Belshazzar there in the kingly hall
Is holding royal festival.
The vassals sat in glittering line,
And emptied the goblets of glowing wine.
The yelling laughter was hushed, and all
Was still as death in the royal hall.
And see! and see! on the white wall high
The form of a hand went slowly by;
And wrote, and wrote, on the broad wall white,
Letters of fire, and vanished in night.
Pale as death, with a steady stare,
And with trembling knees, the king sat there;
The horde of slaves sat shuddering chill;
No word they spoke but were deathlike still.
The Magicians came, but of them all,
None could read the flame-script on the wall.
But that same night in all his pride,
By the hands of his servants Belshazzar died.—Heinrich Heine, trans. by C. G. Leland
During the Second World War, one of the German leaders, Rudolf Hess, a close associate of Adolf Hitler, flew to Britain and landed in a field in Scotland where he was made captive. He said he had come on a visit to the Duke of Hamilton, his friend. Remarking on the incident at the time, Lord Halifax said, 'He saw the writing on the wall', using an illustration from the Bible.
(Dan. 5. 5, 24-28)