The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Hebrew Melodies/Vision of Belshazzar



The King was on his throne,
The Satraps thronged the hall:[2]
A thousand bright lamps shone
O'er that high festival.
A thousand cups of gold,
In Judah deemed divine—[3]
Jehovah's vessels hold
The godless Heathen's wine!


In that same hour and hall,
The fingers of a hand
Came forth against the wall,
And wrote as if on sand:
The fingers of a man;—
A solitary hand
Along the letters ran,
And traced them like a wand.


The monarch saw, and shook,
And bade no more rejoice;
All bloodless waxed his look,
And tremulous his voice.
"Let the men of lore appear,
The wisest of the earth,
And expound the words of fear,
Which mar our royal mirth."


Chaldea's seers are good,
But here they have no skill;
And the unknown letters stood
Untold and awful still.
And Babel's men of age
Are wise and deep in lore;
But now they were not sage,
They saw—but knew no more.


A captive in the land,
A stranger and a youth,[4]
He heard the King's command,
He saw that writing's truth.
The lamps around were bright,
The prophecy in view;
He read it on that night,—
The morrow proved it true.


"Belshazzar's grave is made,[5]
His kingdom passed away,
He, in the balance weighed,
Is light and worthless clay;
The shroud, his robe of state,
His canopy the stone;
The Mede is at his gate!
The Persian on his throne!"

  1. [Compare the lines entitled "Belshazzar" (vide post, p. 421), and Don Juan, Canto III. stanza lxv.]
  2. —— in the hall.—[Copy.]
  3. In Israel ——.—[Copy.]
  4. [It was not in his youth, but in extreme old age, that Daniel interpreted the "writing on the wall."]
  5. Oh king thy grave ——.—[Copy erased.]