Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SPARTANS AT THERMOPYLAE, by RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES



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THE SPARTANS AT THERMOPYLAE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: No parleying with themselves, no pausing thought
Last Line: Virtues of earth and heavenly love distil.
Alternate Author Name(s): Houghton, 1st Baron; Houghton, Lord
Subject(s): Thermopylae, Battle Of


No parleying with themselves, no pausing thought
Of worse or better consequence, was there,
Their business was to do what Spartans ought,
Sparta's chaste honour was their only care.

First in the outlet of that narrowest pass,
Between the tall straight cliffs and sullen tide,
Before his Faithful, stood Leonidas, --
Before the Few who could not leave his side.

Never the hope of such a precious meed,
Upon his most ambitious dreams had shone,
Through Him the Gods for Sparta had decreed
More fame than Athens earned at Marathon.

And more than this, he knew in that proud hour,
How high a price his single Life could claim,
That in its sacrifice there lay the power,
Alone to save his father-land from shame.

Yet was he loth to meet that sacred fate,
As he there stood, cramped in by rocks and sea,
He would confront the Persian myriad's weight,
And die an unbound Victim, fighting free.

One more fair field, -- one last unshackled blow
Strong with concentrate vengeance, this was all
That still remained to fill to overflow
The measure of the glory of his fall.

How He, and They who followed him in love,
Went forth and perished, is a tale to tell,
Such as old Bards to Epic music wove,
And so felt he who wrote their Chronicle.

* * * * *
* * * * *

The symbol Lion, that once stood in stone
Over the Lion-hearted, is no more;
Where sat the Last, on their sepulchral throne,
Is now a thing of antiquarian lore.

Nor mourn for this, -- all other truth is vain.
But this, to know at heart, that They are there,
There in the giant cliffs, and perilous plain,
Paths, fountains, forest, ocean, every where.

Now let all Thought be Memory, -- calmly wait,
Till clear defined, before thy Spirit's eyes,
Heroic Dignity, impersonate
In awful phantoms, silently arise.

Between the Men who noble deeds have done,
And every Poet to the end of time,
There is a brotherly communion,
One Father-God has made them both sublime:

And thus, to Thee, there can be nothing dead
Of great things past, they live in thine own will,
Thou givest them form, -- they, on thy favoured head,
Virtues of earth and Heavenly Love distil.





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