An Assyrian Cast [poem by Louis Esson]

[Editor: This poem by Louis Esson was published in Bells and Bees: Verses (1910).]

An Assyrian Cast

A vase, a verse, a plaster cast
Preserves an empire of the past.

The palace falls; a graven stone
Rebuilds the walls of Babylon.

A wingèd bull-god’s mystery
Enwraps the might of Nineveh.

An epigram embalms, I wis,
Sennacherib, Semiramis.

Louis Esson, Bells and Bees: Verses, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1910, [page 28]

Editor’s notes:
Nineveh = ancient capital of Assyria, located on the Tigris River (opposite the modern-day city of Mosul, in northern Iraq)

Semiramis = according to Greek legend, Semiramis was the wife of King Ninus, who she succeeded to the throne of Assyria; however, the historical Semiramis (Shammuramat) was the wife of Shamshi-Adad V (king of Assyria, 824 BC to 811 BC) and mother of Adad-nirari III (king of Assyria, 811 BC to 783 BC); when her son was a child-king, it is believed that she was highly influential in the governing of Assyria (possibly even acting as a defacto regent)

Sennacherib = king of Assyria, 705 BC to 681 BC

wis = (archaic) know, know well; to know, to suppose (the term “I wis”, i.e. “I know”, was derived from the archaic word “iwis”, meaning “certainly” or “surely”, which was often incorrectly interpreted as “I know”)

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