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

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As brilliantly as they illume the face
Of philanthropic creed's-man. 'Mid the glow
Of sculptured excellence, in shining row,
Hobbes, Herbert, Mandeville, with Locke and Boyle
Hume, Godwin, may, with Beattie, Butler, show
Statued with equal honour in Truth's aisle
Lit with one ray how truly kindred was their toil \



Spinoza and Rousseau, Bayle and Voltaire,
With Fenelon, Erasmus, Pascal, shrined

May beam in brotherhood eternal there !

But, for thy future children doth the mind
Most fondly yearn, loved fatherland ! and find
Its sweetest dreams flow thence. O that some dream
Would visit me revealing humankind
As the far future shall discover them
Living as they shall live on this loved ocean-gem !

xv.

What Howard, when the dungeon is forgot ;
What Montague, when no man's blood is shed ;
What Hale, when justice can be no more bought ;
What Bernard Gilpin, when no Poor lack bread ;
What Cartwright, when no tyrants on them tread ;
What Clarkson, when the world hath not a slave;
What Owen, when free thought awakes no dread ;
What Mat hew, when there is no sot to save ; [grave !
What Men shall grace our isles when Wrong hath found its



OF SUICIDES. 231



O thrice blest children of that age of light
And love which now the trustful spirit sees,
Bright beaming from afar Ye will not slight
Your noblest fathers, nor their memories !
But, tombing names of blood and pride that please
The human patient, whom to drug and craze
Guile, long, with Power, hath striven Ye to sweet ease
Of health, in heart and mind, restored shall raise,
With filial hands, true trophies to your fathers' praise !

XVII.

Bourse of the world wilt thou be, London, then ?
For still I turn with fondness to thy face,
And doat upon thee though I, mournful, ken
Too many a blemish there ! Wilt thou a grace
Be, then, among Earth's cities ? Or, shall race
Arrive from some far clime, new emigrants
To found a home, and find thy desart-space
Renewed, my country ! howling forest-haunts
And wilds " peopled with wolves thy old inhabitants''?[5]



Shall Gain forsake thy marts, great queen of Thames ?
Thy merchant-navies vanish ? and, where Pride,
In famine-woven silks and blood-bought gems,
Now rolls her chariot shall Decay divide
Empire with silence, there the lizard glide
'Mong crumbling walls, and there the badger peep
Forth from sere weeds that half his gray head hide,
Save when uplifted by the winds that sweep
'Mong chambers where thy pampered lords no longer sleep ?

xix.

Or, shall true grandeur deck thee : bounding joy
Of human hearts feeling their fathers' home
That happy home renewed, and thee the Eye
Become of the wide world ? Gaol, ' Bastile'-doom,
Treadmill, whip, gallows, demon War's costume,
And all his trophies and his engines gone :
No Vileness robed no Worth in rags; Health's bloom
On cheek of sturdy sire and manly son,
Proving what secrets Science hath from Nature won :



232



THE PUKGATOHY



XX.

Mind writ in every face ; books million-fold
Multiplied ; galleries with breath-shapes hung
Raffaelle might worship, or Apelles old ; [song,

Groupes from great Shakspeare's world, or Chaucer's
In bronzed or marbled life, seeming up-sprung
From some new Phidian realm of earth beneath
To gem the populous squares ; Music's full tongue
Telling to millions what Mozart in death [quealh;[6]
Enraptured heard, but could not the boon-sounds be-

XXI.

And all -for ALL! Rank, class, distinction-badge,
For ever gone ! Labour by Science made
Brief recreation not by Privilege
Avoided, nor its thrift in name of Trade
Or Commerce filched. To give a brother's aid
To brethren, and enlarge the general bliss
From knowledge, virtue, health beyond parade
Of pomp or gold affording joy. I wis, [disc !

When Truth doth reign, Earth shall be such a Para-

XXII.

Do I reharp like themes ? Perchance, the gaol,

Doth stagnate thought. And now the blythe old man

Is gone, who joked, and told his merry tale

Each morning when the prison -day began,

Who spread instruction through the hours' long span,

Mingling the grave and gay with cheery tongue.

how I miss the septuagenarian ! [7]

1 wonder what hath kept his heart so young,

That still he dreams to live and see the end of Wrong !

XXIII.

Gone, are my younger fellow-rebels all,

To bustle, once more, with Life's elbowing crowd ;

And I am left, a solitary thrall,

Where stillness like the silence of the shroud

Pervades both night and day, save when aloud

Clash bolts and bars, and the shrill curfew tells

The prisoner must to bed.

The vision glowed

Again, in sleep ; and, where the spirit dwells
I seemed to dwell, the spirit that its own Life quells.



OP SUICIDES 233



A sense of loneliness, methought, I felt,
When, from beneath the dome, again, I passed,
And wandered over mountains where none dwelt,
But doleful voices from the howling blast
Cowed the lone spirit, while gloom-clouds o'ercast
The dull gray sky. Anon, the way descended
Into a darksome dough, where antre vast,
With jagged mouth, the dern, dark pathway ended,
And with its lowering brow some gloomier change por-

[tended.

XXV.

I entered, but trod timidly the rock
That echoed hollowly my steps of fear ;
And oft I halted, hearing voices mock
And chide my rashness for o'erventuring there ;
Till, when I turned, thinking the cavern drear
And its unproven perils I would flee,
It seemed as if dank vapours rose to blear
My vision ; and, forthwith, they fell on me
With noisome blight, till I was blinded utterly.

XXVI.

Chilled unto marble horror with the sense
That I was blind, I would have shrieked, but, lo!
The will had lost its wonted prevalence
O'er faculty or organ ; and with throe
Unutterable I sank, feeling my woe
Too grievous to be borne. But, as I fell,
I ceased to grieve, feeling new might endow
My spirit might to picture or to tell
1 ken not 'twas so wildly indescribable.

XXVII.

Onward I floated for no joint or limb
I seemed to need into a region dark
Beyond all thought : Earth's midnight is but dim
Compared with the primeval blackness stark
And stript ev'n of minutest atomed spark
Of light my new intelligence perceived
In this strange clime. I, its stern shapes to mark
Seemed thence empower'd that I was now bereaved
Of grosser sight, and with new eyes that soul-realm cleaved :



234 THE PUIIGATOHY

XXVIII.

Eyes most intensely spiritual that cleft
The dread opaque gleefully as young eyes
On earth view brightest stars in the blue weft
Above ; or lustrous gem-shells scrutinize
In fountains pellucid, then grasp the prize,
At jeopardy of life. Yet, I beheld
Emblems of mortal gloom and miseries,
Much more than joy : but in them was revealed
Grace so transcendent that the mind with rapture swelled

XXIX.

To feel its essence gifted with the power
Of viewing in thick darkness shapes of grace
And beauty so unspeakable. Meteor,
On marish seen, or victims' burial-place,
Phantasmagoric slights, where figures chase
Each other in illusive vision wild,
Spectrous deceits the human eye doth trace,
By brain-sick fancy or shrewd art beguiled,
All fain to explicate how mystic mind was filled

XXX.

With sculptured forms in darkness, and rich hues
Of pictures crowded on her rapid glance,
First, statue-groupes arose that did suffuse
The soul with Love's woe-tears: Orpheus' joy-trancj
At his Eurydice's deliverance
Quick changed to pain and horror, as he turned
Alas, too soon ! ill brooking tarriance
Of look lips clasped embrace : the bliss-cup earned
In vain to atoms dashed by Love's own madness spurned !

XXXI.

Then, Galatea, with her shepherd love,
Was statued, breathing joy, quick chased by pain ;
For o'er them bent the Cylop, ire enwove
In his grim glance ; and wildly o'er her swain
The sea-nymph writhed when she beheld him slain. [8]
Soon, seemed Leander, struggling with the wave
In death, and Hero leaping in disdain
Of life, with haste into her watery grave.
Then, images of grief and fate the darkness clave :



OF SUICIDES. 235



The Carian queen, in that fair monument
She built for her loved spouse, and which the world
Proclaimed a wonder, o'er the dead was bent ; [9]
And he who sung how the great Titan hurled
Defiance back at Jove, stricken brain -whirled,
Fell, as the tortoise from the eagle's beak
Dropped on his head, the oracle upfurled
In mystery accomplishing. [10] The Greek
Sublime, pitying his slanderers, and with courage meek

XXXIII.

Drinking the hemlock, while in aching grief
His friends stood round, then passed ; and, next, rose two
Sad images depicturing man's brief
Mirth-hour on earth : Pollio's fair child, that drew
it earliest breath in laughter, but scarce knew
Life ere in death it faded ; and the stern
And melancholy Agelastus, who
Ne'er laughed but once, and then, in Cynic scorn,
To see the thistles by the ass for lettuce torn. [11].



Then rose twin corpses of the craftsmen sage
The Pythian's oracle that deftly reared,
With Juno's priestess' duteous lineage
Who drew their mother to the fane : reward
Of death, as the best gift, on each conferred
By the high deities, for wondrous skill
And filial piety. [12J Countless appeared
The sculptured shapes, thereafter, that did still
Pourtray grief, fate, life's swiftness, and all human ill.



Praxiteles, his mirror seemed to dash
To living fragments which a thousand-fold
Shewed his deformed rude visage to the rash
Enraged destroyer : Hoar, in gloomy hold
Trophonius sat : young Phaethon the bold
Fell from the chariot-sun : vortex and rock
By vexed Messina's shore, worn voyagers old
Seemed toiling to escape, yet swiftly broke
The billows o'er them, and they bowed beneath Death's

[stroke. [13]



236 THE PURGATORY

XXXVI.

And while these semblances I, wondering, saw,
With thousands more, mysterious music streamed
Upon my soul, refreshingly as blow
The evening gusts on toiling swains condemned
To reap all day, whilome the sun hath beamed
His fiercest fires : blythely their hook they ply
To win substantial good ; yet, when redeemed
From overheats, breathe joyously : so I,
With sense of ease, listed the soothing minstrelsy.

XXXVII.

And soothing 'twas, though sad : a wildering strain
Unearthly, or, if like to aught on earth,
Most like that theme which breathes her spirit's pain
The ' Mater dolorosa' [14] with such birth
Of sweetness, that, once heard, we deem, thenceforth,
Grief-music thrills more deep deliciousness,
Ay, more essential joy, than strains of mirth !
Most like that voice of rapturous distress
Itwas; and, wordless, seemed these woe-thoughts to express:



' Oh ! what shall quell Life's universal sorrow ?
' In Hades' realm of darkness, drear and deep
' As Death's, or where gloom-prison Earth doth borrow
' Light from the gaudy sun, all creatures weep,
' All spirits ache ! Duration on doth sweep,
' Bringing no other change than newer woe !
' Oh ! that this waking to eternal sleep
' Might change, and spirits cease to think and know :
' For ever quenched Life's inward like its outer glow !

XXXIX.

' Oh ! what is youthful Love ? a torturous dream :
4 What conjugal affection ? pain and tears :
' What Life ? capricious gift of Powers supreme
* That mock Man's hopes, and laugh at his weak fears :
' Hath Virtue a reward ? the wicked's sneers :
'Hath Bliss existence ? in the realm of Nought :
'Can Fate be shunned? when being disappears ;
' But all in Hades or on Earth why thought
And life inherit in her web of woe are wrought.



OP SUICIDES. 237

XL.

' Spirits, look onward ! what do ye perceive ?
' Woe-thought to come a future filled with gloom
' Ages in which your essence still shall grieve
' That it exists, and long for instant doom
Of blank annihilation. Your old home
' Look back upon ! What is Man's journey thorough
' Earth's life ? Grief from the cradle to the tomb
' Toil-thought for bread to-day a shroud to-morrow :
' Oh, what shall quell, for aye, Life's universal sorrow ?'

xtr.

Th' enraptured anguish of my spirit ceased,
For now this minstrelsy I heard no more ;
And every sculptured emblem, which a feast
Of visioned wonderment had set before
The soul's interior self, evanished. Roar
Of multitudinous voices came, and crowd
On crowd of Sorrow's suicides the shore
Of Darkness, in desponding phalanx, trode,
Wailing that they could not escape their being's load.

XL1I.

By thousands, the stern, giant Cimbri trooped,

And Xanthians and Saguntines, they who fled,

In olden times, from life, by act abrupt,

Rather than wear the conqueror's yoke. [15] That dread

And sullen band of Jews who undismayed,

In old cathedralled York, by their own hand

Met death, to shun the fiendish vengeance spread

For their rack'd tribe, [16] stalked by on Darkness'

strand.
'Twere long to tell the Sorrow-crowds my spirit scanned :

XLIII.

Of every age, and every mortal clime
They were ; and 'twas appalling their array
To view, and think of nations choosing crime
Of suicide, hasting themselves to slay,
Rather than be their butcherous brethren's prey !
The multitudes had passed, and a slow river
Methought I reached, upon whose banks a gray
And solemn man whose every nerve did quiver
With woe, walked, murmuring at existence and the Giver.



238 THE PURGATORY

XLIV.

And him there met the noble Roman, made
An ever-during heritor of fame
By matchless Tully's friendship, though such aid
His own high sense and virtues might disclaim
Were it not native to the sovereign flame
Of genius, like the sun, to render gleam
Of lesser lustres dull, and give a name,
Even to brightest things, less for their beam
Inherent, than the ray lent by its fire supreme.



Pomponius, hail ! began the solemn sire ;
Thee have I longed to meet in this demesne
Of mystic darkness, for, until I tire
To loathing, have I walked with ghosts obscene,
Listening their threadbare tales of vulgat teen.
Friend of Rome's noblest tongue and largest mind,
Thee, calm Philosophy with thought serene
To bear unmoved the common woes assigned
To man, must have endowed : what subtle woe was joined

XLVt.

Unto thy soul on earth, that thou its coil
Shook off? Could loftiest friendship, wealth, and ease,
With joys refined, thee fail to reconcile
To life ? O Atticus, while I had these,
While on my peace no feminine fiend did seize,
Dishonouring my children, and my own
Hoar age covering with shame, [17] a gift to please
1 found Earth's life, not that insipid boon
Which some proclaim it, ere the mortal scene they shun.

XLVII.

But thou hadst no soul-harrowing shame to meet
In every neighbour's eye : men did not point
At thee the finger, and, anon, repeat
The damning whisper, or the subtle hint,
Wherever thou wert seen. What mystic dint
Invisible of Sorrow's sting could pierce
Thy heart, and make the world seem so disjoint
That thou must flee it, hither to immerse
Thy soul in gloom ? Roman, to me thy theme rehearse !



OF SUICIDES. 239



Pontalba ! for thy sorrow-notes reveal
Too truly, reverend mourner, who thou art
The though tful Roman answered ; to unseal
My secret I will haste. Within the heart
I ever wore this canker : that depart
I must, or late, or soon, must yield my breath,
Unknowing of what joy or aftersmart
The soul inherits in the realm of Death, >
Or whether he the spirit's flame extinguisheth.

XLIX.

Strong pain corporeal hurried me to take
My fatal step more early than, perchance,
I, otherwise, had sped from Life's heart-ache :
Yet, ease returned, long ere the severance
Was made 'tween clay and spirit : but, th' advance
Begun tow'rds Death, retreat more terrible
Appeared than the dread march: [18] the sustenance
Of Life's huge load, a second time ! the spell
Half-broken to repair ! farewell, and yet farewell !

L.

1 could not face such horror, for I knew
That I should hourly see my funeral urn,
And that mor bitterly it would imbue
Life's joy with sorrow, if 1 should return
When I had well-nigh reached the portal stern.
Oh, tell me, mourning sire, if Death with thee
Was not the great Smile-queller : the thought borne
For ever uppermost, that strangled Glee
Ev'n in its birth, or made its breath an agony !



I know not that it was, the sire replied :
It is my nation's habit to avert
Despondency of thought in the gay tide
Of revelry ; and when to share the sport
Men cease, by age enfeebled, they resort
Still to the scene of mirth, to dissipate
Dull thoughts by seeing sprightly youth exert
Its agile limbs or jocund wit : sires sate
Their minds beholding sons their spirits recreate.



240 THE PUHGATORY

LII.

Thy answer seemeth strange, the Roman said :
To me, beholding what I could not share
For ever multiplied the heart's dim dread
Of the approaching tomb : joys of the fair
And young ceased to be gladsome ; for the glare
O' th' funeral torch gleamed on my mental sight.
Death Death was present with me everwhere,
Smirching the face of Nature with his blight,
Bereaving the worn heart of solace or delight.

LIU.

But why didst thou not mingle in the strife
Of public act or counsel ? asked the soul
Of the gray Gallic sire ; for thee Earth's life
Had countless remedies for this strange dole.
Oh ! had thy lot beneath the restless rule
Of him who swayed my fatherland been cast,
The fever of the times had warmed thy cool
O'er-meditative brain, until Death's vast
Reality had quelled the Shade whose slave thou wast.

LIV.

Th on speakest, Spirit, as if strifeful Rome
Were some Arcadian grove, replied the ghost
Of Atticus : albeit, within her woml
Myriads with greed of fame or gold engrossed,
Resembled some insatiate wolvish host
Ever in open cry for prey. In fear
Of its heart-tortures, public care I thrust
Far from me ; nor discern I, in this drear

Gloom-region, that its slaves than I aught happier were.

LV.

Pontalba ! for man's soul no fixed good
There is : no state enfranchiseth the mind
From tyranny of Evil's monster brood.
If in society men strive to find
Relief from megrim dullness, 'mong their kind
They soon engender hate, even without
Design, and wish they never had repined
At solitude, although with dread or doubt [thought.
They wrestled till compelled to shun their own lone



OF SUICIDES. 241

LVI.

And what say'st thou of thine own iitful race?
Life's pulse beats not kss healthfully' in the veins
Of the most feverous tenants of Earth's space
Than it doth beat in theirs. Pleasures to pains,
By very eagerness, they turn : each drains
The joy -cup of the hour as if the world
Had not another for his draught. Contains [dirled,
Not this woe-clime, whom Pleasure's zest brain
Legions, from thy own land by mad self-murder hurled ?

LV1I.

There is no human state exempt from woe.
If the lone thinker with a dread profound
Of death be haunted, they who love the show
And strife of crowds carry within some wound
From rival or proud tyrant who hath frowned
Upon their peace : and if dull solitude
Be irksome, Pleasure's gay and guilty round
As surely leads to madness. 'Tis a crude
Abortion of a world ; and Mind must be at feud

LVIII.

For ever with the Powers to whom it owes
Existence if volition they possess ;
And if Necessity all being bows
Beneath its sceptre, at our wretchedness
We cannot but repine.

Whence this excess

Of perverse discontent ? a voice began :
And lo! a crowded audience bodiless
I saw, while through the host this murmur ran
' Meek Menedemus hear the sage Eretrian !' [19]

LIX.

Whence this excess of perverse discontent?
The sage reverbed : dost thou so soon forget,
Illustrious Roman ! thy so late assent
To consolable thoughts, when thee I met
Nursing, as now, this vain, unwise regret ?
Alas, we all are too much prone to cling
To sorrow in this clime, and think our debt
To justice never will be paid. Yet spring
High hopes within me thoughts of rescue heralding !
16 it



242 THE PURGATORY



O Atticus, I grieve that we the call
Fraternal of imperial spirits slighted,
Nor joined their descant in the mystic hall :
Yet, in their souls on whom hope hath alighted,
For Sorrows' host in dreary realm benighted,
Compassion may be felt, till they renew
Their invitation. Not for ever blighted,
Brothers, is this our essence : hopes congrue
With deep discursive reason thus my mind to thew r



It is not by unalterable law
That Evil's tyranny Man's spirit quelleth t
Brothers, in us, in all, a might to awe
The moral curse o'thf universe indwelleth.
O when the sheen of Brotherhood unveileth
Its glory, how our happy race will ponder
And muse upon the Past, until it faileth
Their souls to tell for ecstasy of wonder [asunder f
What first could rend Man's heart from brother-man



When selfishness, by Love and Truth dispelled
From human spirits, ceaseth to mislead
With falsest sense of interest, and 'tis held
A fiction foul that Nature hath decreed
Man only can be moved to generous deed 1
Of enterprize by personal reward ;
When Brotherhood returns, and hearts do feed
On richest, bliss, toiling in disregard
Of self, and viewing their toil's fruit by brethren shared

LXIII.

When Strength and Health their happiness derive
From knowledge that the produce of their toil
Is shared by Feebleness and Age ; when live
The men of Mind to kindle a heart-smile
Where'er they move, disdaining to defile
Their names with titles, or their hands with gold,
And yearning every moment to beguile
Mankind to deeds of love and goodness bold,
Until the sun a world of mercy doth behold ;



OF SUICIDES. 243

LXIV.

- Think ye that then the curse of Evil's reign
Mankind shall know ? Suffering will disappear;
For* love and sympathy shall vanquish pain,
And gentlest pity shall the lorn heart cheer
Till sorrow's stream for joy's abounding tear
Is changed. 'Twill be a holy, gladsome scene
Too holy for mad Pleasure to be there !
A world of Love and Truth and Peace serene

A world of brother-hearts, whose joys are evergreen !

LXV.

A world in which thy Death-fear, noble one !

Can no more haunt the soul. Who will fear Death

When, with fraternal love Man's course begun,

Hath been continued? When to yield his breath

The hour is come, with this exalted faith

In gladness Man can die ' A world 1 leave

' Of happy brothers ! my brief being hath

' Increased its bliss ; and after-hearts shall cleave

' To me through time, and with their songs my memory

[weave !
LXVI.

4 And if our thought surviveth mortal clay
4 My loving spirit for a world of love
4 Is fitted : if I think no more, decay
' Itself is welcome ; since around, above,
4 Bliss, still progressing, is with being wove ;
4 And men, succeeding men, shall still proclaim
4 The bliss is but begun !' Thus men shall prove
Superior to death-dread, on earth : the flame

Of Brother-love, 'bove selfish fears exalting them !

LXVII.

With visages of hope the mystic crowd
Stood, in expressive silence, as the soul
Of Menedemus ceased. Then, one who glowed
With nobler thought than when the venomed bowl,
To 'scape from hated Rome's renewed control,
He, fearing vengeance, in fair Capua took,
Rash Vibius Virius, [20] thus began to' extol
The 'Eretrian's theme :

Forbear rebuke, [brook :

Meek sage! bnt, henceforth, we this gloom shall hardly

H 2



244 THE PURGATORY, ETC.

LXVIII.

For who can list thee tell of blooming bliss,
And brother-love for ever verdurous,
Nor long to quit a dreary clime like this ?
'Tween Earth and Hades link mysterious
We spiritually feel ; and bliss analogous
To Earth's shall surely be our heritage :
Yet, till kings cease their feuds calamitous,
And nations wear no more the conqueror's badge,
Dost thou not dream this reign of Mercy to presage ?

LXIX.

And, until monarch-spirits, in our clime,
Disown their lofty claims, what can make known,
By mystic sign, in penal land of crime,
That Hades' crowds shall soon behold begun
The reign of Brotherhood ? O that the boon
Were near!

Behold who cometh! cried the hostj
The spirit of thy friend, illustrious one !
The friend o* th' bards most noble and robust
Of thy great land, Varus, [21] the thoughtful herald-

[ghost!

LXX.

Hail, Atticus! the herald cried, and ye
Grief-brothers, who still nurse, in gloomiest land,
Yeur sorrow ! Ouce again, high destiny
Of human spirits to search out, the band
Of heroes, sages, bards, and kings, divanned
In emblematic grandeur, ye conjure
To lend your aid! Brothers, full soon the brand
Of slavery shall, on earth, be known no more !
Brothers, full soon bliss shall pervade this climature !

LXXI.

Take hope take heart ! Monarchs, themselves, display
Zeal for equality and brotherhood!
O haste to leave your gloom, and, swift, away*
Pursue with me your spirit-course, the Good


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