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ONCE in the flight of ages past,
There lived a man: and who was he?
Mortal! howe'er thy lot be cast,
That man resembled thee.
Unknown the region of his birth,
The land in which he died unknown; His name hath perished from the earth, This truth survives alone.
That joy, and grief, and hope, and fear,
Alternate triumphed in his breast;
His bliss and woe-a smile, a tear !—
Oblivion hides the rest.
The bounding pulse, the languid limb,
The changing spirits' rise and fall;
We know that these were felt by him,
For these are felt by all.
He suffered, but his pangs are o'er ;
Enjoyed,—but his delights are fled ;
Had friends, his friends are now no more;
And foes, his foes are dead.
He loved-but whom he loved the grave
Hath lost in its unconscious womb :
Oh, she was fair! but nought could save
Her beauty from the tomb.
The rolling seasons day and night,
Sun, moon, and stars, the earth and main; Erewhile his portion, life and light,
He saw whatever thou hast seen;
Encountered all that troubles thee:
He was,-whatever thou hast been ;
He is,-what thou shalt be.
The clouds and sunbeams o'er his eye
That once their shades and glory threw,
Have left in yonder silent sky
No vestige where they flew.
The annals of the human race,
Their ruins, since the world began,
Of HIM afford no other trace
Than this-THERE LIVED A MAN!
Joy holds her court in great Belshazzar's hall,
Where his proud lords attend their monarch's call.
The rarest dainties which the teeming East
Pours from her bounteous lap, adorn the feast.
O'er silver fountains perfumed waters play,
And gems add lustre to the blaze of day :
The brightest tears of rich Assyria's vine
In the broad gold with deeper crimson shine :
Mirth dips his pinions in the rosy bowl,
And Music pours his raptures o'er the soul;
While the high domes and fretted roofs prolong
Each dying echo of the choral song.
But, lo! the Monarch rises.-"Pour," he cries, "To the great gods, the Assyrian deities; Pour forth libations of the rosy wine
To Nebo, Bel, and all the powers divine.
Those golden vessels crown, which erewhile stood
Fast by the oracle of Judah's God;
Till that accursed race provoked the ire
And vengeful arm of my immortal sire.
Hail to the Gods, whose omens in the night
Beamed on my soul through visions of delight."
Ah! wretched mortal, worthless worm of clay!
Thou, grovelling reptile, born but to decay!
The Almighty's wrath shall soon in tempest rise,
And scatter wide thine impious sacrifice,
Roll back the torrent of thy guilty pride,
And whelm thee, boaster, in its refluent tide.
Such is thine own impending fate, O king!
Else, why that start, that livid cheek? why fling
The untasted goblet from thy palsied hand?
Why shake thy joints, thy feet forget to stand?
Where roams thine eye? which seems in wild amaze
To shun some object, yet returns to gaze;
Then shrinks again appalled, as if the tomb
Had sent a spirit from its inmost gloom,
Dread as the phantom which in night's dark hour
Revealed the terrors of the Almighty's power;
When o'er the couch of Eliphaz it stood,
And froze the life-streams of his curdling blood.
Awful the horror, when Belshazzar raised
His arm, and pointed where the vision blazed!
For see! enrobed in flame, a mystic shade,
As of a hand, a red right-hand, displayed!
And slowly moving o'er the wall, appear
Letters of fate, and characters of fear!
'Tis that Almighty hand, that shakes the pole,
Wings the swift bolt, and bids the thunder roll.
Breathless they stand in deathlike silence; all
Fix their glazed eyeballs on the dreaded wall:
It seems as if a magic spell had bound
Each form in icy fetters; not a sound
Is heard, except some throbbing pulse proclaims
That life still lingers in their sinking frames.
See! now the vision brightens, now 'tis gone;
Like meteor flash, like heaven's own lightning flown!
But, though the hand hath vanished, still appear
Those mystic characters of fate and fear;
Baffling each effort vainly made to scan
Such revelation of the Lord to man.
"Quick bring the Prophet!-let his piercing eye
Scan these dim outlines of futurity:
And oh in mercy let his tongue proclaim
The mystery of that visionary flame."
The holy prophet came, with brow serene,
With spirit-speaking eye, and lofty mien.
To whom Belshazzar:-"Prophet, by thine aid
Be our sad doubts and anxious cares allayed;
Our sage Chaldeans now in vain explore
The secret wonders of their magic lore.
See the dire portents that our hearts appal;
Read thou the lines upon that dreaded wall.
Nor shall thy skill and high deserts forego
The richest gifts a monarch can bestow."
Unutterably awful was the eye
Which met the monarch's; and the stern reply
Fell heaey on his soul. "Thy gifts withhold,
Nor tempt the Spirit of the Law with gold.
Did memory fail thee? was thy father's lot
So lightly noted, and so soon forgot?
Him God exalted; him the Almighty gave
Power to cast down, set up, destroy or save.
But when the hand that raised him, he defied,
It smote him, and he withered in his pride;
An awful wreck of man, outcast of heaven,
From human haunts, from social converse driven.
At length relenting Heaven his pride subdued,
Restored his reason, and his form renewed.
Then humbly bent beneath the hand that shed
Mercies or judgments on his chastened head,
The covering shield he blessed, or kissed the rod,
And bowed submissive to the will of God.
But thou, unmindful of thy sire's release,
His pride and fall, his penitence and peace,
Hast braved the fury of the living Lord,
Profaned His vessels, and His rites abhorred.
Proud monarch, hear what these dread words reveal!
That lot on which the Eternal sets His seal :-
Thy kingdom numbered, and thy glory flown,
The Mede and Persian revel on thy throne.
Weighed in the balance, thou hast kicked the beam;
See to yon western sun the lances gleam,
Which, ere his orient rays adorn the sky,
Thy blood shall sully with a crimson dye."
This fate foretold, the strains prophetic cease.
But ere the prophet's feet depart in peace,
The chain of gold upon his neck they cast,
The robe of scarlet gird around his waist;
And proclamations through the land declare
Daniel third ruler, next Assyria's heir.
In the dire carnage of that night's dead hour,
Crushed mid the ruins of his crumbling power,
Belshazzar fell; though secret was the blow,
Unknown the hand that laid the tyrant low.
THE dews of summer night did fall,
The moon (sweet regent of the sky)
Silvered the walls of Cumnor Hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby.
Sir Walter Scott's admiration of this ballad induced him to found,
on the same incidents, the popular romance of "Kenilworth."