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

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Of high philanthropists : ere ye inveigh
'Gainst murder and revenge, mercy yourselves display !



Brood of assasins ere ye mock at deeds
Achieved by Israel's champion with your own
Compare them. Faiths ye scoffed at yet for creeds
Slaughtered each other ! To destroy the throne
Ye banded, since a monster curse 'twas grown
And then o'er crowds enfranchised raised the knife !
1 wonder Earth, with headless corses strown
And drenched with gore, from such horrific strife
Shrunk not upon her axle till she quelled all life !


Ye slaughtered for the sake of blood : I slew
My foes in self-defence. Ye murdered whom
Yourselves made free ! I crushed the brutal crew
Of haughty tyrants who to slavish doom
Sentenced my fatherland, ay, in one tomb
O'erwhelmed myself and them, rather than live
Myself a slave my country slaved ! To dumb
Confusion are ye stricken ? Let shame revive !
Her glow, though late, may prove of wisdom nutritive.


Now, list my embassy from souls of kings
And Gentile Shophets who in throned conclave,
Ye know, at lapse of penal wanderings,
Sit girt with pomps, and visioned splendours have.
Whether the Power that breathed all life Man gate
Unto his brother like the ox and horse
To minister, a sturdy, craft-trained slave
For food, or did ' Equality' endorse
On human natures they pursue abstruse discourse.


Such is the essence of their strife surround
It as they may with mist of words. Had ye
Less madly played your part millions unbound
Might now proclaim the coming jubilee
Of nations: Sheol's Thrones, through sympathy,
Forbode their fall conscious of mystic tie
That binds them with Earth's crowns : their destiny
And Man's they seek : I bid ye to the high
Debate : but, first, your souls' dark errors rectify !



I leave ye to self-chastisement that scourge
More poignant than all tortures from without.
May deep-wrought penitence your spirits purge
From the foul stain of atheistic doubt
That ye, at length, may join the choral shout
Of ransomed millions, when to end all pain
God's great Messiah comes ! that vision fraught
With bliss the rapt seers saw on Jordan's plain
And Judah's sacred hills. Jehovah, haste Thy reign !-


He spake and faded, as some threatening cloud
Of fearful shape disperseth in thin air
Leaving no trace to shew where, ebon-browed,
But now, it frowned and darkened to despair
The eye of day. No more with rage to tear
And rend each other burned the jarring host
Of patriot Shades rebuked ; but, to declare
His chastened thought began Babceuf s pale ghost-
Equality's last self-exile from Gallia's coast. [15]

If brothers still we be, he said, and zeal
For contest has not cancelled loftier sense
Of right, let us essay this strife to heal
With kindliness : not vengeful virulence
Will chase from Mind its raylessness intense,
Nor free it from fanatic mists obscure.
Boast we of Reason ? let us evidence
The gift by pointing, with persuasion pure,
Our weaker brother unto Truth's bright cynosure.


I yield not to this terror-shape belief
In his old fables ; neither fail to know
That earthly tyrannies derive their chief
Strength from the fear with which men quake and bow
To Powers Unknown. Yet, brothers, do we owe
Regard to these rebukes : let each, then, list ;
And cease these pois'nous gibes whereby our woe
Is deepened, soul to soul antagonist
Becomes, and Earth's old jars in after-life exist.



Fled we not hither less by inward dread
Of ignominious death than sick at heart
With our abortive strife, in which was shed
Torrents of Frenchmen's blood ? Oh ! let the smart
Of anguish for self-errors here impart
Regretful tenderness for frailties shown
By brethren. Still, I fear, these storms athwart
Our after-life will come ! My stain I own ;
And would by present pain for errors past atone !


Spirits ! rejoined Condorcet, Humbled thought
Avails not the mind's errors to expel :
Self-chastisement for frailty nurtures not
The growth of wisdom : Reason doth rebel
Against the slavish gloom which priests so well,
For their vile ends, depicture as the true
Discipline for the soul. They most excel
In wisdom who the past can calmly view
With deep resolve error in future to eschew.


Ay, they are wisest, best, who still maintain
The calm, firm, steady toil to' emancipate
Mind from its frailties : Tears, on earth, are vain,
And low regrets, in this our afterstate :
Man's noblest part is still to battle Fate,
Or Circumstance, or whatsoe'er afflict
His essence ; joy, as grief, to moderate
By Reason's rule not monkish rigour strict :
Rule that with ease the soul may gratefully addict


Herself to serve ; and by sure steps, though slow,
Thus climb Elysian height serene. How long
In circles shall we reason ? Whence the woe
We here experience save from passion strong
And changeful ? Spirits ! let us not prolong
Debate amid these ruins ; but the theme
Renew where kings invite polemic throng

Of essences !

I woke : for, like a gleam
Electric, vanished the wild actors of my dream I


[1] Stanza 13. I write from no personal knowledge of
John Frost, for the ' Newport insurrection' occurred more
than a year before I became acquainted with a single Chartist,
but from the testimony of my eloquent and intelligent friend,
Henry Vincent, who had witnessed Mr. Frost's upright dis-
charge of duty as a magistrate, frequently partook of his hos-
pitality, shared deeply his political views and purposes, and
speaks enthusiastically (I mean in private) of the poor exile's
generous sincerity and patriotic high-mindedness.

[2] Stanza 14.

" Treason doth never prosper : what's the reason 1
For, if it prosper none dare call it treason."

So says Sir John Harrington ; and, without asserting that it
was morally or physically possible for the Welsh emeute of
November, 1839, to have succeeded, I shall not shrink to
avow my conviction that the fated enterprise of John Frost,
which had for its object the enfranchisement of every sane
male inhabitant of Great Britain and Ireland, of twenty-one
years of age, was equally as noble, although not so imposing,
as the triumph-in-arms of the Barons of Runnymede, or the
' Glorious Revolution' of 1688. Reflection, and, above all,
prisow-reflection, has, indeed, done much to impress me with
the belief that a resort to force, under any circumstances, is
indefensible, either as a wise or a just proceeding ; but, for the
life of me, I cannot subdue the feeling of an Englishman when
the picture starts before my imagination of Hampden on Chal-
grove Field " drawing the sword and throwing away the scab-


bard." And if Patriotism need not be ashamed at the thrill
of blood which such a portrait enkindles, why blush to own ad-
miration for the heroism of poor Shell, a youth of singular
masculine beauty, and an enthusiast for the enfranchisement of
his own order, and who loaded and fired his piece three
times, with the greatest intrepidity, before he fell in the streets
of Newport ? We do not write History like the glorious old
Greeks, or the memory of such a hero would not be lost.
Lost ! let me remember that a Nugent to whom all honour !
has had the moral courage to exert himself, and successfully,
for the erection of a column on Chalgrove Field, at the bi-cen-
tenary of Hampden's death. May not a noble be found in
November 2039, to commemorate Shell's fall at Newport with
equal earnestness ? Servility and Prejudice may be staggered
at the thought now , but what would have been thought of a
column to Hampden, when the bones of Cromwell, Bradshaw,
and Ireton had been dug up, and were hung in gibbet-irons ?

[3] Stanza 17. See the Preface.

[4] Staaza 32. Buzot was esteemed as one of the best
business men of the talented Gironde party. He flod when
his party was proscribed by ' the Mountain,' or Robespierre
party, and committed suicide.

[5] Stanza 36. Condorcet, ' the sombre spirit whom Buzot
addressed,' was, undoubtedly, the profoundest intellect among
the Girondists. Mathematicians are proud of his name. On
the proscription of his party, he took refuge, for a time, in
one of the lime-pits in the neighbourhood of Paris. Hunger,
at length, compelled him to venture out from his concealment :
he was discovered ; when, to save himself from the ignominy
of public execution, he took, what he had long carried about
with him, a concentrated preparation of opium, sufficient to
ensure death.

[6] Stanza 44. Roland, minister of the Interior, during
the prief period preceding the death of Louis XVI., in which


the Gironde, or Moderate party, held office, threw up the
seals the day after the king's execution. Proscribed with the
rest of his party, by " the Mountain,*' he concealed himself ;
but on hearing that his wife had been guillotined, he " killed
himself," says Mignet, " on the high road."

[7] Stanza 53. " Quirk of old Austin." I do not think it
unfair to charge St. Augustine, the author of the famous
" Confessions," with the chief blame of all the extravagancies
of high Calvinism. By their own account, it was from study-
ing him, that Luther, Calvin himself, and other Reformers,
imbibed their rigid notions of predestination, &c.

[8] Stanza 56. Pe'tion, Mayor of Paris, before the fall of
the Gironde, fled, in company with Buzot, when they were
proscribed. They committed suicide, it is believed, together,
and were found in a field, half devoured by wolves.

[9] Stanza 58. Valaze, when condemned to the guillotine,
with twenty other members of the Gironde party, stabbed
himself to the heart with a poignard, on hearing the sentence.

[10] Stanza 59. "The immortal Citoyenne." That the
wife, and not the husband, was the real 'Minister of the In-
terior', writers of all shades of party agree. " He would have
produced little effect but for his wife," says Mignet ; " All he
wanted she had for him ; force, ability, elevation, foresight.
Madame Roland was' the soul of the Gironde ; it was at her
house that those brilliant and courageous men assembled to
discuss the necessities and dangers of their country ; it was
she who stimulated to action those whom she saw were quali-
fied for action, and who encouraged to the tribune those whom
she knew to be eloquent." Her exclamation, on passing the
statue of Liberty, as she was led to the guillotine, is memorable ,
" Ah, Liberty ! what crimes have been committed in thy
name !"

[11] Stanza 61. The Jacobin, Le Bas. Mignet (I prefer to
quote him, on account of his brevity and clearness), thus


describes the desperation of the Jacobins, when surrounded
iii the Hotel de Ville, where they had taken refuge, after their
denunciation : " Robespierre shattered his jaw with a pistol-
shot ; Le Bas followed his example, but succeeded in killing
himself ; Robespierre, the younger, jumped from a window
on the third story, and survived his fall ; Couthon hid himself
under a table ; Saint Just awaited his fate ; Ooffinhall, after
reproaching Henriot with cowardice, threw him from a win-
dow into a gutter and fled."

[12] Stanza 61. The list of suicides among the actors of
the French Revolution might be swelled by the names of
Chamfort, Claviere, Rebecqui, Romme, Ruhl, Goujon, &c.
Thomas Carlyle classes Barbaroux among the number ; but
Mignet affirms that he perished on the scaffold.

[13] Stanza 64. " Sheol" the Hebrew word for Hades, or
the region of the departed.

[14] Stanza 67. " fihophet" the Hebrew word for Judge,
or Ruler. Shophetim, is the title of the Book of Judges, in
the original.

[15] Stanza 77." Gracchus" Babrouf, " Tribune of the
Peoiple" and Darthe', both stabbed themselves in court,
when sentenced to death, with their fellow-conspirators for
" Equality" : theirs was the last struggle for ultra- democracy,
after the death of Robespierre.





BLOOD ! blood ! Ye human hell-hounds, when, oh ! when
Will ye have had your fill ? The hazy morn
Hath scarcely dawned upon this grisly den
Of demon Power, ere yon poor wretch forlorn
Is led to slaughter : led ? nay, fainting, borne
Unto the ladder's foot ! Murder by law
In lieu of med'cine till his wits return
For one impelled to kill, by his brain-flaw ;
And then to weep, when he his slaughtered infant saw !


It is the death-toll : there ! they bear him on !
I climb to read the lesson through my bars.
Hah ! curse upon thee, priest ! is it well done,
That thou, a peace-robed herald pattering prayers,
Dost head the death-march ? Trow'st thou not it jars
With that sky-message whieh proclaimed, thou say'st,
' Peace and Goodwill to Man' ? ay, that it mars
The face of mercy to behold thee placed [graced ?

There, in grim state, 'tween spears with crape, in mockery


'Tis passed, the bloody cavalcade : Farewell,
Poor pale, weak, fellow-worm ! 'twill soon be o'er
Thy tearful pilgrimage. 'Tis done ! the knell
Ceases : and though, I, happ'ly, see no more
Of the fell tragedy, the sullen roar
Of groans and execrations, pierces through
My dungeon-grating ; for the gazers pour
The heart's involuntary curse on you,
Ye hireling butchers who now 'give the law its due!' [1]

H 2



Oh ! I would weep throughout the live-long day
With memory how my fellow-man hath wept
Through ages, and bewail him as the prey
Of foul Draconian beasts which he hath kept
In reverence high 5 but, that I feel, except
The melting mood be mastered, and fierce ire
As well, and Man becomes a calm adept
In tracing errors to their spring, the fire
Of that real Hell that burns on earth shall ne'er expire.


Why should I curse thee, priest ? Art thou not bound
To' obey thy patched creed's dogmas ? ' Blood for blood'
Thy rubric reads, with logic most profound !
And, lest by disobedience, the world should
Halt on its axle, ye, meek brotherhood !
Must see the ' Law Divine' fulfilled. He meant
Not what he said the Nazarene the Good !
Or, still the rubric stands/or murderers : blent
With mystery is God's law : Himself knows His intent !


Hah ! how long will ye palter thus, to screen
Your conscious inconsistency, and hide
The Truth from Man ? Either the Nazarene
Or Moses errs. And, if stern homicide
Man's homicidal will could salutarily* chide
Of old, the Law of Blood, maugre all change,
Must still be wholesome. But, ye should abide
By all the Law : ' eye,' ' tooth,' ' hand,' ' foot' avenge,
Avenge ! Ye may not from the whole a part estrange ! [2]


Doff, then, thine alb, and don the ephod, priest,
If thou art Moses' minister ! Ah, no !
Thou too successfully and long hast fleeced
The sheep in that white garment to forego
The gain of doubleness. Neither art thou
And thy smooth tribe unskilful to discern
That while ye must stand by your yokefellow,
The hangman, and together deftly learn
To prop kings' sway, fair uses hath your coat extern :



It symbols meekness well, and peace, ye preach
To slaves : Christ's precepts are for them ! Your drame
Hath thus its parts, and ye are prompt for each !
Dark ambidexters in the guilty game
Of human subjugation ! how to tame
Man's spirit ye, and only ye, have skill :
Kings need your help to hold their thrones ; while claim
Of sanctity enables ye, at will,
To wield o'er prostrate Reason subtler empire still !


What tyrants leave unvanquished in the mind
By threat of chains, the gallows, flame, or sword,
Ye humble by your Hell !

Was I not blind

To judge ye inconsistent ? True accord
Subsists between your new and elder ' word,'
Ye throw away no part : it is because,
With cunning shrewder than the simple horde
O' th' laity, ye ken the penal clause
Blends in one spirit fierce the old and late Jew's laws.


' Forgive them, for they know not what they do 1'
O Christ ! how worshipfully great thou art
Uttering such dying breath ! A lowly Jew,
Born and brought up with bigots whose old heart
Was nurtured, from far time, to count the smart
Of suffering in a foe sweet to behold ;
From rule of blood for blood ne'er to depart,
Of eye for eye, and tooth for tooth ; to fold
The law of vengeance, given while the thunder roll'd,


And lightnings flashed, and the loud trumpet pealed
Forth from the shrouded hill, in the heart's core,
As dearer than all treasures earth can yield;
Law eulogised, confirmed by Prophets hoar,
By solemn awe-rapt bards, and all the lore
Thy country ever knew ! If not Divine
Thou wert, thy self-born light and love is more
Miraculous than aught by all the line
Of the heart's precept-makers writ in page benign.



Hunted to death, nailed to 'the tree of shame,'
Fainting, expiring, and thy last heart-prayer
Breathing for them who gibbeted thy name
Above that thorn-crowned head, nor did forbear,
When spirit-desolation or despair
Seized thee, to mock thy groans ! Forgiveness, love,
For those who tortured thee ! Oh ! if such rare
Triumph o'er ill be human, it doth prove
A glorious nobility in Man enwove !


And 'tis enwove in Man : else, wherefore pleads
High reason in that prayer ? ' they know not what
1 They do !' Compassion for a being whose deeds
Resulting from his ignorance denote
His errors accidental : not inwrought
By natural vice, or willed, in Reason's spite,
When Knowledge shews the wrong. By Reason brought
Thus to regard our brother, inner might
Of love fraternal springs, and Pity's calm delight.


What say'st thou, priest ? 'It is not thus'? Do threats
Of Hell, then, fill the heart with this intense
And holy bliss of pitying love ? Begets
Thy rhet'ric of the flames which Providence
Almighty ever blows for bodily' sense
(By miracle also made eternal) ; worm,
Deathless and sateless, preying* without suspense
On conscience ; do these horrors sow the germ
Of love in Man, and threats renewed its growth confirm ?


And yet, thy Master preached this Hell : with all
His sovereign magnanimity, and free
Expanse of soul, the Nazarene a thrall
Remained to the old desart-Deity,
The ' jealous' Vengeance-God !

Shrewd Priest ! of thee
I judged but shallowly : thy puzzle-book
Thou read'st more skilfully than I : agree
Thy teachers twain : the Galilean shook [yoke.

Not off from his large mind the mountain-thunderer's



Hell-fire, coercion, for the ingrate hard
Who will not love the God set forth as high,
Vast, indescribable, in His Love's regard
For Men ! 'Love Him; or He will magnify
' His glory by consigning thee to die
' In ceaseless flames an ever-living death' !

Christ! how can I love what doth outvie
All tyrannies in horribleness of wrath:

This monstrous Thing derived from an old monster Faith ?


Thine, Galilean, is of all earth's creeds
The greatest marvel ! Wonder at thy toil
Of tears, self-sacrifice, and love, succeeds
Each step we tread with thee till this dread foil
Unto thy moral beauty doth despoil
The yearning heart of its impassioned hope :
Death-stricken, blighted, doth the soul recoil
From its tempestuous wish to love thee: droop
It must in doubt; and to its bourne in darkness grope I


Oh ! hadst thou not so lovely been on earth,

1 would not care to share thy Paradise :
This wish to live beyond the grave hath birth
Without my will ; yet, by the sovereign voice
Of Reason 'twould be hushed, but that the bliss
Of knowing such a heart as thine doth seem

A boundless joy, a good beyond all price:
And still I wish thy heaven were not a dream ;
And, to my latest hour shall doat upon that theme !


Alas ! thy repetition of that most
Enslaving of all slavish thoughts a Hell
Wherewith the Priest may threat to tame the ghost
Of him who dares in mortal life rebel
'Gainst Faith or Kings restrains the heart's love-swell
Rushing to centre in thee, and reveals
To Reason that thou couldst not burst the spell
Of Circumstance which ev'n the mightiest seals
In impotence : we do but act as she impels.



Greatest of moral miracles thou art :
In godlikeness above all godlike men :
Pard'ning thy murd'rers, even while thy heart
They pierced : born in a land where rock and glen,
On every hand that met thy love-lit ken,
Were during witnesses of brothers' blood
Shed by, or for Jehovah ! Denizen
Of such a clime Child of so fierce a brood
What wonder at one speck in thy vast sun of good ?


One link thy penal Hell, with the old Past
Of Force, the homage-time so reverent
Connects thee 5 but, thy themes of mercy vast,
Of love and brotherhood, the aliment
Shall be for kindred souls on love intent
And mercy, every hour, until the might
Their spirits draw from thine all-prevalent
Shall render them ; and they shall chase the Sprite
Of Blood and Force that doth all human joyaunce blight.


Goodness, thou didst enthrone : our generous sires,

Drawn by thy generous themes, Woden and Thor

Abandoned, quenching all their idol-fires

To worship Whom they called ' the Good.' Before

Goodness personified thy Gospel's lore

Taught them, they thought, to bow ; and ' God' became

Their Deity [3]

What small shrill voice doth pour
Its wailing from that grated window-frame ?
What note of Pain doth thus my feeble brain-steps maim ?


Hah ! murderous spider ! when I watched thee spread
Thy cobweb yestermorn, it did relieve
A dreary prison-hour to mark each thread
From thee, thou magic artizan, receive
Its faery texture : while I saw thee weave
That daedal miracle, this poison -thought
Rose not that now impelleth me to grieve
Much more than to admire to grieve and doubt,
As. in a torment-web, like thy poor victim, caught !



Priest ! dost thou smile, beholding how Thought's web

Baffles and binds me with its mystery,

Yea, lays me, helpless as a limber babe,
At Mystery's feet? Oh ! I will slander thee
No more : if Nature hath a Deity,
The Bible doth not slanderously limn
His portraiture : Author of agony
The living book doth, hourly, picture Him :
The written thrones a Slaughterer 'tween the Cherubim


'Tis clear : who tries the Faith by Nature's test
O modern Stagyrite ! between thy creed

And Her must own ' Analogy' confest.[4]

' Submit thee, then, vain doubter ! since decreed
' It is that Life consists of things of greed
' And things to be their prey, submit and bow
' To Him who made them thus : back, that may lead
' Thee to the Faith in which, thou dost allow,
4 The Deity is drawn with Nature's girded brow !'

Priest ! I will answer thee with that free soul

These bolts and bars have only served to thew.

Forty short summer towards my earthly goal'
Have I now journeyed, and, for me, but few
More summers can remain : Wrong to eschew,
And Right to treasure in the heart's recess,
How can 1 lack dispose, while, to my view,
The grave is yawning in its cold duresse
To close what tyrants leave of my clay's feebleness ?

Priest ! I have felt by turns from earliest days,
As well as calms, the tempests of the brain :
Fervid devotion, and the wild rapt blaze
Of ecstasy in prayer ; ascetic pain
And fasting; midnight book- toil to obtain
The key to facts knowledge of tongues of old ;
Weighing of evidence grave long again ;
With constant watchings how Man doth unfold
What is the impress true he bears from Nature's mould;-



And this, in humbleness I would declare,
And yet with courage, is my only Faith :
Godness alone, with its blest, yearning care,
Is worshipful for Goodness only hath
Power to make good and happy things of breath
And thought. If Man can be transformed
Wholly to virtue, punishment and wrath,
Taught by all priests that on the earth have swarmed,
Must be untaught ; and Man by Love to Right be charmed


Goodness alone is worshipful. Not what
Gives life, but what gives happiness is good.
I cannot worship what I own a blot
To be in my own nature hasty flood
Of feeling that with ireful hardihood
Would rush to do what I would soon regret :
Nor can I worship, priest ! thy Shapes of Blood,
Or Nature's cause of Pain. If to beget
Love in the soul these fail shall worship there be met ?

I cannot worship what I cannot love.

If this be vicious, priest ! shew me the way
To virtue : I will own if thou dost prove
My error : but, till then, I humbly say,
I think the error thine. To resurvey,
For proofs of Deity, great Nature's face,
Drawn, yea impelled, unto Mind's latest day,

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