Page images
[blocks in formation]

With knives and lancets arm'd; two thousand sheep

And twice two thousand lambs stand bleating round,

Their hungry god's repast: six loaded wains

With wines, and frankincense, and finest flour,

Move slowly. Then advance a gallant band,

Provincial rulers, counsellors and chiefs, Judges and princes: from their essenced hair

Steam rich perfumes, exhaled from flower or herb,

Assyrian spices: last, the common train Of humbler citizens. A linen vest Enfolds their limbs: o'er which a robe of wool

Is clasp'd, while yet a third hangs white

[blocks in formation]

A scene of rich magnificence display, Censers, and cups, and vases, nicely wrought

In gold, with pearls and glittering gems inlaid,

The furniture of Baal. An altar stands Of vast dimensions near the central stone,

On which the god's high-priest strews frankincense,

In weight a thousand talents. There he drags

The struggling elders of the flock; while near,

Stretch'd on a smaller plate of unmix'd gold,

Bleed the reluctant lambs. The ascending smoke, Impregnate with perfumes, fills all the air.

These rites perform'd, his votaries all advance

Where stands their idol; to compare with whom

That earth-born crew, which scaled the walls of heaven

Or that vast champion of Philistia's host,

Whom in the vale of Elah, David slew Unarm'd, were 'minished to a span. In


Twice twenty feet he rises from the ground;

And every massy limb, and every joint, Is carved in due proportion. Not one mine,

Though branching out in many a vein of gold,

Sufficed for this huge column. Him the priests

Had swept, and burnish'd, and perfumed with oils,

Essential odours. Now the sign is given,

And forthwith strains of melody Proclaim their molten thunderer; cornet, flute,

Harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, unite In loud triumphal hymn, and all at

[blocks in formation]

Thine eyeballs glare with fire. "Now by great Bel,"

Incensed, exclaims the monarch, "soon

as morn

Again shall dawn, my vengeance shall be pour'd

On every head of their detested race." He spake, and left the fane with hasty step, Indignant. tend,

Him a thousand lords at

The minions of his court. And now they reach

The stately palace. In a spacious hall, From whose high roof seven sparkling lustres hang,

Round the perpetual board high sofas ranged

Receive the gallant chiefs. The floor is spread

With carpets, work'd in Babylonia's looms,

Exquisite art; rich vessels carved in gold,

In silver, and in ivory, beam with gems. 'Midst these is placed whate'er of massy plate,

Or holy ornament, Nebassar brought From Sion's ransack'd temple; lamps, and cups,

And bowls, now sparkling with the richest growth

Of Eastern vineyards. On the table smokes

All that can rouse the languid appetite, Barbaric luxury. Soft minstrels round Chant songs of triumph to symphonious harps.

Propt on a golden couch Belshazzar lies, While on each side fair slaves of Syrian

[blocks in formation]

And as I quaff the cup, with loud acclaim

Thrice hail to Bel." They rose; when all at once

Such sound was heard, as when the roaring winds

Burst from their cave, and with impetuous rage

Sweep o'er the Caspian or the Chronian deep.

O'er the devoted walls the gate of heaven

Thunder'd, a hideous peal; and, lo! a cloud

Came darkening all the banquet, whence appeared

A hand (if hand it were, or airy form, Compound of light and shade) on the adverse wall

Tracing strange characters. Belshazzar

[blocks in formation]

"Then be it so; haste, Arioch, lead him here,"

Belshazzar cries; "if he interpret right, Even though my soul in just abhorrence holds

His hated race, I will revoke their doom, And shower rich honours on their prophet's head."

Nor long he waited, when with graceful step,

And awe-commanding eye, solemn and slow,

As conscious of superior dignity, Daniel advanced. Time o'er his hoary hair

Had shed his white snows. Behind him stream'd

A mantle, ensign of prophetic powers, Like that with which inspired Elisha


The parting waters, what time on the bank

Of Jordan from the clouds a fiery car Descended, and by flaming coursers drawn

Bore the sage Tishbite to celestial climes,

Maugre the gates of death. A wand he bore

That wand by whose mysterious properties

The shepherd of Horeb call'd the refluent waves

O'er Pharaoh and his host, with which he struck

The barren flint, when from the riven cliff

Gush'd streams, and water'd all the thirsty tribes

Of murmuring Israel. Through many

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Art thou that Daniel, whom Nebassar brought

From Salem, whom the vanquish'd tribes adore,

In wisdom excellent? Look there, look there;

Read but those lines," the affrighted monarch cries,

"And clothed in scarlet wear this golden chain,

The third great ruler of my spacious realm."

He spake, and thus the reverend seer replied:

"Thy promises, and threats, presumptuous king,

My soul alike despises; yet, so wills That spirit, who darts his radiance on my mind

(Hear thou, and tremble), will I speak the words

Which he shall dictate.

thy realm,

'Number'd is

And finish'd; in the balance art thou weigh'd,

Where God hath found thee wanting: to the Medes

And Persians thy divided realm is given."

Thus saith the Lord: and thus those words import,

Graven by his high behest. See'st thou this wand?

Ne'er has it borne, since first it left the trunk,

Or bud or blossom: all its shielding rind The sharp steel stripp'd, and to dry winds exposed

The vegetative sap; even so thy race Shall perish from thy barren stock shall rise

Nor prince nor ruler; and that glittering crown,

Won by thy valiant fathers, whose long line

In thee, degenerate monarch, soon must end,

Shall dart its lustre round a stranger's brow."

"Prophet of evils! darest thou pour on


Thy threats ill-ominous, and judgments dark?"

Incensed the monarch cries: "Hence to thy tribes;

Teach them obedience to their sover

eign's will,

[blocks in formation]

Yet such a potent virtue doth reside
In every part, that not the united force
Of all thy kingdom can one line, one

Of measure, or of solid weight impair. Wilt thou that I revoke thy destined fate?

Devoted prince, I cannot. Hell beneath Is moved to meet thee. See the mighty dead,

The kings, that sat on golden thrones, approach,

The chief ones of the earth. 'O Lucifer, Son of the morning, thou that vaunting saidst,

"I will ascend the heavens; I will exalt My throne above the stars of God; the clouds

Shall roll beneath my feet," art thou too weak

As we? art thou become like unto us?

[blocks in formation]

Versed in historic lore, shall mark the site

Of desolated Babylon." Thus spake The seer, and with majestic step retired.


Joy holds her court in great Belshazzar's hall,

Where his proud lords attend their monarch's call.

The rarest dainties of the teeming East Provoke the revel and adorn the feast. And now the monarch rises.-"Pour," he cries

"To the great gods, the Assyrian deities!

Pour forth libations of the rosy wine. To Nebo, Bel, and all the powers divine!

Those golden vessels crown, which erewhile stood

Fast by the oracle of Judah's God,
Till that accursèd race--"

[ocr errors]

But why, O king!

Why dost thou start, with livid cheek?why fling

The untasted goblet from thy trembling hand?

Why shake thy joints, thy feet forget to stand?

Why roams thine eye, which seems in wild amaze

To shun some object, yet returns to gaze,

Then shrinks again appalled, as if the tomb

Had sent a spirit from its inmost gloom?

Awful the horror, when Belshazzar raised

His arm, and pointed where the vision blazed!

For see! enrobed in flame, a mystic shade,

As of a hand, a red right-hand, displayed!

And, slowly moving o'er the wall, appear

Letters of fate, and characters of fear. In deathlike silence grouped, the revellers all

Fix their glazed eyeballs on the illumined wall.

See! now the vision brightens,-now 'tis gone,

Like meteor flash, like Heaven's own lightning flown!

But, though the hand hath vanished, what it writ

Is uneffaced. Who will interpret it? In vain the sages try their, utmost skill; The mystic letters are unconstrued still. "Quick, bring the Prophet! - let his tongue proclaim

The mystery of that visionary flame." The holy Prophet came, and stood upright,

With brow serene, before Belshazzar's sight.

The monarch pointed trembling to the wall:

"Behold the portents that our heart appall!

Interpret them, O Prophet! thou shalt know

What gifts Assyria's monarch can be


Unutterably awful was the eye

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »