The Burden Of Nineveh Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


In our Museum galleriesA
To day I lingered o'er the prizeB
Dead Greece vouchsafes to living eyesB
Her Art for ever in fresh wiseB
From hour to hour rejoicing meC
Sighing I turned at last to winD
Once more the London dirt and dinD
And as I made the swing door spinD
And issued they were hoisting inD
A wing d beast from NinevehE
A human face the creature woreF
And hoofs behind and hoofs beforeF
And flanks with dark runes fretted o'erG
'Twas bull 'twas mitred MinotaurG
A dead disbowelled mysteryG
The mummy of a buried faithH
Stark from the charnel without scatheH
Its wings stood for the light to batheH
Such fossil cerements as might swatheH
The very corpse of NinevehE
The print of its first rush wrappingI
Wound ere it dried still ribbed the thingI
What song did the brown maidens singI
From purple mouths alternatingI
When that was woven languidlyJ
What vows what rites what prayers preferr'dK
What songs has the strange image heardK
In what blind vigil stood interr'dK
For ages till an English wordK
Broke silence first at NinevehE
Oh when upon each sculptured courtL
Where even the wind might not resortL
O'er which Time passed of like importL
With the wild Arab boys at sportL
A living face looked in to seeG
Oh seemed it not the spell once brokeM
As though the carven warriors wokeM
As though the shaft the string forsookN
The cymbals clashed the chariots shookN
And there was life in NinevehE
On London stones our sun anewO
The beast's recovered shadow threwO
No shade that plague of darkness knewO
No light no shade while older grewO
By ages the old earth and seaG
Lo thou could all thy priests have shownP
Such proof to make thy godhead knownP
From their dead Past thou liv'st aloneP
And still thy shadow is thine ownP
Even as of yore in NinevehE
That day whereof we keep recordQ
When near thy city gates the LordQ
Sheltered His Jonah with a gourdQ
This sun I said here present pour'dQ
Even thus this shadow that I seeG
This shadow has been shed the sameR
From sun and moon from lamps which cameR
For prayer from fifteen days of flameR
The last while smouldered to a nameR
Sardanapalus' NinevehE
Within thy shadow haply onceS
Sennacherib has knelt whose sonsT
Smote him between the altar stonesU
Or pale Semiramis her zonesU
Of gold her incense brought to theeG
In love for grace in war for aidV
Ay and who else till 'neath thy shadeV
Within his trenches newly madeV
Last year the Christian knelt and pray'dV
Not to thy strength in NinevehE
Now thou poor god within this hallJ
Where the blank windows blind the wallJ
From pedestal to pedestalJ
The kind of light shall on thee fallJ
Which London takes the day to beG
While school foundations in the actW
Of holiday three files compactW
Shall learn to view thee as a factW
Connected with that zealous tractW
ROME Babylon and NinevehE
Deemed they of this those worshippersX
When in some mythic chain of verseY
Which man shall not again rehearseY
The faces of thy ministersX
Yearned pale with bitter ecstasyG
Greece Egypt Rome did any godZ
Before whose feet men knelt unshodZ
Deem that in this unblest abodeZ
Another scarce more unknown godZ
Should house with him from NinevehE
Ah in what quarries lay the stoneP
From which this pillared pile has grownP
Unto man's need how long unknownP
Since those thy temples court and coneP
Rose far in desert historyG
Ah what is here that does not lieJ
All strange to thine awakened eyeJ
Ah what is here can testifyJ
Save that dumb presence of the skyJ
Unto thy day and NinevehE
Why of those mummies in the roomA2
Above there might indeed have comeB2
One out of Egypt to thy homeC2
An alien Nay but were not someB2
Of these thine own antiquityG
And now they and their gods and thouH
All relics here together nowH
Whose profit whether bull or cowH
Isis or Ibis who or howH
Whether of Thebes or NinevehE
The consecrated metals foundZ
And ivory tablets undergroundZ
Winged teraphim and creatures crown'dZ
When air and daylight filled the moundZ
Fell into dust immediatelyG
And even as these the imagesD2
Of awe and worship even as theseA
So smitten with the sun's increaseE2
Her glory mouldered and did ceaseE2
From immemorial NinevehE
The day her builders made their haltZ
Those cities of the lake of saltZ
Stood firmly 'stablished without faultZ
Made proud with pillars of basaltZ
With sardonyx and porphyryG
The day that Jonah bore abroadZ
To Nineveh the voice of GodZ
A brackish lake lay in his roadZ
Where erst Pride fixed her sure abodeZ
As then in royal NinevehE
The day when he Pride's lord and Man'sF2
Showed all the kingdoms at a glanceG2
To Him before whose countenanceS
The years recede the years advanceG2
And said Fall down and worship meG
'Mid all the pomp beneath that lookN
Then stirred there haply some rebukeH2
Where to the wind the Salt Pools shookN
And in those tracts of life forsookN
That knew thee not O NinevehE
Delicate harlot On thy throneP
Thou with a world beneath thee proneP
In state for ages sat'st aloneP
And needs were years and lustres flownP
Ere strength of man could vanquish theeG
Whom even thy victor foes must bringI
Still royal among maids that singI
As with doves' voices taboringI
Upon their breasts unto the KingI
A kingly conquest NinevehE
Here woke my thought The wind's slow swayI2
Had waxed and like the human playI2
Of scorn that smiling spreads awayI2
The sunshine shivered off the dayI2
The callous wind it seemed to meG
Swept up the shadow from the groundZ
And pale as whom the Fates astoundZ
The god forlorn stood winged and crown'dZ
Within I knew the cry lay boundZ
Of the dumb soul of NinevehE
And as I turned my sense half shutZ
Still saw the crowds of kerb and rutZ
Go past as marshalled to the strutZ
Of ranks in gypsum quaintly cutZ
It seemed in one same pageantryG
They followed forms which had been erstZ
To pass till on my sight should burstZ
That future of the best or worstZ
When some may question which was firstZ
Of London or of NinevehE
For as that Bull god once did standZ
And watched the burial clouds of sandZ
Till these at last without a handZ
Rose o'er his eyes another landZ
And blinded him with destinyG
So may he stand again till nowH
In ships of unknown sail and prowH
Some tribe of the Australian ploughH
Bear him afar a relic nowH
Of London not of NinevehE
Or it may chance indeed that whenJ2
Man's age is hoary among menJ2
His centuries threescore and tenJ2
His furthest childhood shall seem thenJ2
More clear than later times may beG
Who finding in this desert placeK2
This form shall hold us for some raceK2
That walked not in Christ's lowly waysL2
But bowed its pride and vowed its praiseL2
Unto the God of NinevehE
The smile rose first anon drew nighJ
The thought Those heavy wings spread highJ
So sure of flight which do not flyJ
That set gaze never on the skyJ
Those scriptured flanks it cannot seeG
Its crown a brow contracting loadZ
Its planted feet which trust the sodZ
So grew the image as I trodZ
O Nineveh was this thy GodZ
Thine also mighty NinevehE

Dante Gabriel Rossetti


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