Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken into captivity, royal youths, free of physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and therefore qualified to serve in the king’s palace.
“Your names sound queer, and funny to my ear,” said the king, “a little bit jumbled and jivey. We’ll give you new names, proper names.” To Hananiah he gave the name Shadrach, to Mishael, Meschach, to Azariah Abednego, those being the names closest in the tongue of the king to their old names.
The king built a graven image of himself, all of gold, ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, and commanded that all should worship it when they heard the noise of tambours and the music of the flutes. Shadrach and Mescach and Abednego refused, and for their pains were burned in a fiery furnace.
Having seen the presence of the Lord, and having passed through the flames, the three youths found that the years did not touch them. They remained forever in the rebellious bloom of their captivity, while around them the mighty Babylonians were cast down and made low, though it took centuries. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego mourned, for though the empire was decadent, and though the people were idolatrous, still there were many rare wonders, unreproducible and singular.
They took new names, Persian names, to better live with the conquerors, and called themselves Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. After so many years they often forgot which was Gaspar, which Melchior, and which Belthasar. They loved the stars, being like them eternal and unchanging.
One night a new star appeared in the sky, bright, shining even during the day, confusing birds at night. “Goodnight, my someone,” sang Gaspar.