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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein

At Nineveh

Written for my friend Walter S. Mathews.

There was a princess once, who loved the slave
 Of an Assyrian king, her father; known
At Nineveh as Hadria; o'er whose grave
 The sands of centuries have long been blown;
Yet sooner shall the night forget its stars
 Than love her story: - How, unto his throne,
One day she came, where, with his warriors,
 The king sat in the hall of audience,
'Mid pillared trophies of barbaric wars,
 And, kneeling to him, asked, "O father, whence
Comes love and why?" - He, smiling on her, said, -
 "O Hadria, love is of the gods, and hence
Divine, is only soul-interpreted.
 But why love is, ah, child, we do not know,
Unless 'tis love that gives us life when dead." -
 And then his daughter, with a face aglow
With all the love that clamored in her blood
 Its sweet avowal, lifted arms of snow,
And, like Aurora's rose, before him stood,
 Saying, - "Since love is of the powers above,
I love a slave, O Asshur! Let the good
 The gods have giv'n be sanctioned. Speak not of
Dishonor and our line's ancestral dead!
 They are imperial dust. I live and love." -
Black as black storm then rose the king and said, -
 A lightning gesture at her standing there, -
"Enough! ho, Rhana, strike me off her head!"
 And at the mandate, with his limbs half bare
A slave strode forth. Majestic was his form
 As some young god's. He, gathering up her hair,
Wound it three times around his sinewy arm.
 Then drew his sword. It for one moment shone
A semicircling light, and, dripping warm,
 Lifting the head he stood before the throne.
Then cried the despot, "By the horn of Bel!
 This was no child of mine!" - Like chiselled stone
Still stood the slave, a son of Israel.
 Then striding towards the monarch, in his eye
The wrath of heaven and the hate of hell,
 Shrieked, "Lust! I loved her! look on us and die!"
Swifter than fire clove him to the brain.
 Then kissed the dead fair face of her held high,
And crying, "Judge, O God, between us twain!"
 A thousand daggers in his heart, fell slain.

Madison Julius Cawein

Madison Julius Cawein's other poems:
  1. A Song for Yule
  2. The Raid
  3. Second Sight
  4. Below the Sunset's Range of Rose
  5. Dream Road

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