The Destruction of Sennacherib

This was my first literature paper this year, the essay on the Iliad (War or Peace?) is my most recent….

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Destruction of Sennacherib is a twenty-four line poem written by Lord Byron. Lord Byron writes using the Anapestic foot. The poem takes place during the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib, an Assyrian King. Lord Byron uses imagery, figurative language, and sounds to put feeling and expression into his poem.

Lord Byron uses imagery in his poem to bring you to the place and event he is writing about. At the beginning of the poem, Assyrian troops are marching down to Jerusalem to lay siege. Early morning finds many of the Assyrian soldiers dead. “There laid the rider distorted and pale…. The tents were all silent, the banners alone, the lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.” In the night, the Angel of Death had descended into the Assyrian camp and killed many of the enemy, both the horse and rider. The citizens of Ashur, an Assyrian city, wail and the idols in the Temple of Baal are broken. The Assyrians are gone; the Lord has smote them down.

Secondly, Lord Byron uses many similes and metaphors to describe the event. “…And the sheen of their spears was like the stars on the sea, when the blue wave rolls nightly on the Galilee. Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green, that host with their banners at sunset were seen.” Here the poet is bringing alive the Assyrian army portrayed in his writing. Comparisons similar to this is helpful for understanding what is happening in all six stanzas of the Destruction of Sennacherib. Later, the Assyrian army is described as a wolf closing down on a sheepfold, whereas the destruction of the army is compared to the melting of snow. This simile shows the power of the Lord compared to that of the Assyrians.

Finally, there are several examples of assonance and onomatopoeia within this poem, “The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold/ And his cohorts gleamed purple and gold,” is one form of assonance in Lord Byron’s poem. “…the windows of Ashur are loud in their wail…” The poet uses onomatopoeia to note the sadness and dismay of the Assyrians.

Lord Byron writes with imagery, metaphors and similes, as well as assonance and onomatopoeia to bring life to his poem. By using these tools, the poet expands on the Biblical account in II Kings 19 and helps the reader experience The Destruction of Sennacherib. “And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword / Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.”

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