Poems inThe Literary Garland (1849)

By Adam Hood Burwell



Or Human Rule Contrasted with the Rule of Christ.

By the Rev. A. H. Burwell

[Author’s note] In the following poem it is attempted to show, from the prophetic narrative of Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision, the nature and character of Human Rule, in the light of God’s declarations concerning it, and of the experience of mankind under it; which together lead to a common result, viz: —an earnest desire for the establishment of that Kingdom of “the Just One”, to which, also, the vision points, wherein Righteousness, Justice and Mercy shall be administered for evermore.



 The king beheld, in visions of the night,
A goodly Tree, of heaven-aspiring height.
Its place was in the midst of all the earth;
It overspread the land which gave it birth;
Its branches in abundance yielded fruit,
  And gave provision to the foul and brute.
Its bloom was fair, its foliage rich and strong,
Where birds their dwelling found; and all along,
Beneath its shade, the beasts of earth reclined;
It fed and sheltered all of every kind.
The king beheld in visions of his head,
A Holy Watcher coming down, who said:
Hew down the Tree; pluck off his pleasant fruit;
Drive from his goodly shadow every brute;
Give all his foliage to the winds, and bring
  From out his branches, fowl of every wing.
To man or beast no shelter let it yield,
And be its honours scattered round the field.
Yet, rooted in the soil that gave it birth,
Permit the stump to keep its hold on earth,
  E’en with a band of iron and brass,
A certain remnant midst the tender grass.
Let it be wetted with the dews of heaven;
Let it from men amongst the beasts be driven [Page 79]
To take its portion: let his heart be changed:

From all that’s human let it be estranged,
In life and habits all. Thus let it be:
The Holy Watchers give this stern decree,
To seven times are fulfilled, to the intent,
(For man’s rebuke this word severe was sent),


That men may know God is the sovereign still,
And gives dominion unto whom He will;
Casts down the lofty, and the proud doth bind,
And sets on high the basest of mankind.

The troubled monarch to the prophet sent


To know from God what his strange vision meant.
The dream was to the monarch’s self applied,
With exhortation for his good beside,
That from his evil courses he should cease,
If God might grant the lengthening of his peace.


All that the prophet to the king did name,
According to the dream, upon him came.
At twelve months end he walked his palace high —
“is not this Babylon the Great, that I
Have builded for the glory of my State?”


Exclaimed the king with pride of heart elate,
“That men might see the honour and renown,
And might and majesty, that gild my crown!”
Scarce had he spoken when from heaven there fell
A voice —“This word to thee, O king, we tell:


Thy kingdom is departed far from thee:
From men they drive thee: with the beasts shall be
Thy dwelling, and thy fold shall be the grass
Which oxen eat, until seven times shall pass,
In punishment upon thee, and thou know


That God is master of the world below.”

That same hour saw fulfilled the dire decree:
The king was driven away with beasts to be.
Grass was his food, the earth his lowly bed;
The storms of heaven descended on his head;


Wet was his body with the midnight dew:
His nails and hair like claws and feathers grew: [Page 80]
His reason left him, and the human heart
Did for a season from the king depart.

The days were ended: to the king ’twas given


To lift his opening eyes again to Heaven.
His understanding to its place returned:
The human heart once more within him burned;
And he to honour the Most High had grace,
Whose judgements to His mercies thus gave place.


His reason came again, and to his crown
And kingdom, gathered brightness and renown.
His lords and counsellors his presence sought,
And all their honours to the palace brought:
The kingdom was established in his hand,


And swelled the monarch’s fame in every land.

And then the king proclaimed, that all might know
The works of God upon the earth below;
The wondrous things that to himself were done;
The times through which his judgements sore had run;


The base estate adown to which was thrust
The proud of heart, in retribution just;
And then the mercy which reversed his fate,
And him recovered to his first estate.
He honoured and extolled the King of Heaven,


Who such instruction to mankind had given.

But does the vision of the Tree laid low,
With just the root preserved, no farther go
Than to out-single one, whose pride
Should thus rebuke all haughty ones beside?


Nay, rather, let us, with a larger mind,
A larger field of application find,
Ranging all time till time shall be no more,
And God the Tree shall from the root restore.

The monarch erst beheld, in vision bold,


An image terrible, whose head was gold,
Which symbolized forth four forms of empire great,
Succeeding to each other’s high estate,
That o’er the world should hold their iron sway,
Till Heaven’s own hand should sweep them all away.

  [Page 81]

Which yet should answer Heaven’s profound intent
Down to their hour of final banishment;
As He in Babylon his people kept
While for their sins they hanged their harps and wept.
He saw one image as he saw one Tree:


They both were smitten down by Heaven’s decree.
The beasts in Daniels vision were the same;
They all are given to the burning flame.
In all one character alike we find;
All are offensive to th’ Almighty Mind.


Destruction marks their course and all their power
Goes to oppress, to trample, and devour.
As beasts to be destroyed we see them fall;
One sweeping judgement overwhelms them all.
Through every form of change the power is one;


One evil course from first to last they run;
One evil character throughout inheres,
Deserving death, as by the end appears.
For powers and thrones and rulers were designed
To be a sovereign blessing to mankind;


To yield protection, —watchful to fulfill,
By righteous government, the Sovereign Will;
Repressing evil with a steadfast hand,
And holding up the faithful in the land.

The human in the image-form we see;


Man’s works and glory in the spreading Tree;
But human’s wickedness we have designed
In ravenous beasts and forms of monstrous kind.
So in the end the Beast usurps all power,
And kings and armies swell his train one hour;


All worship claims he till the One descends
Who vengeance takes, —and then his empire ends!

Did not “great Babylon that I have built”
Rise from her first foundations steeped in guilt?
Did not profane ambition raise the wall


Which, proving folly, men do Babel call?
The builders said, —“Let’s build a tower whose high,
Aspiring top, shall meet the bending sky,
And make ourselves an everlasting name,
That after ages may recount our fame.”


Thus by anticipation did mankind
Reject the Name which God for the designed,
The heavenly city, tower, and citadel
Of strength, where God ordains with men to dwell.
[Page 82]

’Twas thus the haughty Babylonian wrought,


And thus he warred, and robbed, and built, and thought.
The hardy Persian followed in his track;
And from it the swift-winged Grecian turned not back.
The conquering Roman, with his iron thread,
Looked up and laboured, but t’exalt his head.


He trode down all, and plundered all and built
The “Daughter of Troops,” the city of his guilt, —
“The Eternal City,” yet to fall, which stands
The head of Babylon in Christian lands.

Th’ exceptions to this evil rule one jot,


The leading principle diminish not.
The rule hath been, —oppression, self, abuse,
With feebly here and there the lawful use.
Like a small rivulet, to a river strong
That roars and sweeps and carries all along.


The unjust judge who bears aloft the rod
Of rule, regardless both of man and God;
The ravenous beast that watches to devour,
Alike shew forth this sad abuse of power.
And what’s the difference, when the deed is done,


If by ten thousand tyrants or by one?
A better beast the million cannot rate
Than one who sits alone in solitary state.
’Tis kind alone. The tree will yield its fruit
If in a forest or a single shoot.


A beast of many heads a beast is still;
And such is government by human will.
And as the word divine must not be void,
This kind of government must be destroyed.
That we resist it not must be our care;


That God remove it is our bounden prayer.
Another kind in mercy He will give,
And by his word at last the world shall live.
Now, while confusion doth o’er all prevail,
Its advent near with rapture we should hail.


Let God on earth see that His will be done,
Avenge the widow, and restore her son!

The monarch saw a remnant of the Tree
Left in the earth, a future growth to be;
And when recovered from his beastly state


He honoured God, and grew, becoming great. [Page 83]
Honour and majesty again were given,
Because the king confessed the Lord of Heaven.
So when these beasts of earth shall be destroyed,
And all their power and pride and works made void;


When God his empire o’er the world maintains,
And all things take the course which He ordains;
When as his servants rulers all appear,
And none shall rule but in His holy fear;
When all the kingdoms of this world, as said,


Shall yield their homage to the One great Head,
Then shall the remnant of the Tree, its shoots
Send up by “scent of water,” from its roots; —
Then men reclaimed shall lift their eyes to Heaven,
And understand that power from God is given;


The human reason shall return likewise,
And heavenly illume the darkened eyes;
“The madness of the people” then no more
Shall like the turbid, troubled ocean roar;
Then true humanity shall fill the heart,


And every faculty perform its part.
The Tree again shall throw its branches wide;
Its foliage, fresh and green, be multiplied.
Fast by “the river” shall its roots outspread.
In Heaven’s blest beams it shall exalt its head;


Its plenteous bloom shall feed, its bloom regale;
Its shade shall shelter —it shall never fail —
And man shall be renewed. No more the blight
Shall on the labours of his hand alight;
For no more curse on all the earth shall be,


And man and nature shall alike be free.
With life renewed returns the bloom of youth
Unfading. Then beneath the reign of truth,
Justice and judgement shall o’er all prevail;
Disease and sickness shall no more assail.


All grief, all pain, all cause of ill shall cease,
And each his portion shall possess in peace.
The ills that have been ne’er shall leave a trace,
But happiness sit radiant on each face.
Recovered man no more shall play the fool;


For this the world shall know —THE HEAVENS ABOVE     DO RULE.
[Page 84]



* This poem appeared in The Literary Garland (Montreal), N.S., VII, (January, 1849), 15-16. [back]