Edwin Atherstone

(1788-1875 / England)

The Fall Of Nineveh. Prelude - Poem by Edwin Atherstone

In Vision are the centuries rolled back;
The dead Past lives again. I breathe the air
Of the young world; I see her giant sons.
Like vast, high--towering fabrics in the sky
Of summer's evening, cloud on fiery cloud
Thronging upheaped,--before me, as it stood,
Stands a Titanic city:--cliff--like walls,
Tower--crowned, and battlemented:--brazen gates,
Eternal boasted; 'gainst all might of man
Invincible:--gardens magnificent;
With flowers that dazzle, odours that enchant,
Fountains that bring the rainbow:--squares immense,
For kings fit habitation: midst of each,
Tall column, obelisk, or granite block
Enormous, with colossal statue crowned
Of god, or goddess, Bel, or Ashtaroth,
Adramelech, or Nebo, or what else
Divine was named:--stupendous palaces;--
Temples august:--and,--by the eagle alone
In full beheld,--vast streets of edifice proud;
Straight as a sunbeam; a day's journey long.

A sea of glorious architecture, thus;
A dream of more than world's magnificence;
Before me towers the mighty city of old,
Imperial Nineveh. At her throne kings bowed:
From her their own hereditary crowns
As boon received: their riches in her vaults,--
As rivers in the all--engulfing sea,--
Through ages long still poured out plenteously:
Their armies,--north, or south, toward east, or west,--
Her wars to wage, her pomp to magnify,
At her command sent forth,--her will their law!

Thus in her pride of power I see her now;
Her swarming streets; her splendid festivals;
Her sprightly damsels, to the timbrel's sound
Airily bounding, and their anklets' chime;
Her lusty sons, like summer--morning gay;
Her warriors stern; her rich--robed rulers grave.
I see her halls sunbright at midnight shine;
I hear the music of her banquetings;
I hear the laugh, the whisper, and the sigh.
A sound of stately treading toward me comes;
A silken wafting on the cedar floor:
As from Arabia's flowering groves, an air
Delicious breathes around. Tall, lofty browed,
Pale, and majestically beautiful;
In vesture richly hued as clouds of morn,
With slow proud step her glorious dames sweep by.

The Vision changes. Lo! before the walls,
Unnumbered hosts in flaming panoply;
Chariots like fire, and thunder--bearing steeds!
I hear the din of battle: like the waves
Of a tumultuous sea, great armies clash!

In flame and smoke the wondrous city sinks!
Her walls are gone! her palaces are dust!
The desert is around her, and within!
Like shadows have the mighty passed away!

How came the ruin,--with the Spirit's eye,
Looking far back through the dim air of years;--
Seeing the Past as present;--the great dead
To life, thought, passion, act, arisen again,--
In words that picture things, I fain would tell.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 8, 2010



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