Accurs?d to the Medes, as to himself,
That fatal hour when,–mad with fiercest hate,–
His private wrong on one man to avenge,
Rabsaris had the weal of nations risked!
For, when, with numerous valiant infantry,
The Arabian king in silence from the hill
Descended to the onset,–ready stood;
Unheard, unthought of, and invisible;
With Salamenes many a legion strong;
Near to the mountain’s gorge, on either hand,
Ranked for assault, and burning to fall on.
When, therefore, of the Medes good part had passed;
With light step tripping on, and cautiously,–
From both sides, in same moment, on them fell,
With cries and clash of arms, the ambushed host;
And with confusion whelmed them, and dismay,–
Themselves assailed, who to assail had come,–
That, in a great amazement,–man ‘gainst man
In hideous tumult crushing,–they shrank back!
At once the trumpet–signal of recall
The Arabian king bade sound: and, like storm–wave
From steep, rough shore recoiling,–with wild din,
Sword ‘gainst sword clashing, spear encountering spear,
Backward they hurried. But the king, erelong,
On a fleet steed careering, came, and cried,
”Let them not so escape us: heap the fires,–
Sling every man his shield upon his back,–
Rend the pine boughs for torches,–sword in hand,
Up to the mountain then; and, in his hold,
Destroy the affrighted dragon.” At the word,
The soldiers shouted: and, in little while,
Flamed high the camp–fires,–the pine forest rang.
Meantime, Arbaces, on his restless couch,
With head supported on his feeble arm,
For din of onset listening, long had lain.
Dumah beside him, with Abida, sat:
But, at the opening of the cave, Abdeel
Stood, and looked forth; and that which he beheld,
From time to time spake out. ”Distinctly gleams
The distant plain; but, at the mountain’s foot,
Hangs midnight blackness. . . . Ha! they clash their arms,
And shout, to wake the dead! Too soon! too soon! . . .
By Heaven, they sound retreat!” ”Oh, merciful gods!”
Exclaimed the Mede, half springing from his couch;
”That madman then hath failed; and all is lost!
They have laid ambush; and our hosts will fall,
Like deer before the hunters! Shameful flight
Is all their hope; nor that may long avail:
This stronghold will itself weak fence be found.
The furious king, in frenzy of success,
Would storm us, though a fortress of the gods
Had given us shelter. Mark me! Ere the morn,
Not solely sovereign here shall we remain:
But with our foes divided monarchy
Must share; or all resign. For prompt retreat
Must we prepare then, as inevitable.
If needed not, the preparation’s lost,
And there an end. But, ‘gainst a threatening ill,
Folly alone, not valour, shames to guard.
Haste then, Abida: take my signet: fly:
And, whatsoever captains thou may’st find
Unpressed by battle,–bid with instant speed,
The tents, provisions, camels, oxen, wains,
O’er the eastern plain to move: the chariots, too,
And all the horse, here useless, bid them take.
There, at the mountain’s foot, in firm array
Let them abide; and wait the battle’s fate.
If from our hill–strengths driven to the plain,
They in our rear a strong defence will stand;
Ordered retreat ensuring, which were, else,
A flight disastrous. Haste. Call others on:
And, lest in darkness worse confusion rise,
Still, as ye run, bid kindle up the fires.
Fly swiftly; and return. But thou, Abdeel,
Say on: how goes the conflict? Righteous Heaven!
Forsake us not! Oh! misery! like a worm
Here to lie helpless; while a million swords
For the world’s empire clash!” So he; then sank
Exhausted on the couch, and groaned aloud.
Abida from the cavern flew: and thus,
The battle’s course depicting, spake Abdeel.
”O’er all the plain the Assyrian camp–fires now
Fiercely are blazing. Multitudes I see,
In flaming armour pouring o’er the plain.
Like ocean glittering ‘neath the ruddy sun,
The wide field flashes: like the ocean’s roar,
Their clamors rise. ”At times, a sound I hear,
Like crash of branches. . . . ”Thousands of red lights
Are moving toward the hill. ”Ha!–now I see
They have rent the boughs for torches.–In his hand
Each soldier bears a branch of blazing pine.
They hurry toward the heights,–they shake the torch,–
They wave the sword:–like running flame they seem. . . .
”They climb the hill–side now. A very cloud
Of arrows, darts, and lances covers them;
Yet upward still they come. ”Our watch–fires now
Blaze out upon the hills:–distinctly gleams
The battle–field. ”They cast their torches down:
Unneeded now.” ”Haste! bear me quickly forth!
With mine own eyes let me behold! Oh! God!
Hast thou no miracle, as oft of yore,
For those whom thou hadst chosen? Might not strength
As heretofore, yea doubled, to mine arm
Be given again; that in this holy cause
I might go forth to conquer? Misery! gall!
Death–bitterness! like a sick infant here
To toss the helpless hand, and moan, and fret,
When brave men rush to combat; earth the stake!
Oh! God! desert us not!” Arbaces thus,
In torture of impatience, on his bed
Writhing, exclaimed: nor his physician’s voice,
Dissuasive, would regard. Without the tent,
Him, therefore, on his couch the attendants bore;
Cautiously treading; and, as best they might,
In view of battle placed. With straining eye,
And hurried breath, he gazed,–his tremulous hand
Clenched, as the sword to grasp. Still hotly raged
The conflict; and still upward, fierce as fire,
The Assyrians forced their way. The Mede, at length,
With agitated utterance, thus: ”Abdeel,
Right in the thick of contest make thy way.
Seek there Belesis, and the Arabian king:
Tell them defence, at every cost, to make,
Till the high rocks be loosened. Three times, then,
Let trumpets sound; and every man ascend.
But, when all stand in safety, down the steep
Let the thundering ruin go. Away! away!”
Prompt at the word, the gallant youth withdrew:
And on the combat, with intensest gaze,
Soul–agonized, still looking, lay the Mede.
Sardanapalus, meantime, in attack
The foremost ever, with incessant cries
Cheered on his soldiers; victory, honor, spoil,
And glory, promising. But havoc strange
On either side appeared; confusion dire:
Unordered multitudes, in shapeless fight
Commingling: friend, for foe, encountering oft:
These upward struggling; those, with furious charge,
Down bearing; spear, dart, sword, and axe, their work
Terrific plying; and the yell and cry
Of myriads to heaven’s concave pealing up.
Yet still; though slowly, and with toil extreme,–
Like to the billows gaining on the strand;
Upward here rolling; there, with huge recoil,
Down sinking,–on their steep and difficult way
The fierce Assyrians pressed. Beside the king,
Fought Salamenes: and, with sword and shield
Accoutred now; like a lithe leopard swift,
Upward to spring, or backward to retire;
The young and graceful Dara; even then,
‘Mid all that fearful turmoil, of his love
Not quite forgetful. At the monarch’s side
Vigilant moved he still: and many a blow,
For him designed, turned by. But, to the king,
Oft Salamenes spake–from dangerous van
Of battle warning him. ”Look up! look up!
They loose the rocks to hurl upon our heads!
Ere yet too late, retire. At once bid sound
The signal of retreat: destruction else,
Immense and horrible, will whelm us all.
See where on high the rebel prophet stands,
The fierce Belesis; by his priestly robes
Distinguished far: a flaming torch he bears;
And urges to the work. To right, and left,
Thousands, yea tens of thousands, on the heights
Brandish the bar of iron, and the axe!
Ruin will cover all, if swift retreat
Preserve us not! Oh! hearken to me now,
And wait not for destruction!” But in vain
Had Salamenes on the frantic king
Wise caution urged: still up, defying fate,
His course had he held on; and fate, perchance,
With thousands, met; but that against him, now,
Like a strong torrent from the mountain’s side
Suddenly bursting; with resistless weight
Down drove, with levelled spears, a multitude,
Whom to withstand, not strength of giants of old
Would have sufficed them: backward, o’er and o’er
Rolling, went numbers: numbers, turning, fled.
Borne with the mass away,–like a proud steed,
Whom down the hilly road a ponderous car,
Spite of his arching neck, and firm placed feet,
Bears irresistibly,–the haughty king,
Foaming with fury, even to the plain,
Ere he the rush could stay, was forced along.
There hot encounter holding for awhile,
In turn he seemed prevailing; and in heart
Exulted; for the trumpets of the Mede
High over head, blew signal of retreat.
”They fly!” he cried; ”pursue, and root them out!
Up to the hill–tops! up! away!” Thus he,
Elated; and, in that dread trumpet–blast,
Knew not the voice of Death. Three times it blew;
And paused; and three times did the fiery king
Bid sound the answering signal of assault.
But, when the Median trumpets the third time
Had sounded; and their troops had gained the heights,–
The Assyrians close behind in hot pursuit,–
Flew on the terrible word, ”Let go! let go!”
Rang then the iron bars,–the loosened rocks
Were lifted, and cast down. As by some force
Volcanic stricken, all the mountain shook.
A roll like thunder followed: sank the shouts;
Sank down the shield, the flashing sword and spear;
Battle was hushed! Aghast the Assyrians looked;
And saw the rocks descending. Shrieking loud,
”Fall down! fall down!” a myriad voices cry;
And myriads fall: but thousands, stiff with fear,
Stand mute; nor from the Terror coming on,
Their glaring eyes can turn. Down, down, with roar,
Crash, smoke, and fire–whirling and leaping high,
The giant fragments rush. Beneath their strokes,
Shudders the ground, as if by earthquake jarred.
Down, down! Great trees before their might are reeds!
Scoring the mountain’s side as they go down,–
Through the close forest of bright–flashing arms,
Each leaves behind a death–track; a dark path
Whereon, like dust beneath the chariot wheel,
Shield, helmet, sword, spear, armour, man, lie crushed!
Far o’er the valley yet the lessening roll,
Like thunder dying off, awhile resounds;
Then ceases quite: and over all the field
A silence strange and terrible is felt.
A second rock–storm dreading from above,
Irresolute they stand; nor any man,
Which way to turn him, knows. The king himself,
Down stricken, senseless for a brief time lay;
But rose unharmed; and, with yet fiercer heat,
His soldiers urged to onset: ”Up again!
No moment lose! up! ere their devilish bolts
They can anew prepare! Blow, trumpets! blow!
Sound out the assault! Shiver your brazen tubes
With battle–blasts! On! on, Assyrians! on!
Up to the mountain! up!” Rose then a cry
From all around him; by his voice and mien
To hottest frenzy fired. Through all the host
Ran on the deafening clamor: blast on blast
The trumpets sounded,–arms with hideous din
Clashed iron discord,–meteor–banners streamed,–
And, like chained madmen loosed, against the foe,
Despising death, together on they bore.
Still ever upward, with untiring rage,
Urged they their desperate way: the stone, the spear,
The arrow, or the dart, or threatening rock,
Deterred them not; for, in their hearts, the thirst
For vengeance burned; and fire was in their brain.
But, them to meet, as fiercely flew the Medes:
Man with man grappled: arm in arm entwined,–
Foot in foot locked,–breast against breast hard forced,–
Down over precipice, or steep abrupt,
By thousands, down they rolled. So, fierce as flame,
The combat raged; and neither side prevailed.
But Salamenes to the king, at length,
Calmly thus spake: ”Awful the struggle now!
Direful our loss! nor, ‘gainst such vantage ground
Contending, can we hope the victory.
The camp–fires, also, of the enemy,–
Burned down, or haply with intention damped,–
Dull lustre give, that scarcely now their foe
Our soldiers can discern. Unequal strife!
For they at random may their weapons send
On us below, unfortressed; and some mark
To hit, can scarcely fail; while we, all night,
Upward ‘gainst them, well guarded, may discharge
Dart, arrow, spear, in clouds; yet harm them not.
But let me now, retiring from the fight,
With a strong force far leftward climb the hill;
And, when they least expect it, on their flank
Burst like a hurricane: by the fourth hour hence
Might I be nigh upon them. Thou, meantime,
This hopeless contest cease: but, when again
Ye shall assault begin, then also we,
Unlooked for, will fall on. Astonished thus,
Terror will seize them–they will yield, or fly.”
Thus Salamenes; and to him the king,
Breathless awhile, and leaning on his sword;
Patiently listened. ”Be it so!” he said;
”Away at once; and take what force thou wilt.
But think not that from glorious battle now,
Will I withdraw the soldiers; when their hearts
Are flame, and every nerve is strong as steel.
If we fight darkling, doth not even as we
The enemy? But, by the mighty Bel!
We will a watch–fire kindle, that the field
Shall light, and burn not like a reed away!
The wind is northward; flame and smoke will pass.
Ho!–fire the forest! Run on, every man,
With flaming torch; and quickly will we make
A new sun rise; a night–sun of our own.”
To change his desperate purpose hoping not,–
At once, then, Salamenes turned, and went:
Yet, as he walked, a frequent glance cast back
On that terrific contest,–rock, and dell,
In lurid splendor,–and the raging hosts,
Like fiery foam on a dark sea of hell,
Tossing, and working. At the king’s command,
Shaking their torches, yelling franticly,
On toward the cedar forest, and the pine,
Thousands are speeding. . . . A thin vapour mounts–
A low flame gathers–rises.–Smoke, like clouds
That bring the tempest, all the forest top
In darkness wraps.–A moaning sound is heard,
A crackling, and a hiss.–Bursts, here and there,
A sheet of flame–sinks–flickers–bursts anew.
With roar incessant as of storm–swept deep,
In mighty volume streaming to the clouds,
Goes up, at length, the universal blaze.
The sky, like arch of red hot iron, glows:
Mountain, and plain, far as the eye can reach;
The camps, the battle, as beneath the sun,
Shine vividly. Terrific is the din:
The thunder–roaring of the flames; the crash
Of branch, and giant trunk; the roll and jar
Of rocks descending; the unceasing clang
Of armour, and the clamors of the hosts,
Horribly mingling, to the heavens go up.
The watchmen on the distant city wall
That uproar hear; and in the sky, amazed,
The wondrous splendor see. With crowds, anon,
The battlement is thronged: and, till the morn,
Marvelling they stand, and of the issue fear.
Untired, and unrelaxing still, their strife
Both armies wage: yet ever upward press
The hot Assyrians, whom no danger now,
No enemy can daunt; so by the voice
Incited, and the valour of their king.
”This night,” cried he, incessantly, ”this night
Shall all our labors crown: the sun no more
On the cursed rebel–banner shall arise!
On! brave men, on! To–morrow shall ye have
Joy, feasting, honor, spoil, and sweet repose.
Not now the fierce Arbaces need ye dread;
Soundly in death sleeps he. Up, valiant men!
Storm their strong places. Slay, and spoil! On! On!”
So he; and, by his words and fearless deeds,
To boundless frenzy urged,–things dangerous most
They laugh to scorn, and wildest acts essay.
They scale the heights: with those who hurl the rocks,
Maniac–like they struggle! O’er and o’er
Rolling; sheer down the horrid precipice,
Breast locked to breast, they go. The king himself,
On a high peak o’erbeetling awfully,
In blazing arms conspicuous, like the god
Of battle stands; and to the hosts below
Shouts; and points up; and urges the assault.
While yet in anguish on his couch he lay,
The fight o’erlooking, him Arbaces saw.
”Oh merciful gods!” he cried, ”then all is lost!
See, Dumah, see! the tyrant hath himself
The first heights gained; and beckons those below!
But not alone, be sure: behind him close
Are myriads climbing; and by flight alone
May we destruction ‘scape. And is this he?
Just heavens! is this the woman–dizened king?
The sensual, the effeminate, the vain?
Oh! were thy justice with thy courage matched,
The sword we might put up; and our just rights,
Even to thyself, against thyself, submit.
But, like the savage beast’s thy valour is;
Thy justice, that of tiger, or of wolf!
Have ye no thunderbolt, protecting Powers,
To strike yon Pestilence! Arrow, dart, or stone,
Alighting on him there, might free the world!
They see him from below; they know him now:
Above the ceaseless roaring of the flames,
And crash and roll of rocks, his name resounds.
He hears it; still points up, and waves his sword.
Immortal gods! and is there none at hand
To grapple with him–when a lance’s thrust,
A sword–stroke, or a pebble from the sling,
Might save the nations? Abdolonimus,–
Abiram–Azareel–where are ye all?
And thou, impetuous prophet? Ha! he comes!
Now, all disposing gods, be merciful!”
So he: nor word spake more; but breathlessly,
With pallid face, and starting eyes, looked on.
Distinct as in the sunlight all shines out.
Right toward the king, with rapid step, he sees
The fiery priest advancing; in his hand
A flaming lance, and on his arm the shield.
Nigher he draws; the monarch sees him not;
With voice, and waving sword, the troops below
Still upward urging. On the very brink
He stands: one blow might hurl him down. The priest
Within three spears’ length of his enemy
Has reached; he stops; he lifts his lance; nor yet
The king perceives him. Why delays he, then?
Assyria’s fate upon that stroke may hang:
Why lingers it? Unto his gods prays he?
No,–he hath warned his hated enemy.
Suddenly turns the king, and toward the foe
Springs onward: flies, then, like a lightning–flash,
The prophet’s lance; strikes; glances; o’er the abyss
Far shoots. But see! back reels the king,–back,–back,–
Even to the very brink he reels,–he sinks;–
One foot o’erhanging the profound, he falls;–
An infant’s thrust might end him. But again
He rises; on the very edge he stands:
The priest has drawn his sword; and, foot to foot,
They wage the dreadful fight. Spurned down the abyss,
Beneath the king’s fierce tread, the fragments fly:
No inch can he retire: upon one yard
Of fragile rock, depends Assyria’s doom.
Slowly he presses on; but, piece by piece,
Behind him sinks the ground that he had trod.
The throngs below, his danger have espied:
From tens of myriads, shrieks of horror rise.
He hears: with strength and rage renewed, springs on:
He bears his enemy back. On ampler field
They wage the fight. In turn, unto the brink,
The priest is driven. With agony of heart
Arbaces looks: he breathes not: his pulse stops.
Belesis from his arm the shield casts off:
He springs upon the king: he grasps him round:
Himself and foe together, down the abyss
Struggles to hurl. Above the brink they bend:
On one foot balanced each, and one in air,
O’erhanging stand they. But the king prevails:
Backward he bears the priest: he casts him off:
Their swords and shields both gather; and the strife
On safer ground renew. But thousands now,
Medes and Assyrians mingled, toward them haste:
Tumultuous fight succeeds; and both are lost.
Breathed then anew the agitated Mede;
And on his couch sank backward. But, in haste,
Panting, and hot, came Japhet now; and thus,
With hurried accent, spake: ”Oh prince, my words,
Painful to utter, as to hear, attend.
From Abdolonimus I come: the heights,
Against the enemy more fierce than fire,
Scarce keeps he: for the soldiers’ hearts with dread
Begin to sink; and backward oft they look,
Flight meditating: then, lest ill befall,
He counsels thee, with all safe speed to move
Down to the eastern plain. No foot, meantime,
While in his soldiers lives one valour–spark,
Save with his heart’s last drop, will he resign.”
Still Japhet spake, when, fiery eyed, yet pale,
Abida entered, and thus, breathless, spake.
”Oh prince! no longer is there safety here!
The foe, unquellable as famished wolves,
Swarm up the mountain, and all check defy.
Belesis hither sends me to give note
Of peril coming, such as all our strength
May vainly oppose. Down to the eastern plain,
No moment lost, he urges thee to speed;
There safely wait the event. Oh prince beloved!
Yield to his counsel quickly–for, in truth,
Thee losing, all we lose: nor other end
Than ruin, and tenfold wretchedness, can hope.”
While thus Abida pleaded,–on the hills
His eye Arbaces kept: then, when he ceased,
Still looking forth, replied: ”Small power, alas!
To choose remains unto us, if aright
I read the tokens: and, in fleetest speed,
Sole hope may live: for, either much I err,
Or on yon northern summits I behold
The gleam of legions coming; whom to ‘scape,
May breath and limb task hard. Look forth, my friend;
Perchance mine eyes deceive me. What seest thou?”
To him Abida: ”Doubtfully, I spy
What might a river be, or roughened lake,
To this hot cloud–vault glittering. Flash of arms,
Surely it seems not. Japhet, how to thee,
Shows that strange glimmer?” ”To my sight, as thine,”
The gentle youth replied, ”a mountain stream,
To yon red fire–light glancing, it appears.
Yet, if such torrent . . . . .” ”Fly!” Arbaces cried;
”Speed to the captains: tell them that the foe
On the northern hills is coming. To the priest,
Abida; Japhet, to the Arabian king.
Speed like the falcon, or we all are lost!
Bid them, ere utterly o’erwhelmed, to turn;
Fight as they fly–yet hurry from the field.
Upon the eastern plain our chariots stand,
And horse, a strong defence. Away! away!”
Prompt at the word, sped forth the startled youths.
Once more Arbaces on the ominous hill
Looked steadily; then to his bearers signed:
Back in his litter sank: and to the plain,
By foe untroubled, swiftly was borne down.
Arrived–in mighty masses, deep, and broad–
A gleaming crescent, fronting the vast slope
Whereon alone, from rock and precipice free,
War’s torrent might descend–the horse he found,
And chariots, prompt for action. Toward the east,
Morn yet scarce touched the sky; but, by the glare
Downward reflected from the fire–hued clouds,
All shone as with red daylight. Not a sound,
Throughout the martial multitude was heard.
With eager eyes, toward the hill–summit turned,–
In stern, yet awful mood the warriors sat;
And to that roar,–as of a blazing world,
Far distant flying,–and the bray of arms,
And hideous clamors, listened. But their chief,
As he passed on, they knew; and bowed the head:
Oft of his followers asking anxiously,
How went the fight. He to the captains spake,
Of sure defeat forewarning: ”Therefore send,
Faster to urge along the eastern plain,
The camels, oxen, and the loaded wains.
”But wider space yet, for the flying throng,
Betwixt the horse–ranks, and the chariots, leave;
Nor, while a single soldier in the rear
May still remain, your squadrons close for fight.
Call cheeringly when down the mountain side
Ye see the battle pour; that, nigh at hand,
The foe his danger, and our friends their help,
May know, and so demean them. ‘Gainst pursuit,–
Their horse and cars far off,–till nigh on noon,
Need we not guard: when, therefore, through your ranks
The flight hath ‘scaped; and ye, a bulwark strong,
Have drawn together; and the baffled foe
Backward hath turned,–then, let each charioteer,
Descending, from the out–worn infantry,
The wounded, and the weak, his vacant car
To the utmost fill: and let the horsemen, too,
Alighting, place the wounded on their steeds;
Themselves, with hand upon the bridle still,
Patiently walking: so, in safe retreat,
And easy, for a while we may move on.
But, in pursuit when comes the enemy,
Then, from the steeds and chariots let the foot
Descend; and, with what speed they may, march on.
But let the cars and horse, at distance fit,
Behind abide, and keep the foe aloof.”
So he; and through the ranks the word was given.
Himself still onward went, lest, in the throng,
Evil might chance him; or himself to them
Evil might be, their path encumbering.
Ere long, upon the mountain’s ridge was heard
Sound of quick–coming rout. In every sheath
The sword was loosened, every spear was grasped.
Like men, and steeds, and chariots, of hot fire,
In the red, shadowless light they stood–all eyes
Still on the hill–top fixed. From end to end
Of its wide edge, anon, like the loose rack
That runs before the tempest–in thin groups,
Flying for life, came down the weaker rear.
The trumpet–signal of retreat, far off,
Faintly was heard; but every blast more loud:
And louder every instant was the tramp
Of multitudes advancing; clash of arms,
Outcries, and all the hurly of pursuit.
Soon were beheld the streaming gonfalons,
The flashing shields, the gleaming spears and helms:
And all the mountain’s slope, at length, close thronged
With hosts, like foam down a great river swept.
Confused, but not in utter rout, they came;
Now speeding down,–now turning round to strike–
And now again descending. But still grew
Direr the clamor, and the din of fight:
The sword–clash, and the smitten shield and mail,
Nearer, and louder, rang, Yet firmly still,
Held on the vanquished; till, on their left flank,
Burst out new battle–thunder; and the name
Of Salamenes pealed against the sky.
Then from the Medes a cry of terror rose;
And, in precipitate flight–all order lost–
All rule unheeded–down the mountain side,
A living flood they poured. When that they saw,
The expecting horsemen, and the charioteers,–
Even as Arbaces had commanded them,–
Above their heads high waving spear and sword,
Shouted incessantly,–the flying host
Encouraging; disheartening who pursued.
Down with disordered hurry, headlong down,
The routed myriads fled. Last in the throng,
Belesis, and the king of Araby,
‘Gainst numbers hotly warring, step by step,
Face ever toward the foe, from fight retired.
But, through the ranks when all the rout had ‘scaped,–
At trumpet–signal, promptly in their rear
The horse and chariots closed; and from assault,
Like a strong bulwark, fenced them. Vainly strove
Assyria’s king, against that iron wall
His wearied force to urge. To Dara then,
Who still beside him stood, with utterance quick,
At length he spake: ”Haste, Dara; and thy speed,
Famed through the land, now to the utmost prove.
Fly to the camp: command that half the horse,
And half the chariots, hurry o’er the hill,
And instantly pursue. That done, choose out
Three trusty captains, with the swiftest steeds:
Bid them, as on the eagle’s wings, to fly;
And, standing first in presence of the queen,
Rehearse this wondrous victory. Furthermore,
Thus let them say: ‘On the fifth morning hence,
Triumphant o’er his enemies, the king
Unto his great Earth–capital returns:
Be Nineveh prepared, his valiant hosts
With all due pomp to greet.”’ That heard, paused not
The agile youth; but turned, and up the steep
Rapidly bounded. Soon the trumpets blew,
Proclaiming victory: and with one great voice,
The army shouted; and their enemies
Held in derision. Then, for spoil, the camp
They ransacked; and with food, and wine, their strength
Refreshed. Among his captains sat the king;
And ate, and drank, before them: nor the cup
Spared he; for, in his pride of heart, he said,
”Am I not monarch over all the earth?
Are not mine enemies scattered as the dust!”
But, when the sun was high, he looked abroad
O’er the eastern plain; and far away beheld
The flying Mede; and, in a hot pursuit,
Assyrian cars and horse. Then more and more
His proud heart gloried. He his enemies mocked,
And said aloud, ”Now, of a surety, all
Shall perish utterly! Meantime, two days
Will we repose; eat, drink, and take our fill;
And, on the third morn, toward the city turn.”
Then for a wine–cup calling, he looked round
Among the captains, and the circling host,
And with loud voice cried out, ”Even as I drink,
So drink ye, every man, wine of the best;
And let your hearts be gladdened; for in you
Assyria’s king is glorified.” Thus he;
And, at the word, up went a loud acclaim;
And every heart was joyful. So all day
The sound of feast and revelry was heard.
But, on the morrow, dust to dust, their slain
They to the earth committed; and, with dawn
Of the next morning, toward the city marched.
More Poetry from Edwin Atherstone:Edwin Atherstone Poems based on Topics: Man, God, Time, Mind, Heaven, Anger, Night, Faces, Kings & Queens, Fire, Death & Dying
- Israel In Egypt. Book Fourth. (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
- Israel In Egypt. Book Eighteenth. (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
- Israel In Egypt. Book Third. (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
- Israel In Egypt. Book Thirteenth. (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
- Israel In Egypt. Book Twelfth. (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
- Israel In Egypt. Book Fifteenth (Edwin Atherstone Poems)
Readers Who Like This Poem Also Like:Based on Topics: Man Poems, God Poems, Life Poems, World Poems, Night Poems, Light Poems, Mind Poems, Sadness Poems, Time Poems, Death & Dying Poems, War & Peace Poems
Based on Keywords: outcries, vividly, encountering, effeminate, erhanging, wains, commingling, clamors, watch-fires, unthought, encouraging