1. What are some meanings of the word “burden”? Are there later references to a burden (or to any of its meanings) in the poem?
  2. Why do you think Rossetti chose a statue of a winged bull as the subject of his poem? Were there previous poems on art objects with which the Victorian reader might have been familiar?
  3. Is the sculptor of this art object seen as important? If not, what is the focus of the poem’s view of this artifact?
  4. The narrator has been lingering in the British Museum. What “prize/ Dead Greece vouchsafes to living eyes” may he have been looking at? Does he mock the remains of Greek art in the same way as Assyrian art is mocked, and if not, what may account for the difference?
  5. What is the poem’s meter and rhyme scheme? How are these appropriate for its subject?
  6. What would the average Victorian reader have known about Nineveh, and in what book would they have read this?
  7. How is the winged bull initially described? (st. 2) What are some implications of these descriptions?
  8. What aspects of its imagined history does the poet evoke? (sts. 3-8) Which aspects of its presence have remained constant? What choices are made in portraying the Assyrian rulers Sennacherib and Semiramis?
  9. How is the statue received in London? (st. 8) Why is it described as “poor god”? What may have been the substance of the tracts on “Rome,--Babylon and Nineveh”? Is the poet sympathetic to their contents? Does his view differ substantially from theirs?
  10. What ironies and incongruities does the poet find in the fact that the Museum houses gods from several ancient cultures? (st. 9)
  11. What effect is created by the series of questions in stanzas 9-11? What juxtapositions create a sense of Nineveh’s vast history?
  12. What is symbolic about the effect of sunlight upon the opened excavation site? (st. 12) What events of Biblical history are introduced, and why? (sts. 13-14)
  13. Why is Nineveh described as “delicate harlot”? (st. 15) What does the statue represent to the speaker? (st. 16)
  14. What is significance about the changed light in st. 16? What sense of possible futures overwhelm the future, and what changed circumstances do these imply? (st. 17-19)
  15. What aspects of Victorian culture does the speaker imagine may be ignored by a later age? What may they recognize?
  16. What latent significance is conveyed by the description of the bull in the final stanza?
  17. What seem to be some of the poem’s final messages? What should be the viewer’s attitude toward the artifacts of past cultures? Does the poem support a notion of progressive civilizations?
  18. What are some of the poem’s merits?