Friday, August 21, 2009

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 uplifted, 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!
---George Gordon, Lord Byron

*II Kings 18: 13-19; II Chronicles 32: 1-21; Isaiah chapters 36-37. Sennacherib was an Assyrian king. A previous Assyrian king, Slamaneser, had carried the northern kingdom of Israel. When Sennacherib threatened Judah, Isaiah and King Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh (the Lord), and the Angel of God killed Sennacherib's best fighting men in camp. Sennacherib withdrew home, and was later killed by some of his own sons in the temple of his god.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Music on the Wing*

Let me be to Thee as the circling bird,
Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings
That shapes in half-light his departing rings**,
from both of whom a changeless note is heard.

I have found my music in a common word,
Trying each pleasurable throat that sings
And every praised sequence of sweet strings,
And know infallibly which I preferred.

The authentic cadence was discovered late
Which ends those only strains that I approve,
and other science all gone out of date
And minor sweetness scarce made mention of;
I have found the dominant of my range*** and state--
Love, O my God, to call Thee Love and Love.
---Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1865
*Originally untitled
**The bats circling to depart at sunset ("half-light")
***The author found his "true singing voice" late, or so he says. His "range" (literally, how low & high one can sing) is all wrapped up in Love for God. (This love can come only as a response to knowing that Christ has died for our sins.)