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

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XLII.

For though full many a sage philanthropist,
High orator, and bard of comely France
Were statued there, with emblems due deviced
Their excellence proclaiming, yet the glance
Of the war-wearied Frenchman, whose romance
For his gay, glory-stricken land was gone,
On Hellene forms made sweeter tarriance.
Like preference shared the spirit of Wolfe Tone,
That by him I saw stand, Hibernia's patriot son.



Yet, in his country's Grattan, in the face
Of brave Fitzgerald, and the generous brow
Of fated Emmett, did th' Hibernian trace
Features that stirred the warm fraternal flow
Within his essence and dispread the glow
Of rapture o'er his visage. Paramount
In virtue, still, he deemed that glorious show
Of Greeks, and did the patriot deeds recount
Of Hellas, vaunting her true Glory's primal fount.

T 2



276 THE PURGATORY



One stately form there was who on late men
Stood in absorbed gaze, strange thoughts of home,
And change, and Wrong that made the world a den
Of lawless beasts, revolving, till a gloom
Curtained his brow. Yet, joy 'gan, soon, relume,
With radiance visible, his new-born soul.
The spirit of imperial Montezume

It was : that victim of ambition foul, [5]

Whose regal heart disdained the Spaniard's base control.

XLV.

Most wistfully he scanned th' intrepid calm
That in the eye of great Columbus dwelt,
Till sighs broke forth ; and though a healing balm
Las Casas' love-look o'er his essence dealt,
'Twas but a pause unto the grief he felt
For his lost race ; and he had wailed aloud,
But that his wild eye 'lighted where he knelt
In soul, and owned the majesty that glowed
In Washington's benignly grand similitude.

XLVI.

Last of the groupe the patriot Shades I saw
Of Romilly and Whitbread, whose rapt gaze
America's great son seemed oft to draw
Aside from Alfred for like glorious rays,
That did ev'n disembodied vision daze,
Streamed from the sculptures of the civic chief
And diademmed philanthropist : their praise
They told, and would have mourned the sojourn brief
Of such blest forms on earth; but rapture banished

[grief!

XLVII.

The* glorious toil is o'er, my brother ! spake
The soul of Romilly, while with th' intense
Joy of beneficence he seemed to quake ;
The glorious toil is o'er ! blest prevalence
Mercy hath won : the evil effluence
Of blood by brethren shed glad Earth shall see
No more ! Against the grim armipotence
Of Anger, Hate, Revenge, and Cruelty,
The toil was hard ; but from their blight all Life is free !



OF SUICIDES. 277

XLVIH.

Who would have said, hut they who felt her power,
Before the still small voice of Gentleness
The great ones of the Earth should one day cower,
And kings her true divinity confess;
The battle-field be green and thunderless ;
The scaffold and the gibbet disappear ;
The dungeon vanish : and, no more, distress
Hunger and discontent raise troublous fear
Of violence, and knit the ruler's brow austere ?

XL1X.

Yet, this is her triumphant marvel-work !
Said Whitbread's spirit : 'twas her genial breath
Nourished most healthfully the deathless spark
Of Freedom, when the streams of blood which wrath
Had shed half-quenched it, and men's hope and faith
In Liberty was changed to dread, and they
With tears of hushed despair sighed that the path
Of Thraldom must be trod thinking the sway
Of Sceptres better than the howl of wolves of prey.



Brother, thy thoughts are of my fatherland,
Said Berthier ; and if this our new-born joy
Did not the phantasms of Earth's wrong disband
Great grief were mine. But this doth still destroy
The spectrous visitings which would annoy
My spirit that although the strife for Right
Was urged by advocates who did employ
Wrong's weapons in their overzeal, the might
Of Truth, at length, hath made her victress in the fight.

LI.

'Twas long and toilful ; and, in every clime,
Too oft in error did her champions ease
Seek by the sword. The register of Time
Is a dark volume ; and what soul that sees
His autograph in characters that please
His conscience throughly, on the record writ ?
That all is well at last, may well appease
The self-accusing shapes which still would flit [quit.
Through memory, and loathe their long-known haunts to



278 THE PURGATORY

Lll.

Our penal throes are ended here : Earth's sorrow,
From war and violence, hate and revenge,
Is past, ne'er to return ! let us borrow
Help from such thoughts our spirits to estrange
Still more and more from woe !

This joyous change

May well absorb our thought, the Shade began
Of noble Montezuma, yet to range
Her youthful haunts the soul can scarce refrain :
Bliss hath not changed us into things marmorean.

LIU.

Love for dear Mexico and my crushed race,
Trampled by haughty Cortez and his crew,
Eternity itself cannot efface
Within my essence ; nor regret subdue
That Fate should thus relentlessly pursue
One hapless people, and their glory sweep
Into oblivion. While I with ye view
These glorious forms, how can I fail to weep
That my sires' deeds of worth are lost in darkness deep ?

LIV.

What am I but the shadow of a name ?
My people's virtues, glory, arts, unknown :
Hurled by their conquerors to barbarian shame
Though they deserved it not but might have shone
Among the nations, had not Spain's dark frown
Of pride and cruelty spread woe and waste
Where'er it fell, blighting the happy zone
Our fathers' sons long held, their daughters graced :
Oh no ! I cannot tear from memory all the Past !

LV.

Natheless, my brothers, I with ye rejoice
That after Earth's long ages of dispute,
Conquest and blood, the gentle, healing voice
Of Goodness doth prevail. Murders pollute
My ancient clime no more ; and, though the foot
Of strangers treads upon our fathers' dust,
Since they have learned to live like brothers, mute
The Mexican shall be of wrongs that thrust
His people from the soil : deeds bloody and unjust.



OF SUICIDES. 279



No image of my fathers I behold .

Among these forms of worth, on which to doat
With fond affection ; but the heart is cold
Whose joys are all from selfishness extraught:
My heart doth swell with love tow'rds all who wrought
Out liberty and peace and brotherhood,
For poor Humanity, by toilful thought,
Through scorn and suffering : as with a flood
Of grateful love it swells for all the Great and Good !

LVII.

Nobly thou hast discharged thy generous soul,
Th' Hibernian spirit said : Mind cannot lose
All impress of the Past, cannot control
Her frequent wish to roam where early vows
Were made to Truth and Freedom shapes that rouse
Th' antagonistic phantasies of Fraud
And Tyranny. Nor should the soul accuse
Herself for ire at wrong : 'twere vile to laud
That which is evil : it demands our censure broad.

LV1II.

Less were an error ; but to pass beyond
An upright indignation were to bring
Back on our souls self-torment, and surround
Our essences again with suffering.
The memory of wrong, since, now, the sting
Of base revenge is drawn, shall minister
To higher bliss to sweeter revelling
In joy ; for it shall be the harbinger
Unto the heart's sweet sense Forgiveness triumphs there !



If on the fateful Past thou look'st to grieve,
How much more might I utter mournful plaint
For Erin's woe ? Spirit ! it should relieve
Thy soul that sword and torture did attaint
The lives of thy sires' race. Better than faint,
And pine, and howl, and curse their tyrant lords
For ages, and still feel a strange constraint
To live and multiply mean serfish hordes!
Such woes my memory of her fatherland records.



280 THE PURGATORY

LX.

Thy race i>y death were happily set free
From their tormentors : mine remained to gnash
Their teeth, in rags and hunger, yet to see
Their conquerors revel ; to behold each flash
Of freedom fail, and by its failure dash
Their hopes to deep despair ; to glow and burn
Again with patriot ire, and yet by rash
Outbreak to plunge in hopeless horror. Turn
And look on thy lost race, spirit, to triumph ; not to mourn !



My brother spirits ! said th' Athenian ghost,
This theme to me were fruitful of regret,
If, mid these glories, I could be engrossed
With tristful thoughts. Did not the tyrant fret
The limbs of Hellas with the chain ? Forget
Ye that the mother-land of Freedom wore
The gyves of Slavery, for ages ? Let
That mournful thought lead ye to mourn no more
For aught your brethren suffered in the days of yore.



Save her few mountain-fastnesses, old earth
Has not a spot where men the tyrant-yoke
Of brother-men have never borne. Let mirth
High, holy, blissful mirth in us be woke
That world-wide bondage is for ever broke,
And free beings fill the universe. Not sadness
Should rise while back upon the Past we look ;
But grateful joy that Man's career of madness
Hath wise fruition age-long woe doth end in gladness.

Lxm.

Still let us drink with ecstasy and wonder,
As at a living fountain, lessons sweet
While on the lofty lineaments we ponder
Of all Earth's Great and Good ; and still repeat
This precious thought that we our brethren greet
In these bright shapes. What their meek souls attained
Of lofty purpose, patient power to treat
Their foes with gentleness ; what height they gained
Of mental grandeur; how by charm of meekness reigned



OF SUICIDES. 281

LXIV.

O'er fiercest natures, and their rage subdued ;
How persevering love won ev'n the foes
Who thirsted for their blood to doff their rude
And murderous frowns, and smilingly disclose
The heart's regenerate kindness ; how the throes
Of pain they conquered, and, triumphing, hurled
Thraldom, revenge, hate, envy, all Man's woes,
For ever, from the groaning, bleeding world ;
And over sea and strand the gonfalon unfurled

LXV.

Of Truth and Love, Knowledge and Gentleness :
All their eternal triumphs we may share
In this exultant thought the fair impress
Of our humanity they meekly wear ;
And of their glory we are, each, the heir
For our own brethren's heritage to us
Belongs. Brothers, be blythe, be debonair !
And let our happiest thoughts the reins give loose
While on these brother-forms we gaze, so luminous !

LXVI.

Such hortatives sad broodings to dispel,
And revel to the full in their new joys,
Th' Athenian uttered ; and a blythe farewell,
Methought, they, forthwith, bade to all alloys
Of happiness ; and yet no overpoise
Their spirits felt : their joy was fraught with high
And eloquent descant that became the Wise,
The Noble, and the Good : nor did they vie
In speech ; but held discourse shorn of earth's vanity.



Anon, woke thrilling sounds omnipotent,
On earth, to null all thoughts but such as sprung
Up armed in the brain while forth was sent
The trumpet's peal, but such as sought a tongue,
Yet found it not, while horn and harp notes clung
Unto each other's sweetness, or the heart
Melted to faintness, with rapt wailings wrung
Of hautboy and bassoon. Such prelude, thwart
The dome piercing, seemed well-known signal to depart.



282 THE PURGATORY



Soon, blent these brothers were with throngs that now-
Flocked onward where, beyond the vault's vast span,
I saw revealed a dazzling heaven-dight bow,
Grand beyond likeness, and by wondrous plan
Unto the hall with roof cerulean
Serving for gate-way-arch. Thither to speed,
With uplift gaze, the spiiit-crowd began,
While to the prelude movements did succeed
Of all superbest sounds the mind devours with greed.

LXIX.

Full-pulsed tympanum and deep- toned string
Proclaimed dense myriads marching with the step
Of stately joy to some vast gathering;
While, ever and anon, the trill and sweep
Of flutes and viols caused the heart to leap
With foretaste of its banquet. Mind hath known,
Ne'er in its house of clay, rapture so deep
From Handel's giant pomps on organ blown,
While 'long cathedral aisles somepageantproud wasstrown.

LXX.

Beneath the wondrous arch of heavenly sheen,
I passed into the hall, when lo ! no more
Monarchal thrones and monster shapes were seen
Within ; but, from the middle of its floor
Immense, shelved gently upward countless store
Of sculptured seats extending to the bound
Of that ellipsis vast ; and wisest lore
By plastic art into each seat seemed wound
So that the mind read deepest lessons all around.

LXXI.

And, on the rim of the ellipse, where, erst,
Wild shapes reared irkingly, as if
To prop the rainbowed roof, in dread 'twould burst
Upon their heads, stood images of life,
Bright as the sun, their countenances rife
With blended beauty, intellect, and love :
Fair plumed wings they had ; but 'twas a strife
For mind to judge what it did best behove [wove.

To say they were such grace seemed in their forms en-



OF SUICIDES. 283

LXXII.

And, as the myriad multitude swarmed in,
Filling the spacious amphitheatre,
In spirit-whispers some of seraphin
And some of genii talked, and guessed these were
Such mystic essences. Interpreter
None needed long ; the soul 'gan soon perceive
They were her own creations, which the stir
Of glorious brother-thoughts had power t' enweave
To sensuous shapes as if they did to sight upheave.

LXXIII.

With visages as bright, with looks as blest
As kindly and intelligent, all beamed
And smiled upon each other, while their rest
They took upon the graven seats. None deemed
Himself nobler than others : none esteemed
His brother meanly : pride and rank and state
Had vanished ; and, all equal, as beseemed
A brother-throng, together Essence sate,
In love, of humblest citizen and potentate.

LXX1V.

Aloft, o'er all, the roof with splendour hued
Of bows celestial still was self-suspended.
The regal forms whose blazoned pomp I viewed
In earlier dreams, now sat with sages blended
Uncrowned, unsceptred, all their haught looks ended
With bards, and workers-out of human weal,
And patriots who in lofty deed transcended
Their earthly fellows. Ghosts of erring zeal
For faiths fantastic, creeds incomprehensible,

LXXV.

And cruel idol-worships, whom I saw
Climbing the Mount of Vanity ; the wild
Lone dweller in the cave, whose rage with awe
I witnessed 'rnong his snakes ; the Poet-child
With his lamenting harp, who wept, exiled
To forest-solitude ; the tuneful choir
Of bards who walked the grove ; the band who toiled,
For aye, to kindle the fierce fatal fire
Of soul wherewith France lit the devastating pyre



284 THE PURGATORY

LXXVI.

Of Liberty ; a moiety of the ghosts
Who idly lay along the beach i' th' land
Of Sloth and Desolation ; Sorrow's hosts ;
And crowds of those fair forms who, hand-in-hand,
Sped o'er the pasture-plain, with greetings bland,
And garlanded with flowers ; all sat arrayed
In simple yet attractive guise : a band
Of souls whose glorious joy-light had no shade :
Wrath, pride, guilt, woe, for ever from each essence fled !

LXXVI I.

Soft consentaneous murmurs soon were heard
'Mid which distinguishable grew the name
Of sage Lycurgus, whereat claricord
And viol, clarion, pipe and drum became
Mute as expectant listeners ; and the claim
Fraternal to receive his speech, with meek
Yet manly front he rose to answer. Maim
No longer were the powers of voice : the Gref k [speak.
Did seem, and they that followed, with Earth's tongues to



Brother and sister spirits, to rehearse
Our joy, he said, what volumed tongue hath skill ?
Our happiness, like the eternal source
From which it springs, doth ever over-fill
And over-run ; so that our bliss we still
Augment, commingling bliss. I triumph not
To think me a true seer: too deep the thrill
Of ecstasy doth move me that all doubt
And guess are past, and this beatitude is raught.

LXXIX.

Brothers, this blest reality hath swept
The films of mystery from the general mind ;
And he who doubted most now an adept
Becomes in tracing Nature's progress : blind
Were many, once : but how it was designed
From earliest eld, that pain corporeal,
That hate, and torture with it intertwined,
Should pass away, and brotherhood prevail
And joy, all now perceive with vision spiritual.



OF SUICIDES. 285

LXXX.

Ye who, with opulence of speech endowed,
Excel, begin the never-tiring theme
What mighty influences did long enshroud
Themselves from vulgar gaze, and yet did seem
To Nature's true disciples with the beam
Of splendour's self revealed, and sure to drown
And overwhelm all error, as a stream
Resistless sweeps all human barriers down
Or as Light's genial smile o'ercometh Night's drear frown.

LXXXI.

How we now wonder, while our ken afar
Travels from these joy-seats, surveys the dome
Resplendent with full many an exemplar
Of human virtues, and enrapt doth roam
Along the dazzling aisle where graces bloom
Ineffable, how we now wonder Truth
So long was hid ! Be thine th' exordium,
Mithridates ! to pourtray the growth
Of Good, and how she vanquished all her foes uncouth !

LXXXII.

So spake the great Laconian, and his seat
Meekly resumed, while gentle murmurings rose
From myriads who would fain the sage entreat
His descant to prolong : but no applause
He sought, and signified he lacked dispose,
By silent smiles. Disrobed of pomp and pride,
With truer glory clad than regal shows,
The spirit of the Pontic king complied
With the wise Spartan's call by thousands ratified.

LXXXIII.

Lycurgus, though thy modesty would wave
Our full soul's tribute, he arose and said,
Yet here I laud thy wisdom deep, and suave
Forbearance 'mid the scorn that on thy head
We in our rashness by old pomps misfed
And overblown poured, when we should have praised.
Wisely thou say'st the lessons here outspread,
Through hall and dome and aisle, have in us raised
Wonder that we so long in ignorance on them gazed.



286 THE PURGATORY



How glorious is the vision now 'tis filled
With meaning to our spirits ! all unlike
The vanities our pomp-slaved thought did build
To lull our sense of pain, and that made quick
Evanishment when reason shook her sick
Lethargic bondage off. The beauteous aisle
Designed by graces architectonic
To pourtray outward Nature's varied pile
Now knows each spirit-denizen of self-exile :

LXXXV.

Nor this alone, but man's own outward form
And potency. And even as on earth
Love for the outer world did widely germ
In man, and love for self, while of no worth
Seemed intellectual wealth, but Mind a dearth
Of noblest images did long unfold
So yon vast dome, designed to shadow forth
Man's inner nature, till of late no mould
Of virtue held, though it doth now rich treasure hold.



For ages did the lesson us invite
To contemplation : but the soul was held
In earth's old bonds of prejudice, nor right
From wrong discerned. In thraldom thus we dwelled
Of self deceit : vile thraldom, though we swelled
With blindly arrogant imaginings.
Darkness and vagueness from the soul expelled,
Her chambers filled with Virtue's symbolings,
Reason disdaineth pride and its false glisterings.

LXXXVII.

And now our nature's stately portraiture
We view. The aisle is fitting vestibule
Unto the dome stored with memorials pure
Like cultured intellect with beautiful
Exterior; and then Reason's lofty rule,
Where prejudice was paramount, appears :
From proud and tyrant phantasies the soul
Is freed ; and, since free thought her essence cheers,
Free thought in every human spirit she reveres.



OP SUICIDES. 287

LXXXVIII.

Sage Spartan, thus I read our visioned state.
Rehearsal, how our sufferings passed away,
And how old Earth became regenerate,
1 yield unto my brethren, though I may,
For opening of the theme, thus much essay :
'Twas conquest over Evil physical
That ushered in Earth's glorious brother-day :
Whence came, by law of sympathy whose veil
Is still unrent, our blest soul-state perpetual.

LXXXIX.

I judge that Earth had still in bondage been
To Error, had the sons of enterprize
And science, unobservant, failed to glean
The truths Great Nature spread before the eyes
Of heedless man, whose passion for life's toys
Robbed him of its true treasures, and so doomed
Him all his days with pain to agonize,
With want and woe : a creature spirit-gloomed,
Though tenanting a world where jocund beauty bloomed.

xc.

A world whose elements were his wide field
For culture. Now, behold the storm-tossed sea
His pathway ! see his chariots o'er it wheeled
More swiftly than o'er land, by energy
Electric which men deemed a mystery,
Or sign of wrath divine, till from the cloud
A sage, with children's kite, and string, and key,
Drew the winged essence, and the truth foreshowed,
Unwittingly, how, one day, men would tame the proud

xci.

All-scathing power, and dandle its huge strength
With childlike effort! Mountain, stream, and mine
Their wealth afford him : Earth, through all the length
And breadth and depth of her rotund confine,
Th' impalpable and vital chrystalline
Itself, are, each, his servitor ! Of want
Men talk as of some ancient fable : pine
They cannot, for the soil, exuberant
Rendered by art, of food is over-ministrant.



288 THE PURGATORY

XCU.

The senses know no craving : neither strife
Nor guile to win indulgence, or obtain
What all enjoy, embitters human life :
Disease is banished until mortal pain
Approaches: even the bounds of life's domain
Are trebly larger. Brothers, do I deem
Aright that mortal men and spirits gain
Their high beatitude, because supreme
Men grew o'er natural Evil? But I yield the theme.



He ceased, abruptly, feeling modest fear
His speech might seem assumptive occupance
Of thought where all were equal : to revere
The humblest, thus, the highest Puissance
Was brought by sense of due allegiance
To Nature and Equality. The ghost
Of Cato rose, after short hesitance,
For sternest spirits of all haughty boast
Seemed stript; and thus he argued 'mid the spir'tual host :

xciv.

Mithridates, none will raise dispute
Against thy judgment; yet I deem the end
Thou hadst not raught, but left for our pursuit
Thy argument begun. That earth doth lend
Her general wealth to men, and they now bend
Our old dread masters lightning, wind, and flood
Unto their will,' and that these conquests tend
To bring our happy state, were hardihood
For any to deny what long for truth hath stood.



While with the elements, for foes, Man warred,
Want, pain, disease, were his sure heritage
Afflictive : hostile life bred in him ruthless, hard,
Vindictive thoughts : and thus, from age to age,
Men lived the fool in mind diseased : the sage
In body: helpless, both. Thou say'st full well,
Great Nature's truths were open ; and the page
Had mortals scanned, each pregnant syllable
Divining, Evil they had earlier learned to quell.



OP SUICIDES. '289



The fault lay not in Nature, but in Man
The slothful pupil in her school, or wild
And perverse truant after vice. Her plan
Was stern but wise : to train her favourite child
To cope with obstacles, lest he, beguiled
By over-ease, should an ignoble thrall
Become to pleasure. The great mother smiled
Even while she seemed to frown : her child in all
Her discipline found toil did some worse ill forestall :



Nay more : that labour brought its unalloyed
And precious sweet, while sloth 'mid plenty took
All appetite away, or luxury cloyed
The sense until the Man beneath its yoke
Bowed, and became bestial in thought and look.
One obstacle o'ercome, the mind was fired
To nobler strife. Thus Nature ne'er forsook
Her offspring: all her matron cares conspired
To raise him : he, perverse, the bestial state desired.



'Tis, then, unto the Few, the tireless Few,
Who through all ages and in every clime,
Pursued the Good, our gratitude is due.
Thus moral, mental conquest was the prime
Of human victories : triumph sublime
O'er outward elements sprang from the wreath
Of moral victory ; and through all time
They shall be held glorious who did bequeath
Lessons of moral struggle in their lives or death.



So spake the high-souled Roman Stoic, whom
His Grecian exemplars followed with zeal,
Zeno, and meek Cleanthes ; and their doom
That, first, Man's conquest o'er himself the weal
Prepared of future men, and did reveal
To him his latent power to nullify
Earth's outward ills, strengthened, with kindred zeal
Clitomachus, for here had ceased to vie
The sect of Plato with the Porch, for mastery. [6]
19 u



290 THE PURGATORY



Like judgment rose and uttered, Metrocles,
Who honoured age and royal favour fled
To shun men's jealousy. But now to seize
The argument, though not by passion led
Or unfraternal thought, Lucretius sped ;
And while he left ungainsayed what in praise
Of human conquests these, through zeal, had said,
In calm reflective strain and gentle phrase
He shewed the victors oft had won no truthful bays.



Spirits, ye well have shown that to the ken
Of universal man wide open lay


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