Magazine | June 24, 2019, Issue

When Pipers Remembered Babylon

(European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser/Handout via Reuters)

In hora qua audieritis sonitum tubae et fistulae et citharae sambucae et psalterii et symphoniae . . .

Daniel 3:5

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue stood
About as high as a false god could.
The three were left with little choice —
Silence after the herald’s voice.

For Babylon’s profane event,
Musicians tuned each instrument
As carefully as they rehearsed
What would happen to the accursed

Who failed to bow and adore
The monumental fraud with a roar.
(And might they expect the same
At the reading of the great king’s name?)

In later years the tunes they played
Recalled how they were once dismayed,
That circle in the fiery den
Intended for less flexible men.

And certainly they were delighted
That they had not been invited
As others had, to live or die.
They lived their art, whatever the lie.

Lawrence Dugan's poetry has appeared recently in Arion, National Review, The Spectator and The Threepenny Review.

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