Thomas Aird

Nebuchadnezzar: Canto VIII: The End Of Nebuchadnezzar

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I

At morn the King arose: He bade be sought
Embalmers taught in Egypt; they were brought.
With linen pure and costly gums they dressed
That virgin body for the grave's long rest.


II

Within an ivory coffin Cyra lay;
Odorous lamps around her night and day
Burned, shining on her with a sweet dim light;
And there the Monarch fed his sorrowing sight.

Yet oft retired he, as he gave his leave
To Salem's princes o'er the maid to grieve.
Ezekiel heard and came; by Daniel's side
Walking, the Brethren in the Furnace tried
Came too; they stood around their daughter dead,
And lowly bowed was each majestic head.
Then communed they of Judah's earlier day,
Her prophet's vision, and her poet's lay,
Her judges, priests, her mighty men who fought
Jehovah's battles, and deliverance wrought;
Forgetting not those women famed of old,
For deeds beyond a woman's blood made bold.
Of Cyra then they spake, great was their praise
Of her endeavour Zion to upraise.
Then bowing down, when they had ceased to speak,
The sun of Buzi kissed the virgin's cheek,
Weeping the while. Forth from the place they go.
Back comes the King in his peculiar wo.

Long years—even till his death—his heart would there
Have kept her; but he rose from his despair;
Recalled her wish; and, greatly self-denied,
Ordained her body should not there abide,
But to Judea—such her last command—
Should go, should lie within her father's land.

Just to the dear departed one, he bade
Be chariots yoked, and horsemen swift arrayed,
At morn, a goodly escort, to convey
The honoured dead from Babylon away.
And in the tombs of Judah's princely race
Shall gentle Cyra have her burial-place:
Whate'er her birth, a praise with her she brings
More than the blood of many thronèd kings.

They come! they take her thence! Silent, aloof,
Stood the great King; then sought his Palace roof,
And saw that convoy darkly haste away
To Judah's land, beneath the western day.
Soft music mourned the while. On turrets stood,
On roofs and walls, the city's multitude,
All westward looking; thousand thousands laid
Their foreheads low for Cyra, honoured maid.
As for the King, he tore his straitened vest,
To ease the swelling trouble of his breast;
And watched that sable troop, till from his eyes,
Far fused to mist, the swimming vision dies.


III

Down walked the grief-struck King; but yet put on
A governed wo, and sate upon his throne:
His laws renewed, the glories of his State
Arranged, with god-like majesty he sate.


IV

Remembering then his pledge by Cyra won,
To raise her people up, the King bade this be done.
But grief for her already had subdued
His heart, relapsing to its mournful mood.
Quick drooped his life: the same revolving year
Saw Cyra die, and him upon his bier.
Yet held in honour their united name
Was Zion's helper, and deliverance came.

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Thomas Aird