Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
From The Vision of Nimrod
By Charles de Kay (1848–1935)
[The Vision of Nimrod. 1881.]

NO sun, no moon. Northward the star Orion,
  The star of Nimrod, had the zenith won,
When from the waste the roaring of a lion
  Boomed like the bursting of a signal gun.
They saw with fright the even dusk of night        5
  Roll to a shape, black on the starlit heaven,
And lo, a Lion of enormous might,
  Shadowy, shaggy! From his jaws of ravin
      Issued the awful sound
      That shook the ground.        10
And as they gazed, speechless with mortal terror,
  It took new form like ocean’s clouds at morn;
The lion changed;—that surely was no error
  Which saw a bull shaking his dreadful horn?
But hardly of the new shape were they ’ware        15
  When the brute’s head of him so fiercely charging
Turned human; a grave face with curling hair,
  Its ordered locks on breast and back discharging,
      Loomed through the dusky night
      And stayed their flight.        20
Then from the face, locked with a steadfast meaning
  Upon their eyes, the shape took change and flow,
And lo, a giant on a war-club leaning,
  Lifted on high, held the dark plain below.
Purple and golden on his stalwart shoulders        25
  His garments lay, but spotted all and torn,
Like robe that long in royal cavern moulders;
  And round his neck upon a chain was worn,
      Like a strange cross to see,
      An amber key.        30
But all that coat, by tooth of time corroded,
  Was full of eyes and little crescent moons
And peaches over-ripeness has exploded—
  Pomegranates cloven by a score of noons.
The war-club whereupon his left hand rested        35
  Was scaly like a pinecone huge in size;
Against those two his shadowy bulk he breasted
  And with his right hand pointed toward the skies.
      Then in a voice of dread
      Croaking, he said:        40
“Barbarians! Once, with the sages of Chaldee,
  I, Nimrod, watched upon a tower’s back,
Marking the planets creep most cunningly
  A pinnacle past, which sharply cut their track;
Methought this arm, that was all rigid grown        45
  With following slow their motions wise and stealthy,
Grew boundless large, reached upward to yon sown
  Broad field, the sky, with red ripe star-fruits wealthy,
      Plucked and consumed them still
      At my fair will!        50
“’Twixt Kaf and Kaf, those hills that wall the world,
  My body stretched, and from my heaving breast
The streams of breath, against the hard sky hurled,
  Were turned to clouds that veered at my behest.
Anon the horizon with sharp white was lit        55
  And by that glare the veil of things was riven;
The door to strange new lands was suddenly split,
  As if I, earth, had caught a glimpse of heaven.
      I saw how great that bliss,
      How petty this!        60
“That was the hour of evil fates descending;
  From that strange night I was not merely man:
Where’er I marched crowds must be still attending
  Me, the great midpoint of the earthly plan.
Euphrates was the life-blood of my heart;        65
  Tigris a vein that throbbed with ceaseless motion;
In me the firs of Ararat had part
  And I was earth, air, fire and boundless ocean!
      Folly from that black day
      Held me in sway.        70
“From Ur the town I marched with vainness blinded
  And founded empires in the teeming plain;
Lured to revolt ten cities fickle-minded,
  And dared the gods that could not save their slain.
I was their god. I was the lord of all,—        75
  Each step a new town or a plundered palace.
I drowned a land with break of water wall;
  Repeopled it, when kindness grew from malice.
      Who reckoneth all my crimes?
      He falls who climbs.        80
“Of Babylon I made the stateliest city
  The earth has yet upon its surface known.
Nation I fenced from nation without pity
  That all might wend toward Babylon alone.
Tribe might not trade with tribe, nor north with south,        85
  But all must barter at my market centre;
Nor eastman speak with westman mouth to mouth
  Unless they first within my limits enter.
      Thus grew each tongue and art
      Slowly apart.
*        *        *        *        *
“But, spite of crimes, spite of my wealth and glory,
  Of me what know ye, men of a puny age?
I am a rumor, an uncertain story,
  A vanished smoke, a scarce-remembered page!
The angry peoples showed they could be kinder        95
  To my great fame than after-following kings,
For hate still kept a little sour reminder
  When every mark of me had taken wings.
      Whate’er on brick I traced
      My sons effaced.        100
“Yes, my own sons, for whom I bear these curses,
  Melted my statues, overturned my grave,
Hammered from living rock the deep-hewn verses
  That from oblivion my vast fame should save.
Thrice was this mass of brickwork, seamed with ravage,        105
  All newly builded by succeeding kings:
What of the rage of desert-dwelling savage?
  From sons a treachery far deeper stings!
      Every one hundredth year
      Some man must hear,        110
“Must hear how they betrayed me, yes, and ponder
  O’er my great crimes, my splendor and my fall,
How messengers from some great godhead yonder
  In vain approach, Nimrod from sin to call.
I know not who he is, foretold by many,        115
  For on my mind weighs a thick cloud of doubt,
Like fogs across these barren plains and fenny,
  So fertile once, they laughed at want and drought.
      List, though you shrink with fear,
      Tremble, but hear!”
*        *        *        *        *

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