Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST, by PEDRO CALDERON DE LA BARCA

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Stay! / why stay? The road is free
Last Line: What the poet had intended.
Subject(s): Religion; Theology





Enter The Thought, dressed in a coat of many colors, as The Fool, and after
him Daniel, detaining him.

Thought.— Why stay? the road is free.
Tho.— Why stop? the coast is clear.
Dan.—Hear me!
Tho.— I don't want to hear.
Dan.—See though———
Tho.— I don't want to see.
Dan.—Who before, in words like these,
Questioned thus, has thus replied?
Tho.—I, for I, by rules untied,
I alone say what I please.
Dan.—Say, who art thou?
Tho.—Thy not knowing
This offends me, I confess:—
Tells it not to thee this dress
With a thousand colors glowing,
Like the many-hued emission
The chameleon's skin gives out,
Leaving its true shade in doubt?
Hear, then, this, my definition:—
I am of those attributes
In which deathless being prideth;
I that light am which divideth
Man's high nature from the brute's.
I am that first crucible,
In which fortune's worth is tested—
Swift as sunlight unarrested—
Than the moon more mutable:—
I have no fixed place wherein
To be born, or live, or die.—
On I move, yet know not I
Where to end or to begin.
Fate, how dark or bright it be,
Ever at its side beholds me;
Every human brain enfolds me,
Man's and woman's—none are free.
I am in the king his care,
When he plans his kingdom's weal;
I am vigilance and zeal,
When his favorite's toils I share.
I am guilt's sure punishment,
Self-reproach in the offender;
I am craft in the pretender,
Foresight in the provident.
In the lady, I am beauty;
In the lover, his romance;
In the gambler, hope of chance;
In the gallant soldier, duty;
In the miser, money-madness;
In the wretch, his life's long dearth;
In the joyful, I am mirth;
And in the sorrowful, am sadness;—
And, in fine, thus strangely wrought,
Restless, rapid, on I fly,
Nothing, everything am I,
Since I am the Human Thought.
See, if such strange changes give
Thee, O Man, true views about me,
Since the thing that lives without me,
Scarcely can be said to live.
This I am for each and all,
But to-day I am assigned
To the King Belshazzar's mind—
He for whom the world's too small.
Though in fool's clothes dressed completely,
I am not sole fool; and why?
Just because in public, I
Try my best to act discreetly.
Since a fool 'twere hard to find
More incurable than he
Who would do, or say, or be
What he thought within his mind.—
Thus few wear the fool's-cap feather,
Although most that badge might win,
For, when looked at from within,
We are madmen all together—
Fools of the same kith and kin.
And, in fine, I, being a fool,
Did not like to stop and pause
Here to speak with thee, because
It would outrage every rule,
That we two were joined, and trod
On together, badly mated;
For if "Daniel," when translated,
Meaneth Wisdom as of God,
It were difficult to try
To keep up a conversation,
We being in our separate station,
Wisdom thou, and Folly I.

Dan.—Yet to-day I know no rules
That forbid our casual speaking,
Thou the way of the wise man seeking—
I not stooping to the fool's:
For, although the distance be
Great 'twixt wise and witless words,
Still 'tis from two different chords
Springs the sweetest harmony.
Tho.—Well, I'll answer with decision,
And get over my confusion,
Since it is a right conclusion
Thought should tell the Prophet's vision.
Dan.—Say what pleasure, deeply drawn,
Art thou now in spirit drinking?
Tho.—Of the bridal I am thinking,
Which, to-day, all Babylon
Celebrates with festive roar.
Dan.—Now the bridegroom's name declare.
Tho.—King Belshazzar, son and heir
Of Nabuchadónosór,
Heir of pride, by pride increased:—
Dan.—Who is, then, the happy bride?
Tho.—She who rules the Orient wide—
The fair Empress of the East,
Cradle of day's infancy.
Dan.—An idolatress, is she?
Tho.— Yes,
And so great an idolatress
She is herself Idolatry.
Dan.—Is he not, in marriage vows,
Wed already to a wife,
In the vanity of life?
Tho.—Yes; but then his law allows
Two, or even a thousand wives;
And, though wed to Vanity,
Now for Paganism he,
With imperious passion, strives,
Daniel, or "God's Wisdom," names
(For the two are one) to thee
Given by Scripture.
Dan.— Woe is me!
Tho.—Would you wed yourself the dames
That you thus take on you so? (Aside.)
This to tell was wrong, I see.
Dan.—Woe! God's people! woe to thee!
Woe! unhappy kingdom, woe!
Tho.—If the truth were told, thy deepest
Pain is now the contemplating
The great bride-feast celebrating,
While a captive here thou weepest.
This it is that saddens thee;
For if he had chanced to wed
With the Jewish rite instead,
Thou wouldst be redeemed and free;—
(Clarions are heard.)
Hark! the distant music sounds;
Now I pass to other things;
Babylon with rapture rings,
Every heart with joy rebounds,
Welcoming, with jubilee,
The new Wife-Queen. Let us go.
Dan.—Woe! unhappy kingdom, woe!
Woe! God's people! woe to thee! (They retire.)


Peal of trumpets. Enter Belshazzar and Vanity at one side, and Idolatry,
fantastically dressed, at the other, with Attendants, Followers, etc.

Belshazzar.—Crown thy fair forehead at this feast,
With all the dazzling splendor of the East,
If for so bright a diadem
The sun itself is not too dull a gem.
Beauteous Idolatry,
Queen of my kingdom, dearer queen to me,
Thrice welcome be the hour
That thou to Babylon's imperial bower
Hast come; where, o'er thy royal head,
My greatness a fit canopy shall spread—
Presenting at thy feet
The noblest statues, the most rare conceit,
By sculptor ever wrought for man to adore,
Which, with whole holocausts from every shore,
Their fealty shall pay
In gold, in silver, bronze, and stone, and clay.
Idolatry.—Great King of Babylon,
Generous Belshazzar, earth's most potent son,
Whose sacred name sublime
Defeats oblivion and defieth time,
Because its Hebrew sense
Translated, means a hidden and immense
Unfailing treasure; She—the happy She—
Empress of Day's fair house—Idolatry,
Queen of the Orient clime,
Where the young sun, resplendent and sublime,
Receives the homage first of wondering eyes—
Himself the primal source of wonder and surprise—
She to thy kingdom comes to-day—
By right she to thy altars finds her way,
Because, when from the Flood's abysmal throes,
The World, like some great swimmer, struggling rose,
Here in this kingdom, here,
First polity arose, and codes severe,
And laws commanding and remitting things—
The human fond idolatry of kings;
Then followed after the divine,
With gods and votive flames at every shrine.
Thus Nimrod was adored;
Thus Moloch, 'mid the fires that round him roared.
Nor undeserved such heights of honor deem—
Nimrod for king was held, Moloch for god supreme.
Then followed after (a stupendous sight!)
As many idols as to-day unite
These bridal-rites auspicious to attend,
For here with offerings strange, that clash or blend,
Full thirty thousand barbarous gods behold,
In clay, in stone, in bronze, in silver, and in gold.

Tho.—(In the background, aside to Daniel.) Could Thought
himself a happier life invent?
What! thirty thousand gods all different!
Man need not fear to ask whate'er he choose,
One god will grant what other gods refuse.—
And thou, O Judah's Son!
What canst thou hope to gain from only One
I tremble but to think of or to name?
How can one god hear each particular claim
Among so many?
Dan.—(Aside to Thought.) He alone can hear;
His hand it is that holds the universe, far and near.
Bel.—(To Idolatry.) Speak to fair Vanity, until this morn
My only bride; and since you both were born
Of one idea, my ambitious duty
Is to unite you thus: What loveliness! What beauty!
(He looks from one to the other, standing between them.)

Idol.—Let me embrace thee, haughty Vanity.
Vanity.—Eternal must such sweet embracements be.
Idol.—Beauty like thine would pierce my heart like steel,
If the divine could aught of envy feel.
Van.—Splendor like thine would turn my heart to stone,
If jealousy were a thing to Vanity known.
Bel.—(Aside.) One day doth darken to another day,
Whilst thus my trembling soul, in sweet dismay,
Doubts which of these is fairer—the sweet face
Of Vanity, or proud Idolatry's grace;
For each is fair, as each fond tongue deceives me,
Or calls me king, or as a god receives me.
Idol.—Why art thou standing in such deep suspense?
Van.—What thought has seized thy mind and drawn it hence?
Bel.—Thy glorious beauty, O Idolatry! fires me;
Thy voice, O Vanity! whispering sweet inspires me.
And thus, in order to divert my sadness,
Moved by thy beauty, and thy words of gladness,
To-day, my grief forsaking,
I wish to woo, and win ye two, thus making
Idolatry be sharer of my glory,
And Vanity proclaim my conquests' wondrous story:—
Of that haughty King Nabuco,
To whose valorous hand triumphant,
To whose majesty and splendor
Fortune, fate, and power were subject;
Of that lightning of Chaldea,
Which, as from a sphere of thunder,
Bursting, left Jerusalem
Weeping 'mid its fires unnumber'd;
Of that king, who captive led
All that was of Jewish culture,
Best of blood and birth, who still
Pine in Babylonian dungeons;
Of that king who, from the Temple,
Golden cups and treasures plunder'd—
Sacred spoil which, round my throne,
Casts a new and dazzling lustre;
Of that king, in fine, who fed
On the green grass and the stubble
Of the fields, half man, half beast,
Hair-clad as with plumes of vultures—
I am son, fair deities.—
And to be in all things worthy
Of my father's fame and kingdom—
Of his fame, as of his fury—
The high gods whom I adore
Have bestowed such noble nurture
On me, that my breast, I doubt not,
Bears repeated, or redoubled,
His proud spirit: thus succeeding
To his soul as heir, it worketh
In my body, if two bodies
Ever so with one soul flourished:—
Not to be, then, Sovereign King
Of the lands that with their currents
Tigris or Euphrates bathes,
Or the sun in his effulgence
Lights—those numerous lands which he
Rises early from his slumbers
But to see (that so his task
May be over ere the sunset)—
Can the thirst of my ambition
Satisfy or well keep under;
Nothing can do that, I feel,
Be it madness or presumption,
Until I o'er all these mountains
Am sole ruler or usurper.
'Tis the region of Senaar,
'Tis that rude and rigorous country,
Which beheld, 'twixt heaven and earth,
That stupendous strife and struggle,
When the pride of daring men
Boldly, but with little judgment,
Built, to counteract the gods,
Towers that soared sublimely sunward.
And that thou, O Vanity!
Mayest thy triumph know still further,
Thine, too, O Idolatry!
Listen, and be mute with wonder.
Calmly was the world enjoying,
In its first primeval summer,
The sweet harmony of being,
The repose of perfect structure;
Thinking, in its inner thought,
How from out a mass so troubled,
Which, by poesy, is called
Chaos, and by Scripture Nothing,
Was evolved the face serene
Of this azure field unsullied
Of pure sky, extracting thus,
In a hard and rigorous combat,
From its lights and from its shadows,
The soft blending that resulteth,
From the earth and from the waters,
The elaborate knot that couples,
By dividing and disparting,
Things which (each one taken asunder)
Form a separate something so,
But when all are joined, are nothing:—
She considered how the earth,
Though till then a wild uncultured
Waste it lay, grew bright with flowers,
Painted of a thousand colors;
How the vacant air was peopled
With the blithe birds' flight and flutter;
How the silver sea grew brighter,
As the fish clove through its surges;
How the fire, its torches twain,
Sun and moon, with fresh flames furnished,
Day and nights' undying lamps,
Night and day forever burning.
Finally, she thought of Man,
Who of all His glorious works here
God has fashioned like Himself,
As Creation's crowning wonder:—
Vain of such transcendent beauty,
All restraint she soon trod under,
Since for Beauty to be vain,
Is as ancient as the world is.
Vain and beautiful in truth,
An eternal home she judged it,
Not perceiving that for crimes,
Such as those that she indulged in,
Was reserved a universal
Deluge for her sure destruction.
In this fatal confidence,
Vicious men alone consulted
Their own passions; sin-possessed,
They to gluttony were subject;
They to avarice, anger, lust,
They to pride and self-indulgence.
Growing angry then, the gods,
From whom nothing can be curtained,
Counsel took to destroy the world,
Which to make had cost such trouble.
Not red deluges of lightnings,
Forged and falling from heaven's furnace,
Worked their wrath; but flames of water—
Since, of gods, the sire and sovereign,
Often thunders with the snow-fall—
Often with the fire inundates:
Covered thick was Heaven with clouds,
Dense, opaque, and dark, and turbid,
For though angry, that it might
Not revoke the absolute justness
Of the world's dread sentence, wished
Not to see the rigorous fullness
Of its own revenge; and thus
Hid itself in clouds and thunder—
Wrapped itself in robes of darkness—
For even God, being God, oft suffers,
When His wrath He most exhibits,
Slight excuses to o'ercome it.
First began a dew as soft
As those tears the golden sunrise
Kisseth from Aurora's lids;
Then a gentle rain, as dulcet
As those showers the green earth drinks
In the early days of summer;
From the clouds then water-lances,
Darting at the mountains struck them,
In the clouds their sharp points shimmer'd—
On the mountains rang their butt-ends;
Then the rivulets were loosened,
Roused to madness, ran their currents—
Rose to rushing rivers—then
Swelled to seas of seas:—O Summit
Of all Wisdom! Thou alone
Knowest how Thy hand can punish!
Drinking without thirst, the globe
Made lagoons and lakes unnumber'd;
Then a mighty sea-storm rushed
Through the rents and rocky ruptures,
By whose mouths the great earth yawns,
When its breath resounds and rumbles
From internal caves. The air,
In a prison dark and murky,
Now was held, which lower air,
When it sought to reach the upper
Roared confined—the palpitation
Of its fierce internal pulses
Making the great hills to shake,
And the mighty rocks to tumble.
The strong bridle of the sand,
Which the furious onset curbeth
Of the white horse of the sea
With its foam-face silver fronted,
Loosened every curbing rein,
So that the great steed, exulting,
Rushed upon the prostrate shore,
With loud neighing, to o'errun it.
The scared wild beasts, dispossessed
Of the savage caves that nursed them,
Flying to air-piercing peaks,
Might have thought, with slight presumption,
They were birds. The birds, too, swimming,
Might have thought some power had turned them
Into fishes; and the fishes,
Seeing earth's great caves and culverts,
Might have thought themselves transformed
Into land-beasts; for so jumbled
Was each separate species, that
In this moment of convulsion
('Twixt two waters, as we say
Of a man in doubt and trouble),
The poor bird, and beast, and fish
Roamed disconsolate and discursive,
Seeking where skin, scale, and plume
Might some sheltering home discover.
And at the last paroxysm,
When despair's lethargic dullness
Numbed each nerve, in mighty fragments
Burst the world's great frame asunder:
And as one, when drowning, strives,
With convulsive arm, to struggle
'Mid the waves, which, at their will,
Raise or sink him like the plummet,
Thus the World, in life's last throes,
Struggled so, and so was worsted.
Here a palace was prostrated,
There was hid a peak's proud summit,
Until utterly o'erwhelmed,
Amid groans and dying murmurs,
To the depth of forty cubits,
Water every portion covered—
Tomb too small for corse so great,
Was the ocean it lay under.
Forty sunless mornings rose,
For the clouds hung dark and dusky,
Mourning the sad obsequies
Of the mighty form defunct there.
That first saving ship alone,
Safe 'gainst every wild wave's bluster,
Borne upon the swelling sea,
Floated free o'er all its surface—
In such vicinage to the stars,
Near, so near, the day-star's lustre,
Venus was its topmast's lantern,
And its beacon-fire Arcturus:—
To this ship had Noe's care
What remained of the world conducted,
There depositing, in safety,
Every species that earth nurtures,
Till the moment came, the sea,
To its God-given laws made subject,
Wondering, saw once more, once more,
The pale earth, now moist and musty,
With its tangled, matted hair,
Full of wrinkles, cracked and crumpled,
Lifting up its mournful face,
Touched, but warmed not, by the sunbeams,
Lifting its sad countenance,
Draped with sea-weeds, dank and muddy,
And in silent eloquence,
With a grateful heart saluting,
O'er the Ark, the bow of peace,
Shining golden, green, and uddy.—
Thus men's second Adam came,
And a second birth resulted
In the numerous living things
With which all the earth was furnished.
Nimrod, son of Canaan, heir
Of the thrice-transmitted curses,
He and his, a hateful brood,
Full of evil and injustice,
All the broad lands of Chaldea,
With their families and sons there,
Occupied; their sons, of whom
Each was of a size so bulky,
As to seem a moving mountain,
Formed of members and of muscles.
These, then seeing that an Ark
Saved the world, conspired, consulted,
With a fabric more ambitious—
With a safe and surer structure—
How to counteract Heaven's anger,
By a force so proud and stubborn,
As might, in a second deluge,
Save, restore, and reconstruct them.
They to make a lofty tower
Mountains upon mountains tumbled,
And the proud neck of the earth,
Bending 'neath so great a burden,
Felt as if it needs must break
From the pressure that it suffered,
So that with the weight it groaned,
So that with the load it shudder'd.
Higher grew the tower, and higher
The ambition of the workmen
To a double height to raise it,
For there were none there but further'd
The great work, intent to see
The tall tower's stupendous structure—
Straight as the Ionic column,
Strong and simple as the Tuscan,
A huge hindrance to the winds,
The moon's plaything and obstructor.
Now with its imposing front
Had it the blue sky encumber'd,
And its great trunk in the air,
As with shadowy night had blurr'd it,
When, in all the pomp and pride
Of this daring and presumption,
Heaven was pleased to stop its course,
For it was displeased, disgusted
To behold the attempt to scale
Heaven's high walls, by God constructed
And that, therefore, by assault
Man should never gain the summit,
It such varied forms of language
Introduced among the workmen,
That not one could understand
Even the words himself had muttered.
Voices mingled all together
Inharmoniously concurrent—
Sounds were spoken, human sense
Ne'er before had heard or utter'd;
This one knew not what was said,
What he heard confused the other,
So that every order given
Caused confusion, cries, and blunders.
Two and seventy tongues were those,
Which these men with strange and sudden
Impulse spoke—it pleasing Heaven
To inspire so great a number.—
Two and seventy dialects
Echo, which each sound redoubles,
Quickly formed from every tongue;
So that men, confused and puzzled,
Almost rushed from their own selves—
That is, if one e'er so rushes.
And so ceased the mighty siege:
Nothing from the attempt resulted—
Nothing of that wondrous fabric—
Nothing of that glorious structure.
For a cloud, with storm-fire pregnant,
That to a more swift destruction
It might bring it, from its entrails
Darted flames, and smoke, and sulphur,
Making of the tower's high daring
Its own solemn tomb sepulchral—
Monument, and pyre, and urn,
Of its ruined walls constructing.
I, then, seeing that my breast
Even for Nimrod's glory thirsted,
Think that from the existing ashes
Of the tower that so has crumbled,
I am he who should rebuild it.
Since in synchronous conjunction
Vanity and Idolatry
To this high achievement urge me:
Since if thou wilt give the boldness
That to empire must conduct me;
If, for me, the gods thou movest—
If thou, Vanity, giv'st me succor,
If, Idolatry, thou dost aid me,
Who will dare deny, distrustful,
That thus, desperate and undaunted,
I so great a deed can compass?
Idolizing thy proud beauty—
Vain of thine, too, so effulgent—
Sacrificing to thy idols,
Of thy favor ever trustful,
Kneeling reverent at thy altars,
In fruition of thy fulness,
Upon plates of gold and silver,
High embossed or deeply sculptured,
Shall my name endure forever,
While the years of time are numbered.
Idol.—At thy feet thou'lt see me lie,
Ever fond, and faithless never.
Van.—Ever, O Belshazzar! ever,
Of thy life, the light am I!
Idol.—Wouldst thou have a god's position?—
Thee, as God, will I adore!
Van.—And my wings, that thou may'st soar,
I will give to thy ambition!
Idol.—Crowned by me, thy star shall live,
Though the dark cloud round it gathers.
Van.—I, a ladder of light feathers,
So to scale the sun, will give!
Idol.—I, in sculpture's fair relief,
Shall thy form to time hand down!
Van.—I, the laurel of thy crown
Shall increase by many a leaf!
Bel.—Give me both your hands: I've trod
Doubtful paths, but this embracing—
This close bond—this interlacing—
What shall break?
Dan.—(Advancing.) The hand of God!
Bel.—Who has ventured—who is he
That has dared this bold reply?
Tho.—I it was not.
Bel.— Who, then?
Dan.— I!
Bel.—How, O Jew! and can it be,
That you thus so bold have grown,
In Jerusalem, the holy,
Late a captive, now a lowly
Dweller here in Babylon?
Exiled from that natal sod,
Which a home, a shelter, gave you;
Poor and wretched, what can save you
From my power? (Half draws his dagger.)
Dan.— The hand of God!
Bel.—(Aside.) Oh! this potent voice that dares me—
Strong to stop the heart's pulsations—
Makes me wonder at my patience,
From my very anger scares me;
Something strange, mysterious, odd,
Marks us two.—(Aloud.) Since I intend thee
Here to die, can aught defend thee?
Speak! say what?
Dan.— The hand of God!
Tho.— (Aside.) How he the upper hand maintains!
Van.—Leave him, for I can't express,
How I loathe his lowliness.
Idol.—How his faith my faith disdains!
Bel.—Safe from my chastising rod
Take your life; but you should know,
It to these two queens you owe,
Not unto the hand of God!
(Exit with Vanity, Idolatry, and Attendants.)


Daniel, Thought.

Thought.—You have got off nicely now,
And I thank you for the lesson,
Since when any troubles press on
My attention, I know how,
In a moment's time, to clear me;
I, not knowing why or wherefore,
Need but say "God's hand," and therefore
Every soul about must fear me.
Since the thing's so nicely planned,
That at hand good guardians hide here,
Let us, shaking hands, divide here;
Go, in God's name, to God's hand. (Exit.)


Daniel. Presently, Death.

Daniel.—Who, O Lord of night and day!
Can endure these dread offences—
Sinful Vanity's pretences,
Bold Idolatry's display?
Who will end so great an ill?
Who will give my faith full scope,
'Neath the buckler of my hope,
To avenge such wrongs?
(Enter Death, wearing a sword and dagger, and dressed
symbolically in a cloak covered with skeletons.)
Death.— I will.
Dan.—Awful shape, to whom I bow,
Through the shadowy glooms that screen thee,
Never until now I've seen thee;
Fearful Phantom, who art thou?
Dea.—Daniel, thou Prophet of the God of Truth,
I am the end of all who life begin;
The drop of venom in the serpent's tooth,
The cruel child of envy and of sin.
Abel first showed the world's dark door uncouth,
But Cain threw wide the door and let me in;
Since then I've darkened o'er life's checker'd path
The dread avenger of Jehovah's wrath.
From Sin and Envy, then, I first drew breath,
That these two furies might possess my breast;
Through envy is it that I give white death
To all who have the light of life possessed;
Through sin it is my dark breast treasureth
Death for the soul, for souls die like the rest:
If to expire doth bring, with dolorous dole,
Death to the body, sin doth kill the soul.
If from God's Judgment thou thy name dost take,
And I, with fatal flash, must strike the blow,
Since 'neath my feet as victims I must make
All things that live, or think, or breathe, or grow,
Why art thou frightened at me? Why dost quake
With what is mortal in thee, weak and low?
Take courage, then, and let us two, to-day,
God's Judgment thou, and I His Power display.
Though 'tis no wonder thou art frightened—no,
Even wert thou God, to look and gaze on me,
Since when will come the flower of Jericho—
The blood-bright beauteous rose of Calvary,
He, in his human part, though God, will show
A trembling fear; and when He yields to me,
The stars will fall, spark after mighty spark—
The moon grow pale, and even the sun grow dark.
This hapless fabric shall appear to fall,
This lower sphere shall feel the earthquake's shock;
The earth shall faint as at the end of all,
And flower on flower lie crushed, and rock on rock;
Long ere the evening spreads her purple pall,
Long ere the western sky shall fold his flock
Of fleecy clouds, the day shall die, and night
Don its dark cloak in mourning for the light.
But my sole duty in this present hour,
O Wisdom sent of God! is thee to obey;
Give thy commands, the deathless need not cower,
And that which cannot die, may surely slay;—
Mine is the arm, but thine the motive power—
Mine is the work, but thou must point the way;
So great my thirst of life is, that its rage
Not even an angry deluge could assuage.
The proudest palace that supremely stands,
'Gainst which the wildest winds in vain may beat—
The strongest wall, that like a rock withstands
The shock of shells, the furious fire-ball's heat:
All are but easy triumphs of my hands—
All are but humble spoils beneath my feet;
If against me no palace wall is proof,
Ah! what can save the lowly cottage roof?
Beauty, nor power, nor genius, can survive,
Naught can resist my voice when I sweep by,
For whatsoever has been let to live,
It is my destined duty to see die.
With all the stern commands that thou may'st give,
I am, God's Judgment, ready to comply;
Yea, and so quickly shall my service run,
That ere the word is said the deed is done!
In the brief respiration, which between
The heart and lip doth flow, while life doth last,
The movement of the marvelous machine
Will, by a breath be stopped, and all be past!
Corse of itself, the heart will then be seen
To fall, like some lost world through chaos cast,
And that which was the throne of life become,
By just decree, its sepulchre and comb.
I Nimrod's fields shall waste with burning fire,
I shall bring low proud Babel's rabble rout,
I shall the dreams of Behemoth inspire,
I shall the plagues of Israel pour out,
I Naboth's vines shall stain with dyes of Tyre,
I the bold front of Jezebel shall flout;
I shall revengeful Absalom's beard make red
With the warm blood of Amnon foully shed!
I shall the majesty of Achab smite,
Dragged in his crimson chariot o'er the plain;
I with the daughters of the Moabite
The unsullied tents of Zambri shall profane;
I shall the spears of Joab guide aright,
And if a greater glory I can gain,
I shall inundate, in my sateless mood,
Senaar's broad plains with lost Belshazzar's blood!
Dan.—Minister severe and just,
Agent of an angry God,
Thou whose dread judicial staff
Is a scythe and not a rod;
Since we two His dread tribunal
Represent here, I would not
That the awful book's decree—
Book that, in all strictness, ought
To be book the best remembered,
But which is the most forgot,
You should execute, until,
In a voice with pity fraught,
You have given him needful warnings,
Ere his final doom is wrought.
King Belshazzar's name doth mean
Hidden treasure, and I know
That, 'mong men, their souls, unseen,
Like a hidden treasure glow.
His I wish to win; and thus
Only give thee leave to go
To Belshazzar, to awake him
To a sense of coming woe:
Make him think that he is mortal;
And as anger the swift blow
Oft suspends, the sharp sword clutching
Ere that it unsheathes it—so
I permit that you should clutch it,
But that you unsheathe it, no. (Exit.)


Death, solus.

Death.—Woe is me! how great a yoke
On my hapless head you throw!
O'er my feet what chains of ice!
O'er my hands what numbing snow!
By thy precepts bound, O thou
Type of God's unfathomed course!
Death is without any vigor,
Anger without any force.
That he is a mortal man,
To remind him, and no more,
Faintly adumbrates my rigor,
Gives my voice, but not my roar.—
Thought, come hither.


Thought, Death.

Thought.— Who doth call me?
Death.—I am he who called.
Tho.— And know
I am just the one who'd rather
Ne'er be called to thee to go.
Dea.—Why, what reason have you?
Tho.— Dread.
Dea.—What is dread?
Tho.— The fear I show.
Dea.—What is fear?
Tho.— Why, fear is terror.
Dea.—What is terror?
Tho.— Pictured woe.
Dea.—Ah! you speak an unknown language;
None of all these things I know.
Tho.—Then you give the thing you have not.
Dea.—It, not having, I bestow.
Tell me, where is now Belshazzar?
Tho.—In the garden there below,
With the two he worships.
Dea.— Place me
With him. Swift as winds that blow,
Bear me thither.
Tho.— I will do so,
Since the courage to say no
Wholly fails me.
Dea.— How most just
Is God's precept this doth show,
That to make him think of me,
With his very Thought I go. (Exeunt.)


Enter Belshazzar, Idolatry and Vanity.

Idolatry.—Oh! my lord, what sudden sadness———
Vanity.—Oh! my lord, what painful throe———
Idol.—Interrupts thy conversation?
Van.—Thus disturbs thy fancy so?
Belshazzar.—Ah! I know not this strange pain.


Enter Thought, followed by Death.

Thought.—(To Death.) Come, he's here.
Belshazzar.— I only know
I was thinking of the threats
By the prophet's voice foretold,
In what way God's promised hand
Would its vengeance wreak.
(The Thought recedes, letting him see Death, who was behind him.)
Dea.— Behold!
Bel.—What is this I see, O Heavens?—
Phantom, that no blood doth warm,
Vision, feigning form and voice,
Without having voice and form!
Say, how didst thou enter here?
Dea.—With his light the bright sun throws
Shadow also: I'm the shadow,
If he as the World's Life glows,
I am the World's Death, and thus
I can go where'er he goes;
Since to lights and shadows space
Equally possession owes.
Idolatry.—(Aside.) Who is this at sight of whom
We two here are left forlorn?
Bel.—Why at every step of thine
Does my pride seem backward borne?
Dea.—'Tis because thy steps turn back;
Mine press on untired, unworn.
Tho.—(Aside.) It was wrong in me, I see,
To have borne him to his bourne.
Bel.—Say, what wouldst thou, and who art thou,
Light or Shadow?
Dea.— I'm no more
Than a creditor of thine,
Who wants payment of the score.
Bel.—What do I owe thee? What do I owe thee?
Dea.—Here is the whole debt you owe,
In this note-book written down.
(Takes out a memorandum-book.)
Bel.—'Tis a false and treacherous blow,
For this note-book is mine own,
Lost by me some time ago.
Dea.—Yes; but then the memoranda
Which you lost, I found;—and so
Read them.
Bel.—(Reading.) "I, the great Belshazzar,
Of Nabuco-Donosór
Son, confess my mother's womb
Me in sin conceived and bore,
And that I received a life———
(Oh! I freeze to read it o'er!)
Which I'm bound to pay to Death,
When and where, on sea or shore,
He is pleased the debt to claim:—
'Tis the primal bond of yore
Moses' pen transcribed, to which
Adam, Job, and David bore
Their attestation." 'Tis too true,
I confess it; but implore
For my life extended time.
Dea.—Well, I'm liberal now, the more
That this is not the fixed day
When God's Mercy will be o'er.
And that you, Belshazzar, may
Recollect the debt hencefore,
Take this note of highest wisdom,
On the dread memorial pore.
(Exit, giving Belshazzar a paper.)


Belshazzar, Idolatry, Vanity, The Thought.

Belshazzar.—"It is written, how the Spirit
Spoke to man these words of woe:
Dust thou wert, and dust thou art,
And dust thou'rt doomed to be:" Oh! no:
Was I dust, and I immortal?
Am I dust, yet no end know?
Can I yet be dust?—the mighty?—
'Tis delusion to say so.
(Stands musing, while Thought moves rapidly round him.)
Thought.—I, the Thought, as fool, dance round
All my masters, high and low.
Bel.—Is not Idolatry divine?
Tho.—(Moving toward Idolatry.) Lady, now to you I go.
Bel.—Is not Vanity a goddess?
Tho.—(Moving toward Vanity.) Now to you my cares I owe.
(Moves round both.)
Bel.—How my vacillating Thought
'Twixt the twain goes to and fro!
Idolatry.—(To Vanity.) What can this strange scroll contain,
That can thus divert him so
From ourselves?
Vanity.—(Taking the paper from him.) In this way we
Will find out.
Tho.— A clever throw!
The memorial of Death
Vanity takes from him so.
Bel.—What is this that passes from me?
Van.—Useless leaves that thus I throw
To the winds, to be their sport.
(Tears up the paper, and scatters the pieces about.)
Bel.—Then you both were here? Is't so?
Idol.—What has happened?
Bel.— Oh! I know not;
Some knight-phantom, spectre, ghost,
All engrossed my phantasy,
My discourse, my words engrossed:
But whate'er the phantom was,
It, with all its horrid host,
Has evanished. Was it much
Night fled frightened—sure to know
That in your bright eyes the sun
Would be seen so soon to glow?
And not only unto me,
Not to me, it seems, alone,
Shines the light that thus illumes me—
Beams the splendor o'er me thrown—
But to the whole garden: since
Dark was the red orient zone
Of the sun, till you it saw;
Then, indeed, the morn arose—
Rose with double light; your eyes
Flash two suns; your cheeks disclose
Two auroras;—waiting these
Day kept dark his realm of rose.
Van.—Since we're suns, then, and auroras,
From its world-wide worship old,
Idolatry must be the sun,
I the aurora, pale and cold,
By the greater light outshone.
Thus to her the valley owes
All the splendor it enjoys;
Since from shadowy night's repose
'Tis not the aurora wakes it,
But another sun that glows!
Idol.—I concede that thou'rt aurora,
And to give thee first place so,
I concede that I'm the sun;
For 'tis on the beauteous snow
Of aurora's clouds of pearl
That the sun's first roses glow.
And her light thus being the first
Over his a charm to throw,
Then aurora's light must be
Fairer than the sun's can show,
Since it shone into the valley
Earlier than the sun's could go.
Tho.—Wit and Beauty here compete
Which the higher place shall hold;
And since now the garden bowers,
In sweet rivalry enrolled,
Call us to their founts and flowers—
On this couch of green and gold,
Woven by the hand of spring,
Sit ye down. The birds' sweet notes
Woo us, and among the boughs
A delicious soft air floats
Murmuring music, while the leaves
Tremble as its breath steals o'er—
Where in flowing fragrance glide
Streamlets by an emerald shore,
And in frankincense and myrrh
Spreads the meads' enameled floor.
(They all sit down, Belshazzar being in the midst. Idolatry takes
off his hat, and fans him with the plume.)
Idol.—With this beauteous tuft, whose plumes
Vanity's fair fingers wove
From the peacock's radiant tail,
Worthy of the wife of Jove,
I will fan thee.
Tho.— Wer't not better
That was left to me, who go
Thus about, the subtle fan
Of the Thought? But no; not so—
Since 'tis only in appearance
A Japan-faced fan I show.
Van.—Listening to my voice and lute,
Shall the light breeze linger o'er.
Bel.—Oh! the music of aurora
Shall not touch the inmost core
Of my heart with tenderer feeling
Than the song your sweet lips pour,
Even when morn, with pearl and flower,
Welcomes the young day once more.
Van.—(Singing). Yes, Belshazzar is divine,
Since to-day to his high praises
Statues proud Idolatry raises,
Vanity erects a shrine.


Enter Death.

Death.—(Aside.) Borne in rapid flight along,
Here sweet notes salute mine ears,
False as are the crocodile's tears—
Fatal as the siren's song.
Vanity hath done this wrong,
Driving from his thoughtless brain
All remembrance of my pain.
Let my shadow then affright him,
Let my awful shape excite him
To new fears, since words are vain.
Henbane and the poppy's juice
With your slumberous spells enthrall him;
Let my pallid shape appal him
In the dreams that you produce.
Pour, as from some Stygian sluice,
Visions words cannot express,
Typical of me no less—
Frenzy, lethargy, illusion,
Poison, horror, and confusion. (Belshazzar sleeps.)
Vanity.—Seems he not to slumber?
Idolatry.— Yes.
Van.—Then a glad delusive show,
From the realm of shadows taken
(That more proudly he may waken),
I athwart his dreams shall throw. (Exit.)
Idol.—I desire, too he should know
To what daring heights and deeps
My proud pinion soars and sweeps.
Thought.—Here I lay my burden down,
For I only sleep, poor clown,
When my lord Belshazzar sleeps. (Lies down to sleep.)


Belshazzar and Thought asleep; Death.

Death.—Man the rest of slumber tries,
Never the reflection making,
That, O God! asleep and waking,
Every day he lives and dies;
That a living corse he lies,
After each day's daily strife,
Stricken by an unseen knife,
In brief lapse of life, not breath,
A repose which is not Death,
But what death is teaches life:—
Sugared poison 'tis, which sinks
On the heart which it o'ercometh,
Which it hindereth and benumbeth.—
And can a man then live who poison drinks?—
'Tis forgetting, when the links,
That gave life by mutual fretting
To the Senses, snap, or letting
The imprisoned five go free,
They can hear not, touch, or see:—
And can a man forget this strange forgetting!—
It is frenzy, that which moves
Heart and eyes to taste and see
Joys and shapes that ne'er can be:—
And can a man be found who frenzy loves?—
'Tis a lethargy that proves
My best friend;—in trust for me,
Death's dull, drowsy weight bears he,
And, by failing limb and eye,
Teaches man the way to die:—
And can a man then seek this lethargy?—
'Tis a shadow, which is made
Without light's contrasted aid,—
Moving in a spectral way,
Sad phantasmal foe of day:—
And can a man seek rest beneath such shade?—
Finally, 'tis well portrayed
As Death's Image: o'er and o'er,
Men have knelt its shrine before,
Men have bowed the suppliant knee,
All illusion though it be:—
And can a man this Image then adore?—
Since Belshazzar here doth sleep,
Since he hath the poison drank,
Since he treads oblivion's blank,
Since no more his pulses leap,
Since the lethargy is deep,
Since, in horror and confusion,
To all other sight's exclusion,
He has seen the Image—seen
What this shade, this poison mean—
What this frenzy, this illusion:
Since Belshazzar sleepeth so,
Let him sleep and never waken,
Be his body and soul o'ertaken
By the eternal slumber.
(He draws his sword, and is about to kill him.)


Daniel rushes in.

Daniel.— No!
(He holds back the arm of Death.)
Death.—Who withholds my arm?
Dan.— Thy blow
So to stop, 'tis I: because
Payment is not due: to laws
Life and death are subject still,
Till their number they fulfill,
Thou, O Death! perforce must pause.
Dea.—And thy weeks their round will fly
(Cruel fate! O pain severe!),
They will end and disappear
When the Sinless One will die
For the sinner's sake: But why,
O thou judge of what I dare!
Why delay? With scornful air
They to-day mock me and thee—
Listen, there is Vanity,
Look, Idolatry is there.


Belshazzar and Thought, asleep; Death, Daniel, Vanity, Idolatry; A Statue.

The back scene opens: at one side a bronze equestrian statue is seen, the
bridle of which is held by Idolatry; and at the other side, upon a tower, Vanit
y appears, plumed with many feathers, and having an instrument in her hand.

Idolatry.—Babylon's great king, Belshazzar,
Thou who, in sweet sleep's soft meshes,
Thus the sepulchre of thyself,
Diest living or livest deadened. ....
Vanity.—Babylon's great king, Belshazzar,
Thou who on the fresh and verdant
Turf-tomb of the spring here liest
Corse-like, yet with soul unsevered. ....
Belshazzar.—(In his sleep.) Who doth call me? who doth call me?
But if I my dreams may credit,
Still, O Vanity! still I see thee,
O Idolatry! still thou'rt present.
Idol.—I, divine Idolatry,
From the sun-god first descended,
Unto thee to raise this statue,
Come from Heaven's high halls eternal,
That your Image on the earth
May be reverenced and respected.
Van.—I, the Vanity of the world,
In the abysses first engendered,
And 'mong men being born, for sphere
Have Heaven's vacant void selected,
Worthily to enshrine thy statue,
I this fair fantastic temple,
Dedicate to thee, this structure,
Built upon the wind with feathers.
Bel.—(In his sleep.) Oh! what triumphs so exalted,
Oh! what flatteries sweet and pleasant,
Altars, offerings, prayers, and incense,
Thou, Idolatry, dost present me;—
Oh! to think that my proud statue
With the mightiest shall be reckoned:—
Rise! O Vanity! rise and crown thee
With Dominion's circling emblems—
Prove your essence, one by rising,
One by falling, prove your essence.
(The Statue descends, and the Tower rises, while Vanity and
Idolatry sing.)
Idol.—(Singing.) Down, O Statue, down to be
Worshipped wide on every shore.
Van.—(Singing.) As a shrine for evermore,
Rise, O Tower of Vanity!
Idol.— Downward sink!
Van.— And upward soar!
The Two.— Since to-day the breezes bore. ....
Idol.— Statues consecrate to me. ....
Van.— And a shrine to Vanity.
Death.—Daniel, oh! my hand let loose;
Let me with one bold stroke level,
Even as mighty Samson once,
Both the idol and the temple:—
Daniel.—I shall leave it—O swift comet
Winged with fire!—unchecked, unfetter'd,
When the day of wrath comes round:
But until that day descendeth,
This bronze statue shall recall
To his mind another metal,—
Yea, a brazen trumpet, which,
Touched by my command, shall threaten,
Like the trumpet of the Judgment.
Dea.—For us both this course is better,
Since when that dread trumpet soundeth,
The whole universe must tremble
To its base and die: and so,
O thou mighty mass of metal,
In thy breast, even as its soul,
Say what damnéd spirit dwelleth!
Bare thyself even to thyself,
False bronze deity or devil! (Exit, with Daniel.)


Belshazzar and Thought, asleep; Vanity, Idolatry, The Statue.

Statue.—King Belshazzar!
Belshazzar.— Oh! what would'st thou,
Strange illusion, phantom, spectre,
Why afflict me, why attack me?
Sta.—List! and let the waking senses
Of the soul attend and hear me,
While those of the body rest them;
I, against Idolatry turn,
Turn as if a brazen serpent,
Since, even as a serpent dies,
I must die in mine own venom;
And while my hard lip of bronze
Slowly gives its iron message,
Let those flatteries of the wind,
Song and music, be suspended.
I that Statue am, which he,
Nabuchodonosor saw, of many
Metals made, with feet of clay,
Which a stone, by heaven directed,
Struck and crushed, a stone which fell
From the mountain of God's mercy:—
No, in vain thou would'st extort
Worship which high heaven rejecteth,
For I once, such worship seeking
From the Hebrew youths, God's servants,
Lit the Babylonian furnace,
Where, indeed, their faith was tested
By the fire that raged around them,
But in which it was not melted.
Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago,
By their lives this day attest it.
All the gods whom thou adorest,
Matter-formed of earth are earthy;
Thou adorest bronze in Moloch,
Gold in Astaroth thou respectest,
Wood in Ball, in Dagon,
Stone in Baalin, and the welded
Iron in the gods of Moab:—
And as now my voice expresses
The great God's decree, ye two
To its metal sounds surrender!—
Rend your feathers! break your statues!
(The Statue rises and the Tower descends.)
Vanity.—Oh! I burn.
Idolatry.— With cold I tremble!
Van.—In the rays of another sun
Has my flight abruptly ended.
Idol.—In the light of another faith
Has my darkness been disperséd.
(Vanity and Idolatry disappear, and the scene closes.)


Belshazzar, Thought.

Belshazzar.—(Awaking.) Hear me! linger! listen! wait!
Oh! do not so soon desert me,
Such sweet Vanity! such proud rapture!
Thought.—(Awaking.) Why this outery? what affects thee?
Bel.—Ah! my Thought, I do not know:—
Since, when as a god I felt me,
Since, when sovereign lord I called me,
And awake from such sweet error,
'Tis thy foolishness alone,
'Tis thy folly I find present.
Tho.—What has passed then? What has happened?
Bel.—In pale sleep, as here I rested,
I beheld my various glory
In one dazzling dream collected.
High I saw my Vanity soar,
Till her starry brows touched heaven,
From her golden empire down
My Idolatry descended.
This to me a Statue raised,
That a glorious Fane erected,
And they scarce had raised the two,
That the Statue, this the Temple,
When a voice of bronze, a trumpet,
Which even yet doth make me tremble,
Burned, of this, the feathery fane—
And of that, the image melted—
Leaving to the winds the spoil
Of their ruins' smoking embers. ....
Woe is me! poor Vanity
Is the fleeting flower whose freshness
Blooms upon the almond tree,
And the rose, whose blood is reddened
By the Sun, Idolatry;
That, with facile fall surrenders
Easily to the first faint sigh,
Which the angry north wind threatens;
This, when absent dies the day,
Faints, or folds the crispéd velvet
Of its buds. Brief sun, brief rose,
Against Time's assaults so helpless!


Belshazzar, The Thought, Idolatry.

Idolatry.—No, a voice shall not conclude my story,
No fraud shall rob my triumphs and my glory;—
The pomp that I display,
Shall make this night outshine the light of day.—
Belshazzar, Prince Supreme,
For thee a god, more than a king, I deem.
Whilst thou in sweet suspense
Of sleep gave rest to every weary sense,
Making a truce with thought,
My love, with thy best interests ever fraught,
Its faithful watch would keep,
For fond affection knows not how to sleep.
A supper, rich and rare,
Full of all dainties cunning could prepare,
Things yet unknown to taste,
Are all, by my prevision, duly placed:
What every sense could wish
Breathes from each vase, or tempts from every dish:
Upon the sideboards glow
Rich gold and silver vessels all a-row,
And many a costly prize,
Whose brightness gives a dropsy to the eyes.
Sweetest perfumes
Breathe their delicious fragrance through the rooms
From emerald braziers filled with souls of flowers
That died in fair Arabia's happy bowers:
Sole food, as thou thyself can'st tell,
That satisfies the hunger of the smell.
The music, too, in well-accorded note,
Nor yet too near, nor yet too far remote,
From many a silken string, and mellow horn,
Quenches the thirst wherewith the ear is born.
The table-cloths of white,
Around whose 'broidered edges pinks unite
With clustered lilies, which commingled throw
A brighter brightness o'er the blinding snow
On which they lie; give to the wondering touch,
A smooth surprise it cannot feel to much.
Nectar, ambrosia, such as gods might claim,
Cold, icy drinks 'tis freshness but to name,
From the rich orange and the rose distilled,
For thee, in golden goblets shall be filled,
To please thy taste, that so in joyous state,
With every course the cups should alternate.
And that these cups may be
To-day the surest proof of victory,
The vessels sacred then to Israel's God,
Which Nabuchodonosor, unawed,
Bore off from great Jerusalem, the day
When a remoter East received his sway,
Command them here to bring:—
This night, with them, thou'lt pledge the Gods, O King!
And thus profane the temple's sacred store,
In honor of the idols I adore:
For sweet dessert, let these my arms suffice,
Inventing, feigning, every fond device
By which, as in a cipher's interlacing,
Thy greatness may be known from my embracing,
Love's sweetest manna this, in which unite
Smell, tasting, touch, the hearing, and the sight.
Belshazzar.—In seeing thee, the memory fades away,
Of all the solemn thoughts I held to-day,
Thy living light in lustrous beauty beams,
I wake and find thee fairer than my dreams.
Thy light, alone, I feel,
Can from my heart the fatal sadness steal,
That keeps it so dejected.
Thought.—By heaven! this is but just what I expected,
You're not so foolish, though not overwise:
As such a glorious supper to despise:—
Let there be feasting, let us be jolly,
This night, at least, we'll banish melancholy,
My folly rises now to exaltation,
By cynics sometimes called inebriation.
Bel.—Let the gold vessels, which within the shrine
Of conquered Judah, flowed with mystic wine
For Israel's priests, those cups so richly chased,
Be filled for me too.
Tho.— I admire your taste.
Bel.—Go for them.


Belshazzar, The Thought, Idolatry, Vanity; Music, Attendants, etc.

Vanity.—(Entering.) Stay; for I the vessels bring,
From Vanity's hands receive the cups, O King!
Idolatry.—Set out the tables for the supper here,
Close by the summer-house.
Thought.— For me? Oh! dear.
Idol.—For thee, my friend? Why, who here spoke of thee?
Tho.—He who says supper, speaks he not of me?
For if I am to sup, the thing is clear,
Señora, that the supper standeth here,
And this reminds me of an antique song,
Brief is the moral and the stave not long. (Sings.)

"Supper for me was made, I think,
Since I was born to eat and drink,
For in easy mood, I submit to food,
When the wine is old and the meat is good."
(The table is brought in, on which the sacred vessels are
displayed; the attendants commence serving the banquet.)
Belshazzar.—Here take your seats ye two; along the sides
Sit ye, my friends, and take what heaven provides;
When even the Temple gives us cups at call,
Be sure the supper has been meant for all:—
Now, let the thanks that to the gods belong,
From your full hearts find utterance in song.
This table, O Idolatry!
Is an altar raised to thee,
O Vanity! thou'rt here adored,
Since, a thing without example,
The rich vessels of the Temple
Decorate Belshazzar's board.
(They all take their seats at the table.)


Enter Death, disguised as one of the Attendants.

Death.—(Aside.) To the great feast of the king,
Thus disguised I freely enter:
Since at this great supper I
Am concealed and unsuspected,
I believe that I can hide me
'Mong the crowd of his attendants.
Careless here Belshazzar sits,
And of me has no remembrance,
Circled by his women round,
By his nobles and dependents.
Those rich cups which Solomon
To the one true God presented,
And with which his holy priests
Sacrificial rites effected,
Here but grace his banquet board. ....
Oh! thou Judgment of the Eternal,
Loose thy hand now, let mine loose, too,
For he surely hath the measure
Of his sins at last accomplished
In a sacrilege so dreadful.
Belshazzar.—Give me wine.
Thought.—(To Death.) Halloo! ho! comrade,
Have you an attack of deafness?—
Bring the king a cup of wine,
Whilst I to this dish address me.
(He draws a dish to himself and begins to eat.)
Dea.—(Aside.) For a servant I am taken:—
Well, the cup I will present him,
Since he can't know me, he who
Is so blinded and forgetful.
(He takes a gold goblet from the table.)
This rich vessel of the altar
Holds life in it, it is certain,
Since the soul, athirst for life,
Finds in it its sure refreshment.
But it also holds within it
Death as well as Life; its essence
Is of life and death commingled,
And its liquor is the blended
Heavenly nectar and the hemlock—
Bane and antidote together— (Aloud.)
Here, O Monarch! is the wine.
(He presents the cup to the King.)
Bel.—From thy hand I will accept it.
What a beauteous cup!
Dea.—(Aside.) O woe!
Not to know the draught is deadly!
Idolatry.—The King drinks; let all arise. (All arise.)
Bel.—Ye, the glories of my empire,
In this cup of Israel's God
I salute our own. Forever,
Moloch, god of the Assyrians,
Live! (He drinks slowly.)
Tho.— We drink the toast with pleasure:
Thirty thousand gods to-day
Seem too few to fill our revels;
I would like to drink them all.
Idol.—Let song mingle with the pledges.
This table, O Idolatry!
Is an altar raised to thee,
O Vanity! thou'rt here adored,—
Since, a thing without example,
The rich chalice of the Temple
Drains Belshazzar at his board.
(A great clap of thunder is heard.)
Bel.—What an awful sound! What means
This tumultuous voice of terror
That doth call the clouds to arm
On the battlefield of Heaven?—
Idol.—When you drank, it must have been
A salute the heavens presented
With their fearful thunder-guns.
Vanity.—See, a gloomy horror settles
O'er the sky, that hides the stars.
Dea.—I, who darkest night engender—
How I love this gloom, this horror!
Bel.—Comets dark, with burning tresses,
Through the air, wild birds of fire
Flash the lightning's flames incessant;
With loud cries of grief and pain
Groans the cloud, as if 'twere pregnant:
It in travail seems to be,
And 'tis so, for from its entrails
Breaks a bright bolt forth, the glowing
Embryo that filled its centre:
When the cloud gives birth to lightning,
Thunder but its cry expresses.
(A louder and more terrific clap of thunder is heard, accompanied by
lightning: on the ceiling of the hall appears a hand, pointing to a paper, on w
hich is inscribed, "Mané, Thecel, Pharés.")
See ye not? Oh, woe is me!
Through the trembling air projected
What is bursting, what is breaking,
Which, above my head, suspended
Hangs but by a hair, and glideth
Toward the wall. Its form presenteth
The appearance of a hand,
Of a hand, the cloud has sever'd
From some monstrous from unseen!—
Who, oh! who, in lightning, ever,
Arteries saw till now? I know not
What its finger writes, what message,
Since when it has left the impress
Of three rapid strokes or sketches
On the wall, to join its body
Once again the hand ascendeth. ....
Pale my cheek has grown, my hair
Stands on end through fear and terror,
Trembling throbs my heart, my breath
Chokes my parched throat, or deserts me.
For what was the Babel of tongues
Is to-day the Babel of letters.
Van.—I a burning mountain seem.
Idol.—I a statue of ice resemble.
Tho.—I am neither mountain nor statue,—
But a nice, fine fear o'erwhelms me.
Bel.—Thou, Idolatry, thou that knowest
All the gods' deep secrets, tell me
What do these strange letters mean?
Idol.—These I'm powerless to interpret:
Even the character I know not.
Bel.—(To Vanity.) Thou, whose genius comprehendeth
Deepest science—thou, the augur's,
The magician's, chief preceptress,
What here read'st thou? Say—What?
Van.— Nothing;—
Here my genius fails to help me:
These are all to me unknown.
Bel.—Thou, O Thought! dost comprehend them?
Tho.—You have asked a sage at last!
I'm an ignorant fool, heaven help me!
Idol.—Daniel, the same Hebrew, who
Did so well the dream interpret
Of the statue and the tree,
He will tell it.


Enter Daniel.

Daniel.— List attentive:—
Mané means that God hath numbered,
And thy kingdom's days hath ended;
Thecel, that thou hast completed
The full number, thy offences
Not admitting one sin more;
Pharés, that a waste, a desert,
Will thy kingdom be, when seized
By the Medes and by the Persians.
Thus the hand of God hath written
With the finger thy dread sentence,
And its carrying out hath He
To the secular arm expressly
Delegated. This hath God
Done to thee, because perversely
Thou, with scorn and ribald jest,
Hast profaned the sacred vessels.
For no mortal should misuse
These pure vessels of the Temple,
Which, until the law of grace
Reigns on earth, foreshow a blesséd
Sacrament, when the written Law
Time's tired hand shall blot forever,
If these vessels' profanation
Is a crime of such immenseness,
Hear the cause, ye mortals, hear it!
For in them, life, death, are present—
'Tis that he who receives in sin,
Desecrates God's holy vessel.
Belshazzar.—In them is there death?
Death.— There is,
When they are by me presented,
I, the pride-born child of sin,
Of whose dark and deadly venom
He who drinks must surely die.
Bel.—Ah! in spite of all my senses,
I believe thee, I believe thee;
For though torpid and dejected,
Through the sight, and through the hearing,
Have thy fearful voice and presence
Penetrated my proud bosom—
To my very soul's seat entered:—
Save me, O Idolatry!
From this agony.
Idol.— I am helpless,
For at the terrific voice
Of that Mystery predestined,
Which you have to-day profaned
In these cups that are its emblems,
All my courage I have lost—
All my former fire and mettle.
Bel.—Help me now, O Vanity!
Vanity.—I am humbled, through Heaven's mercy.
Bel.—Thee, O Thought! ....
Thought.— Thy greatest foe
Now is in thy Thought presented,
Since you did not wish to heed
The death-warnings it suggested.
Dan.— I am God's decree:—
Yea, He hath pronounced thy sentence!
Yea, the measure is filled up!
Tho.—Nulla est redemptio.
Bel.—All, ah! all in this dread hour,
In this final need desert me!
Who, oh! who, hath power to save me
From this horror, from this spectre?—
Dea.—No one:—for thou would'st not be
Safe within the abysmal centre
Of the earth.
Bel.— Ah! fire enfolds me!
Dea.—Die, thou sinner!
(Death draws his sword, and stabs Belshazzar; he then seizes him in
his arms, and they struggle together.)
Bel.— This is death, then!—
Was the venom not sufficient
That I drank of?
Dea.— No: that venom
Was the death of the soul; the body's,
This swift death-stroke representeth.
Bel.—With death's agony upon me,
Sad, despairing, and dejected,
Struggling against odds, and dying,
Soul and body both together,
Hear! ye mortal men, oh! hear,
What doth mean this fearful message,
What this Mané, Thecel, Pharés
Of the one Supreme God threatens;—
He who dares profane God's cup,
Him He striketh down forever;
He who sinfully receives,
Desecrates God's holiest vessel!
(Exeunt Death and Belshazzar struggling together, and after them
The Thought.)


Idolatry, Vanity, Daniel; then Death.

Idolatry.—Like a sleeper I awaken
From the dreams of my forgetting:
And since even Idolatry
God Himself hath not excepted
From the crowd of living things
In the mystic sheet collected,
Which one day will Christ command
Peter there to kill and eat of,
Would that I could see the light
Of the law of grace, O Heaven!
Now while reigns the written law!—

Enter Death, dressed as before, with sword and dagger, and a cloak covered
with skeletons.

Death.—You can see it represented
In the fleece of Gideon,
In the Manna of the desert,
In the honeycomb the lion's
Mouth contained, in the unblemished
Lamb, and in the Sacred bread
Of Proposition.
Daniel.— If these emblems
Show it not, then be it shown
In the full foreshadowing presence
Of the feast here now transformed
Into bread and wine; stupendous
Miracle of God; his greatest
Sacrament in type presented.
(The scene opens to the sound of solemn music; a table is seen
arranged as an altar, with a remonstrance and chalice in the middle, and
two wax candles at each side.)
Idol.—I, who was Idolatry,
Who to idols false and empty
Worship gave, to-day effacing
Both their names and mine forever,
Will be Latria, adoring
Thus this sacrament most blesséd.—
And at its high feast, Madrid
Celebrates with fitting splendor,
May Don Pedro Calderon
For his manifold demerits
Find excuse:—His faults and ours
Deign to pardon, and remember
That the poet's works but shadow
What the poet had intended.

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