Изображения страниц

The Lineveh Bull.

O the honor of the Unapproachable, and of his Ministers, the Fires of Heaven and Earth, be it spoken :-I am the Bull of Nineveh. I was born in the quarries beside the river, the great river, in the birth-place of my Creator, Man. My early existence I know but dimly; my memory is as the figures in morning's mist. Thus much I recollect. As a shapeless block was my substance borne to its place; there did the hands of cunning workmen fashion me; and as my shape was formed so did I gain a knowledge of things around; the chisel carved my ear, and I heard ; the tool opened my eyes, and I saw ; I stood on my pedestal and gazed around me. Beside me was a companion like myself; we two guarded the threshold. It was a hall of royal magnificence. From a floor of alabaster rose walls of like substance; their height was as mine own height, and above them were gaudy patterns, textures of silver, gold, and brilliant dyes over all was a roof fretted with the odorous cedar, the lithe poplar, and the pillared palm.

But who can tell the glory of the sculptured wall? I beheld it with no ignorant gaze, for as was my body, so was there given me a mind; with my wings I could soar like the Eagle, my feet bore me as the Bull; I was decked in royal apparel, and above I had the lineaments, the head, and

the mind of man. I gazed and wondered. Here raged the battle; there, in exulting pomp, moved the solemn triumph; there was the strong warrior, here the sad captive. I beheld the awful rites of worship, the forms of holy men, the symbols of mighty gods. There were figures as of kings before me; they bent the warrior's bow, or hurled the hunter's lance, or knelt in humble adoration before the mystic tree, or fell prostrate to the Almighty Seven, the rulers of the heavens, the fates of men below. They were a voiceless company around me, and yet they had an utterance, not by the passing sound of tongues, but with the enduring memorial of the glittering characters that shone forth among them. I felt myself the guardian of a nation's history, the emblem of its power, and the thought stamped itself on my features in a smile which has endured till now, proud at once and solemn, showing a consciousness not unpleasing of my might and glorious destiny.

And now the living forms of my companions throng around me; a thing exceeding glorious to behold proudly sits on the throne of the Great Hunter. About him are his subject princes. They speak of new conquests, of spreading empire; and the heaped-up treasures of many a captive nation bear witness to their words. With wealth comes luxury; and ere an hour of the world's great week has passed the sound of music strikes my ear, singing, and the voluptuous dance; no more the battle-car, the crash of armies, and the shout of victory; Ashur's monarchs, sunk in an inglorious ease, make me a spectator of such revels as were misery to see, and shame to chronicle.

Anon there is a rush of feet, a clash of arms, a troubled surging of unknown tongues amidst our halls, already ancient to ephemeral man: "Cyaxares! Cyaxares !" rings loud and triumphant. It tells a mournful tale. Ashur is

fallen-the conqueror is conquered-the destroyer destroyed!

Long did the foreigners hold us; and by degrees the beauty of ancient work faded walls crumbled, roofs decayed, but I and my companions stood firm. At length, the building tottered and fell; elsewhere, fire had completed the work of the conqueror; we were left to silent ruin; a heap of earth covered all in, and no vestige of our magnificence remained, save a stray stone, or a crumbling clod.

From this time, I remember little but at intervals, as in the breaks of a heavy slumber; the spring rain sometimes uncovered part of our dwelling; I felt the greenness of the moist season, the drought and fervid glare of summer. Travellers came at long periods; one I heard speak gloriously, in a foreign tongue, of tales gathered from many climes, of a fair land beneath the northern star : many a story of our ancient grandeur he told, and of the history he would write of all our wonders. He passed away, and again I slept until the same tongue echoed among our halls, now masses of shapeless ruin. Their rude speech named our home Larissa: they spoke of Cyrus and of Xenophon, and again left us in our gloomy silent abode, watching in ruins over our forgotten nation.

Once more a mighty concourse passed, crying" Alexandros;" they looked at us with ignorant eye, and never dreamed that these shapeless mounds had seen armies more noble, kingdoms more vast, and men more brave than they.

Again I slept; as one dreaming the fitful visions of illness I felt the hours, days, and years roll on, countless and dreary; at times a dark figure flitted by, cursing me as the unbelievers' idol, or a cry of misery rose from the

dwellers in the village hard by all else was stern and desolate.

But my sleep was not to be ever. I had long heard the sounds of spade and mattock around me; I had little heeded them; at length the shrouding earth fell from before me, and, for the first time after many an age, I gazed with waking eye on the scene around me. And what a change was there! I was in a deep pit, from the bottom of which rose my head; around me were half-clad wild seeming men viewing me with wonder and awe. Presently came one who seemed a lord among them; his dress was strange, unlike what I had seen before. Joy was in his face as he gazed on me, and I rejoiced in spirit, for I saw he knew me and my history; I was again awake and restored to the world. Meanwhile men dug and laboured near me, as I had seen them do in the days when I was young. Soon I rose in my ancient dignity, standing over the ruins. Often would the man of strange aspect, but of noble and enterprising countenance, contemplate me, as one whose mind is in the ages passed away; methought he spake to me as doth a child to one of many years; he asked me of the days of yore ; I seemed to answer with mine own thoughts, and I said, "I am the guardian of the house of Ninus, protector of nations, reverence of kings; to me are known the secrets of our mystic worship, the sacrifices of our dread altar; Father am I of many generations; ruler of the world!" Thus boasted I in the weakness of my heart; for, in his silent steady gaze, I read my changed condition; I called to mind my long slumber, my inglorious waking, and I felt my fallen Thrice had the world's great wheel rolled on to its close; four more days were added since I fell asleep; and he said, “Behold the change around thee; where once thou sawest a mighty nation standing in its pride, where thou


gloriedst in wealthy temples, in the riches of great cities, in the mastery of the world, now look upon the misery and ignorance of barbarian hordes, see around the ruins and shapeless heaps of earth. Where was thy noble palace, now passes the rude plough, now waves the yellow corn!

And my shame was clear in mine own eyes; I was sad, for my pride was fallen. Why need I tell more, the tale is grievous to me; I was borne down beside my own ancient river, amidst strange voices and shouts " Layard !—Layard!" they seemed to cry. I saw my country desolate, my dwelling a prey to strangers, I was tossed many days on the heaving waters. Now I stand in a strange land, the wonder of earth's younger children. They say I am far from my violated home, in a city prouder, greater, more glorious than my native realm; but boast not, ye vainglorious creatures of an hour. I have outlived many mighty kingdoms, perchance I may be destined to survive one


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »