Monday, July 11, 2016

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

1 The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.

2 A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.

3 Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.

4 My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.

5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.

6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

7 And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:

8 And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:

9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.

10 O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.

11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.

13 The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.

14 The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.

15 For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.

16 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail:

17 And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it.
- Isaiah XXI (KJV)
Both explainers missed Hesiod's "Works and Days". The classics must be dead. What the hell would "princes" be doing in a watchtower? For only One ever "climbed a tower" with a joker and a thief.
(On a watchtower of the citadel of Agamemnon in Argos.)


A long watch. It has been years now of peering
into this blackness. High on the citadel tower,
my eyes fixed on the sky's blank slate, I wait
and pray for a sign, a discernible gleam. I stare
at nothing. A dog's life! Chained up, I can feel
that single sharp bark, a lump in my throat
I shall, in time, cough out.
Meanwhile the lofty
stars overhead spin in contempt or, worse,
in unconcern, as the seasons they signal come
and go and the wind blows hot or cold.
Either way,
I'm stuck here, black behind me, a deeper black
out there, until the spark of that signal fire
shows red as blood or the flames raging at Troy.
She commands it, whose strength of will is such
that, if she were not queen, she would be our tyrant.
At the thought of her narrowed eyes, my own grow wide
in fear that sleep would close. I stamp my feet
through the long night, or sometimes sing or recite--
anything to keep awake. Or weep
at the fate of our royal house with its dire troubles,
the price, sometimes, of grandeur.
Every moment
is an unendurable knife edge, but all together
they stretch out making a plane of time ... I pray
for that signal of my release from this hard duty
to flash out in the indifferent heavens.
(The signal fire flashes.)
Is it? Can prayers at last be answered? Yes!
The blaze of truth! The light at the end of the night
that breaks as we were about to despair. Rejoice,
and dance the dance of thanksgiving.
Ho, there! Ho!
Let the queen be summoned. Rouse her from bed
and bid her light the torches of joy that gleaming
light in the distance kindles. Sing and dance,
for Troy is taken. We are at peace!
A long
watch it was, but it's over. The master comes
bringing us the richest gift of his triumph,
the miracle of ordinary days.
(A slight pause, as his mood changes.)
Words fail. Like a dumb beast I will stare
at his face and kiss his hand.
What can we say,
any of us who have lived to see this day,
of the troubles of his house?
Not a single word!
- Aeschylus, "The Oresteia"

For "princes", the watchtower that stands above their high walls receives signals that their enemy's reign is finally over. But how "secure" is their own? Or is there a new threat, a enemy deploying, upon their horizon? May the "oil" of justice liberally anoint your shields, my princes. For the enemy worth fearing approachest not from without.
Advice for the Prince's Watchmen.

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