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The purgatory of suicides; a prison-rhyme in ten books online

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But feel'st, therewith, thy chain. Thy wound to heal
No help extends ! Poor victim ! sold, trepanned
By hirelings of the minion whose spite planned
Thy death, and built thy gallows, but, through fear
Of Labour's vengeance, stayed the hangman's hand ;
Victim of thy heart's thirst with bread to cheer
England's lean artizan, and Cambria's mountaineer ! [1]

XIV.

How many a despicable sordid tool
Of tyranny doth flippantly descant
Upon thy deed, cleping thee ' rebel fool,'
And gallant Shell a 'broil-slain miscreant,'
Who, had your cause and ye proved dominant,
Would loudly have extolled your fearlessness,
And boisterously swelled the choral chaunt
Filled with the eulogy of your excess
Of deep fraternal zeal the suffering world to bless ! [2]



Ellis, my brother ! though but once in life
I clasped thy hand, for one hour's troubled breath
Heard thy tongue's accents, in the dungeon rife
With sounds of maddened sorrow, yet, till death
Hearse me in silence, of my plighted faith
To thee as to a brother, I will think :
And never, though it bring me direst wrath,
That they have wronged thy innocence, will I shrink
To tell the' oppressors whose revenge-cup thou dost drink.



OP SUICIDES. 141

XVI.

A perjurer sold thee to the lordHng's spite ;

The lordling's tenant-serfs dared not demur

The verdict for they marked his nod, though slight !

How sternly starless did the dread night lour

On the low minions of tyrannic power

When they, to exile thee, the wronged one, led !

'Twas such a night as this ; and griefs heart-shower

These yielding eyes, in my lone dungeon shed,

For 'mid the clank of chains, echoed thy farewell tread !



And thou, all guiltless of the violent deed [3]

Wherewith they charged thee, as the new-born child I
And he, failing t' entwine the victor's meed
With patriotic daring, deep-despoiled,
Alike, of the sweet heaven that on ye smiled
In your young loveling's eyes, your widows frowned
Upon by the rude world, scorn on scorn piled
Upon your memories, by each hireling, bound
To fawn or bark as he is bid, like the vile hound !



Despoiled, perchance, for ever, of the sweets
Of love, peace, hope ! Oh, how your hapless fates,
Like fearful beacons that the mariner meets
Voyaging near whirlpools, tell what danger waits
The patriot's steps ! And, whosoe'er debates,
Within, of loss of ease, enjoyment, wealth ;
Or, who on circling perils ruminates,
Envied, maligned, beHed, bereft of health, [stealth ;
Belike of food, dogged by blood-scenting things of



Whoso bethinks him that the eager grasp
Of foremost friendship's semblance may denote
The deeper venom of the darkling asp,
And that the multitude's applausive shout
May be the prelude to their hate ; if doubt
And hesitance arrest his fervid pulse,
And cool it to consistence with due thought
For his own offspring ; if their prattlings dulce
Seduce him from resolves that do the soul convulse



142 THE PURGATORY

XX.

With troubles, contests, perils myriad fold,
And threatening prospect of a baleful end
By the vile halter, in the dungeon cold,
Or on the transport-shore without a friend
To sympathise, but hordes of slaves to rend,
Ev'n in its death-pangs, the lorn exile's breast,
With brutal taunts : Oh ! let him reprehend
That knoweth none of these, but here confest,
Shall stand my sentence, while I am a dungeon-guest :

XX J.

I reprehend him not, that wisely looks
Before he leaps, and looks again !

Poor slaves !

Forgive that hasty curse ! forgive ! Rebukes
From me ye little need, while the rude waves
Of suffering o'erwhelm ye ! Seek your graves
In peace ! for ye are hasting thitherward
Apace. Why should ye a vain strife 'gainst knaves
And tyrants struggle to maintain ? Discard
All torturous hope : Redemption's path for you is barred !

XXII.

Drudge on in peace ! Ay, though ye starve, still drudge,
Lest from your fondlings ye be torn, to herd
With eunuch-paupers ! Tyrants wreck their grudge
Not as of old : high lords then massacred
The scurvy slaves who insolently dared
To murmur : now they wisely take revenge
On murmurers like men who have conferred
With meek Philosophy ; and mildly change
Murder of breathing things for 'annihilation strange

XXIII.

Of things designed, as they believe, to breathe !
And if they do not thus believe, they lie
The atheistic hypocrites ! To sheathe
The sword in ye were barb'rous : ye shall die
Humanely slow ; and they will meekly try
In peace to end ye ! 'Tis the radiant dawn
Of Christian Civilization ! Purify
The earth they must by sweeping off your spawn
Ev'n as the sun sweeps noxious vapours from the lawn !



OP SUICIDES. 143

XXIV.

Drudge on, in silent meekness ! Tamely drag
Life's fardels as ye may : 'twill soon be spent
This loan of breath; and they will find some rag
To wrap ye in at last ! When ye are blent
With other church-yard things from riches rent
And pride ye will be even with them! Pine
A few more hours ! Your goodly tenement,
The grave, is near : that fair serene confine
Where ye will never hunger while your lordlings dine !

XXV.

Hark ! 'tis Consumption's hollow cough that rings
From yon damp felon-cell ! How dread these vaults
Of living Death seem 'mid such echoings
At midnight ! What strange doubt the soul assaults,
What frightful bodings ! till the heart's pulse halts,
As if it were afraid to beat so loud !
Let me to rest ! To-morrow, when the bolts
Are drawn, once more, this feeling of the shroud
May flee : the spirit be, again, with hope endowed :

XXVI.

With hope for Man's redemption : though a crime
It is for prison-thralls of such a hope
To breathe !

I slept, and saw, again, the clime
Of suicidal souls. One of a troop
Of travellers newly come, beneath the cope
Sepulchral of the vague, vast, caverned span
I stood. Anon, adown an aisle whose slope
Invited, on new travel, I began
To wend, forth from that region subterranean.

XXVII.

Upon a bleak and barren plain, I dreamed
That I emerged, where one tall pillar reared
Its height until among the clouds it seemed
To end. Yet, 'twas but mockery when I neared
This lofty wonder for its top appeared
Beneath man's stature. Low, around the base,
Lay broken sculptures of great names revered
In times of old ; but ruin did deface
Them till they looked like Memory in her burial-place.



144 . THE PURGATORY

XXVIII.

And then another, and another stone
Uprose, in the far distance, each the aim
Vain-glorious of its founders making known
More by its wreck than record of the name
Or deed it had been stablished to proclaim.
Food for despondence, thus, the brooding mind
Gathered with semblant shapes that fleeting came
Athwart its vision : for, as flits the wind,
These imaged columns fled, or with new forms combined.

XXIX.

In allegoric lessons for the soul
Of Liberty, each marble fragment strewed
Upon that plain, each pictured deed and scroll,
Told, as it lay, and I the ruin viewed :
' She is a goddess Man hath oft pursued,
' Won seldom, and hath never yet retained
' Her living presence !' Dreary solitude
O'er all I saw in saddened vision reigned,
Until a verdant mound my anxious spirit gained.



And, on the mound, methought a mystic cirque
Of giant stones, in simple grandeur rose,
Resembling Earth's first fathers' handy-work
Their temples, or their tombs. Of Freedom's cause,
When Gallia's sons bound laurel on their brows
Blent with the oak, full many a devotee,
Self-exiled from the wrath of friends grown foes,
'Mid that cairn's shadow seated seemed to be,
Deep brooding on the Past : a stern confederacy.

XXXI.

Unapprehensible unto their thought
My being seemed, as I the cirque surveyed :
Albeit, so veritably that I mote
Not doubt, sat there each patriotic Shade
Revealed. Their spiritual brows arrayed
In light unearthly seemed ; and, soon, to tell
His thoughts each form began, while Spirit made
Response to Spirit : waking not the swell
Of sounds, but voiceless, Mind to Mind seemed voluble.



OP SUICIDES. 14-5



How long shall poor Humanity lie waste
On earth ! began this mystic utterance
Buzot[4], of La Gironde's great sons not last
In toil to break the feudal bonds of France :
How long will Liberty make tarriance,
Nor haste to bless our race ! Brothers, I deem
Our agony in this strange occupance
Of after-life a far less rueful theme
Than thought that Tyranny on earth is still supreme.



Of suffering here I reck not ; since from earth
Come spirits hither still, that each declare
Our ancient home enslaved. Who would have mirth
In after-life while Earth's poor children wear
The fetters of the despot, and despair
To break them ? This is woe, this, this, to feel
That all in vain we broke the priestly snare,
And, with our heart's blood, did to Freedom seal
Fealty ! France, loved France, now feels the iron heel !



Crushed, hated monarchy, again doth crush
Fair France ; mirk superstition again weaves,
Sucessfully, her limed web, ay, flush
With life, more than her ancient realm retrieves.
Soul of Condorcet ! tell me that misgrieves
My spirit, if unto thy thought profound
Hope scintillates; if thy strong vision cleaves
The clouded future, and thou view'st unbound
Loved France, and Europe quake at her old trumpet-sound.



Deep-searching spirit, tell me, did we err
Deeming the Palestinian story fraud
Or dreams, while we ourselves the dreamers were ;
Deeming Earth's sceptres a pernicious gaud,
And dying to defend the banner broad
Of Universal Liberty, while meek
Obedience unto kings, and reverent laud
Our duty was, of Him the fablers sleek
Extolled the Torturer of Man from vengeful pique ?
10 i.



146 THE PURGATORY

XXXVI.

Belike I err, ev'n now, and more involve

My being in woe, thus lightly Powers august

And solemn naming. Yet, the strong that wolve

The weak ! the powerful that grind to dust

The helpless ! Can I err, yearning to thrust

Them from their thrones ! My brother, if the doom

Of man be hopeful, tell !

With thought robust
And daring, thus the sombre spirit whom
Buzot addressed [5] replied, scorning exordium :

XXXVII.

The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep
Within the human heart, lulled, drugged, and drowsed,
By Power's robed med'ciners who keenly keep
Watch o'er its breathings, and have ever choused
Their prey into more slumber, when aroused
For a brief breath by Freedom's vital touch,
It started its sleek keepers, who caroused,
Gaily, beside their prostrate victim's couch
Thinking it safe, for aye, within their privileged clutch !

XXXTIII.

The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep
Within man's heart : the dark, blood-feeding brood
Of serpents that so hush around it creep,
Now they perceive, with apprehension shrewd,
Their Terror-Trinity of Crown, Sword, Rood,
Is near evanishment, may justly dread
The ruthless vengeance in its waking mood
Of the heart's Titan thought. Up from its bed
'Twill spring, and crush the asps that on its life misfed !

XXXIX.

The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep :
The Mind's tornado wakes, through earth, ev'n now t
And soon it will to nought the fabric sweep,
Of age-reared Priestcraft, and its shapes of woe,
Its Hell, Wrath-God, and Fear that foulest foe
Of human freedom ! ' I will freely think !'
'Twill boldly tell the surpliced cozeners' Lo !
' I dare your monster God ! nor will I shrink
' His tyrant tortures to defy ev'n though I sink



OF SUICIDES. 147

XL.

' Amid the bottomless abyss of pain
' Ye say He hath created for his slaves !
4 There let Him hurl me ! and, despite the chain
' That spiritually binds me under waves
4 Of liquid flame, He shall find one who braves
4 His wrath, and hurls back hatred for a God
4 Who forms without their will His creatures, graves
1 Their natures on them, rules by his own nod
Of providence, their lives, and, then, beneath his rod

XLI.

4 His scourge eternal, tortures them, without
' Surcease or intermission !' Endless fire
For a breath's error, for a moment's doubt !
Infinite Greatness exercising ire
Relentless on a worm ! Why ? That the quire
Celestial may His spotless glory sing
His attributes harmonious made by dire
Infliction on his worms of suffering,
And He Himself in joy ecstatic revelling !

XLII.

Oh ! what a potent poison hath benumbed
The human mind, and robbed it of its might
Inherent ! since affrighted, cowed, begloomed,
And stultified, this juggle of the Night
It kneels unto, and calls ' divinest light' !
But, it will soon the jugglers' toils outleap
Who long, behind the altar of their Sprite
Of blood, have played at terrible bo-peep
With Man ! The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep !

XLIII.

He ceased, and proudly from his visage flashed
Exultant hope's intensest radiance.
As, when around Jove's Titan victim crashed
The bounding thunder, and no mitigance
Of pain the vulture gave, his soul's expanse
Of hope for mortals filled with thought sublime
The offspring of lapetus, till glance
Of lightnings was forgot, and space, and time :
And Caucasus grew joyous as Elysian clime !

i 2



148 THE PURGATORY

XLIV.

Silent and solemn musings held the hand
Of patriot Shades, until, with suave aspect
And diffident, the spirit of Roland [6]
Thus spake :

The universe her Architect
All-wise proclaims; since without maim, defect,
Or vain expenditure of means are all
His works beheld : their Author they reflect :
Unseen the central Light Himself 'mid pall
Of His Own brightness snrouds, the Godhead personal.

XLT.

Yet men deny Him not because their ken
Detects not his pure Essence, neither fail
To hymn His all-pervading goodness, when
They view pain through His universe prevail ;
But, rather, as becomes their finite, frail,
And borrowed being, sum their dwarfish praise
With meek confession that poor reason's pale
Includes not perfect judgment of His ways
Who of Infinity the boundless sceptre sways.

XLVI.

Soul of Condorcet ! if we now indulge
The sceptic's thought, provoke we not the scourge
We inly feel ? Woes, ceaseless, here promulge
The vengeance of our Judge. Forbear to urge
His justice ! Penal sojourn us may purge
From earthly stain. Let us, by duteousness
Of mind, assist the cure; devoutly merge
Our pride in awe ; and reverently confess
Our wisdom blind His wisdom's goodness questionless !-

XLVII.

I marvel at thy fear, in haste replied
The sombre spirit : yet I 'sdeign to blame
The weakness of a brother ; but confide,
By power of minist'ring reason to reclaim
Thy mind from cowardice. Roland ! the game
Of priests hath turned upon that master-trick
For ages ' View thy finiteness with shame,
' And bow before the Infinite !' Their quick
Presentment of that cheat still serves the politic



OF SUICIDES. 149

xLvm.

Successors of the Jewish fishers rude,
As it subserved the hierarchs of old
That, through the Orient, primal thought subdued,
And humbled to the dust man's vision bold,
Which would have scanned their secrets uncontrolled.
Roland ! bethink thee what the cheat is worth !
Grant that Infinity cannot unfold
Itself to finiteness : that worms of earth
Their Maker's government behold but in its birth :

XLiX.

Grant that man seeing but a fleeting part
Of God's illimitable kingdom knows
Too little to fill up the boundless chart
By guess : yet, needeth it no operose
Deduction of our reason to disclose

This truth unto the simplest, shallowest brain

In the vast future God cannot oppose
Himself: new attributes if He sustain
Hereafter, Man now hymns his perfectness, in vain.

L.

Thou call'st God's goodness perfect : yet, ' It may
' Consist with perfect goodness,' say the priests,
1 To damn atoms of helplessness, for aye,
' Although Man's finite reason manifests
' Rebelliousness against such dread behests
1 Of Infinite Sovereignty : it may appear
' Lovely, hereafter, though Man now detests
' Such hideousness, nor doth, in heart, revere
* Whate'er his lips profess this Monster stern, austere :



' It may appear throughout eternity,
' Right and consistent, though in time it seems
* Monstrously wrong, that His philanthropy
1 Which in creating man so brightly beams,
' A thing in whose vile nature never gleams
' A spark of good desire, a thing thus made
' Ere it could choose, which evil good still deems,
' And thence can choose but evil till arrayed
' With power Divine it shuns its former nature's shade,



150 THE PURGATORY

L1I.

' And seeks the light of holiness, it may
1 Consist with His philanthropy to curse
' This thing because it never kneels to pray,
' And he withholds to 'infuse the will !' Rehearse
These subtleties the Priests until they sperse
Man's mental strength, and blind him with such dust
Of postulates as would, if granted, 'merse
All things in doubt; confound false, true, base, just;
And jeopard ev'n their godliest saint's devoutest trust :

LIU.

For, if still perfect God can violate
Some of His Own great declarations, who
Dares say it will His excellence abate
If He break others ? May it not congrue
Also with his perfections to eschew
Fulfilment of His promises of bliss
Celestial to the worms that render due
Observance to His laws ? Folly, than this
Quirk of old Austin[7], ne'er framed frailer artifice :



The cozener, seeking others to befool
Sottishly fools himself. For, hath the saint
A firm dependence for that rest of soul,
That endless cloyless joy his scriptures paint,
If God of His own moral Self so faint
A portraiture vouchsafes that what he saith
Must be interpreted without constraint
Of Reason, which Himself hath given, and Faith
That is, the Future must give meaning to His breath ?

LV.

If what He saith in Time, by what He doth
Throughout Eternity, must be explained,
How shall His worms repose upon His oath ?
Seeing that he sweareth by Himself, unstained
Would be His word by deeds ; since what pertained
Unto Himself men had not known ! And, thus,
The saint, though shorn of bliss, and in Hell chained
To burn, thrust down with sinners, murderous
And false, no more than they, could term th' All Mar-

[vellous !



OF SUICIDES. 151

LV1.

Soul of Condorcet ! harshly verbed the ghost
Of Potion [8], I thy thought deep-searching own ;
But wherefore is our after-life engrossed
With this tame wordy-war ? Need we impugn
Stale, senile fables which the wrinkled crone
Old Superstition, yet doth croak and crool
Unto Man's infancy ? Her dying moan
Will soon, on earth, be heard : no human mole
Will long be left to grope beneath her nighted rule.

LVII.

Shall we our torture's scanty lapse mispend
By coward reasonings on this side the tomb ?
The strife with scorn why not thus tersely end
Saith some cowled fabler ' Shall the clay presume
' To prate unto the Potter, nor succumb
' To His behests in silent awe ?' It shall
Thou knavish priest, if such behests bring doom
Of endless torment on the victim thrall
Compelled, without its choice, through mortal life to crawl.

LVIII.

On dreaming dolts, the shade of Valaze [9]
Exclaimed, fraternal suasion were mispent :
Dolts whom their craven fears will lead astray
From manly thought as soon as they have lent
Audience to reason. Slow and impotent
Of soul, Roland, on earth, thou always wert ;
But, here, in after-life, new wonderment
We feel, beholding thy dull mind begirt [vert.

With fabling dreams thou sought'st, elsewhere, to contro-



Weak, fickle spirit, on old Earth, mis-sexed !
Conjugal tie revealed to human ken
The woman's soul unto thy clay annexed :
'Twas thy brave helpmate breathed 'mong souls of men
True manhood the immortal Citoyenne ! [10]
Dim, wavering Shade ! when wilt thou strive to break
This fem'nine bondage unto weakness ? when
Demean thyself like to a man ? Awake
Dreamer ! thy spirit of these fraud-forged fetters shake !



152 THE PURGATORY

LX.

Or, if thou lov'st the dreams that appertain
To fools, seek the self-exiled climbing throng
That share yon hill. Hence, Folly we in vain
Have striven to make wise ! Spirits, with strong
Derision let us chase this slave of wrong

Forth of our fellowship !

Thou viler slave

Forbear ! Expurge the errors that belong

To thine own spirit ere thou fume and rave

Against thy brother, thus intolerantly brave !

LXI.

So spake, and fiercely frowned, the Jacobin,
Le Bas [11], who with a look of stern delight
Beheld, thus far, each haughty Brissotine
Scourge his tame brother. Soon, to join the fight
Of words hastened full many a sturdy sprite
Badged of ' the Mountain' when the strife of blood
Raged in distracted France : Girondist wight
Gave gall for gibe : fell combat seemed renewed
Of Freedom's doubly suicidal brotherhood. [12]

Lxn.

Malevolence, and spite, and rancour burned
Through their thin vehicles, with lurid flame ;
And madly, that he were, once more, disurned
From the dark tomb to play an aftergame
Of blood, each yearned, and did with zeal proclaim
His frantic wish ! So horrible it seemed
To witness how they raged, that being became
A torture ; and, unconscious that I dreamed,
Methought I mourned as one tj baleful life condemned.

LXlIf.

But, lo ! a sudden, silent pallor seized
The hostile crew, beholding where upreared
A Shape threat'ning as spectre unappeased
By devlish wizard who beholds afeard
The power his sable mischief hath unsphered,
But lacks the deeper skill to lay. Atween
Two cirque-stones vast the huge, gray Shape appeared,
So stone-like, and so blind, yet stern, of mien,
That nought proclaimed it human save its gaberdine.



OF SUICIDES. 153

I.XIV.

Dark atheist brood ! the mystic Shape began ;
Cease to malign Him Who the sceptre wields
Of Universe, all Being's Guardian !
Whose glory seraphs chaunt on heavenly fields;
Whose favour from their foes earth's chosen shields ;
Whose vengeance ye, in Sheol [13], deeply prove !
Foul sons of Belial ! ev'n your hatred yields
Proof that Jehovah, from His throne above,
Governeth Men as much by judgment as by love.

LXV.

Did ye not tear each other like the wolf
And bear on earth ? Did ye not rend and rive
Your fellow-clay until one crimson gulph
Your city seemed ? Here, in the soul, survive
Its cherished evils : judgment punitive
Condemns ye thus to ravin in your minds,
And slaughter with your thoughts. Nor will ye strive
To burst your dimning veil, for that each finds
Foul pleasure in the darkness which his spirit blinds.

LXVI.

Judicial blindness is your guilt-won lot :
And, though ye mock, your hard impenitence
I here rebuke : until, foul pride subtraught
From your soul's core, and evil prurience
Of self-willed doubt, with duteous reverence
Ye bow to the Most High returning peace
Ye ne'er shall know : but torturous turbulence
And rage of vengeful passions shall increase
Within ye ; nor shall ye your wandering penance cease ?

LXV1I.

Jehovah hath a quarrel with your pride.
Think ye that He will deign to justify
Himself to atoms unto Nought allied ?
Not to the proud into His ways that pry
But, to the meek who on His word rely,

He showeth favour.

Slaughterous Shophet[l4] hoary!
Condorcet's spirit hurled back proud reply,
Repeat no more thy oft-told doting story !
We bow not to thy Blood-God's homicidal glory !



154 THE PURGATORY

LXVIII.

Meek champion of the lofty deity
Who clave the ass's jaw-bone to reprieve
Thy murderous life, rather than cleave for thee
A thunder-blasted tomb, though Fraud misweave
Such shapes as His and thine, to disbelieve
That ye exist we dare ! Abortive dreams
Of lust and blood incarnate ! fools receive
For high realities the priestly themes [temns !

Of your strange deeds : Wisdom such barb'rous tales con-

LX1X.

Phantasm avaunt ! No real shape thou art ;
But gendered of our insane rage and broils ;
Or, with a myriad other mists athwart
Our thoughts that flit, thou and thy god are foils
Of truth, which, when her strength she overtoils,
The purblind Mind creates

Blasphemers bold !

Samson burst forth in ire, while the hoar piles
Of stone shook to their bases, leave untold
Your daring sneers ! provoke not vengeance manifold !

LXX.

Vile slaves of self-deceit ! vaunt not your zeal
For truth. Whence is this horror ye profess
For violence ? If ye to earth appeal
What saith she, shudd'ring, of your foul excess
Of fratricide ? To whom could ye address
So fitly as to Murder Deified

Your vows of blood ? Powers whose enormousness
Of massacre and ravine thought outstride
High o'er the rites of mutual butchers should preside.

LXXl.

Affect no more this horror, so demure,
Of His strict rule Who portions penance just
Unto the filthy : favour to the pure.
Could ye be gods, to sate your rav'ning lust
For blood, whole human hecatombs slaves must
Pile on your Moloch-altars day by day !
Your lives disprove your claim to style august


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