Book V

Book V
 
Princes and states may carry on wars and negotiations with one another; while He who rules all things, makes every event subservient to the great design of spreading the kingdom of his Son.
–Dean Milner
 
Argument
 
Babylon brought to desolation by the Divine judgments. – Its destruction the signal for the deliverance of the ancient Church from captivity. – Zion’s song of praise for the righteous retribution of Jehovah, in requiring of her oppressors the blood shed in Jerusalem, and in exacting vengeance for the destruction of his temple. – Summons to the nations to assemble for the accomplishment of Divine justice on the devoted city. – God’s awful denunciations respecting it. – He who controls the stormy elements, and employs them as his success to the unwonted means by which he obtained possession of Babylon. – The nocturnal feast. – Belshazzar. – Daniel. – Interpretation of the mysterious writing, and denunciation of Divine wrath – Immediate execution of portended judgment by the midnight entrance of the Persian armies, and the death the impious king. – Ode. – Exultation of earth and he over the fall of Babylon.
 
Such events as these became the subjects of prophecy, because their consequences touched the state of the true religion.  — Horsley
 
    Proud Babylon! beneath thine iron yoke
No more the captive groans! The ruthless stroke
Of Elam’s sword hath smitten thy strong arm,
And fell’d thy dragon standard. Wild Alarm,
That raved around thy palaces, to Death
Hath yielded up her short and panting breath.
Now dim and reeking lies that fiery brand
That gave to desolating flame the land
Intoxicate with blood, whose furious pride
Omnipotence with all its bolts defied.
    He hath rebuked thy loftiness, who turns
From Arrogance in scorn; indignant spurns
The impious challenger, whose boast defies
The shaft that from his bow of judgment flies.
He hath rebuked thee, Babylon! despoil’d
Thy glittering crown, thy gorgeous purple soil’d,
Forced from thy ruthless grasp the trembling prey.
And turn’d the sword on thee, so prompt to slay.
No more thy walls with rattling chariots ring;
No more thy gates their brazen lustre fling;
O’er thy lone streets no busy footstep strays,
Nor strangers, curious, throng thy desert ways:
Thy princes mount not now their thrones of pride,
Nor joyous bridegroom hails his blooming bride.
The shield is vanish’d from thy stately halls;
The owl, lone hooting, from thy watchtower calls;
Nor voice of song, nor viol’s festive sound,
Greets the full board, with sumptuous banquets crown’d.
On gilded roofs no glistening torches blaze;
Nor limpid spring from crystal fountain plays:
No gentle dews refresh thy roseate bowers;
Fell reptiles nestle midst thy wither’d flowers;
And, rank, where Eden once in beauty smiled,
Spread lurid aconite, and hemlock wild.
Dark frowns dim Night, amid thy ruins drear,
On Death and Silence, save her startled ear
Receive the wild dog’s howl, the bittern’s moan,
The tiger’s roar, or cormorant’s doleful groan,
Or satyr’s cry, whose foul fantastic tread,
In dance obscene, by spectred demons led,
Mocks Desolation in her dull domain,
Who o’er the formless waste holds unmolested reign.
Proud Babylon is fallen! Awake! awake!
Judah, thy sweet harp take
From the sad willow’s bough!
Hark! there’s a voice that bids thee make
Melodious music now!
Arise! thy golden tresses shake,
The yoke from oil thy shoulder break,
And clasp the diadem around thy regal brow.
Judah, wake the tuneful lyre;
Soft the silver trumpet blow;
Solemn praise the strain inspire,
To Him whose hand hath laid the spoiler low:-
“Righteous art thou, O Lord,
And faithful is thy word!
Jacob yet thy grace shall share:
Bending from thy glorious throne,
Thou hast heard the suppliant’s prayer:
‘Tis thine to pity, thine to spare;
Again thou dost the outcasts own.
Long beneath the yoke they bow’d,
Groan’d oppress’d, despised, abhorr’d;
Now thou hast abased the proud;
Righteous are thy judgments, Lord!”
Daughter of Zion, wake! Let chord and shell
Thy glad rejoicings tell!
Priests, sonorous trumpets blow,
As erst, with solemn strains and slow,
Ye heralded the ark round falling Jericho!
Shout! for a mightier city falls,
A more relentless foe is slain!
And lo, like Jericho, its walls
Shall never rise again.
Shout! as those ransom’d ones, whose voice
Bade desert wilds rejoice,
When from dark Egypt’s stormy sea
Rising triumphantly,
They pour’d, in loftiest lays,
Their raptured ecstasies of holy praise.
It is the year of vengeance! Lo, the cry,
The piteous cry, of blood hath reach’d to heaven!
Jehovah’s fiery falchion flames on high;
Leviathan, by its sore puissance riven,
Convulsive writhes beneath the stroke Divine;
The stroke of vengeance for His holy shrine
In desolation laid;
For infancy’s unpitied moans,
For virgins’ sighs, for parents’ groans,
The prey of rapine made;
For trembling age, whose silver hair
Relentless Murder scorn’d to spare;
For judgment spurn’d, for truth made void,
For righteous Heaven blasphemed, for suffering earth destroy’d.
Forth from the inmost shrine
Was heard the call Divine: —
“Media, make thine arrows bright,
Gird upon thine arm the shield,
Bend the bow with sinewy might,
Spear, and lance, and falchion wield!
Raise on Babel’s ramparts broad
The standard of her conquering foes:
‘Tis the vengeance of the Lord,
‘Tis He their strength o’erthrows!
Persia, bring thy warlike steeds,
Snorting as with breath of fire,
Where the sound of battle leads,
Rushing with a warrior’s ire!
Mountain tribes, the call attend!
Listen, all ye sea-girt coasts!
Here your marshall’d armies send,
Summon’d by the Lord of hosts!
For now Chaldea’s ruthless land
Shall reel beneath my hand!
Her mountain strength,
Subdued at length,
No more shall vex the labouring earth!
Nor wrathful ire,
As liquid fire,
Burst from her crater’d summit forth!
For lo, the’ eternal hills I shake!
Her massive pile from earth’s foundations break!
Down from her ancient rocks indignant hurl’d,
The burning terror of the world
A strengthless, formless mass shall lie;
Nor corner nor foundation-stone supply!
But desolate in crumbling ruin sleep,
A dark volcano, round whose arid steep
The angry storms of heaven in furious conflict sweep.”
Jehovah spake the word:
The listening nations heard.
Sudden on the mountain breeze,
Rushing sounds tumultuous came,
Standards waved as forest trees,
Lances caught the solar flame,
Kingdoms from the utmost earth
Flew as eagles to their prey,
Whirlwinds at the tempest’s birth
Mark less terribly their way.
He spake, whose voice on high,
Dread rolling through the dark and troubled sky,
Bids multitudinous waters sweep
Impetuous down the cragged steep;
Who wings the lightning’s shaft with death,
Collects the vapours by his breath,
And oer the fruitful plains
In rushing deluge pours his torrent rains.
He spake, beneath whose potent spell
The treasured whirlwind sleeps,
Or swoops with dragon pinions fell,
Amid the stormy deeps.
Jehovah spake, who on that day
Marshall’d his hosts in dread array;
Nor yet to man the victory gave,
Nor crown of valour to the brave.
‘Twas He who stern in judgment stood
Beside the Euphratean flood,
When Persian Cyrus turn’d its tide
O’er Babel’s plains, and pastures wide;
When marching through the oozy way,
The warrior hosts in bright array
Toward Nimrod’s ancient towers advanced:
O then what battle shouts were raised!
What clang of arms! What torches blazed!
What lightnings on their banners glanced!
Unloosed by His o’ermastering might,
When Belus’ brazen portals bright
Their ponderous leaves outspread,
Avenger of apostate pride,
Jehovah was the warrior’s Guide,
And he to conquest led.
Mirth’s frantic song had ceased: 
Death to the impious feast
Came, an unbidden, an unwelcome, guest.
Yet not unheralded;
For lo, a strange precursor, dread,
Warns of impending fate.
The festal board rich banquets crown’d,
Quick pass’d the mantling goblet round,
Beshazzar laughs elate;
Princes and nobles round him throng,
Voluptuous Beauty swells the song,
And threads the dance in mazy round,
With bacchanalian chaplets crown’d.
Inebriate Folly earth defiles,
Inebriate Pride descends to hell;
When sparkling wine deceitful smiles,
The Circean tempter far repel.
Not so, fierce Babel’s king:
Insatiate, with continuous draught
The deep, delusive bowl he quaff’d,
Unmindful of the secret serpent’s sting,
Till swift the maddening poison wrought,
Proud, prompting to his impious thought
Judea’s captive land.
A thousand slaves around him wait,
And bear, as from the lip of Fate,
The foul, blaspheming reveller’s command.
Through arch and aisle loud echoes ring: —
“Haste! hither bring
The gorgeous spoils of Salem’s wasted shrine!
Pledge we Chaldea’s gods with wine,
Who to our arms the victory gave!
For who is He that could not save
The votaries of his power Divine?”
Obsequious, at the tyrant’s call,
‘Midst idol orgies, through that taintured hall,
Were Zion’s treasures borne: — with hand defiled,
And frantic gleam of haggard transport wild,
Bel’s darkling hierophant upraised
The shining vase, the flagon bright, and praised
Dim demon powers, in muttered mysteries.
Then high the rich libation pour’d
Chaldea’s vanities adored,
And wafted spicy odours to the skies.
Around that impious board
The hallow’d vessels pass’d;
And revelry in laughter roar’d,
And clasp’d the goblet fast.
Loud rose, and louder still, the song,
And lighter wheel’d the mazy throng.
But who on that voluptuous feast
In mystic form intrudes?
The torches waste, the song hath ceased,
The startled multitudes
Partake their monarch’s wild affright,
And gaze on that portentous sight.
What mean those burning lines?
What hand engraves unearthly signs?
With quivering lip, and eyeball glazed,
The king upon that vision gazed;
Stood, terrified in mien, aghast,
And tremulous, as aspen in the blast,
Pondering its strange behest;
Yet, in the presage of a guilty breast,
Reading its dread portent amazed.
Augurs and sages, hither haste, and tell
What means that fearful spectacle?
No: all in vain your baffled art,
Nor hell itself can aid impart!
Hence! to the ministers of Heaven
Are holy inspirations given:
Heaven’s mysteries they alone unfold;
Yet they with wild excess no converse hold;
For Wisdom shuns the scene;
The dissonant cry
Of frantic revelry
Appals her startled ear;
Her sainted choice, the tranquil home, serene,
Where Friendship, Virtue, Charity appear.
While princes, sages view’d, perplex’d,
The style by mystic fingers held,
And vainly search’d the wondrous text
Which every curious eye repell’d:
While horror reign’d, and wild affright,
In every panting bosom round;
While dimly gleam’d the torches’ light,
And lute and viol strew ‘d the ground;
Before the king a stranger stood,
Of grave and venerable air:
He came, the messenger of God,
By guilty terror summoned there.
His brow was firm, his eye was bright,
Yet tempered both by age and grace;
His sainted spirit, pour’d its light
Of heaven-born splendours round his face.
He bore a majesty that rose
O’er years, captivity, and grief;
And Daniel, een by Judah’s foes,
Was hail’d of Wisdom’s sons the chief.
As, on the deepening storm,
A seraph’s awful form
Sublime on lightning wing descends,
Whose voice the gather’d tempest rends;
So stood amid that gloomy throng,
Heaven’s pure, reproving angel bright;
So roll’d deep thunders from his tongue,
So flash’d his words with light.
He traced in those mysterious signs
The balance in Jehovah’s hand;
And read in Judgment’s graphic lines
The lightness of a guilty land.
He saw the Persian warrior nigh,
Heard Elam’s shouting archery,
And to the king’s astounded ear
Proclaim’d the bursting tempest near;
Then, mantled in his prophet’s vest,
The prophet’s fervours fired his breast
In solemn speech, by Heaven inspired,
His lip denounced imperious Pride;
Guilt from his piercing eye retired,
Its searchings of remorse to hide.
Amid that wild and reckless scene,
Dishonour’d Salem’s treasures lay;
Sad grief o’erhung his brow serene,
And words of thunder urged their way.
“From him whose impious pride
Hath Heaven’s eternal rule denied,
Its gifts contemn’d, its greatness spurn’d,
Nor wisdom e’en from judgment learn’d;
From him Jehovah’s power
Wrests, in this dark, this destined hour,
His kingdom wide, his regal throne.
Now, for his Name profaned,
His hallow’d vessels stain’d,
Even now, he makes his righteous judgment known.
To thee, O king! that vision sent
Proclaims fulfill’d thy number’d hours;
This night shall seal the dread portent,
And quench the light in Babel’s towers.”
Dark roll’d Belshazzar’s eye of pride,
His quivering lip convulsive wrought;
Viewless the mystic fingers glide,  
Their record fill’d his labouring thought.
Abash’d he stood,
While conscience, faithful register of God,
Attested every charge the warning prophet brought.
Short was that warning hour,
And short the power
Of self-convicting shame:
Ere midnight’s dreary watch was past,
Like demons on the murky blast,
The banner’d hosts of desolation came.
Bright rose to heaven the crackling flame,
The thirsty sword was drench’d with blood;
It blotted out Belshazzar’s name;
And where the sumptuous palace stood,
Confusion stretch’d her devious line,
And ruin murmur’d, “Wrath Divine!”
Strike the harp for the fall of the proud!
The oppressor of Jacob is low!
The head of the mighty is bow’d,
And his diadem circles the brow of the foe.
Strike the harp! for the staff of his power,
The sceptre, is wrcnch’d from his hand!
His wrath was the wrath of an hour,
But how hath the violent ceased from the land!
He is fallen! and no helper was nigh,
No, not one in distress to befriend!
The nations stood silently by,
And rejoiced in the stroke, as they saw it descend.
Strike the harp! for the city of strength,
Whose towers the invaders defied,
Is given to destruction at length,
And the robber hath seized on her treasures of pride.
Strike the harp! for the earth is at rest;
It warbles the carols of morn;
The eagle is pluck’d from his nest,
And his rock of munition by earthquakes uptorn.
Strike the harp! for the forests rejoice,
O daughter of Zion, with thee:
And Lebanon utters his voice;
From the axe of the feller his cedars are free.
But hark! in this chorus of joy,
This triumph o’er terror and pride,
Notes, such as ye never employ,
In concert exulting, with yours are allied.
Stay the hand of the minstrel! and cease.
Ye choristers, swell not your song!
Thou mountain of Lebanon, peace!
For the caverns of Hades your echoes prolong!
See! bell from her deepest recess
Is moved the dread stranger to greet!
Her dead she disturbs, to express
Their terrible pleasure when reprobates meet.
See I the chief ones of earth from their thrones,
Firm fix’d as the pillars of hell,
Upraised to salute him with groans,
Or murmur a welcome with demons to dwell.
Hark! the thunder that bursts from the cloud,
And startles the shipmen at night,
Less fearfully murmurs, and loud,
Than this dirge of the dead for the first-born of might.
Lo! the kings of the nations draw near :—
“Comest thou in these caverns to hide?
The worm is thy company here,
‘Tis thy couch of repose, and thy purple of pride.
“Ha! thy pomp is brought down to the grave,
The noise of thy viols hath ceased;
The monarch is vile as the slave,
And darkness prevails in the hall of the feast.
“The star of the morning is dim,
It sets in the suburbs of hell!
Aspiring to glory supreme,
From the circle of heaven to chaos it fell!
“Is this the oppressor that shook
The nations with terrible sway?
Who tremblingly shrunk from his look?
Ye spirits of darkness, come hither and say.
“Is this the destroyer, whose breath
Corrupted the fruits of the ground?
Whose prisoners wither’d in death?
Ye victims, reply from your caverns profound!
“Lo, the kings of the nations, even here,
In the house of their solitude laid,
With ensigns of glory appear,
And the diadem gleams in the sepulchre’s shade.
“But thou, who thy people hast slain,
Who hast cover’d thy land with a cloud,
The grave casts thee out with disdain;
No burial is thine but the feet of the crowd!
“No herald emblazons thy fame,
Nor trophies thy memory crown;
For the lot of the wicked is shame,
And the seed of the sinner is robb’d of renown,” 
 
Book VI
 
Table of Contents

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