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ing an image of the god of the particular country whence it had comesome an elephant, some a lion, and some a horse. Thence the turbaned and helmeted armies of the king, exercising in the broad courts of the armories and strongholds—some with the spear, some armed with the bow, some guiding the triple-horsed chariots, whose scythe-armed wheels were wont to spread devastation amid the ranks of battle ;-thence the numerous temples erected to the Sun, with their everlasting fires and clouds of incense ascending ;—the mighty mausoleums ;-the huge brazen turreted gates, which opened at intervals in the walls, flashing in the western sun,– the innumerable multitudes and all the pomp and glory of Babylon.
It is evening, and Assuerus and his train have entered the great pleasure hall of the palace--an immense chamber-on whose walls, intervaled by statues of the kings and gods of the land, the history of the empire is represented in pictures and writing. From the mighty portal at one end, whence a colonnaded stair of marble and jasper descends to the garden, terraces, the odour of whose flowers breathes voluptuously on the air, the golden sunset, sinking into cloudy red, casts a glare blood-like and portentous np the tesselated floors and gilded roofs, and bronze images, upon the throne where the monarch rests. On either side stand his ministers and attendants, his cup-bearers, tribute-gatherers, eunuchs, and fan-bearers, sceptrecarriers, scribes, his astrologers, soothsayers, and magicians; all attired in sumptuous apparel, and all bearing the symbol of their office. Though slightly differing, according to their rank and function, all wear the national costume of Assyria, some the tunic and parted cloak, some the lovg robe, reaching to the red-heeled sandals; all wear their hair floating on the shoulders, and the long plaited and curled beard, golden earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. From a chamber opening from the upper end of the hall, where the court surrounds the throne, the sound of low laughters and rustling silks occasionally stirs the silence, and as some fair hand lifts the tapestry, the wives and concubines of the king may be seen reclining on couches around a fountain, the play of whose perfumed waters keeps time with their whispered conversation.
An unusual gloom clouds the fierce and voluptuous countenance of Assuerus, and those of the palace ministers surrounding him partake of its sympathetic shadows. At length, the portentous silence, which had for some time reigned in the royal chamber, is broken by the king, who raising his crimson and gold tiara, and passing his hand over his troubled brow, speaks as follows :
“ But a few hours since, while wrapped in noon-day slumber, oh, Babylonians, a dream visited my soul-a dream whose purport, though still inexplicable, has darkened the day, and still haunts my brain with its mysterious impression. Hence is it that I have commanded the presence of you, astrologers, soothsayers, and magicians of my palace. Many times before have I proved your power and knowledge of futurityonce again I call upon you, by such lore and spells as you have mastered, to interpret this vision, and translating its meaning, possess me with the purposes of destiny."
“Speak, oh, king,"exclaims the chief of the magicians, advancing proudly? “ hitherto the fate of this great empire has been, as thou knowest, clearly foreseen by us, its magicians, all whose prophecies, whether arising from the study of the stars, the power of sorcery, or the magic of mind in the interpretation of dreams, have been verified by events—speak.”
The last flush of sunset had faded from the sky, and the blue shadows of the moonless evening, falling through the casements, tinged the statues and faces in the lampless hall with a spectral hue as Assuerus, leaning on his golden sceptre, which trembled in his grasp, as though some sudden and chill air had iced his blood, said
Methought, oh magicians, I was lying in the very chamber where I reposed, when my dream was broken by a peal of thunder, and turning, I gazed toward the east, in which the bright day reigned, all shadowless,– save for one cloud. At first it seemed a mere speck, but presently grew larger, and as it approached a wind began to blow, darkening the air, bending the trees, and driving the waves of the river in tumults before it. Presently, the while the jagged lightning of the tempest struck blindingly around me, methought the cloud assumed the form of a mighty giant, and as it advanced with wrathful brow and gesture across the land, the plain trembled, and an earthquake cleared a path for the awesome presence across the city, through which it moved, until it ascended to the summit of the great temple of Belus, yonder. There, as frowning, it pointed a minatory arm toward the space beneath, methought a sudden fire broke from the ground, and rose in broader and fiercer conflagration, until Babylon's loftiest turrets sunk beneath the deluge of flame, which, in a little seemed to surround the palace. Then I rose to fly, but fierce faces and serpents of fire leaping from roof, and casements, and doors, assaulted me, as I hurried hither and thither, and finally collecting and wrapping me round, consumed me, until I thought I sat upon the ruins of my state, upon a burning throne,-a skeletop.”
As the king ended, a confused whispered murmur passed round the group of magicians. After a time, the chief magus advancing, said :
Ordinarily interpreted, oh Assuerus, thy vision would portend danger to thy kingdom; but as thy wise men deem it not fitting to offer an explanation of a phantasm so fearful, without consulting the spirits of the stars, the dead, and the gods of Babylon, we purpose--you accompanying us—to visit at once the grove of Assarac, where, after prognostic and incantation, the purport of thy dream shall be unfolded.”
Upon this Assuerus descended from his throne, and the chief magus leading the way, the king and his magicians passed in procession from the palace into the night, and after moving through the stately arenues of the gardens, presently entered the gloomy grove referred to, which was dedicated to the rites of the oldest deities of Assyria.
DIVINATION, Arrived at this gloomy spot, where a cluster of aged trees, whose black writhed branches shadowed a still water, near which rose a small temple,
old and sombre, on the summit of a ridge of rocks, whose sides were covered with the tombs of the oldest sect of the Chaldeans, Assuerus with some of his ministers, entered one of the mouldering chambers of the shrine, and awaited the result of the magic rites and incantations in gloom and silence. First, the chief Astrologer—a tall, white-robed figure, with bright, solemn eyes—approached the gloomy pool, on whose stilly surface a bright star, shining in the zenith, was reflected with placid brilliancy; and kneeling on the dry, perfumed herbs, which skirted its margin, appeared to be for some moments absorbed in a trance of prayer or divination, the while a second kindled a heap of precious substances on a small altar, whose pale fire rose steadily in the quiet air, throwing up its ploom of incense smoke, and casting beautiful but melancholy reflections over the pool, among the trees and masses of herbage.
Presently, as rising, he made a mystic sign with his wand, pointed toward the azure glittering sky, a radiant shadow, as of a beautiful face, appeared to rise from the blue surface of the pool, where the bright star, which seemed to sparkle through its forehead, shone ; and a voice, spiritual and low, as though breathing from an infinite distance, attered some indistinct words, which pulsed away in whispers through the surrounding foliage. When its last echo had died in the silence, the Astrologer rose, and hastening to the porch of the temple, where the king sat, exclaimed
“ Trouble not thyself, oh king, the Spirit of the star which my spells control-than which none is greater in the sky-proclaims that thy dream bodes not disaster, but continued glory and prosperity.”
Glory to Belus !” cried Assuerus, from whose countenance, illuminated by night, the ominous gloom began to clear away ; “yes, this god of Babylon, to whom a thousand altars smoke, will still protect my empire. But what say the Sorcerers ? If their interpretation accords with thine, oh Chaldeans, then may we laugh to scorn the antagonistic spirits who terrify our souls with visions, boding disaster, But, behold! the incantation is still proceeding,” he added, as he pointed to a flame which flickered among the tombs in the dark rocky valley beneath.
This flame, which proceeded from a brazier, which burned at the entrance of a gloomy ravine, had a little before illuminated the dark-robed form and cavernous eyes of Sosorbes, the chief of the Sorcerers, the while he fed the fire, dropping into it with his skeleton hands, now rare perfumes ; now, some spell written in hieroglyphic; now, magical gems.
This prefatory rite completed, he descended into the ravine, in which his figure was soon lost amid the impenetrable shadows of the superincambent rocks. At length, mounting a shadowy path, where a fountain murmured from a cleft, he paused before an aged tomb, on which the light of the distant sacraficial fire fell. Then, kneeling on the earth beneath the black arms of the old cypresses, and dark, large-leaved herbage, with which the door of the sepulchre was half hidden, he removed a talisman from his hand, and the while he muttered an incantation in an unknown tongue, knocked with the magic instrument gently against the hollow stone.
After some moments the door of the tomb slowly opened ; there was a
sound within, as of the rustle of withered leaves, and an aged Shadow, on whose brow the image of a phantom crown rested, rose in the presence of the sorcerer. Sosorbes in the same dim language in which he had invoked, addressed this, his familiar spirit, a few words of mysterious import; then as the Shadow touched him with its hand, the eyes of the sorcerer closed,—he ceased to breathe, and for a few moments seemed as dead-silent as a statue. Io the interval be had received the answer of the Dead. When the Shadow withdrew its hand, and vanished, and the stone door of the tomb rolled back to its place, with a hollow subterranean noise, the sound seemed once more to restore Sosorbes to consciousness. For a moment a shiver convulsed, and passed from his frame-drops of sweat stood on his brow, and the while his heart throbbed loudly with returning life, he descended the rugged pathway, and passing the brazier of fire at the entrance of the ravine, stood once more in the presence of the king.
“Sosorbes, what answer have the shadowy gods vouchsafed to thy invocation ?” enquired Assuerus in a tone of anxiety, low and perturbed.
“ Fear not, oh king;” returned the sorcerer, my familiar spirit gives thee cheer The voice of the Dead re-echoes that of the Stars."
Upon this Assuerus rose quickly, an air of exaltation and defiance reanimated the cruel and languid lineaments of bis dusky face, and giving a sign for the torch-bearers, who stood afar off at the entrance of the dark cypress avenue, to approch, accompained by his magcians, he hurridly retraced his steps to the palace.
That night a sumptuous banquet was given by Assuerus to his captains, councillors, and magicians; a hundred lights illuminated the great feasting. chamber, the wine flowed, the music of sackbut and psaltry resounded, and the palace was drowned in revel.
It was already midnight, and the cup-bearer had replenished the frequently filled wine goblet of the king, who, reclining in his golden chair, in ile central space of the royal table at the upper end of the hall, had just wituessed the performance of a Lydian dancer, and the plaudits of the festal company had scarcely ceased, when the captain of the spearmen who held guard at the colossal gate of the palace, entering and prostrating himself before the throne, announced, “ That scouts had arrived, bearing intelligence that a great Median army had crossed the frontier, and were at that moment advancing rapidly on the capital."
The king drained the wine cup, and flinging it with disdainful gesture on the board, cried :
“Thou, too, hast been partaking overmnch in revel, oh Ashar! the army of whose approach thou speakest has only an existence in thy imagination; away! thou hast been dreaming--away, wine bibber, and sleep off tly fear.”
Not daring to reply, the officer rose, and bowing, disappeared, and the laughter of the revellers still echoed along the golden roofs, when they
were suddenly conscious of the presence of a strange guest, whom none had observed enter, and who was unknown to any, who sat at the right hand of Assuerus, between the chief of the magicians and sorcerers. A sensation of wonder, mingled with one of unaccountable awe, thrilled the hearts of the revellers, all whose faces were turned toward this unnoticed visiter ;-his foreign garb,-his dark countenance,--and splendid eyes, whose gaze seemed to fix and control the brain of each of the revellers upon whom it was bent. As he glanced round the assembly, and then at Assuerus, the latter, who on a sudden felt his heart beat painfully, and his blood chill, exclaimed in accents of ill simulated courage :-
“Whence comest thou, stranger, and for what reason hast thou, an unbidden guest, dared to enter the palace of Assuerus ?''
“ To interpret thy dream,” the stranger replied.
“Thou deemest thy wisdom greater, then, than that of my astrologers and magicians,” returned Assuerus, smiling disdainfully, though still a prey to terror.
“ True wisdom is tested by time is proved by results," the stranger answered, glancing at Sosorbes, and the Chaldeans.
A cloud of doubt hovered on the brow of the king, so lately glowing with pride and assurance, and after a pause, he said: “ Come, then, as thou assumest a gift of knowledge greater tban the most powerful of the Chaldeans, I will acquaint thee with my vision, and hear thy interpretation, oh wonidrous prophet!"
A sudden shadow seemed to dim the lamp-lit hall, in which a deep silence reigned, as the Magian said
" Thy thoughts, oh Assuerus, are familiar to me as my own; but as thou desirest to hear thy dream interpreted, not foolishly, as by thine astrologer, or falsely, as by the evil familiar of thy sorcerer yonder, but in terror and truth-listen.”
As the Magian spoke, a rushing wind seemed to sweep over the city and palace, and a sudden gloom gathered in the revel chamber, in whose cloud of darkness the lamps became extinguisbed, and the feasters invisible, each to the other.
Then, as every heart sunk with awe, lo, upon the magic darkness which had filled the hall, appeared the following words in letters of mysterious flame, which, though shining brightly as the sun, shed no light upon the group of revellers, whose eyes were fixed thereon.
" The giant of thy vision, Assuerus, is the army of the Persians, which is already at thy gates. The glory of Babylon is at an end; in the new cycle wbich has commenced, destiny ordains that the course of empire shall pass from the rising to the setting sun; present ruin awaits thy great city, wbich, a few ages hence, shall become a buried tomb :-present ruin thyself, oh king: the slumber in which thou dreamedst thy dream of terror, was thy last !"
As the monarch, his councillors, captains, and magicians, read those fiery prophetic words, a cry of despair rung through the darkened palace, whose gates at the same instant were heard to close with a sound like