George Sylvester Viereck

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O NINEVEH, thy realm is set
Upon a base of rock and steel
From where the under-rivers fret
High up to where the planets reel.
Clad in a blazing coat of mail,
Above the gables of the town
Huge dragons with a monstrous trail
Have pillared pathways up and down.
And in the bowels of the deep
Where no man sees the gladdening sun,
All night without the balm of sleep
The human tide rolls on and on.
The Hudson's mighty waters lave
In stern caress thy granite shore,
And to thy port the salt sea wave
Brings oil and wine and precious ore.
Yet if the ocean in its might
Should rise confounding stream and bay,
The stain of one delirious night
Not all the tides can wash away.
Thick pours the smoke of thousand fires,
Life throbs and beats relentlessly —
But lo, above the stately spires
Two lemans: Death and Leprosy.
What fruit shall spring from such embrace?
Ah, even thou wouldst quake to hear!
He bends to kiss her loathsome face,
She laughs — and whispers in his ear.
Sit not too proudly on thy throne,
Think on thy sisters, them that fell;
Not all the hosts of Babylon
Could save her from the jaws of hell.


Through the long alleys of the park
On noiseless wheels and delicate springs,
Glide painted women fair and dark,
Bedecked with silks and jewelled things.
In peacock splendour goes the rout
With shrill, loud laughter of the mad —
Red lips to suck thy life-blood out,
And eyes too weary to be sad!
Their feet go down to shameful death,
They flaunt the livery of their wrong,
Their beauty is of Ashtoreth,
Her strength it is that makes them strong.
Behold thy virgin daughters, how
They know the smile a wanton wears;
And oh! on many a boyish brow
The blood-red brand of murder flares.
See, through the crowded streets they fly,
Like doves before the gathering storm.
They cannot rest, for ceaselessly
In every heart there dwells a worm.
They sing in mimic joy, and crown
Their temples to the flutes of sin;
But no sweet noise shall ever drown
The whisper of the worm within.
They revel in the gilded line
Of lamplit halls to charm the night,
But think you that the crimson wine
Can veil the horror from their sight?
Ah, no — their staring eyes are led
To where it lurks with hideous leer:
Therefore the women flush so red,
And all the men are white with fear.
As in a mansion vowed to lust,
Where wantons with their guests make free,
'Tis thus thou humblest in the dust
Thy queenly body, Nineveh!
Thy course is downward; 'tis the road
To sins that even where disgrace
And shameful pleasure walk abroad
Dare not unmask their shrouded face!
Surely at last shall come the day
When these that dance so merrily
Shall watch with terrible faces gray
Thy doom draw near, O Nineveh!


I, too, the fatal harvest gained
Of them that sow with seed of fire
In passion's garden — I have drained
The goblet of thy sick desire.
I from thy love had bitter bliss,
And ever in my memory stir
The after-savours of thy kiss —
The taste of aloes and of myrrh.
And yet I love thee, love unblessed
The poison of thy wanton's art;
Though thou be sister to the Pest
In thy great hands I lay my heart!
And when thy body Titan-strong
Writhes on its giant couch of sin,
Yea, though upon the trembling throng
The very vault of Heaven fall in;
And though the palace of thy feasts
Sink crumbling in a fiery sea —
l, like, the last of Baal's priests,
Will share thy doom, O Nineveh

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