Thomas Cooper.

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

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So blest is goodness that it can efface
All baneful hatreds, yea doth sweetly fill
The soul with rapture that no more the will
Is anger's slave, and spite can tribulate
The mind no more that self-tormenting ill !
For we of misery, in our earthly state.
Knew no more vulturous torture than relentless hate.

xxxvi 11.

Sad and blythe truths thy soul hath mingled, said
The virtuous African ; and 'tis most strange
In man's strange history, that, ev'n while he bled,
He coaxed this vulture of the heart: ' Revenge
' Is sweet' he madly cried ! blissful change,
That, now, he feels 'tis sweeter to forgive !
Still happier that no ill shall disarrange
The harmony in which all life shall live
Henceforth but bliss of higher bliss be nutritive.


How oft the soul revolted, while on earth,
Against the ill that did her powers enslave!
How oft she fled from gloom to think on mirth,
Feeling it was her birthright, though some knave,
In sanctimonious guise, upon the grave
Would teach her still to ponder, and abjure
All joy .' How oft, in spite of wrongs, she clave
Unto the nobleness of love the pure
Delight of shewing that though wronged we can endure



The wrong, and still forgive, and still endnie !
How oft, in spite of all misteachirigs, Mind,
Irked by revenge, turned to the cynosure
Of Gentleness, and for its pleasaunce pined!
'Twas Nature's truthful impulse ! so thy blind
But cheerful face she teacheth fealty

Unto the sun, on earth !

She stooped, and twined
A glowing marigold, full tastefully,
Within her hair ; then onward went, with modest glee.


And still the descant was pursued, till two
More sister-spirits crossed the pasture-plain,
And sought with these the descant to pursue :
The chaste Sophronia, who dishonour's stain
To 'scape, fled, by her husband's will, self-slain,
The lust-blight of Maxentius ; [3] and with her
That famous Jewess whom old Rabbins vain
For wisdom praise,-^-Baruna, wife of Meir,
Of deep Talmudic lore the fair interpreter. [4]


Our Teacher taught us to forgive, the chaste
Sophronia said ; but, sister fair, the Law
Of old thy fathers reverenced nurtured haste
For vengeance : our new joys for thee must flow
With tenfold sweetness.

Christian, though I know
Thou speakest sooth, Baruna said, too well
I also know, that few forgave a foe
Who owned thy Teacher, and were loud to tell
How far he did in wisdom all the Wise excel.


I own that much was noble in thy faith ;
But, like all other faiths, alas ! 'twas made
Subservient unto tyrant Power and Wrath,
And grew, with lapse of time, a cunning trade
Whereby the priest could pompously parade
In gold and grandeur, while his lessons told
Of meekest lowliness ; and he could wade
In human blood, ungainsayed, uncontrolled,
Preaching of mercy and of goodness manifold !


What horrors have my race endured throughout
All lands called Christian, from the men called meek
And merciful ! Who did the Jew belowt
And scorn and spit upon, and on the cheek
Smite fierceliest, was deemed, by all, to seek
Salvation zealously, and was upheld
Worthiest imitation. So to sneak
' Into dim dens my race were driven : filth-celled
They lived : vile things from human fellowship expelled.

Nor in their squalidness was refuge found
From Christian mercy : ' Witchcraft ! Gold !' outcried
The plundering knave whose spotless robe around
Him did proclaim his office was to chide
And not to cheer Man's thirst for homicide :
Then was the shrunk Jew racked, and to the flame
Condemned, or, like thy Teacher, crucified,
If he refused the secret hoard to name
He never had possessed ! Such was their Christian game !


I need not tell of Spain's black ' Brotherhood'
Of murder, yclept ' Holy,' nor recal
To mind the wolvish bands whose thirst for blood
Jew-slaughter could not slake, who fed on all
That bore the name of Man, if one their thrall
Resisted, or but murmured at their sw r ay :
'Tis past ! No more their horrors shall appal
The feeble, nor afflict the strong : away [decay ?

Their shapes are faded : who would wake them from

Be ours the theme more welcome, sisters mine,
To picture the blest future and prepare
Our spirits for the rest the rest divine
The persecuted, hence, shall ever share
Ev'n with their persecutors : for the slayer
Shall with his victims join to slay no more !
The lion with the lamb shall make his lair !
Rude, they were termed yet, my sires' faith, of yore,
The curtain of man's future bliss asunder tore :



Amid their sterile mountains, Judah's bards
Saw holier visions of Earth's coming glory
Than all the minstrels who the world's awards
Of honour won, chaunting of warriors gory
And lauding as sublime Fame's transitory
Triumphs. List, sisters, to that choral strain !
How like the raptures of prophetic story
It swells!

Heart's-ease she plucked, and did retain ;
But, to the Christian gave a lily without stain.


And then the happy sister sprites joined hands,
And sped, a silent yet ecstatic throng,
Their flower-bespangled way ; while distant bands
Of cheery travellers did this strain prolong
Till gladsome thousands swelled the choral song :
' Farewell for ever to the reign of gloom,
' Of human suffering, and grief, and wrong !
' Welcome, for Earth, her new and happy doom !
' Welcome, for franchised spirits, Hades' blissful home !


' Farewell for ever to the darksome reign

' Of Fear and Hate, Revenge and Tyranny!

' How blest, that Hades shall be free from pain !

' How blest that children upon earth shall be

' No more taught malice on their mothers' knee ;

' But love for foes till foes are no more found !

' Farewell to Earth's old evil revelry

' Of war and bloodshed ! Every brother's wound

' Shall now be healed ; and peace and love and joy

[abound !'

Beneath the mound, into the sculptured aisle,
Trooping, with glee, I saw the thousands wend,
Still pealing hymns of joy that their exile
Was changed from woe to bliss, and that the end
Of all Life's evils blest signs did portend
On earth, and through that spiritual clime !
But I surceased the theme to apprehend :
The prison-bell, with its harsh grating chime,

Rewoke me in the dreary den of Crime-made crime.


[1] Stanza 26. The suicides of Forcia, by swallowing
hot coals, when other means of self-destruction were placed
beyond her reach ; and of Arria, the wife of Pootus, who was
condemned to death, are familiar to almost every reader :
the first is the subject of eloquent eulogy by Cicero, and the
last is termed " the sublime" by Voltaire.

[2] Stanza 35. The story of the wife of Asdrubal, who
cursed the treason of her husband, and then threw herself,
with her children, into the flames of the temple of Esculapius,
which she had set on fire, is well known to all readers of
Roman history.

[3] Stanza 41. " The virtuous matron, who stabbed her-
self to escape the violence of Maxentius, was a Christian,
wife to the proafect of the city, and her name was Sophronia.
It still remains a question among the Casuists, whether on
such occasions, suicide is justifiable." Gibbon : note to
chap. 14.

[4] Stanza 41." Baruna, wife of Meir :" Basnage, "His-
toire des Juifs," or the Appendix to Jahn's " Hebrew Com-
monwealth" (collected from the voluminous work of Bas-
nage) may be referred to for a brief narrative of this suicide.




Hail, holiest Liberty ! who hast thy shrine
Deep in the faithful patriot's soul recess' d,
Diffusing from thy visage light divine
That glads the dungeon's gloom and drear unrest,
Until it beams with visions overblest
Of Right triumphant over hoary Wrong,
And Truth victorious over Fraud confest,
And new-born nations joining choral song
O'er earth become one temple for thy brother-throng.

Hail, sun-bright Liberty ! Life-source of Truth,
Without whom Knowledge waxeth sere, and falls
Into her dotage ; while with lusty youth
Thou sinewest Reason till she disenthrals
Her essence of Time's dreams, nor basely crawls
At eld Authority's decrepid feet;
But to the toil of search calmly upcalls
Her vigour, and full soon each plausive cheat
Detects, and winnoweth Folly's chaff from Wisdom's wheat.


Thou great palladium of the moral man,
If thee by sloth self-treasonous he lose,
Or foiled by force, or duped by charlatan,
How soon the serfish spirit doth diffuse
Its influence through blood, and bones, and thews,
Until his very form, his brow, his look,
Forfeit their grandeur, and each gesture shews,
Ere the low whine follows his lord's rebuke,
What depth of insult, now, his slavish soul can brook!



But, garbed in humblest gear, if his birthright
Be yet unbartered, unpurloined, unstained;
If still his forehead bear thy sigil bright;
How noble is his mien, how unconstrained
He stands a witness for the truth, unfeigned,
Or champion for the right, o'erawing kings
And lordly powers, who feel as if arraigned
Before their culprit ; and with homagings
Are fain to bow, and own themselves but meaner things.


With dignity so godlike, stood the sage
Of Abdera, at Nicocreon's throne,
Foiling the Cyprian tyrant in his rage : [1]
So stood the Caledonian captive one,
Grand in his chains, and from the Roman throne
Constrained regard : so gazed, with brow unblent,
On vengeful Edward, Scotia's later son :
So, while base Gesler shook, magnificent,
Stood Tell the peerless peasant, in his hardiment.


Or what if Death, with gristliest terrors, scowl
On thy brave offspring ? They can gaze and smile !
So, in our age of grandest men, with soul
Unpierced, that spirit universatile,
Untiring Raleigh, at the axe could smile,
Passing his finger calmly o'er the edge,
And cleping it a med'cine sharp, the while,
But most remedial sickness to assuage,
Conscious Death could not mar his fame's high heritage.


So smiled our bravest, truest, martyred sire,
Fell Superstition's victim, who could cheer,
With heart that veritably quelled the fire,
His brother sufferer, and more frail compeer,
Breathing those death -words that will fill the ear,
And thew the heart of England, through all time,
Until her children a mind-rampart rear
Shall foil the Jesuit's craft, and save our clime
From witnessing, again, the Priest's bold deeds of crime.


So smiled thy own, thy darling champion,
A true-born Briton names not without pride
That thrills the soul our noble Algernon,
Who gloried at the scaffold that he died
For thine the Good Old Cause, nor falsified
The promise of his youth. When, from thy womb,
My country ! shall such men be multiplied ?
O Liberty ! o'er England's germs resume
Thy quickening power, or wake our fathers from the tomb !


We are become a servile, sordid crew :
The grandeur of our lineage is forgot :
We crawl as if nor peer nor franklin knew
His fathers walked erect, and parleyed not
With Patience ere their swords the tyrant smote,
Or humbled him to meekness: we ne'er turn
Unto the page where their great deeds are wrote,
And read, and ponder, till our bosoms burn [worn !
To think the yoke they spurned, so long our necks have

Our men of promise are a recreant horde :
Ev'n he who bears that glorious patriot name
For which the friend of Sydney a record,
Gold-writ, hath won on England's roll of fame,
Starts, like an actor who hath oped the drame,
Back from his part, afeard to play it through :
And he, the golden-tongued, a thing of shame
Made by his whims, to self-respect untrue,
What will he next the spaniel of old Waterloo ?

Oh ! haste to hide thee in the charnel grave,
Thou Harlequin-Demosthenes ! ere change
Shall leave thee not a semblant speck to save
Of that rich monument which thou, with strange
Fatuity, hast toiled to disarrange
As hotly as to carve ! Give up thy strife
To mar it more; and list the White's revenge,
Friend of the Black ! 'Twill cleave to ihee through life
The 'Bastile'-curse from Man severed from child and wife!


Arch-Traitor to thy kind ! Scourge of the Poor !
A word from thee had dashed their poison-cup
To atoms; but thou, wantonly, didst more
Prefer to their lean lips to hold it up !
Ay, wast to thine own vanity the dupe
So fully, as to claim that thou shouldst bear
The dread weight of the crime ! Would thou might's! sup
For ages of that chalice ! ' Bastile'-fare,
Perchance, a med'cine were thy reason to repair.


Beshrew thy heart! but it was bold, as well
As villainous, responsibility
To court so foully, darkly damnable !
Head-robber of the savage band to be
Should perpetrate on human misery
A theft so daring as would make recoil
The sternest heart of ancient Tyranny !
Of Nature's rights the hapless wretch to spoil
Who hath no bread, because his lords refuse him toil.


And dost thou, scouted changeling ! madly dream
This lawless law will save ' their lordships' land ?'
Or, that to gaol and eunuch men the stream
Of discontent can stop ; and Misery's band
Convert to sneaking slaves lords may command
At will ? As surely as thy head grows gray
In this thy monstrous sin, if not by brand,
By mightier means, the Poor will win their way
To right, and shout when worms hold riot in thy clay !


O ! not by changeling, tyrant, tool, or knave,
Thy march, blest Liberty ! can now be stayed :
The wand of Guttemberg behold it wave !
The spell is burst ! the dark enchantments fade
Of wrinkled Ignorance! 'Twas she betrayed
Thy first-born children ; and so oft threw down
The mounds of Freedom. Lo ! the Book its aid
Hath brought! The feudal serf though still a clown,
Doth read ; and, where his sires gave homage, pays a

[frown !



The sinewy artisan, the weaver lean,
The shrunken stockinger, the miner swarth,
Read, think, and feel ; and in their eyes the sheen
Of burning thought betokens thy young birth
Within their souls, blythe Liberty ! That earth
Would thus be kindled from the humble spark
Ye caught from him of Mentz, and scattered forth,
Faust, Koster, Caxton ! not 'the clerk,'
Himself, could prophecy in your own mid-age dark!

And yet, O Liberty ! these humble toilers
The true foundation for thy reign begun. [spoilers,
Ay, and while throne-craft decks Man's murderous
While feverous Power mocks the weary sun
With steed-throned effigies of Wellington,
And columned piles to Nelson, Labour's child
Turns from their haughty forms, to muse upon
The page by their blood-chronicle defiled ;
Then, bending o'er his toil, weighs well the record wild.


Ay, they are thinking, at the frame, and loom;
At bench, and forge, and in the bowelled mine ;
And when the scanty hour of rest is come,
Again they read to think, and to divine
How it hath come to pass that Toil must pine
While Sloth doth revel ; how the game of blood
Hath served their tyrants; how the scheme malign
Of priests hath crushed them ; and resolve doth bud
To band, and to bring back the primal Brotherhood.

What, though, a while, the braggart-tongued poltroon,
False demagogue, or hireling base, impede
The union they affect to aid ? Right soon
Deep thought to such ' conspiracy' shall lead
As will result in a successful deed
Not forceful, but fraternal : for the Past
Hath warned the Million that they must succeed
By will and not by war. Yet, to hold fast
Men's rage when they are starving ''tis a struggle vast !


A struggle that were vain, unless the Book
Had kindled light within the Toiler's soul,
And taught him though 'tis difficult to brook
Contempt with hunger, yet, he must control
Revenge, or it will leave him more a thrall :
The pike, the brand, the blaze his lesson saith,
Would leave Old England as they have left Gaul
Bondaged to sceptred Cunning. Thus, their wrath
The Million quell but look for Right with firmest faith.

Oh ! might I see that triumph ere I die
The poor, oppressed, contemned, and hunger'd throng
Hold festival for Labour's victory
O'er Mammon, Pride, and Sloth; for Right o'er Wrong:
Oh ! might I hear them swell the choral song
1 The Toilers' Rights are won ! our Fatherland
1 Is fully free !' with joy to rest among
The solemn dead, at Nature's high command,
I'd haste : nor ask to stay the speed of one life-sand !


Nor selfish is the wish, however vain ;
From boyhood, Greece, and our old Commonweal
I worshipped ; but 'twas gnawing hunger's pain
I saw your lank and fainting forms reveal
Poor trampled stockingers ! that made me feel
'Twas time to be in earnest, nor regard
Man's freedom merely as a theme for zeal
In hours of emulous converse, or for bard
Weaving rapt fancies in pursuit of Fame's reward.


I threw me in the gap defying scorn,
Threats, hatred, pois'nous tongues to front your foes;
And this hath come of it, that I have worn
The fetters for your sake. Yet, now the close
Of this captivity is near, no throes
Of anger, sorrow, or regret, are mine
For aught that I have suffered ; but your woes
Poor victims ! who by grinding tricksters pine,
Breed thoughts that with my hopes their tortures intertwine.


I would review my course, that so I may
Shun, for the future, aught unwise, unjust,
Untrue to Freedom, if my rugged way
I sometimes trod like other things of dust
In error. Inly can I look, and trust
My heart's clear witness, that I never swerved
To wilful wrong. Yet thy demands august,
Great Truth ! I here obey, with spirit nerved
By deep reflection healthful aid but ill preserved

To him who mixeth with the whirl and rage
Of popular commotion. Here I hold
Thy mirror to my sou), and deeply pledge
My heart it shall by clamour be controlled
No more to thread the mazes manifold
Of crookt Expediency, nor through ill haste
To end the Toiler's woe, to leave the bold
And simple path be led : union unchaste
With Faction will I shun taught by the erring Past.

Here then, O holiest Liberty ! my heart
I lay upon thine altar, undismayed,
Unswerving, unsubdued : the afterpart
Of life it aims to play with healthier aid
Of wisdom, but no guiltier thoughts upbraid :
It asks but to be kept from sordid stain
As free as now : let consciousness pervade
Each pulse through life that still by gold or gain
Unbougnt it beats ; and it shall shun no toil, no pain.

O welcome, even if its blood be shed
For thee, blest Freedom! only keep it pure!
Welcome, the living death more deeply dread
Of calumny, by evil shapes obscure
That haunt the patriot darkling, and secure
From Truth's Ithuriel spear, their poisons vend:
Welcome, that keenest heart-ache forfeiture
Of friendship true : welcome, all pangs that rend
The heart if pure unto the grave it may descend !



Night's shadows gather once more in the sky,
Tombing another day of thraldom's term,
And leaving few more days to fortify
The heart so that it meet freedom with firm
And peaceful throb. What mingled feelings germ
Within me, what quick hosts of battling thought !
Will, then, the world assume some new-born charm ?
And shall I feel, in it with change deep fraught,
As if I had been dead, and were to life new brought ?


Ah ! soon it will appear the same poor vale
Of tears; and, soon, my journey through its gloom
Or radiance will be o'er. Let me not fail
To keep my soul's resolve ; and then unwomb
What will, ere I attain my final doom,
Right blythely will I on ! yea, meet grim Death
Himself, in peace : for what viaticum
Need we, if Death be unto Life the path,
But truthfulness of heart ? is it not more than faith ?


And, if the grave indeed hath nought beyond
Its cold confine, of thought, or joy, or love ;
If there we bid farewell unto the fond
Cleavings o' th' heart, for ever, and shall prove
No more what rapture 'tis when hearts commove

With mutual tenderness

I will pursue

That theme no more. This love of life enwove
Within me, Death itself may yet subdue ;
But, while I live 'twill burn its being to renew !


I dreamt again, but 'twas a gladsome dream :
A dream of portents beatifical :
A dream where the prophetic brain did teem
With glorious visions of high festival
In sculptured aisle, and dome, and rainbowed hall :
A festival of Brotherhood and Mind
By suicidal spirits held, from thrall
Of Evil freed ; and mystically designed
To' adumbrate future bliss for Earth and humankind.


As where the way to some hoar fane of Nile
Carnac, or Luxor, or far Ibsamboul
Lay through an imaged path, for many a mile,
Of sphinxes huge or lions, so that lull
With abject awe and fitted for the rule
Of priests the worshipper approached, thus seemed
The aisle fit path to fill with beautiful
Expectancies the ghostly throng that streamed
Along its wilderness of sculptures, as I dreamed.

And when the dome we raught, felicity
Of hope ripened to rapturous overbliss
With what the spiritual sense did hear and see
Beneath that span colossal : Music's voice
A sweetness gushed fit to emparadise
The plastic forms of wisdom and of worth
That there in mystic apotheosis
Of statued life reposed : forms of old Earth
They were the best, the noblest children of her birth.

Range above range rose many-fashioned niche,
A caverned space as wonderful and vast
As that weird city which few travellers reach
Idumoean Petra, in the dangerous waste ; [2]
And in such order were the worthies placed
That they, though mute, the world's progressive story
Of spirit-toil revealed, from first to last ;
And how the spark, first caught by sages hoary
From Nature's fire, Mind nurtured to a flame of glory.


From ancient Orient to the late-born West,
Bard, thinker, devotee of enterprise,
Philanthropist and patriot, soul of quest
For Nature's secrets, child in whose wrapt eyes
She glows so lovely that his spirit plies
Its powers to imitate her forms the gems
From Earth's clay gathered in immortal guise
Seemed there enshrined : beings whose very names
Shed splendour more ineffable than diadems.

18 T



A spiritual Pantheon of the Good,
The Free, the Tireless, and the truly Great,
It was : a mansion of soul-sanctitude
That held the visitant spirit in a state
Of ecstasied entrancement all-elate
With love and wonder, and yet hushed with awe :
And Mind seemed sounds symphonious to create
That heightened bliss, pondering on what it saw,
So that our thoughts germed music, by some unknown law.

Anon, this minstrelsy so wondrous ceased ;
And, with a groupe of spirits who stood nigh,
Gazing as if they would for ever feast
On what they saw, yet never satisfy
Their yearning souls, forthwith, methought, that I
Became consociate, hearing how they spoke
Their glowing thoughts, by numbers that swept by
Still undistract, and still with sateless look
Scanning the sculptures as they were a priceless book.


Of widely-scattered nations were these ghosts,
And widely-spoken names : for nought was sealed,
In this most vivid dream, of all the hosts
That Phantasy surveyed. First, was revealed,
He who in Athens to himself beheld
Three hundred statues raised, Demetrius
Phalereus, whom the City -sieging king expelled,'
And unto vessels for the vilest use |~3]

The statues turned, deemingtheir loved shapes dangerous.


Exalted forms of ever-glorious Greece
Were magnets to his eyes : her Poet-choir
Divine, where Homer, with the love increase
Of time had fostered for the peerless sire
Of song in the world's heart, sat crowned, the fire
Of soul, wanting its natural mirror, gleaming
Throughout his sightless face : sons of the lyre
Around, beneath him, sculptured stood, each seeming
With awe to mark the splendour from his bald brow beaming.



On these th' Athenian gazed, and on the throng
Of god-like labourers for human weal :
The lowly Socrates loftiest among
The band fraternal less by fervid zeal
Than by his lowliness seeming t' excel
Th' excelling throng. Neither on patriot shapes
With less love did he gaze : names that to tell
Make monarchs quake, in spite of Time's long lapse ;
For still some slave, who hears, from their hard yoke escapes.


Fast by Demetrius stood a ghostly form
Of later times, and of less peaceful deed :
Berthier, the favourite of that Bird of Storm,
The ravening Gallic eagle, whose fierce greed
Ceasing to aid, praise for defection bred
Remorse so torturous in his soul, he spurned
The thought of life, and from its torment fled.[4]
With throes remorseful he no longer burned,
But, with the Athenian, o'er those shapes of virtue yearned.

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Online LibraryThomas CooperThe purgatory of suicides; a prison-rhyme in ten books → online text (page 18 of 20)