The Feast - Poem by Anton K
Long ago in Babylon there ruled a festive king,
His lordly name was Belshazzar,
As everyone would sing.
The gods had all blessed Babylon and fattened it with gold,
A story every turquoise brick
In every palace told.
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers smiled on the land:
So fertile every farmer had
A ring upon his hand.
Above the pallid houses and the jasmine-scented halls
Stood the gleaming Hanging Gardens
With its ivy-covered walls.
“The wealth of mighty Babylon’s the envy of the earth! ”
Said the festive king, in crystal tones of
Merriment and mirth.
He ordered all his ministers to gather at his throne.
“I want to hold a party so that
All my wealth is shown!
“Send word to all the nobles and ambassadors around,
And tell them I shall have a feast
Where bounty will abound.
“And bring those sacred vessels of the Temple of the Jews,
The ones we took away from them
And really need to use.
“Let there be no lack of maidens that shall dance and serve us wine;
Let them bathe a week in spices
To delight us as we dine.
“Let there be an endless sound of pipes and plucking of the strings,
To soothe all of our senses till
The crimson sunrise sings.”
So said the king of Babylon and everybody cheered,
But then, disrupting all the court,
A messenger appeared.
“O son of Nabonidus and of all the world the king,
I beg your majesty to hear
The awful news I bring.
“Cyrus and his Persians are approaching as we speak,
They’ve beaten us at Opis and
Will be here in a week.'
So said the breathless messenger, his face upon the floor,
But the festive king of Babylon
Was not a man of war:
Instead of planning with his army’s leaders some attack,
He laughed and joked and made a
Male slave massage his back.
Relaxed and sitting easy as he chewed upon a fig,
He said his city’d never fall – the
Walls were far too big.
“Besides, ” he said, “the gods would never break what they had built;
The blood of all those Persian dogs will
Very soon be spilt.”
And speaking as he did in such a cool and easy way,
All the fears among the nobles went
And wandered all astray.
And so the feast was held – even sooner than was planned,
And the thousand lords invited ate
And felt themselves expand.
They drank upon the leopard furs and lion skins and manes,
Dipping peacock flesh in honey, eating
The meat of roasted goats and pigs were soaked in herbs and fat -
And a very special dish was served -
The fried wings of a bat.
Fish was served in siqqu sauce with apples stuffed with dates,
And cakes of peach and aniseed
On jewel-encrusted plates.
The sweet and pleasing music swam in everybody’s ears
And the pomegranate-scented
Dancers brought the men to tears.
And then, as if he’d just remembered, said the festive king:
“Bring out the Jewish vessels – gold
And silver – everything!
“We took them from Jerusalem, the city we destroyed -
And I’m sure that when you see them
You will all be overjoyed.”
The sacred cups of skilful make were brought in and admired.
They said the hands that crafted them
Had surely been inspired.
They filled the sacred vessels up and, gazing at the throne,
Praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze
And iron, wood and stone.
But as they did this blasphemy the hand of God appeared
And wrote a message on the wall
And everybody feared.
They could not read the writing and the king shook as he stared.
“I will make a ruler of whoever
Reads it! ” he declared.
Astrologers were summoned and the wisest sages, too -
But they couldn’t read the writing
And did not know what to do.
At last the queen arose and said, “O King! Live forever!
I know the man to read it: he is
Wise as he is clever.
A saintly man, a Jew and prophet – Daniel is his name.”
“Then bring him here! ” exclaimed the king,
“To lift me out of shame.”
The man was brought and every head was turned toward him,
He read the message out aloud
But no one did applaud him.
He said the writing spelt the end of Babylon for good -
The Persians would defeat them soon,
Is what he understood.
The lords of mighty Babylon began to weep and cry -
And they called upon unhearing gods:
They didn’t want to die.
That very night a Persian troop had snuck inside the town,
They took the city easily and
Cyrus took the crown.
Belshazzar, the festive king, was murdered in the night -
His proud and golden city fell
Without a single fight.
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