Friday, 1 June 2007


Now, as I've mentioned before, I'm not a great fan of poetry but, when I was a child at primary school, we had to learn poems by heart and recite them in class. One of those was Browning's Home Thoughts From Abroad which I posted in April. Another was one that wouldn't immediately spring to mind as a poem for children but somehow it has stuck in my mind for all these years and I can still recite the first bit of it from memory. I think it's the vision of his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold that caught my imagination, I could see the rich purple cloth and the sun glinting off the armour. Each verse creates an immediate and vivid picture in my mind. I love the rhythmn of it too so here is:

The Destruction of Sennacherib
Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed on the face of the foe as he passed:
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride:
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!


The description of a battlefield is still relevant today I think.


Bimbimbie said...

.... both vivid and sobering

Sheila said...

This paints a technicolour picture and is brilliantly descriptive, thanks Rowan..!