Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE FLIGHT OF XERXES, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: I saw him on the battle-eve
Last Line: For thee, immortal salamis!
Alternate Author Name(s): Fletcher, Maria Jane Jewsbury
Subject(s): Dardanelles; Xeres I, The Great (519-465 B.c.); Hellespont

I SAW him on the battle-eve,
When like a king he bore him, --
Proud hosts in glittering helm and greave,
And prouder chiefs before him;
The warrior, and the warrior's deeds,
The morrow, and the morrow's meeds,
No daunting thoughts came o'er him;
He looked around him, and his eye
Defiance flashed to earth and sky.

He looked on ocean, -- its broad breast
Was covered with his fleet;
On earth, -- and saw from east to west
His bannered millions meet;
While rock and glen and cave and coast
Shook with the war-cry of that host,
The thunder of their feet!
He heard the imperial echoes ring, --
He heard, and felt himself a king.

I saw him next alone: nor camp
Nor chief his steps attended;
Nor banner blazed, nor courser's tramp
With war-cries proudly blended.
He stood alone, whom fortune high
So lately seemed to deify;
He who with heaven contended
Fled like a fugitive and slave!
Behind, the foe; before, the wave.

He stood -- fleet, army, treasure, gone --
Alone, and in despair!
But wave and wind swept ruthless on,
For they were monarchs there;
And Xerxes, in a single bark,
Where late his thousand ships were dark,
Must all their fury dare.
What a revenge, -- a trophy, this, --
For thee, immortal Salamis!

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net