Jonah

Robert Graves 1895 (Wimbledon) – 1985 (Deià)

A purple whale
Proudly sweeps his tail
Towards Nineveh;
Glassy green
Surges between
A mile of roaring sea.

“O town of gold,
Of splendour multifold,
Lucre and lust,
Leviathan’s eye
Can surely spy
Thy doom of death and dust.”

On curving sands
Vengeful Jonah stands.
“Yet forty days,
Then down, down,
Tumbles the town
In flaming ruin ablaze.”

With swift lament
Those Ninevites repent.
They cry in tears,
“Our hearts fail!”
The whale, the whale!
Our sins prick us like spears.”

Jonah is vexed;
He cries, “What next? what next?”
And shakes his fist.
“Stupid city,
The shame, the pity,
The glorious crash I’ve missed.”

Away goes Jonah grumbling,
Murmuring and mumbling;
Off ploughs the purple whale,
With disappointed tail.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robert Graves

Robert von Ranke Graves was an English poet, scholar/translator/writer of antiquity specializing in Classical Greece and Rome, novelist and soldier in World War One. more…

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