Pharnaces, Courtier, Enemy to Daniel.
Araspes, A Young Median Lord, Friend and Convert to Daniel
SCENE — The City of Babylon.
The Subject is taken from the Sixth Chapter of the Prophet Daniel.
Yes! — I have noted, with a jealous eye,
The pow’r of this new fav’rite! Daniel reigns,
And not Darius! Daniel guides the springs
Which move this mighty empire! High he sits,
Supreme in favour both with prince and people,
Where is the spirit of our Median lords,
Tamely to crouch and bend the supple knee
To this new god? By Mithras, ’tis too much!
Shall great Arbaces’ race to Daniel bow–
A foreigner, a captive, and a Jew?
Something must be devised, and that right soon,
To shake his credit.
Rather hope to shake
The mountain pine, whose twisting fibres clasp
The earth, deep-rooted. Rather hope to shake
The Scythian Taurus from his central base.
No — Daniel sits too absolute in pow’r,
Too firm in favour, for the keenest shaft
Of nicely aiming jealousy to reach him.
Rather he sits too high to sit securely.
Yes; he has reach’d that pinnacle of pow’r,
Which closely touches on Depression’s verge.
Hast thou then liv’d in courts? hast thou grown gray
Beneath the mask a subtle statesman wears
To hide his secret soul, and dost not know,
That of all fickle Fortune’s transient gifts,
Favour in most deceitful? ‘Tis a beam,
Which darts uncertain brightness for a moment:
The faint, precarious, sickly shine of power
Given without merit, by caprice withdrawn.
No trifle is so mall as what obtains,
Save that which loses favour: ’tis a breath,
Which hangs upon a smile! A look, a word,
A frown, the air-built tower of fortune shakes,
And down the unsubstantial fabric falls!
Darius, just and clement as he is,
If I mistake not, may be wrought upon
By prudent wiles, by Flattery’s pleasant cup,
Administer’d with caution.
But the means!
For Daniel’s life (a foe must grant him that)
Is so replete with goodness, so adorn’d
With every virtue, so exactly squared
By Wisdom’s nicest rules, ’twill be most hard
To charge him with the shadow of offence.
Pure is his fame as Scythia’s mountain snows,
When not a breath pollutes them. O Pharnaces,
I’ve scann’d the actions of his daily life
With all the industrious malice of a foe;
And nothing meets mine eye but deeds of honour
In office pure; for equitable acts
Renown’d: in justice and impartial truth,
The Grecian Themis is not more severe.
By yon bright sun, thou blazon’st forth his praise,
As if with rapture thou didst read the page
Where these fair deeds are written!
I only meant to show what cause we have
To hate and fear him. I but meant to paint
His popular virtues and eclipsing merit.
Then for devotion, and religious zeal,
Who so renown’d as Daniel? Of his law
Observant in the extreme. Thrice every day,
With prostrate reverence, he adores his God
With superstitious awe his face he turns
Towards his beloved Jerusalem, as if
Some local, partial god might there be found
To hear his supplication. No affair
Of state, no business so importunate,
No pleasure so alluring, no employ
Of such high import, to seduce his zeal
From this observance due!
There, there he falls!
Enough, my friend! his piety destroys him.
There, at the very footstool of his God,
Where he implores protection, there I’ll crush him.
What means Pharnaces?
Ask not what I mean.
The new idea floating in my brain
Has yet receiv’d no form. ‘Tis yet too soon
To give it body, circumstance, or breath.
The seeds of mighty deeds are labouring here,
And struggling for a birth! ‘Tis near the hour
The king is wont to summon us to council:
Ere that, this big conception of my mind
I’ll shape to form and being. Thou, meanwhile,
Convene our chosen friends; for I shall need
The aid of all your counsels, and the weight
Of grave authority.
Who shall be trusted?
With our immediate motive — none, except
A chosen band of friends, who most repine
At Daniel’s exaltation. But the scheme
I mediate must be disclosed to all
Who bear high office; all our Median rulers,
Princes and captains, presidents and lords;
All must assemble. ‘Tis a common cause;
All but the young Araspes; he inclines
To Daniel and his God. He sits attent,
With ravish’d ears, to listen to his lore:
With reverence names Jerusalem, and reads
The volume of the law. No more he bows
To hail the golden ruler of the day,
But looks for some great Prophet, greater far,
So they pretend, than Mithras! — From him, therefore,
Conceal whate’er of injury is devised
‘Gainst Daniel. Be it too thy care, to-day,
To keep him from the council.
‘Tis well thought.
‘Tis now about the hour of Daniel’s prayer:
Araspes too is with him: and to-day,
They will not sit in council. Haste we then;
Designs of high importance, once conceived,
Should be accomplish’d. Genius which discerns,
And courage which achieves, despise the aid
Of lingering circumspection. The keen spirit
Seizes the prompt occasion, makes the thought
Start into instant action, and at once
Plans and performs, resolves and executes!
SCENE. — Daniel’s House.
Proceed, proceed, thrice venerable sage,
Enlighten my dark mind with this new ray,
This dawning of salvation. Tell me more
Of this expected King; this Comforter;
This Promise of the nations; this great Hope
Of anxious Israel; this unborn Prophet;
This Wonderful, this mighty Counsellor;
This everlasting Lord, this Prince of Peace;
This Balm of Gilead, which shall heal the wounds
Of universal nature; this Messiah;
Redeemer, Saviour, Sufferer, Victim, God!
Enough to animate our faith we know,
But not enough to soothe the curious pride
Of vain philosophy. Enough to cheer
Our path we see, the rest is hid in clouds:
And Heaven’s own shadows rest upon the view.
Go on, blest sage; I could for ever hear,
Untired, thy admonition. Tell me how
I shall obtain the favour of that God
I but begin to know, but fain would serve.
By deep humility, by faith unfeign’d,
By holy deeds, best proof of living faith!
O faith, thou wonder-working principle,
Eternal substance of our present hope,
Thou evidence of things invisible!
What cannot man sustain, sustain’d by thee!
The time would fail, and the bright star of day
Would quench his beams in ocean, and resign
His empire to the silver queen of night:
And she again descend the steep of Heaven,
If I should tell what wonders Faith achieved
By Gideon, Barak, and the holy seer,
Elkanah’s son; the pious Gileadite,
Ill-fated Jephthah! He of Zorah, too,
In strength unequall’d; and the shepherd king,
Who vanquish’d Gath’s fell giant. Need I tell
Of holy prophets, who, by conquering faith,
Wrought deeds incredible to mortal sense;
Vanquish’d contending kingdoms, quell’d the rage
Of furious pestilence, extinguish’d fire.
Victorious Faith! others by thee endured
Exile, disgrace, captivity, and death?
Some, uncomplaining, bore (nor be it deem’d
The meanest exercise of well-tried Faith)
The cruel mocking, and the bitter taunt,
Foul obloquy, and undeserved reproach;
Despising shame, that death to human pride!
How shall this faith be sought?
By earnest prayer,
Solicit first the wisdom from above:
Wisdom, whose fruits are purity and peace:
Wisdom, that bright intelligence, which sat
Supreme, when his golden compasses
Th’ Eternal plann’d the fabric of the world,
Produced his fair idea into light,
And said that all was good; Wisdom, blest beam
The brightness of the everlasting light;
The spotless mirror of the power of God;
The reflex image of the all-perfect mind;
A stream translucent, flowing from the source
Of glory infinite; a cloudless light;
Defilement cannot touch, nor sin pollute
Her unstain’d purity. Not Ophir’s gold,
Nor Ethiopia’s gems can match her price;
The ruby of the mine is pale before her;
And, like the oil Elisha’s bounty bless’d,
She is a treasure which doth grow by use,
And multiply by spending! She contains,
Within herself, the sum of excellence.
If riches are desired, Wisdom is wealth:
If prudence, where shall keen invention find
Artificer more cunning? If renown,
In her right hand it comes! If piety,
Are not her labours virtues? If the lore
Which sage experience teaches, lo! she scans
Antiquity’s dark truths; the past she knows,
Anticipates the future; not by arts
Forbidden, of Chaldean sorcerer,
But from the piercing ken of deep foreknowledge,
From her sure science of the human heart
She weighs effects with causes, ends with means;
Resolving all into the sovereign will.
For earthly blessings moderate be thy prayer,
And qualified; for life, for strength, for grace,
Unbounded thy petition.
Now, O prophet!
Explain the secret doubts which rack my mind,
And my weak sense confound. Give my some line,
To sound the depths of Providence! Oh say,
Why the ungodly prosper? why their root
Shoots deep, and their thick branches flourish fair,
Like the green bay tree? why the righteous man,
Like tender plants to shivering winds exposed,
Is stripp’d and torn, in naked virtue bare,
And nipp’d by cruel Sorrow’s biting blast?
Explain, O Daniel, these mysterious ways
To my faint apprehension! For as yet
I’ve much to learn. Fair Truth’s immortal sun
Is in itself defective; but obscured
By my weak prejudice, imperfect Faith,
And all the thousand causes which obstruct
The growth of goodness.
Follow me, Araspes.
Within thou shalt peruse the sacred page,
The book of life eternal: that will show thee
The end of the ungodly! thou wilt own
How short their longest period; will perceive
How black a night succeeds their brightest day!
Thy purged eye will see God is not slack,
As men count slackness, to fulfil his word.
Weigh well this book; and may the Spirit of grace,
Who stamp’d the seal of truth on the bless’d page,
Descend into thy soul, remove thy doubts,
Clear the perplex’d, and solve the intricate,
Till faith be lost in sight, and hope in joy!
Darius on his Throne — Pharnaces, Soranus, Princes, Presidents, and Courtiers.
Hail, king Darius! live for ever!
Welcome, my princes, presidents, and friends;
Now tell me, has your wisdom aught devised
To aid the commonwealth? In our now empire,
Subdued Chaldea, is there aught remains
Your prudence can suggest to serve the state,
To benefit the subject, to redress
And raise the injured, to assist th’ oppress’d,
And humble the oppressor? If you know,
Speak freely, princes. Why am I a king,
Except to poise the awful scale of justice
With even hand; to ‘minister to want;
To bless the nations with a liberal rule,
Vicegerent of th’ eternal Oromasdes?
So absolute thy wisdom, mighty king,
All counsel were superfluous.
No adulation; ’tis the death of virtue:
Who flatters is of all mankind the lowest,
Save he who courts the flattery. Kings are men,
As feeble and as frail as those they rule,
And born, like them, to die. The Lydian monarch,
Unhappy Croesus, lately sat aloft,
Almost above mortality; now see him!
Sunk to the vile condition of a slave,
He swells the train of Cyrus! I, like him,
To misery am obnoxious. See this throne;
This royal throne the great Nebassar fill’d;
Yet hence his pride expelled him. Yonder wall,
The dread terrific writing to the eyes
Of proud Belshazzar shew’d; sad monuments
Of Heaven’s tremendous vengeance! And shall I,
Unwarn’d by such examples, cherish pride?
Yet to their dire calamities I owe
The brightest gem that glistens in my crown,
Sage Daniel. If my speech have aught of worth,
Or if my life with aught of good be graced,
To him alone I owe it.
Soranus (aside to Pharnaces.)
Will he run o’er, and dwell upon his praise,
As if we ne’er had heard it; nay, will swell
The nauseous catalogue with many a virtue
His own fond fancy coins.
O great Darius!
Let thine unworthy servants’ words find grace
And meet acceptance in his royal ear,
Who subjugates the East. Let not the king
With anger hear my prayer.
I know thou lov’st me; I but meant to chide
Thy flattery, not reprove thee for thy zeal.
Speak boldly, friends, as man should speak to man.
Perish the barbarous maxims of the East,
Which basely would enslave the freeborn mind,
And plunder man of the best gift of Heaven,
His liberty of soul.
Darius, hear me.
Thy princes, and the captains of thy bands,
Thy presidents, the nobles who bear rule
O’er provinces, and I, thine humble creature,
Less than the least in merit, but in love,
In zeal, and duty, equal with the first,
We have devised a measure to confirm
Thy infant empire, to establish firmly
Thy power and new dominion, and secure
Thy growing greatness past the power of change.
I am prepared to hear thee. Speak, Pharnaces.
The wretched Babylonians long have groan’d
Beneath the rule of princes, weak or rash.
The rod of power has swayed alike amiss,
By feeble Merodach and fierce Belshazzar.
One let the slacken’d reins too loosely float
Upon the people’s neck, and lost his power
By nerveless relaxation. He who follow’d,
Held with a tyrant’s hand the cruel curb,
And check’d the groaning nation till it bled;
On different rocks they met one common ruin.
Their edicts were irresolute, their laws
Were feebly planned, their councils ill advised;
Now so relax’d, and now so overstrain’d,
That the tired people, wearied with the weight
They long have borne, will soon disdain control,
Tread on all rule, and spurn the hand that guides them.
But say what remedy?
That too, O king,
Thy servants have provided. Hitherto
They bear the yoke submissive. But to fix
Thy power and their obedience, to reduce
All hearts to thy dominion, yet avoid
Those deeds of cruelty thy nature starts at,
Thou should’st begin by some imperial act
Of absolute dominion, yet unstain’d
By aught of barbarous. For know, O king!
Wholesome severity, if wisely framed
With sober discipline, procures more reverence
Than all the lenient counsels and weak measures
Of frail irresolution.
To thy request.
Not I, but all request it.
Be thy imperial edict issued straight,
And let a firm decree this day be pass’d
Irrevocable as our Median laws.
Ordain that for the space of thirty days,
No subject in thy realm shall aught request
Of God or man, except of thee, O king!
Wherefore this strange decree?
‘Twill fix the crown
With lasting safety on thy royal brow,
And, by a bloodless means, preserve th’ obedience
Of this new empire. Think how much ’twill raise
Thy high renown! ’twill make thy name revered,
And popular beyond example. What!
To be as Heaven, dispensing good and ill
For thirty days! With thine own ears to hear
Thy peoples’ wants, with thine own liberal hands
To bless thy supliant subjects! O Darius!
Thou’lt seem as bounteous as a giving god,
And reign in every heart in Babylon
As well as Media. What a glorious state
To be the sovereign arbiter of good;
The first efficient cause of happiness;
To scatter mercies with a plenteous hand,
And to be blest thyself in blessing others.
Is this the general wish?
[Princes and Courtiers kneel.]
Of one, of all.
Behold thy princes, presidents, and lords,
Thy counsellors, and captains! See, O king!
[Presenting the edict.]
Behold the instrument our zeal has drawn:
The edict is prepared. We only wait
The confirmation of thy gracious word,
And thy imperial signet.
What penalty awaits the man who dares
Transgress our mandate?
Instant death, O king!
This statute says, ‘Should any subject dare
Petition, for the space of thirty days,
Of God or man, except of thee, O king!
He shall be thrown into your dreadful den
Of hungry lions!’
Hold! Methinks a deed
Of such importance should be wisely weigh’d.
We have resolved it, mighty king! with care,
With closest scrutiny. On us devolve
Whatever blame occurs!
Then to your wisdom I commit me, princes,
Behold the royal signet: see, ’tis done.
There Daniel fell! That signet seal’d his doom.
Darius (after a pause.)
Let me reflect. — Sure I have been too rash!
Why such intemperate haste? but you are wise;
And would not counsel this severe decree
But for the wisest purpose. Yet, methinks,
I might have weigh’d, and in my mind revolved–
This statute, ere, the royal signet stamp’d
It had been past repeal. Sage Daniel too!
My counsellor, my guide, my well-tried friend,
He should have been consulted; he whose wisdom
I still have found oracular.
‘Tis as it should be. The decree is past
Irrevocable, as the stedfast law
Of Mede and Persian, which can never change,
Those who observe it live, as is most meet,
High in thy grace; — who violate it, die.
SCENE.– Daniel’s House.
Oh, holy Daniel! prophet, father, friend,
I come the wretched messenger of ill!
Thy foes complot thy death. For what can mean
This new-made law, exorted from the king
Almost by force? What can it mean, O Daniel,
But to involve thee in the toils they spread
To snare thy precious life?
How! was the king
Consenting to this edict?
His easy nature; took him when his heart
Was soften’d by their blandishments. They wore
The mask of public virtue to deceive him.
Beneath the specious name of general good,
They wrought him to their purposes: no time
Allow’d him to deliberate. One short hour,
Another moment, and his soul had gain’d
Her natural tone of virtue.
That great Power,
Who suffers evil only to produce
Some unseen good, permits that this should be
And, He permitting, I well pleased resign.
Retire, my friend; this is my second hour
Of daily prayer. Anon we’ll meet again.
Here, in the open face of that bright sun
Thy fathers worshipp’d, will I offer up,
As is my rule, petition to our God,
For thee, for me, for Solyma, for all!
Oh stay! what mean’st thou! sure thou hast not heard
The edict of the king? I thought, but now,
Thou knew’st its purport. It expressly says,
That no petition henceforth shall be made,
For thirty days, save only to the king;
Nor prayer nor intercession shall be heard
Of any god or man, but of Darius.
And think’st thou then my reverence for the king,
Good as he is, shall tempt me to renounce
My sworn allegiance to the King of kings?
Hast thou commanded legions? strove in battle,
Defied the face of danger, mock’d at death
In all its frightful forms, and tremblest now?
Come, learn of me; I’ll teach thee to be bold,
Though sword I never drew! Fear not, Araspes,
The feeble vengeance of a mortal man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein
Is he to be accounted of? but fear
The awaken’d vengeance of the living Lord;
He who can plunge the everlasting soul
In infinite perdition!
Then, O Daniel!
If thou persist to disobey the edict,
Retire and hide thee from the prying eyes
Of busy malice!
He who is ashamed
To vindicate the honour of his God,
Of him the living Lord shall be ashamed
When He shall judge the tribes.
Yet, oh remember,
Oft I have heard thee say, the secret heart
Is fair Devotion’s Temple; there the saint,
Even on that living altar, lights the flame
Of purest sacrifice, which burns unseen,
Not unaccepted. — I remember too,
When Syrian Naaman, by Elisha’s hand,
Was cleansed from foul pollution, and his mind
Enlighten’d by the miracle, confess’d
The Almighty God of Jacob; that he deem’d it
No flagrant violation of his fath
To bend at Rimmon’s shrine; nor did the Seer
Forbid the rite external.
Heaven deigns to suit our trials to our strength,
A recent convert, feeble in his faith,
Naaman, perhaps, had sunk beneath the weight
Of so severe a duty. Gracious Heaven
Forbears to bruise the reed, or quench the flax,
When feeble and expiring. But shall I,
Shall Daniel, shall the servant of the Lord,
A veteran in his cause — long train’d to know
And do his will — long exercised in wo,
Bred in captivity, and born to suffer;
Shall I from known, from certain duty shrink,
To shun a threaten’d danger? O Araspes;
Shall I, advanced in age, in zeal decline?
Grow careless as I reach my journey’s end;
And slacken in my pace, the goal in view?
Perish discretion when it interferes
With duty! Perish the false policy
Of human wit, which would commute our safety
With God’s eternal honour! Shall His law
Be set at nought, that I may live at ease?
How would the heathen triumph, should I fall
Through coward fear! How would God’s enemies
Yet think a moment.
Where evil may be done, ’tis right to ponder;
Where only suffer’d, know, the shortest pause
Is much too long. Had great Darius paused,
This ill had been prevented. But for me,
Araspes, to deliberate is to sin.
Think of thy power, thy favour with Darius:
Think of thy life’s importance to the tribes,
Scarce yet return’d in safety. Live! Oh live!
To serve the cause of God!
God will himself
Sustain his righteous cause. He knows to raise
Fit instruments to serve Him. Know, Araspes,
He does not need our crimes to help his cause;
Nor does his equitable law permit
A sinful act from the preposterous plea
That good may follow it. For me, my friend,
The spacious earth holds not a bait to tempt me.
What would it profit me, if I should gain
Imperial Ecbatan, th’ extended land
Of fruitful Media, nay, the world’s wide empire,
If mine eternal soul must be the price?
Farewell, my friend! time presses. I have stolen
Some moments from my duty, to confirm
And strengthen thy young faith! Let us fulfil
What Heaven enjoins — and leave to Heaven the event.
SCENE. — The Palace.
‘Tis done — success has crown’d our scheme, Soranus,
And Daniel falls into the deep-laid toils
Our prudence spread.
That he should fall so soon,
Astonishes even me! What! not a day?
What! not a single moment to defer
His rash devotions? Madly thus to rush
On certain peril, quite transcends belief!
When happen’d it, Pharnaces?
On the instant:
Scarce is the deed accomplish’d. As he made
His ostentatious prayer, even in the face
Of the bright God of day, all Babylon
Beheld the insult offer’d to Darius.
For, as in bold defiance of the law,
His windows were not closed, our chosen bands,
Whom we had placed to note him, soon rush’d in
And seized him in the warmth of his blind zeal,
Ere half his prayer was finish’d. Young Araspes,
With all the wild extravagance of grief,
Prays, weeps, and threatens. Daniel silent stands,
With patient resignation, and prepares
To follow them. — But see, the king approaches!
How’s this? deep sorrow sits upon his brow!
And stern resentment fires his angry eye.
O deep-laid stratagem! O artful wile!
To take me unprepared, to wound my heart,
Even where it feels most tenderly, in friendship!
To stab my fame! to hold me up a mark
To future ages, for the perjured prince
Who slew the friend he loved! O Daniel, Daniel,
Who now shall trust Darius? not a slave
In my wide empire, from the Indian main
To the cold Caspian, but is more at ease
Than I, his monarch! Yes! I’ve done a deed
Will blot my honour with eternal stain!
Pharnaces! O thou hoary sycophant!
Thou wily politician! thou hast snared
Thy unsuspecting master!
Let not resentment blind thy royal eyes.
In what am I to blame? Who would suspect
This obstinate resistance to the law?
Who could foresee that Daniel would perforce
Oppose the king’s decree?
Thou, thou foresaw’st it!
Thou knew’st his righteous soul would ne’er endure
So long an interval of prayer. But I,
Deluded king! ’twas I should have foreseen
His stedfast piety. I should have thought
Your earnest warmth had some more secret source,
Something that touch’d you nearer than your love,
Your well feign’d zeal, for me. — I should have known,
When selfish politicians, hackney’d long
In fraud and artifice, affect a glow
Of patriot fervour, or fond loyalty,
Which scorns all show of interest, that’s the moment
To watch their crooked projects.– Well thou know’st
How dear I held him! how I prized his truth!
Did I not choose him from a subject world,
Unbless’d by fortune, and by birth ungraced,
A captive, and a Jew? Did I not love him?
Was he not rich in independent worth,
And great in native goodness? That undid him!
There, there he fell! If he had been less great,
He had been safe. Thou could’st not bear his brightness;
The lustre of his virtues quite obscured,
And dimm’d thy fainter merit. Rash old man!
Go, and devise some means to set me free
From this dread load of guilt! Go, set at work
Thy plotting genius to redeem the life
Of venerable Daniel!
‘Tis too late.
He has offended ‘gainst the new decree;
Has dared to make petition to his God,
Although the dreadful sentence of the act
Full well he knew. And by the establish’d law
Of Media, by that law irrevocable,
Which he has dared to violate, he dies!
Impiety! presumption! monstrous law
Irrevocable! Is there aught on earth
Deserves that name? The eternal laws alone
Of Oromasdes are unchangeable!
All human projects are so faintly framed,
So feebly plann’d, so liable to change,
So mix’d with error in their very form,
That mutable and mortal are the same.
But where is Daniel? Wherefore comes he not
To load me with reproaches? to upbraid me
With all the wrongs my barbarous haste has done him?
Where is he?
He prepares to meet his fate.
This hour he dies, for so the act decrees.
Suspend the bloody sentence. Bring him hither.
Or rather let me seek him, and implore
His dying pardon and his parting prayer.
SCENE. — Daniel’s House.
Still let me follow thee; still let me hear
The voice of Wisdom, ere the silver chord
By Death’s cold hand be loosen’d.
Now I’m ready.
No grief, no woman’s weakness, good Araspes!
Thou should’st rejoice my pilgrimage is o’er,
And the blest haven of repose in view.
And must I lose thee, Daniel? Must thou die?
And what is death, my friend, that I should fear it?
To die! why ’tis to triumph: ’tis to join
The great assembly of the good and just;
Immortal worthies, heroes, prophets, saints!
Oh! ’tis to join the band of holy men,
Made perfect by their sufferings! ‘Tis to meet
My great progenitors! ‘Tis to behold
Th’ illustrious patriarchs; they with whom the Lord
Deign’d hold familiar converse! ‘Tis to see
Bless’d Noah, and his children, once a world!
‘Tis to behold, oh! rapture to conceive!
Those we have known, and loved, and lost below!
Bold Azariah, and the band of brothers,
Who sought in bloom of youth, the scorching flames!
Nor shall we see heroic men alone,
Champions who fought the fight of faith on earth:
But heavenly conquerors, angelic hosts,
Michael and his bright legions, who subdued
The foes of Truth to join their blest employ
Of love and praise! to the high melodies
Of choirs celestial to attune my voice,
Accordant to the golden harps of saints!
To join in blest hosannahs to their King!
Whose face to see, whose glory to behold,
Alone were Heaven, though saint or seraph none
Should meet our sight, and only God were there!
This is to die! Whou would not die for this?
Who would not die, that he might live for ever?
Darius, Daniel, Araspes.
Where is he? Where is Daniel? Let me see him!
Let me embrace that venerable form,
Which I have doom’d to glut the greedy maw
Of furious lions!
King Darius, hail!
Oh, injured Daniel! can I see thee thus,
Thus uncomplaining? can I bear to hear,
That when the ruffian ministers of death
Stopp’d thy unfinish’d prayer, thy pious lips
Had just invoked a blessing on Darius,
On him who sought thy life? Thy murderers dropt
Tears of strange pity. Look not on me thus
With mild benignity! Oh! I could bear
The voice of keen reproach, or the strong flash
Of fierce resentment; but I cannot stand
That touching silence, nor that patient eye
Of meek respect.
Thou art my master still.
I am thy murderer! I have sign’d thy death!
I know thy bent of soul is honourable:
Thou hast been gracious still! Were it not so,
I would have met the appointment of high Heaven
With humble acquiescence: but to know
Thy will concurr’d not with thy servant’s fate,
Adds joy to resignation.
Here I swear,
By him who sits enthroned in yon bright sun,
Thy blood shall be atoned! One these thy foes
Thou shalt have ample vengeance.
Hold, O king!
Vengeance is mine, th’ eternal Lord has said:
Myself will recompense, with even hand,
The sinner for the sin. The wrath of man
Works not the righteousness of God.
I had hoped
We should have trod this busy stage together
A little longer, then have sunk to rest
In honourable age! Who now shall guide
My shatter’d bark in safety? Who shall now
Direct me? Oh, unhappy state of kings!
‘Tis well the robe of majesty is gay,
Or who would put it on? A crown! What is it?
It is to bear the miseries of a people;
To bear their murmurs, feel their discontents,
And sink beneath a load of splendid care!
To have your best success ascribed to Fortune,
And Fortune’s failures all ascribed to you:
It is to sit upon a joyless height,
To every blast of changing Fate exposed!
Too high for hope! too great for happiness;
For friendship too much fear’d! to all the joys
Of social freedom, and th’ endearing charm
Of liberal interchange of soul, unknown!
Fate meant me an exception to the rest,
And, though a monarch, bless’d me with a friend;
And I — have murder’d him!
My hour approaches.
Hate not my memory, king: protect Araspes:
Encourage Cyrus in the holy work
Of building ruin’d Solyma. Farewell!
With most religious strictness I’ll fulfil
Thy last request. Araspes shall be next
My throne and heart. Farewell! [They embrace.]
Hear, future kings,
Ye unborn rulers of the nations hear!
Learn from my crime, from my misfortunes learn,
That delegated power which Oromasdes
Invests in monarchs for the public good.
SCENE.– The Court of the Palace, — The Sun rising.
Oh, good Araspes! what a night of horror!
To me the dawning day brings no return
Of cheerfulness or peace! No balmy sleep
Has seal’d these eyes, no nourishment has past
These loathing lips, since Daniel’s fate was sign’d!
Hear what my fruitless penitence resolves–
The thirty days my rashness had decreed
The edict’s force should last, I will devote
To mourning and repentance, fasting, prayer,
Ad all due rites of grief. For thirty days
No pleasant sound of dulcimer or harp,
Sackbut, or flute, or psaltery, shall charm
My ear, now dead to every note of joy!
My grief can know no period!
See that den!
There Daniel met the furious lions’ rage!
There were the patient martyr’s mangled limbs,
Torn piecemeal! Never hide thy tears, Araspes!
‘Tis virtuous sorrow, unallay’d, like mine,
By guilt and fell remorse! Let us approach;
Who knows but that dread Power to whom he pray’d
So often and so fervently, has heard him!
[He goes to the mouth of the den.]
O Daniel! servant of the living God!
He whom thou hast served so long, and loved so well,
From the devouring lion’s famish’d jaw
Can he deliver thee?
Daniel (from the bottom of the den.)
He can, he has.
Methought I heard him speak!
Oh! wondrous force
Of strong imagination! were thy voice
Loud as the trumpet’s blast, it could not wake him
From that eternal sleep!
Daniel (in the den.)
Hail! King Darius!
The God I serve has shut the lions’ mouths,
To vindicate my innocence.
‘Tis no illusion; ’tis the sound
Of his known voice.
Where are my servants! Haste,
Fly, swift as lightning, free him from the den!
Release him, bring him hither! Break the seal
Which keeps him from me! See, Araspes, look!
See the charm’d lions! — mark their mild demeanour!
Araspes, mark! — they have no power to hurt him!
See how they hang their heads, and smooth their fierceness,
At his mild aspect.
Who that sees this sight,
Who that in after-times shall hear this told,
Can doubt if Daniel’s God be God indeed?
None, none, Araspes!
Ah! he comes, he comes!
Enter Daniel, followed by Multitudes.
Hail, great Darius!
Dost thou live indeed?
And live unhurt?
Oh, miracle of joy!
I scarce can trust my eyes! how didst thou ‘scape?
That bright and glorious Being, who vouchsafed
Presence divine when the three martyr’d brothers
Essay’d the cauldron’s flame, supported me!
E’en in the furious lions’ dreadful den,
The prisoner of hope, even there I turn’d
To the strong hold, the bulwark of my strength,
Ready to hear, and mighty to redeem!
Darius (to Araspes.)
Where is Pharnaces? take the hoary traitor!
Take too Soranus, and the chief abettors
Of this dire edict! let no one escape
The punishment their deep-laid hate devised
For holy Daniel, on their heads shall fall
With tenfold vengeance. To the lions’ den
I doom his vile accusers! All their wives,
Their children too, shall share one common fate;
Take care that none escape. — Go, good Araspes.
[Araspes goes out.]
Not so, Darius!
Oh spare the guiltless! Spare the guilty too!
Where sin is not, to punish were unjust;
And where sin is, O king, there fell remorse
Supplies the place of punishment!
My word is past! Not one request, save this,
Shalt thou e’er make in vain. Approach, my friends;
Araspes has already spread the tale,
And see what crowds advance!
Long live Darius!
Long live great Daniel too, the people’s friend!
Draw near my subjects. See this holy man!
Death had no pow’r to harm him.
Of famish’d lions, soften’d at his sight,
Forgot their nature, and grew tame before him.
The mighty God protects his servants thus?
The righteous thus he rescues from the snare!
While fraud’s artificer himself shall fall
In the deep gulph hils wily arts devise
To snare the innocent!
To the same den
Araspes bears Pharnaces and his friends.
Fall’n is their insolence! With prayers and tears,
And all the meanness of high-crested pride,
When adverse fortune frowns, they beg for life.
Araspes will not hear. ‘You heard not me,’
He cries, ‘When I for Daniel’s life implored;
His God protected him! see now if yours
Will listen to your cries!’
People and nations, languages and realms
O’er whom I rule! Peace be within your walls
That I may banish from the minds of men
The rash decree gone out; hear me resolve
To counteract its force by one more just;
In every kingdom of my wide-stretch’d realm,
From fair Chaldea to th’ extremest bound
Of northern Media, be my edict sent,
And this my statute known. My heralds, haste,
And spread my royal mandate through the land,
That all my subjecst bow the ready knee
To Daniel’s God — for HE alone is Lord.
Let all adore and tremble at his name,
Who sits in glory unapproachable
Above the heavens — above the heaven of heavens?
His power is everlasting; and his throne,
Founded in equity and truth shall last
Beyond the bounded reign of time and space,
Through wide eternity? With his right arm
He saves, and who opposes? He defends,
And who shall injure? In the perilous den
He rescued Daniel from the lions’ mouths!
His common deeds are wonders; all his works
One ever-during chain of miracles!
All hail, O king! Darius live for ever!
May all thy foes be as Pharnaces is!
Oh, let me spare the tale?
‘Tis full of horror! dreadful was the sight!
The hungry lions, greedy for their prey,
Devour’d the wretched princes ere they reach’d
The bottom of the den.
Now, now confess
‘Twas some superior hand restrain’d their rage
And tamed their furious appetites.
The God of Daniel is a mighty god;
He saves and he destroys.
O friend! O Daniel!
No wav’ring doubts can ever more disturb
My settled faith.
To God be all the glory!
Pharnaces, Courtier, Enemy to Daniel.