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