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  Witnesses for God  


Upon the plain of Dura stood an image great and high,
    With golden forehead broad and bright beneath the morning sky;
All regal in its majesty and kingly in its mien,
    The grandest and most glorious thing the world had ever seen!

Full sixty cubits high in air the lordly head was reared,
    And robed in gold from head to foot the stately form appeared;
Down the breast six cubits broad, a flood of yellow gold,
    All deftly wrought with matchless skill, its shining tresses rolled.

And, fronting thus the rising sun, it sent back ray for ray--
    A golden flood of arrowy light--into-the face of day;
While round its feet, in awe and dread, all Shinar stood amazed,
    And up into that radiant face with reverent wonder gazed.

Woke sackbut, psaltery, and harp, woke dulcimer and flute,--
    Then prone in dust fell prince and peer, in lowly worship mute!
The wise, the gifted, and the great, the lordly and the base
    Before the image bent the knee, and bowed in dust the face.

Not all!--for lo, three princely men, with calm, unaltered mien,
    With unbowed heads and folded arms, gaze on the unhallowed scene!
The golden image awes them not, nor yet the king's decree,
    They bow not at the idol's shrine, nor bend the servile knee.

"Wake, sackbut, psaltery, and harp--wake yet again!"--but nay,
    With calm, pale faces, sad and stern, they slowly turn away;
The monarch's wrath, the furnace-flame, death, death,--they know it all--
    Yet all these horrors powerless are those high hearts to appal!

Haste, haste, obsequious minions, bear the tidings to your lord!
    Go, tell him there are some who dare to disobey his word;
Men of the captive, Hebrew race, men high in place and power,
    Who scorn to bow their haughty necks at his command this hour!

"Go, bring them nigh!" the monarch cries, with fury in his face,
    "And set them here before my throne, these men of Hebrew race!
Now, Shadrach, Meshach, answer me, and thou, Abednego,
    They tell me ye refuse to bow and worship!--is it so?

"But hearken: if, what time ye hear once more the pealing swell
    Of sackbut, psaltery, and harp, ye bend in homage--well;
If not, the fiery furnace shall your quivering flesh devour!
    Then where's the God can rescue you from my avenging power?"

Then answered they, the captive three, in calm, respectful tone,
    While over each young, fearless brow faith's hallowed radiance shone,
"Behold, our God is for us now--our God, O King! and He
    Is able to deliver us from the fierce flames and thee!

"Yea, and He will deliver us!--yet be it known to thee,
    O King, that could we truly know, that so it would not be,
E'en then, we would not bow us down, or worship at the shrine
    Of this vain image thou hast reared, or any god of thine!"

"Now lead ye forth these haughty men!" the wrathful monarch cried,
    The while his face grew dark with rage and fury, so defied;
"Yea, heat the furnace seven fold, and in the fiercest flame
    Blot out forever from the day each impious scorner's name!

"Ay, bind them well, ye mighty men, ye warriors stern and bold,
    And let your cords be very strong, your fetters manifold!
For neither they nor He they trust shall foil my kingly ire,
    Or save them from the wrathful flame of this devouring fire!

"Now cast them in!--but, oh!--my men!--they fade like morning mist!
    Slain by the fierce, out-leaping flame no mortal may resist!
My warriors bold!--alas, alas!--I did not will it so!
    Scathed by the fiery blast of death meant only for my foe!"

The king has risen to his feet!--what sight has fixed his gaze?
    What mean the wonder in his face, the look of blank amaze?
And what the changed and falt'ring voice, as doubtfully he cries,
    "Tell me, ye counsellors of mine, ye ancient men and wise,

"Did we not cast, each firmly bound, into the fiercest flame,
    Three mortal men, for death designed, of Hebrew race and name?
Three?--only three?--or do I dream? What sight is this I view?"
    And all his counsellors replied, "O monarch, it is true!"

"Yet now, amid the blinding flames, unbound, and calm, and free,
    Walking, with firm and steady step, the fiery waves, I see
Not three, but four, and lo, the form of Him, the fourth I ween,
    Is like the Son of God, so calm, so gracious is His mien!"

Then to the furnace mouth drew near the monarch with his train--
    The baffled monarch, bowed and quelled, feeling how poor and vain
Were all his boasted pomp and power, how impotent and Week
    The arm so void of strength that hour his mad revenge to wreak.

"Ho, Shadrach, Meshach, hasten ye! and thou, Abednego,
    Servants of God Most High, come forth!" the monarch cried; and lo,
Without a touch or tinge of fire, or smell of scorching flame,
    Forth, from the glowing heat intense, God's faithful servants came!

O, servants of a heathen king! all vainly would ye trace
    Or hue, or stain, or smell of fire, on any form or face!
Those comely locks of raven hair, smooth and unscorched, behold;
    Nor may ye find one trace of flame on any garment's fold!

Then cried the heathen king again--and, oh, how altered now
    The tone and utterance!--how changed the haughty lip and brow!--
"Now blessed be the God who hath His angel sent to free
    His servants who have trusted Him, and changed the King's decree;

"Who gave their bodies to the flame, rather than once to swerve
    From their allegiance to the God whom they delight to serve!
Therefore, let no one speak against this Glorious One and Just,
    Who saves, as none but He can save, the souls that in Him trust!"

Then calmly to their wonted toil, their worldly cares again,
    Unconscious of their deathless fame, went forth those dauntless men;
Thrice blessed men! with whom, that day, their gracious Lord had walked,
    And lovingly, as friend with friend, of hallowed mysteries talked.

He walked with them amid the flames! Oh, to the paths we tread,
    The brighter, smoother, greener paths, with summer-flowers o'erspread,
If but our weak hearts welcome Him, the same dear Lord will come,
    And walk with us through countless snares, till we arrive at home!

       - Mrs. J. C. Yule

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