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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Mesopotamia: Babylon

Vision of Belshazzar

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

THE KING was on his throne,

The satraps thronged the hall:

A thousand bright lamps shone

O’er that high festival.

A thousand cups of gold,

In Judah deemed divine,—

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,

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,

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!”