Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PERSIANS (PERSAE): XERXES DEFEATED, by AESCHYLUS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE PERSIANS (PERSAE): XERXES DEFEATED, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: This earth, this asia, wide as east from west
Last Line: With the blood of persia's noble dead.
Subject(s): Persian Wars

THIS earth, this Asia, wide as east from west,
Mourns -- empty, -- of her manhood dispossessed.
Xerxes the King led forth his war-array!
Xerxes the King hath cast his host away!
Xerxes the King (O King unwise!)
Steered in the wake of doom his orient argosies!

How fell it that Darius, lord of the bow,
In Susa long ago,
Fair fortune had? That then
He who ruled Persia won the hearts of men?

The ships, the swarthy ships, with brow of gloom
And wide wings woven on the weary loom,
Landsmen and mariners haled to that far shore!
The ships, the black ships whelmed them evermore!
They struck, they split, they filled,
They sank: and, oh, death's throes Ionian vengeance stilled.
And now by plain and pass, rude, wild and bare,
In the frore Thracian air,
After long wandering,
Scarce 'scaped with life, comes home our lord the King.

But they on that wild water,
Firstlings of death and slaughter,
Roam, where the long waves lash Kychrean sands;
Roam, but no wave shall lift them,
Nor ebb nor flood-tide drift them
To this dear earth beloved above all lands.
Wide as the sky, and deep
As those dark waters sweep,
Wail! let grief gnaw your heart, and wring your hands!

Combed with no tender combing,
Where angry waves break foaming,
Children of Ocean's unpolluted tide
Flesh their dumb mouths, and tear
The dead men once so fair:
Old eyes are wet whose tears Time long since dried;
The sire weeps his lost son,
The home its goodman gone,
And all the woeful tale is bruited far and wide.

They pay no more tribute; they bow them no more!
The word of power is not spoken
By the princes of Persia; their day is o'er,
And the laws of the Medes are broken
Through Asia's myriad-peopled land;
For the staff is snapped in the King's right hand.

And a watch is not set on the free, frank tongue,
Yea, liberty's voice speaks loud;
And the yoke is loosed from the neck that was wrung
And the back to dominion bowed:
For the earth of Ajax' isle is red
With the blood of Persia's noble dead.

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