The Spirits of Nimrod

The Spirits of Nimrod

The Spirits of Nimrod
stood tall and stood fast
to guard empty castles
of empires past.

The spirits of marble
were shaken at last:
their wings broken off,
their beards ground to dust.

The proud heads of Nimrod
are curls without face,
their eloquent pedestals
frames without phrase.

Yet some still have lips
to whisper by dusk
and some stir their wings
deep under the mud.

The Spirits of Nimrod
will rise like the sun,
invincible eagles:
beware when they come!

Christina Egan © 2016

Ruins with many columns in arid, hilly land.

Invaluable buildings and sculptures of great antiquity and beauty have recently been destroyed by Daesh (so-called Islamic State). Nimrod was one place affected by those war crimes and Palmyra another.

These lines evoke the return of the gods — not as pagan deities but as statues: as witnesses of history and works of art, which we worship in our own way and will reconstruct, recreate, document, or remember.

Photograph: Diocletian’s camp in Palmyra, Syria (2010). By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Glazed Clay

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.Glazed Clay

Two mighty rivers’ ceaseless flow
beneath a high and cloudless sky;
to either side the ochre glow
of arid countries rolling by;

and here and there a golden maze,
the buildings’ cubes, the cities’ grid:
this jar with blue and brownish glaze
from Babylon still mirrors it.

Christina Egan © 2016

Mesopotamian jar (9th to 7th c. BC) Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The city and country of ‘Babylon’ were under Assyrian rule at the time the little jar was made, but I just used the name as the most familiar for all the civilisations of Mesopotamia.

For a German poem about Babylon with the Euphrates and the Hanging Gardens, see Die Hängenden Gärten.

The perfect elegance of this tiny everyday object is an example for the simple beauty I call for in Fewer Things, where you can also see a red Roman bowl. 

Ein Muster aus Muscheln / Greek Islands

Ein Muster aus Muscheln

Ein Muster aus Muscheln und Bernstein und Bein,
mit Karneol und Koralle durchsetzt,
auf lapislazuliblauem Grund:
So leuchten die Inseln im Sonnenschein,
vor dreitausend Jahren… und letzthin… und jetzt:
ein Mosaik, ein vollendeter Fund.

Vors Fenster des sinkenden Flugzeugs gespannt,
vom Guckloch des finsteren Turmes gerahmt
– nur einen Moment – nur einen Moment –
das Muster aufs wartende Auge gebannt,
die Farben ins wache Gedächtnis gemalt:
ein Bild, das nach dreißig Jahren noch brennt.

Christina Egan © 2016

Standard_of_Ur_BM_121201

Standard of Ur (2500 BC). – Photograph© The Trustees of the British Museum.

I am showing this ancient object – twice as old as our classical antiquity – because it must have inspired my poem about Greece. The images on the box are made of shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, but I did not remember those details or  even think of the thing. When you have the chance to go to London, do not miss out on the Sumerian galleries of the British Museum!

The longing for a return to Greece, both for the Mediterranean environment and for the ancient civilisation, is also expressed in On Eating Olives / Beim Olivenessen  and in Greek Islands  (below). There are a number of poems about Crete in German and English on this website.


Greek Islands

There is more blue in the air
between here and the horizon,
between morning and evening,
than the cup of the eye can hold.

So my soul may flow over
into the sky,
into the sea,
into this scattered paradise…

Christina Egan © 2012 


On the topic of the blue Mediterranean Sea, see also Meine blaue Mauer  and O Heimatland aus Stein und Licht. On the manifold colours of the same sea, see The Purple Sea / Das lila Meer.

Die Hängenden Gärten / Palmyra Perennis

Die Hängenden Gärten

Schwarz liegt der Strom, von Gestirnen benetzt,
blendend erhebt sich der Herrscher der Nacht
über die Hängenden Gärten,
über den künstlichen Gipfel,
welcher den Hügel ins Flachland versetzt,
welcher den Wald in die Großstadt gebracht,
über die plätschernden Gärten,
über die flüsternden Wipfel…
Flimmernd erhebt sich die Harfe zuletzt,
warm liegt die Stadt in versilberter Pracht.

Christina Egan © 2015

Basalt stone with carved images of trees, with a building, an animal and a man

The city of Babylon. Assyrian, 7th c. BC. —
© The Trustees of the British Museum
(Ref. no. 00032445001)

These musical lines evoke Babylon by night:
the moon and stars reflected in the Euphrates,
the Hanging Gardens rising above the big city,
murmuring fountains and a sparkling harp…
It could be the instrument which rises
sparkling like a star — or its voice.

Palmyra Perennis

Sank auch der stolze Bogen dahin mit dreifachem Seufzer,
ragt uns sein Bildnis im Geist schwerelos über dem Sand.
Sind auch zum Staube gekehrt der Ahnen goldene Hallen,
tragen das Erbe wir fort: sanften Triumph der Vernunft.

Christina Egan © 2015

For a picture of the ruins of Palmyra and a comment on
this poem on enlightenment, please look at my
MOTTO.

The view that cultural vandalism should be recognised as
a war crime akin to genocide has been discussed recently.