw,
Like phantom glimpse, the lurid countenance
Of his fierce foe; but, ere an eye could wink,
Darkness had gulped them. Jerimoth, his steed
Rapidly turning, by the chariot's roll
Tracked through the night his enemy. Abner, too,
His horses curbing, for renewed attack,
The car 'gan turn. Flamed now with flash on flash,
The clouded sky--vault. Jerimoth then the steeds,
Before him a brief space, round wheeling, saw;
And cast his javelin. On the thigh it struck
The startled enemy; through the armour pierced;
And lanced the flesh. Unheeding the slight hurt,
The Mede plucked forth the dart; his great spear hurled;
And, in same moment, from the chariot leaped;
His huge axe wielding. Through the courser's mail
Burst, with loud crash, the spear; and in his chest,
Deep buried, stood. Without a groan he fell:
Bent his strong knees; and rolled upon the earth:
At trumpet--summons never more to start;
Beneath his rider never more to bound,
And glory in the battle. Down he dropped;
Heavily rolling: and his mighty limbs
In the last death--spasm stretched. But Jerimoth,
From the fallen steed, light as a deer, upsprang:
His sword drew forth; and toward the dreadful Mede
Franticly flew. Then, on the same red couch,
Rider and horse had slept: but that again
Thick darkness, like a pall, dropped over them,
And stayed the threatening axe. With arms prepared,
Both chiefs a moment stood; the fitful light
Anxiously waiting: but the Assyrian's heart,
Brave as he was, misgave him, standing there
Singly to that invincible arm exposed;
And, in his soul communing, thus he said.

``Why pause I now; and let the moment pass
That steps 'twixt me and fate? What hope have I
From this scarce human force with life to escape?
Who yet hath vanquished him? who, harmless, felt
His weapon in the combat? Once that axe,
Death menacing, above my head hath gleamed;
And yet I live: but, in mere madness, now,
Shall I invite destruction? No! away!
From greater strength the bravest may retire;
Nor play the coward.'' Briefly pondering thus;
With silent step, rapidly back he drew;
Shunning the contest; and straight toward the car
Of Zimri hasted; for him now he heard,
With headlong fury driving through the night,
And on Arbaces calling. Then his voice
Uplifted he, and cried, ``Stay, Zimri, stay:
A moment pause; and let me mount the car;
That, both together, once more may we try
The fortune of the field.'' Him Zimri heard;
And stayed the coursers. To the chariot then
Leaped Jerimoth: and toward their hated foe,--
Hearing his voice,--impetuously they drove.
``Where art thou?'' cried the Mede, ``thou mighty one:
Where art thou, Jerimoth?'' Thus calling loud,
He knew not that the car was coming on,--
Right toward him rapidly driven. For Zimri thus
To Joab spake, his furious charioteer,
And comrade fit; ``Now Joab, take thou heed
That he escape not. Guide the horses well
That they may trample him: or that the wheels
May dash him down. Grasp with both hands the reins.
I see him now!--On! while the lightning flares.''

That hearing, Joab to his steeds the reins
Up flung: and away, with the speed of the wind,
Right toward the Mede they flew. Yet he their tramp
Heard not,--so loud the din: nor Abner saw
The coming danger; toward the flying host
Looking afar. But, turning suddenly,--
For rapidly on came the thick--beating hoofs,--
Arbaces, close upon him, saw the steeds;
And the demoniac laugh of Zimri heard;
Who him full surely underneath the feet
Deemed trampled then. But, at a bound, he sprang
From the path of the horses aside.
Their breath blew hot in his ear:
His shoulder with foam was white:
Like the sweep of the storm they passed.
Even in the instant, with his battle--axe,
A giant blow, unknowing where, he dealt.
On the whirling wheel, the crushing weapon struck:
The wheel was brass; its spokes were bars of steel.
But it broke, and the car dipped low; jarring, leaped up;
Plunging,--rebounding,--tossing right and left,--
Clattering, and clanging,--madly tore along;
And, still in full career, flat to the earth,
Loud clashing fell. Unharmed rose Jerimoth:
But, senseless on the ground--with violence flung--
Zimri, and Joab lay. With terror wild,
Away with the shattered car the coursers flew;
Ploughing the earth. At break of morning, they,
Nigh to the gate of Bel, all white with foam,
Trembling, and weak, were found: but, of the car,
The broken pole excepted, nought remained.

Above his senseless fellows, Jerimoth
Silently stood,--the onset of the Mede,
In awe awaiting. But, their overthrow
Unknowing, from the slaughtered steed his spear
In haste Arbaces drew; and to his seat
Lightly upspringing, for new strife prepared.
Expecting thus, long paused he: but no sound
Gave token of their coming; nor their car,
Near, or far off, he saw. To Abner then;
``Turn now the steeds: whatever stays them thus;
Whether new aid they seek, or safe retreat;
Not longer will I tarry: for the host
Is distant far; and in the camp may be
Wild havoc, uncontrolled.'' That said, they went:
Through darkness, and great light, alternately,
Slackening, and speeding. Nor the Assyrians long
Upon the field remained: for Jerimoth,
Short space away, two friendly cars beheld,
Slowly returning; and his voice sent forth;
And summoned them. Amazed, and giddy still,
Yet else unharmed; to the first chariot then
Zimri and Joab rose: but Jerimoth,
With young Talmai in the other sat;
And fought again the battle. Toward their camp
Still flew the Medes; the Assyrians through their gates;
Through every wide--flung gate in haste they flew:
For still the thunders roared; the tempest howled;
And the bright bolts came down. At every flash,
Outflamed the mighty city--her huge towers,
And palaces--her wall gigantic, thronged
With gazing myriads--flamed out all the plain--
Chariots, and horse, plumes, banners, gleaming arms;
And multitudes, as of the ocean waves.

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