Monday, January 5, 2009


The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

--George Gordon, Lord Byron, 1815

Lizarddrinking has been making me think about war. Specifically war in the Middle East, and the centuries-old conflict between the Jews and the Muslims there (and not infrequently the Christians as well). It's a topic I don't really like to think too closely about, because it engenders nothing but despair in me. It seems from the perpective of a sheltered American that the peoples of the Middle East have known no other way of life than war against their enemies. It is the way of their fathers, and grandfathers, and great-grandfathers reaching back through countless generations. It seems that both sides take on both a martyr mindset of a persecuted people, and this justifies all sorts of violence toward the perceived oppressors. And it seems that neither side is willing to compromise to gain peace.

I am not at all sure what makes a people stop warring and settle for peace, but it has been done. The English and the French carried on warfare for hundreds of years before becoming allies. The bitter feud in Northern Ireland seems to finally have been laid to rest. Maybe all it takes is two leaders willing to put aside their mistrust and grievances and call for a halt, a breather in the battle. And in the absence of guns and rockets, differences can be smoothed over, bonds can be forged, trespasses forgiven. All it takes, maybe, is someone who's willing to forgive first.