Thomas Aird

Fall of Babylon

'Twas midnight hour—in that deep hour
Proud lights were up in Babylon;
Each palace-hall was pleasure's bower,
Yet sat the king as if alone:
His heart was touch'd with chill of stone,
He look'd around and knew not why;—
In farther halls the dance went on;
And circling nobles crowd his eye.
Yet sunk that eye half desolate:
His glance relax'd its princely rein:—
Fell on his heart a gloomy weight
Like sense of sure nor distant pain.
Even beauty's eye was light in vain;—
The distant mirth was half a scream,
And bowing nobles seemed again
The figures in a ghastly dream.
The tide of mirth that flow'd the scene,
Seem'd broke with pauses fearfully;
And boding silence sunk between
Like deeps in the enridged sea.—
Thus bow'd by sense of near decree,
The monarch's heart forsook the hall—
That dreadful hour—came suddenly
A darkness blotting half the wall—
And fiery signs in letter'd row
Began to run along the gloom;—
Their spangled lightnings chase and show
An eager Hand and mighty plume.
Declare the lines and spell the doom—
The pen and Hand have pass'd away.—
A monarch's pride—his looks presume
To ask for more,—to scorn their stay:—
One moment—but the furrows tell
Of trembling visage all he dreads:—
From round him like a garment fell,
The pomp of proud encircling heads.
And beauty hid her startled lids—
And boldest looks were smote to earth:—
The shudd'ring cry of horror spreads
And gains upon the distant mirth.—
Their lustre smote his pallid brow,
Till haughty glance he dar'd and took;
Then sunk their fires and seemed to bow
And court the monarch's steady look.
But who their calm control might brook?
And deeper sunk the monarch's head,
Again the lines careering shook
And blaz'd impatient to be read.
A pause like death—and far was heard,
The coming sound of stately feet;—
High prophet old and mystic bard,
Hath left his nightly tranced seat.
Who dar'd the hour and bade them meet?
Bold virgin queen when men were dumb.—
A thousand hearts the vision greet,
The star-taught Chaldee sages come.
Their mystic garments strangely shone
By lights eclips'd of steady flame
But rayless length—and sweeping on
Through lane of prostrate heads they came.
Embolden'd by the astral name,
A thousand aspects throng the hall;—
The monarch own'd their ancient fame
And pointed to the wall—the wall.
The seers of age the front resign,—
The younger have not dar'd to speak,—
The elements had there no sign,
The wisdom of the stars was weak:—
And horror blanch'd the monarch's cheek,
And half was wrath—“a sword might slay
These children of an idle freak”—
They bow'd, and look'd, and pass'd away.
“Yet sire again I dare to call,
“Behold the seer of Judah's land,”—
He stood betwixt the king and wall,
A youthful front of deep command.
He turn'd,—his soul the words have scann'd—
In silence thrice:—“Proclaim abroad;—”
'Gainst proffer'd boon he wav'd his hand,
And boldly read the lines of God.
“Thy scale is light, though fill'd with blood,
“Thy kingdom is another's dower:—
“On high shore of Euphrates' flood
“A warrior stood in midnight hour;
“He ponder'd much on thrones and power,
“But God came down and rul'd his soul,—
“‘My sword 'gainst Babylon, devour’—
“This night is in that stern control.”
Seem'd smote with dread, the marble stone
As went the prophet's footsteps slow:
The lustrous lines against him shone,
And made him like an angel glow.
And thrice he turn'd and bow'd him low,
And thrice he wept for Babylon—
That shout of joy o'er murmur'd wo!—
The figures from the wall are gone.
A thousand, thousand thwarting cries
Of multitudes confus'd and driven!—
“Cry—from Euphrates' bed they rise
“Like warriors of an angry heaven.”
With nearer shouts the palace riven—
And nearer crowds the danger bring—
The Persian swords!—nor space is given
To throng around their slaughter'd king.

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