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

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fecit," it is added in the notes to Lemaire's edition, " Hy-
ginns, fab. 259 : Ceres eum convertit in lyncem varii coloris
ut ipse varite mentis exstiterat."

[18] Stanza 48. "And feet of beast that marred the seer,''
<&o. See 1 Kings, 13 chap. xxiv. xxv.


[19] Stanza 48. "And Absalom and all the men of Israel
said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the

counsel of Ahithophel And* when Ahithophel saw that

his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose,
and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his house-
hold in order, and hanged himself." 2 Sam. 16 chap.
Suicides, it seems, had "method in their madness," even in
those days.

[20] Stanza 48. Eleazar the Maccabee, (1 Maccab. 6 chap.)
who "put himself in jeopardy, to the end he might deliver
his people," by slaying Antiochus, (though he only succeeded
in slaying Antiochus' elephant,) is usually classed as a suicide,
by writers on that subject.

[21] Stanza 49. Razis. See 2nd Maccabees, ch. 14., v. 37
46, for an account of his wild suicide.

[22] Stanza 49. "Arbogastes, after the loss of a battle
( won by Theodosius), in which he had discharged the duties of
a soldier and a general, wandered several days among the
mountains. But when he was convinced that his cause was
desperate, and his escape impracticable, the intrepid bar-
barian imitated the example of the ancient Romans, and
turned his sword against his own breast." Gibbon, chap. 27.

[23] Stanza 55. " On earth, I toiled a menial slave by
night." Cleanthes, is a noble Greek example of mind tri-
umphing over difficulties. He was at first a " fisty-cuffer,"
as the old translators phrase it, in the edition of Diogenes
Laertius "made English by several hands:" 1696; "but
coming to Athens, with no more than four drachmas in his
pocket, and meeting with Zeno, he betook himself most
sedulously to the study of Philosophy, &c." " By night (says
Enfield, who renders Laertius more elegantly) he drew water
as a common labourer in the public gardens, that he might
have leisure in the day-time, to attend the schools of philo-
sophy. The Athenian citizens observing that though he


appeared strong and healthy, he had no visible means of sub-
sistence, summoned him before the court of Areopagus, ac-
cording to the custom of the city, to give an account of his
manner of living. Upon this he produced the gardener for
whom he drew water, and a woman for whom he ground
meal, as witnesses to prove that he subsisted by the honest
labour of his hands. The judges of the court were so struck
with admiration of this singular example of industry and
perseverance, that they ordered ten mince to be paid him
out of the public treasury, which, however, Zeno would not

suffer him to accept Cleanthes was for

many years so poor that he was obliged to write the heads of
his master's lectures upon shells and bones, for want of
money to buy paper." The suicide of this philosopher, at a
very advanced age, was singularly quiet and yet heroic. His
physicians recommended fasting for some disease with which
he was afflicted ; and having abstained from food for two
days, although he had thus subdued his disorder, he refused to
eat again, saying that since he had travelled so far towards the
end of life he would not go back again, and, accordingly
died by voluntary " total-abstinence." The testimonies to
the elevated morality of his life are abundant.

[24] Stanza 62. The last lines of this stanza were com-
posed under an impression that an earthquake or violent
tempest signalised the birth of Nero, Caligula, Domitian,
Elagabulus, or some one of the monsters who presided over
the Roman world. Memory, it seems, betrayed me ; and I
had no means of correcting my inaccuracy, in prison. The
mistake, however, does not seem of such importance as to
demand that I strike out the lines of the stanza, or substitute
others for them.

[25] Stanza 78. Macrocosm', great world : microcosm, little
world. Emphatic terms, which, in Greek philosophy, were
used to denote the Universe, and Man.

[26] Stanza 105. " Pelops' sire," Tantalus, wishing to try


the divinity of the gods who visited him, served up the limbs
of his son, at a banquet set before them. They perceived the
horrid nature of the dish ; and Tantalus is tantalized in hell,
for his crime, by being endued with perpetual thirst which
he can never satisfy, though placed up to the chin in water,
since the stream deserts him whenever he attempts to drink.

[27] Stanza 112. The comets which appeared at the birth
of Mithridates, and at the period of his ascension of the throne
of Pontus, together with their significance of the future great-
ness of this remarkable potentate (whom Cicero terms the
greatest that ever reigned) are alike matter of the gravest
history : " Hujus futuram magnitudinc-m etiam cselestia
ostenta prsedixerant. Nam et quo genitus est anno, et eo quo
regnare primum csepit, Stella cometes per utrumque tcmpus
septuaginta diebus ita luxit, ut caelum omne conflagrare vide-
retur &c." Justin. Hist. lib. 37. cap. 2.

[28] Stanza 118. "Hilding," an old word (too good to be
lost) for coicard.




London ! how imageable seems the strife
Of thy huge crowds amid this solitude !
Instinct with hot, heart-feverous, throbbing life
Racers for Mammon day by day renewed
Quick, motley actors in Mind's interlude
They flit before me or again, I walk
Wonder-lost less with splendours unendued
With power of thought than human shapes that stalk
Though thy vast wilderness of ways, and, smiling, talk

With their own wretchedness which hath estranged
Them from their kind, but cannot stifle dreams
That Beggary's rags shall, one day, be exchanged
For Grandeur's robes, and Fortune's favouring beams
Gild their last hours. These, these, amid thy streams
Of populousness, thy lavish shews of pride,
And pomp, and equipage, were living themes
For healthiest thought that did my folly chide
When I, along thy streets, a gazing 'venturer, hied.

Oh ! if the heart doth crave for loneliness,
Deep in thy crowded desart it may find
Its drear wish realised. In Misery's dress
Their blighted visages to humankind
A pregnant lesson, but their names enshrined,
Perchance, in secresy how stealthily
Such hermits of the heart glide on behind
The bustling men of gain, or groups of glee
That swell thy blended throngs of thrift and gaiety



Oft have I followed such a stealthy form,
To mark his whereabout of rest or home,
Until he plunged into some haunt where swarm,
In dingy dens, that shadow forth the gloom
Of hearts within, what the World calls its ' scum'
Victims of gilded fraud, and titled lust,
And pensioned knavery ! Will it e'er come
The hour when Man shall venture to be just,
And dare to give true names unto his fellow-dust ?

Age after age hath gazed the eager throng,
As, now, I seem, again, to see it gaze,
Heedless of moral worth, or right or wrong,
While haughty Pomp unclosed its newest blaze
Of tear -wrung splendour : and, perchance, to praise
Of garish shew, blame for great gold misspent
Hath followed, as it follows now : yet, raise
The trump of pageantry, and ears are lent
By thousands who lisp scorn for Time's old rabblement !

Will they, one day, the clown and artizan,
Strip ofi" these swaddling-bands of gauze these chains
Of gossamer ? This baby-talisman
Will it much longer charm the child of pains
And sweat, to leave his bread-toil ? Oh ! there reigns
Of strength in Labour's millions, a young breath
That gaunt Starvation quells not, but sustains !
Where, now, my memory wanders, may its wrath
Ne'er burst! Monarch, adown thy stately palace-path!


1 saw thee on the day thou wast a briue,
And shouted, 'mid my joy tears, with the crowd :
Thou wert a woman, and thou satt'st beside
Thy bosom's choice, while happiness o'erflowed
Thy heart, and in thy fair young countenance glowed.
Beholding thine, what could I less than feel
A sympathetic joy ? Ay, though a proud
Worship of England's stern old Commonweal
Was mine, for thee, that day, I breathed devotion leal.



And many a heart, yielding, that festive day,
To Nature's impulses of hope and joy,
Confiding, blessed thee ! Queen ! if thou delay
To help thy Poor if thou, thyself, destroy
The promise of that time, and harsh alloy
Of blame with memory of our joy now blend
What marvel ? Hopes, that do the heart upbuoy,
Turned to despair by sufferings slighted, rend
All gentle feelings in their way to some dire end.

When next thou passest by Whitehall, look up,

I pray thee, and remember who felt there

The fatal axe ! Ay, look ! nor be the dupe

Of tinselled traitors who would thee ensnare

To ease and grandeur, till thy People's prayer

For justice all too long delayed they rise

With that old heart the Stuart to despair

Drove, first, and, then, to vengeance ! Hunger cries

Throughout thy realm ' Queen ! from the fearful Past

[be wise !'

I know that tellers of plain truths are ' Goths'
And ' savages' in their esteem who haunt
The halls of royalty the pageant moths
That flutter in thy beams the sycophant,
The beau, the coronetted mendicant :
Yet, speak I not from brutal nature; nor
Is thirst for violence fell habitant
Of labour's children's hearts. Queen ! they who store

Thy mind with such belief wrong grievously thy Poor !

Believe one born amid their daily toils
And sighs, and, since, observant of the words
And deeds of those who live on Labour's spoils :
Thy Poor, it is and not their haughty lords
In whose hearts vibrate gentle Nature's chords
Of tenderness for thee, ev'n while they groan
With deepest wrongs. ' We surfer by the hordes
' Of selfish ones,' they say, ' that hide the throne :
' If she could know our woes we should not, vainly, moan !'


Ladv ! 'tis thus the hunger-bitten ones
Their simple, lingering trust in thee express :
Let thy heart answer 'mid superb saloons
And soldiered pomp with truth and faithfulness,
If thou deserv'st this trust from comfortless
And bread-pinched millions ! Wouldst thou read aright
Thy glory ? Seek to be the heritress
Of love deserved choosing, with noble slight
Of gauds, to make the Poor's heart-smile thy sole delighf.


Alas ! in vain thus breathes a rebel thrall
Fond wish that, now a thousand years have rolled,
To Alfred's land it might, once more, befall
That enn of human glories to behold
A mo; lurch scorning blood stained gauds and gold,
To build the throne in a blest People's love !
It may not be ! Custom, soul-numbing, cold,
Her web hath round thee, from thy cradle wove:
Can heart of a born-thrall with pulse of Freedom move '.'

Deadly, mind-blighting influences begird
Thee daily, hourly : 'tis thy lot. A gaol
Is mine. Thus far, our lot how like ! The herd
Of titled, starred, and sworded things, that fail
Not to enclose thee in their watchful pale,
Are but thy chief and under-turnkeys. Thou
By birth, for life, and I, by foree, this bale
Of bondage prove. Rebel, or Queen, we bow
Alike to circumstance : our mould to it we owe.


Oh ! who shall mete due blame to things of earth ?
When, passing from that palace, heart-felt ire
Doth rise, viewing a shame on royal birth
Becolumned on that spot of moral mire,
When burneth momentary, rash desire
To see him and the elder-born there swing
On an eternal gibbet, if the fire
O'th' heart flasheth within, will it not fling
On conscience home reproof, and wholesome chastening ?



Hadst them who glancest on that pillared Shame
Been like him next of kin to Infamy
In royal robes, scant-minded, without aim
Cast on the gaudy world that sought with glee
To tempt or gratify his lust in thee
Would the poor soldier, or his orphan-child,
Or beggar'd widow, in their misery,
So oft have found a heart whose glow beguiled
Their tears with bounteous help until the mourners smiled?

Alas ! from tears this balm of tears was wrung !
Millions on millions toiled and pined and wept
To clothe with Murder's panoply the young
The thoughtless who to swift destruction leapt,
Or back to home with maimed*>odies crept
Winners of ' Glory' ! while, to toil and weep
Was still the millions' lot : if Death had swept
Off thousands, blood-garbed thousands more must leap
Into the breach : War, Madness, must their harvest reap !

Dash down ? Nay, rear more shameless columns! high
And higher still ! Ye are but niggard carles
Who taste the fruit of ( Glory' ! To the sky
Lift up ten thousand trophies till it whirls
Our blood to see them, and the foreigner gnarls
His lingers in hot shame ! Why do ye spare
A corner 'neath yon mighty dome, for churls
Like Howard, Reynolds, Jones, and Johnson? Tear
The low quarternion down ! Why stand their dull forms

[there ?


'Tis Glory's temple ! Glory whose great brood
Escape the gallows by a broidered coat
And larger knife wherewith to shed the blood
Of brothers ! What meek traitor hither brought
Philanthropy and Art, Genius and Thought,
To stain the mausoleum of the great
And grand in murder ? Cast the cowards out !
Their effigies do only tribulate
His joy who here beholds what pomps on ' heroes' wait !


Briton ! gaze deeply on the marbled crowd
Forgetting the mean four ! Oh ! let it swell
Thy veins with ecstasy to view this proud
Array of warriors some, as if they fell
But now, in Victory's arms, beneath the knell
Of Fate some, girt with blazonry of brand,
Pike, cannon, war-ship, or brute shade that well
Shews slaughter was their trade ! While peal those grand
Deep diapasons bow, and reverence glory's band ! [I]


What matter that yon vocal instruments
Join the loud organ's thunder ? 'Tis for bread
They chaunt of ' mercy,' poor subservients !
Bread, that their pampered masters, in whose stead
They do this meaningless day-drudgery, spread
In measure scant for each poor breath-machine :
Shunning the task that irks both heart and head
To hymn the pitying thorn-crowned Nazarene [mien !
Where laurelled Murder holds high pomp with marbled

Dost thou refuse to reverence Carnage vast,
And hie thee back where glooms yon elder fane,
Shrouding the mouldered great ones of the Past,
With all its solemn glories of dyed pane
And carven stone ? Ah ! Briton, who wouldst fain,
Where sleep thy country's truly glorious few,
In that dim ' corner,' joy in awe restrain
Thy heart ! Fraud must to Force, its twin, be true :
Mind must be bann'd, like Childe : they'll welcome

[Waterloo !


Perchance the Priest forbodes his end is near,
Unless he come less lazily with aid
To stem the torrent in whose strong career
Thrones, altars, may be whirled ! Shall they be stayed
Thought's whelming waves ? Can Priestcraft's joint cru-
With carnage against Mind, arrst its course ? [sade
Oh, ' let them grapple,' as the great one bade, [2]
' Falsehood and Truth' ! awhile Fraud linkt with Force
May boast ! but Truth shall one day, ' put' them ' to the

[worse' !



Let priest with warrior, old comates in rule,
Join hands, and tear from vault and niche and shrine,
From pedestal in fane and vestibule,
The heroes of the Mind ! Let them assign
Sole honour to the puissant Butcher line
Throughout wide earth, beneath high heaven : the day
Will come when the triumphing sun shall shine
On earth renewed : not always shall his ray
Gild Murder's monuments : they surely shall decay !


Oh ! what wilt thou be, then, my country, 'mong
The nations ? Shakspere's home, arid Alfred's realm
Land where our Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, sung
Where infant Truth decked Wickliffe's warrior-helm
Where Bacon burst Man's age-worn spirit-film
Footstool of Newton while he spanned the sky
Cradle of glorious names that fill and whelm
A Briton's heart with love, and pride, and joy
Wilt thou be great and glorious, then freed from alloy


Of all thy old, mistaken strife to be
Glorious and great ? Wilt thou above the wave
Then bare thy generous breast Nurse of the Free,
Alone extinct the Tyrant and the Slave
And filled with Brother-Men ; not beings that crave
To see the murderer of one brother hang,
Yet vaunt the ' glory' of each carnage-grave,
From Agincourt to Waterloo, where sang
The trumpet over thousands in their hearts' death-pang ?

Will truthful greatness crown thy hoary age,
Or desart-savagery its reign resume
Wide over thee, and to the bard or sage
Of far off clime, new-born from mental gloom
Hereafter, even Shakspere's name become
A worn-out glory, or, like Orpheus' lyre,
Fade into fable ? On thy future doom
Thy children, England ! ponder, with desire ;
Though vainly buried millions burned with kindred fire,!
14 P



Another day of dreams is gone ! yet must the sun
Bring other flowers than these cold things of Spring
Poor, puny prisoners, that, to look upon
Raise tears ere Time to me shall hither bring
The hour of Freedom. How we still do cling
Unto the world, as if we yet might find
Therein substantial joy !

Fancy took wing,

Again in sleep; and, in the realms assigned
To suicidal souls, wandered the sleepless Mind.


Methought I passed adown the sculptured ais\e^
With a new band of ghostly travellers
Whose visages were clad with smirk and smile,
Although they looked as if earth's sepulchres
Had newly cast them out : mirthsome compeers
In grave-clothes, on they tripped, with glee more grim
Than if a troop of monks or caloyers, [3]
Smit with some sudden madness or wild whim,
Were seen to laugh and dance unto a funeral hymn.


And when they reached the dome-like space, methought
In circle the strange crew took hands, and round
They whirled, with laughter and delirious shout,
Until the vault 'neath which I heard no sound
Before gave back such mirth as did astound
These revellers in shrouds; whereat they wailed
And wildly wept, and, each, the deathly wound
By his own hand inflicted, swift, unveiled,
And fiercely on himself for mad self-murderer railed !


A silent sorrow, then, their essence clothed,
And slowly from beneath the dome they passed,
With eyes that told how achingly they loathed
Prolonged existence, and how fain would cast
Its bondage off, with their old guilty haste,
In spite of self-upbraidings, if the soul
Were brittle as earth's clay. Upon a waste
The wanderers emerged, and sought some goal [dole.
Where, with life-wantons like themselves, they might con-

or SUICIDKS. 211


Laurels of conquerors, chaplets of vain bards,
Bracelets of beauties, diadems of kings,
Lay shivered on the waste with porcelain shards,
And fractured counterfeits of jewelled rings,
And robes in rags: of all Earth's gaudy things
Some image there lay mangled, marred, or rent ;
And, as they trod upon these symbolings
Of their past pride, on mortal life misspent [ment.

The travellers thought, and sighed, with grievous languish-

A strand they reached, with waters sluggish, shallow,
And strown with weed-grown walls where human mopes
Reclined, while others idly 'gan to wallow
In the dull wave : a realm of misanthropes
It seemed, for none his neighbour told what hopes
Or fears he had, or doubts or wishes : all
Lugubrious silence kept, and drooped, as droops
The brooding thing who doth his soul enthral
With hates, till he thinks all men's veins, like his, hold gall.


Part of the dreary band with which I marched
Clomb those dank walls, fording the shallow stream,
And lay them vilely down ; a remnant searched
Along the beach for spot that they might deem
More meet for resting-place : these, in my dream,
I companied, until a bay they neared,
From whence, discerned by an unearthly gleam
Of lurid light, huge, half-sunk towers appeared,
And pinnacles their points from out the waters reared.


And here, methought, we halted, by a groupe
Of ghosts that sat upon a ledge of rock
Listlessly watching the gray ruins stoop
Unto their fall among the waves that broke
With leaden weight against their sides. None spoke
A welcome, or unto our stay gave heed,
But gazed still drowsily on. Within me woke
Desire to know them; but, the soul, though freed
From clay, on this dull shore seemed outward lore to need.

F 2



Here, spirit shared no powers intuitive :
So gross it grew, that for old mortal sense
The mind longed, painfully, when it would give
Unto its neighbour mind some evidence
That it still held its being : will, vehemence,
Fire, energy, the soul no longer felt :
Cold, carking consciousness of indigence
Of thought from waste with which it had misdealt
Its opulence on earth within the spirit dwelt.


One of the listless groupe, at length, began
To murmur sounds for spirit was too weak,
In this low realm, to beam forth thought, or scan
The thoughts of others if they did not speak.
And then another murmured, till apeak
Each raised himself to listen ; I, to learn
Who spoke ; when three, I saw by their antique
Eagle-beaked faces, were of Rome th' Eterne
Two of gay France two of my fatherland more stern.

And by observance of a dull dispute
That rose from murmurs to less slumberous words,
I found out Nero's lewdly dissolute
Comate, Sophonius, who, when Galba's guards
Sought for his guilty life, forestalled their swords. [4]
Here leant he, by the Tyrant's ' Arbiter
' Of Elegancies' whom the Muse records
For polished verse 111 Fame for panderer
To Rome's imperial beast of lust and massacre. [5]


That proverb with them sate the epicure
Of epicures he who through fear of want
Destroyed the carcase he could not manure
Sufficiently with garbage, from the scant
Tenth of a million, which this cormorant
From gormandizing spared.[6] Buffoon confest,
Leant, by Apicius, the hair-brained Mordaunt,
England's fine fool, all Europe's courtly guest, [7]

Who paid his debts then blew his brains out for a jest !



Lumley was there, a ' noble lord,' in life, [8]
Who his kept mistress to distraction loved,
Yet, having having pledged his troth to take for wife
A lady chaste his thoughtful choice approved,
Grew crazy with dilemma, till it moved
His hand to solve the puzzle which his mind,
Too delicately sensitive, behoved
To solve. He seemed a lord of extinct kind.
Certes, lords now no puzzle in such troth-pledge find !


Vatel, who cut his throat to shun the stain
Of not being able sumptuously to store
The supper-table for his guests ; [9] with vain
Villeneuve, Napoleon's admiral, who bore
Disgrace so oddly that he flew to lore
Of stern anatomy with aim to know
What he both learnt and practised how the core
Of life a pin may pierce, with one quick throe ; [10]
Two spirits truly French made up the groupe I saw.


Nero's two courtiers soon their contest ended ;
Apicius spoke not ; and the mopes of France,
With Lumley, on the rock their shadows bended,
As if o'ercome by that clime's puissance
Of dullness, or, because all esperance,
They thought, was fled, for them, of happy change:
But soon, Mordaunt upwaking from his trance,
Gave utt'rance to his piebald musings strange :
And thus did he his motley images arrange:-


Petronius, though our mystic lot be placed
In this dull realm where sight and sound combine
Our sensories, for aye, to overcast
With brooding phantasies, and saturnine
Despairs ; or, else, as with an anodyne
Of thought, to lull us into listlessness;
Let us, again, essay to intertwine
Some shreds of brightness with the sombre dress
Our spirits wear in this drear land, so effortless.



Tell us some jest of old careering Rome,
With its monstrosities of apish men,
Who ever seemed desirous to become
Something that was not human. What a den
Of horror must thy prince have made it, when
He lit it up to see a merry blaze !
And yet, 'twas but a change : from outward ken
Shut up, horrors as deep, in the foul ways
O' th' heart, were witnessed daily by man's inner gaze.


What Europe's modern folds of rogues and fools
Display, thy olden city must have shewn :
Strife murderous as the sword but waged with tools
Of deadlier structure : tongues venomed to' impugn
All humble virtues, oiled to gloss o'ergrown
And hideous vice, and help it to pursue
Its course of lust and blood. Thy prince hath won
A name will never die : the lot of few
Who humbly toil for good, and selfish wrong eschew.


Such weaklings win but scorn ; and so 'twas shrewd

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