There are sounds of complaint
in a lordly hall;
What grieveth the spirit of Judah’s king?
Hath a mystical finger portrayed on the wall
His prophetic doom, or his kingdom’s fall,”
Or whence does that sorrow spring?
Have his cities been wasted by
sword and by flame?
Are his treasures engulphed by the sea?
Does his heart lie crushed by a weight of shame,
That stains his kingdom and sullies his name,
And causes his misery?
Oh! a heavier doom than these
A shadow o’er heart and brain,
A weightier grief has bowed his head,
And though few and low were the words he said,
They betokened his inward pain.
“Go ask,” he said, “of the good
If this doom may pass away;
If lowly prayer and the sacrifice
Of our penitent hearts may yet arise
To avert the evil day.”
And whom shall they seek in
that trying hour
What bearded sage or deep-learned seer,
Whose prophetic words have a magical power
To point the right path when dark tempests lower,
And the strong man shrinks with fear?
Oh, how can a woman’s soft
The heavy doom they dread to know?
Or how can she pierce through the mystic veil
Of the shadowy future, and breathe a spell
Like that which her lips breathe now?
“Ye ask me what answer the Lord
Thus say to him who sent you here:
For the deep transgressions of those who have
To call down the judgment and vengeance of heaven,
Both they and theirs shall from hence be driven,
And their spirits shall quail with fear.
“A terror and blight in field
and on flood
Shall descend unto all who have fled from me,
Who have bowed themselves to a god of wood,
And polluted their hands with innocent blood;
Let the reptile crawl where their palace hath stood,
And their name be a mockery.
“Go bear ye hence, to an erring
The answer God in his wrath hath sent,
And say to the hardened and shameless of face,
That henceforth the wide world has no resting-place
To screen them from terror and deep disgrace,
Until all His anger is spent.”
When, when will thy anger be
spent, Oh, God!
And thy children’s sufferings past?
Oh lead then their steps where the righteous have
That the bigot’s chain and the tyrant’s rod
May pollute no longer that sacred sod,
And thy chosen be free at last.