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



Belshazzar! from the banquet turn,
Nor in thy sensual fulness fall;
Behold! while yet before thee burn
The graven words, the glowing wall,[2]
Many a despot men miscall
Crowned and anointed from on high;
But thou, the weakest, worst of all—
Is it not written, thou must die?[3]


Go! dash the roses from thy brow—
Grey hairs but poorly wreathe with them;
Youth's garlands misbecome thee now,
More than thy very diadem,[4]
Where thou hast tarnished every gem:—
Then throw the worthless bauble by,
Which, worn by thee, ev'n slaves contemn;
And learn like better men to die!


Oh! early in the balance weighed,
And ever light of word and worth,
Whose soul expired ere youth decayed,
And left thee but a mass of earth.
To see thee moves the scorner's mirth:
But tears in Hope's averted eye
Lament that even thou hadst birth—
Unfit to govern, live, or die.

February 12, 1815.
[First published, 1831.]

  1. 1.

    The red light glows, the wassail flows,
    Around the royal hall;
    And who, on earth, dare mar the mirth
    Of that high festival?
    The prophet dares—before thee glows
    Belshazzar rise, nor dare despise
    The writing on the wall!


    Thy vice might raise th' avenging steel,
    Thy meanness shield thee from the blow
    And they who loathe thee proudly feel.—[MS.]

  2. The words of God along the wall.—[MS. erased.]
    The word of God—the graven wall.—[MS.]
  3. Behold it written ——.—[MS.]
  4. —— thy sullied diadem.—[MS.]