Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NIMROD: 7, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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NIMROD: 7, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: And they that went from babel were a host
Last Line: Raised in mid heaven the eternal word of god.
Subject(s): Nimrod (Bible)


And they that went from Babel were a host
Of mighty men. And with them they bore forth
Monsters of bronze and grotesque images
Cast from the walls, and wandering in the plains
They worshipped these false gods and unto them
Were terror and disaster. For since God's hand
Cast down the vessels of their lying tongue,
Men dwelt no more in brotherhood, but built
Cities against each other, breeders of war,
And spoke with differing and hostile speech.
And they were scattered westward on the plains
And built up mighty cities known of old,
Dark Nineveh -- ferocious Babylon.
But ere they left the desert sands they turned,
And pointing back beheld upon the plain,
Besieged with glittering armies of the sun,
The ruins of great Babel. And that town
Lay in vast stillness. In the silent halls
No human voice broke the empty air.
No human footfall when the dusk was cool
Left desolate sound upon the echoing stone;
But in the deep, reverberating gloom
Down thundering gullies heaped of gold and bronze
The bell-like roaring of the unicorn --
And in far courts the windy satyr screamed!
At night with mournful voice the gusty gale
Searched through dark corridors of ruinous bronze.
With ghostly shout and supernatural cries
It filled the air with desolate shapes unseen.
When noon was hot, the desert lion came
And slaked his thirst at many a quiet pool.
Hyenas laughed where once sweet courts were green.
The flying serpent with his sighing tune
Beat the hot sunshine with metallic wings.
Through hideous gorges and down sounding flumes
That had been streets in Nimrod's mighty town,
Deep rivers roared or snow-white cataracts plunged.
Dragons were in their pleasant palaces --
Grey wolves howled down the corridors unseen.
Over hot fragments of smooth paving stone
In bright mercurial arabesques there flamed
The glimmering viper, and in colonnades,
With brassy columns or columns of black bronze,
Huge snakes in cruel stupor darkly hung
Their bulky richness, fierce, arboreal.
The bat beneath the arches made his home.
And all alone in melancholy halls,
Over a windy shadow, swept the owl.
Eve after eve, through jagged clouds, the sun
In blood-red splendor gazed upon the flumes,
The gorges deep, the terrible ravines
Of those deserted ruins. It did not seem
Within the years of man, but might have been
Some fearful ravage of primeval gods.
For like a ruined god whose fearful shape
Had been appalled to everlasting stone,
Rock-like in devastation, with his beard
Moss-like upon his bosom, and his hair,
With horror whitened, the only moving thing
Upon the air of night, great Nimrod reared
His shattered bulk. Gigantic, Nimrod stood,
Flanked with majestic ruin. But his gaze
Was set against the darkness and the wind.
Huge monsters huddled round him wrought of bronze.
He had not moved since from his lips that last
Great ancient word had broken, but he stood
With arms outstretched and mighty palms pressed down,
Bulwarked in anguish and in grief composed.
His solemn strife besieged the midnight gloom.
Nor might that shape crouched darkly at his feet
Shake down the solid bastion of his woe.
For since the moment when gigantic grief,
Bracing his bulwarks war-like against time,
Heaved up the mighty derricks of his bone --
He was as one in spirit so enthroned
Beyond mortality that never more
Might he know grief, save of his spirit's throes.
As if an anguished angel on a star,
Throbbing with golden immemorial woes
For cosmic wrong, heard not upon the earth
In jungles dark the howling of the beast --
So, fixed upon his starry orb of grief,
He gave no heed unto the brutish rage
That shook the mortal forests of his flesh.
But he was not more silent than the shape
Of earth-like devastation at his feet.
He did not cry to her nor moved at all
When in the night the rolling clouds immured
The brightness of the moon and in the dark
Obscured the staring whiteness of her face.
Nor when the heavy thunder of God's throne
Split into fearful chasms the black night
And he was sunk in dizzying gulfs of rain.
Nor when the lightning swept him forth once more
In speechless patience, as if burning wheels
Had whirled him up from nothingness accursed,
Stretched on a vast circumference of flame.
Nor when with huge and fiery bolts he seemed
Struck through and through with such large pangs as gods
Nailed against empty chaos might endure --
The great progenitor of a new crime,
Doomed to immortal grief and cosmic pain.
For still his crag-like presence flanked the gale
Like a calm precipice, nor did he shake
His citadel of woe. But when at last
The whirlwind of God's chariot rolled away,
With shuddering sinew and with groping hand,
With frightful palsies and reachings of dumb pain,
He plucked the woman crouching at his feet,
And pointing to almighty Heaven, he stretched
A hand upon her, turning to the sky
The pale and watchful beauty of her face.
For poised aloft out of dark wracks of cloud,
There flamed amid the fastness of the sky
A monstrous globule, a soft shining sphere,
A fearful brightness, stranger than a star.
A vessel of pure fire, it moved serene.
Eternal, beautiful, orbed in golden light
The moon shone over Babel -- and it seemed
As if an Angel, before celestial hosts,
Raised in mid Heaven the eternal Word of God.





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