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.


lizardrinking said...

I'm nothing if not quick, hey? And at least you are posting again, so my words are worth something :) I haven't slept much as you can probably tell.

As with most wars or battles, I think this one is about land, 'glo, though masquerading behing religion. I don't know that this conflict is centuries old, but it definitely dates back to the forties and the turn of the nineteenth-twentieth century. And yes, I would go with your argument if both sides were equally matched, as I think France and England were, and if it were between two independent countries, not an occupier and an occupied. Also, one side has consistently refused to negotiate or to uphold international law and that isn't actually the Palestinians.

I am sorry to be passionate about this, but I feel that there are 500 deaths and rising that could have been avoided in this whole shebang if the international community had not decided to dither, as it always does. Sorry to hog your post, I hope you don't mind seeing my lizard there and I hope the topic does not scare away other commenters.

anglophile said...

No need to apologize about being passionate! I agree that it is about land and resources and the religion is just a veil. But I think it is also a mitigating factor in that it magnifies the differences between the two sides, making it easier to dehumanize the enemy, and thus taking away one motivation to look for peace. It's not a problem we will solve in blogs, I'm afraid.

lizardrinking said...

Who knows, glo? Apparently the media machine is afraid of blogs now: Officials afraid of getting blogged down ;)

Though, I know you and I cannot solve things with our small literary contributions, we at least can choose to speak, and get some views out there. You are also right about the dehumanization (imho). Thank you for writing this ♥

Goldie said...

Oh Lizard, Lizard, Lizard. So, what solution do you propose? The "occupied" believe the solution is to destroy the "occupier". Any other suggestions, or is that the one you prefer?
I apologize if I'm coming on too strong. I have friends there. My parents have friends there. My family and I were this close to moving there in the 90s. There is only one side I can take in this conflict. Especially when one side has unreasonable expectations. You cannot just wipe out a country to make everybody happy. BTW this is not about religion. This was never about religion. This is a war over territory, and one of the sides wants all or nothing.

lizardrinking said...

Hey Goldie, maybe we shouldn't have our discussion on glo's blog. You can pop over to my blog if you like. My comments are moderated, so if you want to leave your email you can and we can discuss further.

However, not very quickly, the side that will not negotiate early this year said "We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition," (that's from Ha'aretz, has said that it will extend ceasefires,for decades,(from the Jewish Daily Forward) and did not break the last ceasefire (the Guardian). An Eye for an Eye, is not a good policy. But the death toll throughout the history of both areas, before the rise of Hamas, is hugely disproportionate and not in the Palestinians favour.

I'll direct you towards the Israeli, not the Palestinian, but the Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem. I am sure you can direct me to a million other sites as well. I happen to hold store in what the United Nations, Amnesty International and other Human Rights groups have reported (because at the end of the day they represent us all).

This is park rose, by the way, for the next time we both happen to be hanging out on the PAN website. I have Palestinian friends and also friends in Israel (though not currently).

I really enjoy your blog and your writing, too.

lizardrinking said...

Negotiation, I guess, is my solution. Implied above, but not stated directly :)

anglophile said...

Discuss away all you like. God forbid my blog should actually be read. ;)

David said...

BTW the meter of the poem is evocative of galloping horses. I know because I read it in a textbook when I was in grade school. ;oD