Monday, June 22, 2009

Belshazzar poems

Interesting poems I happened across on the internet:

Belshazzar had a Letter
Belshazzar had a Letter—
He never had but one—
Belshazzar’s Correspondent
Concluded and begun
In that immortal Copy
The Conscience of us all
Can read without its Glasses
On Revelation’s Wall.

--Emily Dickinson (1879)

The Feast of Belshazzar
"Keep for thyself the guerdon and the gold-
"What God hath graved, God's prophet must unfold ;
"Could not thy father's crime, thy father's fate
"Teach thee the terror thou hast learnt too late
"Hast thou not read the lesson of his life,
"Who wars with God shall strive a losing strife ?
"His was a kingdom mighty as thine own,
"The sword his sceptre and the earth his throne
"The nations trembled when his awful eye
"Gave to them leave to live or doom to die
"The Lord of Life the Keeper of the grave,
"His frown could wither and his smile could save
"Yet when his heart was hard, his spirit high
"God drave him from his kingly majesty,
"Far from the brotherhood of fellow men
"To seek for dwelling in the desert den ;
"Where the wild asses feed and oxen roam
"He sought his pasture and he made his home,
"And bitter-biting frost and dews of night
"Schooled him in sorrow till he knew the right,
"That God is ruler of the rulers still
"And setteth up the sovereign that he will :
"Oh! hadst thou treasured in repentant breast
"His pride and fall, his penitence and rest,
"And bowed submissive to Jehovah's will,
"Then had thy sceptre been a sceptre still
"But thou hast mocked the majesty of heaven,
"And shamed the vessels to its service given,
"And thou hast fashioned idols of thine own
"Idols of gold, of silver, and of stone ;
"To them hast bowed the knee, and breathed the breath,
"And they must help thee in the hour of death.
"Woe for the sign unseen, the sin forgot,
"God was among ye, and ye knew it not !
"Hear what he sayeth now, ' Thy race is run,
"The years are numbered and the days are done,
"Thy soul hath mounted in the scale of fate,
"The Lord hath weighed thee and thou lackest weight ;
"Now in thy palace porch the spoilers stand,
"To seize thy sceptre, to divide thy land."

He ended and his passing foot was heard,
But none made answer, not a lip was stirred
Mute the free tongue and bent the fearless brow,
The mystic letters had their meaning now!
Soon came there other sound the clash of steel,
The heavy ringing of the iron heel
The curse in dying, and the cry for life,
The bloody voices of the battle strife.

That night they slew him on his father's throne,
The deed unnoticed and the hand unknown ;
Crownless and sceptreless Belshazzar lay,
A robe of purple, round a form of clay.

-- Edwin Arnold (ca. 1852)

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