Nicholas Michell

Lost city of a hundred gates of brass!
Thy chiefs and conquering kings before me pass;
Thy sages reading, with prophetic eye,
The starry mysteries of the spangled sky;
Glorious thou wert, and beautiful as proud!
The moon in heaven that glows without a cloud,
Gems in the mine, and pearls beneath the sea,
Among less radiant cities, emblemed thee!
Dark day when leagued against thee traitor foes —
First of thy curse, the dawning of thy woes!
See! thy walls bow before the Median host,
And on they rush, with shouts and vengeful boast.
Blood dyes thy pillared shrines, and porphyry halls,
And e'en for mercy Beauty vainly calls;
Around the palace gathering thousands press,
Threat those within, and mock their wild distress.
The timid king, unused to peril's hour,
Who passed his days in Pleasure's rosy bower,
Stands with pale lip — all vain his splendour now —
Fear at his heart, despair upon his brow.
Courtiers that fawned, and maids who once on him
Turned love-bright eyes that made their jewels dim,
No longer bend the knee or solace bring,
But all desert the doomed and ruined king.
And there stands Sardan,* last of that famed line,
Whose founders still were worshipped as divine.
Oh! Nimrod, for thy sword, in hour like this!
Thy trump of victory, dread Semiramis!
Burst from your tombs! inspire yon trembling slave!
Stoop from your spheres, to succour and to save!
Snatch from the altar Glory's trembling spark,
Ere its last ray expire, and all be dark!
They come! — their engines shake the palace wall;*
The guards shrink back, and terror palsies all.
They who around their king should rallying die,
Drop their vile swords, and loud for quarter cry.
Howbeit, as doom draws nearer, Sardan's soul
Bursts from the silk- worm luxury's soft control,
Feels hopes that burn, and wishes that aspire,
While valour lights her momentary fire.
But vain his jewelled falchion flamed in air,
Too late all deeds, all passions, save despair.

Author's notes:

* Sardan: or Sardan-Phul— that is, Sardan, the son of Phul, commonly called Sardanapalus.

* The palace wall: This palace was situated either in the south extremity of the city, being the district now called Nimroud, or in the quadrangular enclosure of mounds opposite Mosul. The ruins exhumed at the latter place, consisting of bas-reliefs, and human-headed bulls, even larger than those at Nimroud, have nearly all suffered from fire — many of the slabs are even reduced to lime by intense heat ; we have, therefore, some grounds for concluding that the palace in which Sardanapalus burned himself was situated in this spot.

Main Location:

Nimrud, Iraq