Thursday, 1 November 2012

Museums and poetry

I spent a wonderful morning in the British Museum. The Benin bronzes, crisp, powerful figures glowing in their cabinets, the glories of the Greek collection and the confident dominance of the Assyrian carvings overwhelmed and inspired me.

Any poem you ever encounter can be triggered by a future experience. Today, Ozymandius was at the front of my mind as I wandered through the remains of great civilisations as was Byron's powerful Destruction of Sennacherib. You will have your own internal soundtrack which will excite, exhilarate or console when required. Reading poetry is laying down knowledge and you never know when it might be useful.

For images: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/middle_east/assyrians.aspx

And for inspiration:

THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB,
 
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 in 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!

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