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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities: Dardanelles (Hellespont)

Xerxes at the Hellespont

By Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886)

“CALM is now that stormy water,—it has learned to fear my wrath:

Lashed and fettered, now it yields me for my hosts an easy path!”

Seven long days did Persia’s monarch on the Hellespontine shore,

Throned in state, behold his armies without pause defiling o’er;

Only on the eighth the rearward to the other side were past,—

Then one haughty glance of triumph far as eye could reach he cast;

Far as eye could reach he saw them, multitudes equipped for war,—

Medians with their bows and quivers, linkéd armor and tiar:

From beneath the sun of Afric, from the snowy hills of Thrace,

And from India’s utmost borders, nations gathered in one place:

At a single mortal’s bidding all this pomp of war unfurled,—

All in league against the freedom and the one hope of the world!

“What though once some petty trophies from my captains thou hast won,

Think not, Greece, to see another such a day as Marathon:

Wilt thou dare await the conflict, or in battle hope to stand,

When the lord of sixty nations takes himself his cause in hand?

Lo! they come, and mighty rivers, which they drink of once, are dried;

And the wealthiest cities beggared, that for them one meal provide.

Powers of number by their numbers infinite are overborne,

So I measure men by measure, as a husbandman his corn.

Mine are all,—this sceptre sways them,—mine is all in every part!”

And he named himself most happy, and he blessed himself in heart,—

Blessed himself, but on that blessing tears abundant followed straight,

For that moment thoughts came o’er him of man’s painful brief estate:

Ere a hundred years were finished, where would all those myriads be?

Hellespont would still be rolling his blue waters to the sea;

But of all those countless numbers, not one living would be found,—

A dead host with their dead monarch, silent in the silent ground.