Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to Asia


By John Milton (1608–1674)

WELL have we speeded, and o’er hill and dale,

Forest and field and flood, temples and towers,

Cut shorter many a league: here thou behold’st

Assyria, and her empire’s ancient bounds,

Araxes and the Caspian lake; thence on

As far as Indus east, Euphrates west,

And oft beyond: to south the Persian bay,

And, inaccessible, the Arabian drouth:

Here Nineveh, of length within her wall

Several days’ journey, built by Ninus old,

Of that first golden monarchy the seat,

And seat of Salmanassar, whose success

Israel in long captivity still mourns:

There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues,

As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice

Judah and all thy father David’s house

Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste,

Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis,

His city, there thou seest, and Bactra there;

Ecbatana her structure vast there shows,

And Hecatompylos her hundred gates;

There Susa by Choaspes, amber stream,

The drink of none but kings; of later fame,

Built by Emathian or by Parthian hands,

The great Seleucia, Nisibis, and there

Artaxata, Teredon, Ctesiphon,

Turning with easy eye, thou mayst behold.

All these the Parthian (now some ages past,

By great Arsaces led, who founded first

That empire) under his dominion holds,

From the luxurious kings of Antioch won.

And just in time thou com’st to have a view

Of his great power; for now the Parthian king

In Ctesiphon hath gathered all his host

Against the Scythian, whose incursions wild

Have wasted Sogdiana; to her aid

He marches now in haste; see, though from far,

His thousands, in what martial equipage

They issue forth, steel bows and shafts their arms,

Of equal dread in flight or in pursuit;

All horsemen, in which fight they most excel:

See how in warlike muster they appear,

In rhombs and wedges and half-moons and wings.

He looked, and saw what numbers numberless

The city gates outpoured, light-arméd troops,

In coats of mail and military pride;

In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong,

Prancing their riders bore, the flower and choice

Of many provinces from bound to bound:

From Arachosia, from Candaor east,

And Margiana to the Hyrcanian cliffs

Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales;

From Atropatia and the neighboring plains

Of Adiabene, Media, and the south

Of Susiana, to Balsara’s haven.

He saw them in their forms of battle ranged,

How quick they wheeled, and flying behind them shot

Sharp sleet of arrowy showers against the face

Of their pursuers, and overcame by flight:

The field all iron cast a gleaming brown;

Nor wanted clouds of foot, nor on each horn

Cuirassiers all in steel for standing fight,

Chariots, or elephants indorsed with towers

Of archers; nor of laboring pioneers

A multitude, with spades and axes armed

To lay hills plain, fell woods, or valleys fill,

Or where plain was raise hill, or overlay

With bridges rivers proud, as with a yoke;

Mules after these, camels and dromedaries,

And wagons, fraught with útensils of war.

Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp,

When Agrican with all his northern powers

Besieged Albracca, as romances tell,

The city of Gallaphrone, from thence to win

The fairest of her sex, Angelica,

His daughter, sought by many prowest knights,

Both Paynim and the peers of Charlemain.

Such and so numerous was their chivalry.