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Poem by Thomas Aird
The lights of joy at midnight hour Were up in ancient Babylon. Beauty and Pleasure, Pride and Power, Were gathered round Belshazzar's Throne. In farther halls the dance went on, A pomp of circling peers was nigh; Yet sate the King as if alone, In boding gloom, he knew not why. That midnight hour, forth came a Hand And wrote along the darkened wall. In fiery rows the letters stand, And flaming out the King appal. From round him, like a garment, tall The princely heads, awed to the earth. The Horror runs from hall to hall, Devouring up the distant mirth. When twice the King with manlier brow A glance of those dread letters took, Their bickering lightnings seemed to bow, And court his steady scanning look. But who their calm control might brook? Deep, deeper sunk the Monarch's head. Again the lines careering shook, And blazed impatient to be read. A pause like death! and far was heard The coming sound of stately feet: High prophet old, and mystic bard, Have left their nightly trancèd seat: The bold young Queen has bid them meet, When men with fear were faint and dumb: Low murmurs glad their coming greet; The star-taught Chaldee sages come. Their figured garments strangely shone, Far smitten by that lustrous flame; With measured footsteps slowly on Through lanes of prostrate heads they came. Emboldened by the starry name, Thick-coming faces crowd the hall. The Monarch owned the Magi's fame, And pointed to the wall—the wall! The seers of age the front resign, The younger have not dared to speak; The elements had there no sign, The wisdom of the stars was weak. Ire touched the Monarch's pallid cheek: “Hence!” cried he, “Prophets? Magi? Nay, Your boasted lore's an idle freak!” They bowed, and looked, and passed away. “Sire!” said the Queen, “I've dared to call Another sage, of Judah's land.” Betwixt the Sovereign and the wall Behold the Prophet Daniel stand! He turned when he the lines had scanned, But silent stood, by sorrow bowed; Till, at the King's renewed command, He read the words of God aloud:— “Mene! Thy realm God-numbered is, And finished to its utmost bound. Tekel! Thou in the balances Art weighed, and thou art wanting found. Peres! They come, the hosts renowned Of Medes and Persians, side by side; (List, list afar the gathering sound!) And they thy kingdom shall divide.” Seemed smote with dread the marble stone, As went the Prophet's footsteps slow; That flame of judgment on him shone, And made him like an angel glow. And there was terror, trembling, wo, And there was wail for Babylon; Sunk now in dumb surprise, for lo! Those letters from the wall are gone. But ha! a thousand thwarting cries Of multitudes confused and driven, Cry, “From Euphrates' bed they rise, The warriors of an angry Heaven!” With coming shouts the Palace riven, Near, nearer crowds the danger bring. The Persian swords! Nor space is given To guard and save that slaughtered King.
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