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Tone In "The Destruction Of Sennacherib"

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Tone in "The Destruction of Sennacherib"

In Lord Byron's poem "The Destruction of Sennacherib" the narrator's tone is one of amazement. It's clear to see that he is amazed a how quickly and easily the huge enemy army is wiped out. He says that the enemy's army was as numerous as the leaves on the trees and that their spears shined like the "stars on the sea", but all the angel of death had to do was "spread his wings" to dispose of them. The speaker seems to be in awe of how little effort it took the death angel to wipe them out, because he says that all the angel had to do was breath on them and they died. Finally, he seems to be in awe of how total the destruction of the enemy was, saying that their idols broke and that their might "melted like snow".

In the beginning of this poem, the speaker describes the might of the enemy army to the reader. He says that the Assyrians were ruthless and that they were a force feared by all. To describe their ferocity, he compares them to wolves coming down on a flock of sheep. When a predator such as a wolf attacks a prey it usually does so without warning and without mercy, so we can picture this army just appears on the edges of the territory, ready to strike and kill or enslave as many people as they can. He also says that "the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea ", which causes the reader to not only picture this army of vicious Assyrians at the edges of the kingdom, but also to see the spears that they were carrying shining in the light, a pretty scary thing if you were inside of that city. (1080)

Not only does the line talking about the spears contribute to the dread that Jerusalem, the town under siege, must have felt, but it also gives you a hint of how many enemy soldiers there were. Because it uses stars in his comparison, we can assume that they looked as numerous as stars shining off of not just a lake but a whole sea. Another way the speaker shows us how large their numbers were is his comparison between them and the leaves in a forest during summer. This helps us to complete the picture that Jerusalem saw when they looked out at their attackers, a huge army as large as the leaves contained in a forest, with so many spears they shined like stars on a sea. (1080)

Next, the speaker describes the destruction of the once mighty army. By his choice of wording we can almost see his awe at the ease the army was destroyed with. Even though in the bible it isn't clear as to how exactly they died, he says that the "Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast" when he annihilated them, and that it took nothing more to kill them then that. He also says that the angel "breathed in the face of the foe ... And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still"; he didn't say the angel struck them down or slaughtered them, only that he breathed on them and their hearts stopped and they died. To put it into perspective and understand what must be going through the speaker's mind, we also must remember that he wasn't just talking about a few soldiers that died, he was talking about almost two hundred thousand men that died overnight, so it's easy to see that the narrator has to be in a state of awe over the whole situation. (1080)

He also talks about how suddenly and unexpectedly they were killed, saying that the rider was laid out on the ground, still in his armor with the morning dew on his face. And though it isn't said explicitly, judging from the fact that the rider was suited up, that the rider was described as being distorted, and that the narrator uses the same beginning of the line to introduce the rider and his steed, one could conclude that the rider may have still been on his horse when he died. If that is the case, it would mean that it wasn't a slow or painful death, but that he just died and fell on the ground where he lay in a distorted fashion because of his falling off the horse. Once again this wasn't just an isolated event; everyone in the whole army just died wherever they were.



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