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

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With sense of desolation them that waken
Their deathful echoes : Life and vigour fill
Ancestral Cambalu,[30] whose strength unshaken
By China's thousand pristine cities is partaken.



Spartan, I challenge thee upon this theme,
Disdaining mystery. Obedience meek
To the high wearer of the diadem
Sways the vast heart of China : fathers seek
Like rev'rence from their sons ; and children speak
A filial language, through the land, unknown
To kingless libertines. The fruit unique
Of natural monarchy, through ages shewn,
Peace, shedding gladness, on my fatherland hath grown.



OP SUICIDES. t33



And why we thus nold thrones doth thence result,
I judge, that great maternal Nature keeps
Her purposes : here, witness we th' adult
Expressions of Her will : on earth she heaps
Monitions that Man's welfare reaps
Its thrift from kings : now, after-life doth prove
Her unity of wisdom ; and, while sweeps
Duration on, in kingly souls enwove
Shall grow intenser consciousness of Nature's love.

LXXXIX.

Thus spake the old Cathaian shade, and ceased;
While sceptred spirits, in refulgent rays,
Sent forth from their deep essence bright attest
Of grateful joy. Such spiritual praise
These render ; but a gathering gloom betrays
Some scorner 'mid the radiant effluence
Of gladdened mind. Surceased the mystic blaze,
And uprose Antony, with vehemence
Verbing these thoughts of barbed truth and insolence :

xc.

That regal souls shall regally possess
This heritage, nor presaged ruin hurl
These powers to nought, needs not thy wilderness
Of proof, dim Shade ! When penal tempests curl
Round us their waves we sink not in their whirl ;
But thus retrieve our thrones. Why seek we more ?
Let those that prophesy the prince and churl,
New equals, shall on this mysterious shore
Exist, shew whence derived their visionary lore.



Till then, I scorn their limes, as now I scorn,
Cathaian fabler, what thou dost miscount
Of undisturbed regalities age-worn.
I tell thee, cloud-clad king, souls paramount
Become by Fate: Nature in her great fount
Moulds monarchs, who earth's sceptres seize, and thrust
Old palsied cumber-thrones aside, to mount,
Themselves, the seat of sway ; ay, with robust
Hand, pile crown upon crown on their own brows august.



34 THE PUROATORV



These are her darlings, though a coarse-fed serf
Bring forth their clay, and ignorantly hush.
Within his mud-built shed the cradled dwarf
At whose full voice the bright-armed throng snail rush
To conquest, and whose hand, time-nerved, shall crush
Old pomps like rotten reeds. These nature rears
In native loftiness ; old monarchs blush
When they behold them, or wax wan with fears ; [pears.
For on their ominous front, deep-graved, stern change ap-



Stern change but needful : for, thou dost indulge
Earth's partial love, Cathaian picturer,
Denying that great Nature's laws promulge
The healthfulness of change. Light task it were
To dash thy brittle images, and blurr
Their tricksy tints to gangrened, livid hues;
To show how Misery finds no comforter
Throughout thy fatherland ; how Want subdues
All virtue in its monster cities' dark purlieus;



To point thee to the life its millions drag,
Its famine-stricken millions, eager, glad,
To find a putrid dog for food, or rag
To hide their nakedness : gaunt man, driven mad
By hunger and oppression, to these sad
And dreary shades fleeing for refuge from
His hell on earth : pale woman, loath to add
More wretched things to Life's slow martyrdom,
Strangling, remorselessly, the fruit of her own womb !



Light task it were, gray fabler, to lift up
The silken curtain thou hast, sleekly, cast
O'er the huge tombs of city life where droop,
In squalor, human shapes become repast
For vermin e'er they die : from whom, aghast,
Thy mandarins, of boasted courtesy,
Would turn and shriek, as if the black plague's blast
Had blown on them. I scorn to answer thee
At large, threading thy labyrinthine eulogy,



OF SUICIDES
XCVI.

Or, I would utter all the horrid tale
Of infant murder, starving toil, accurst
Desire for gold, devices of the pale
And cunning bonze, conceit of idiots nurst
In ign'rance, crime and folly that will burst
Upon the world, and tell its own strange story,
Ere long. To regal spirits what rehearsed
Thou hast let this suffice ! for, now, the glory,
Of thy dim land, like other dreams, grows transitory.



The restless pirates of the northern isles,
Breaking your barriers of three thousand years,
With their own eyes, your land of fabled smiles
Behold, and find it but a land of tears
Like to their own. While woman's form appears
Bowed with her infant on her back, in mud
To th' waist, to till the rice-plant toiling, cheers,
Though savagely, this thought their frozen blood
That equal degradation hath, but yet subdued

XCVIII.

One of their sea-girt homes Hibernia ! there,
Gray dynast, if with disembodied mind,
Throughout these shades, thou dost deep descant share,
Like squalid want and suffering, intertwined
With life of crowds that labour, thou wilt find
And only there ! Oh, that old Rome could wake,
Once more, her victor eagles, and unbind
These slaves from their vile fetters, or earth shake
With change until they could, themselves, their bondage

[break !
xcix.

Thou fabling phantasm, what hath man become,
Sunk in the stagnancies of custom old ?
A creature who will whine to win the crumb
His tyrant's dog refuses ! If the bold
Democrat) 7 of buried Rome, controlled,
Ev'n by earth's masters, but with dole of bread
Dealt to them daily, could such slaves behold
Such breadless slaves o'er earth's old region tread,
Their fleshless shculeswoutdfrownamongthedoomed dead!

i> 2



36 THE PURGATORY



Thou art rebuked, justly : yet, controvert
1 not thy sentence, that with regal state
Dynamic essences shall be begirt
Through ceaseless life: 1 only deprecate
Thy errors : claiming for the child of Fate
The natural heir of greatness that award
His deeas deserve. Monarchs, we create
Anew, your strength ! Not fabling sage or bard,
But we Fate's darlings merit grateful kings' regard!

ci.

Thus ended, like an actor for applause,
He who a haughty challenger began,
Winning no meed of praise where all grew foes,
Stung by his scorn, or scorning, while, with scan
Of spirits, they beheld his vanity outran
Truth's soberness. He sank with humbled crest
Perceiving frowns sit on each ghostly van
Of those throned powers. Forthwith made manifest
His mental throes Nero's proud spirit of unrest.

en.

That Thrones to thy stout valour owe huge debt,
He spake, casting around a withering smile ;
is true as that thou wert an anchoret !
Hero of Actium ! Vestal of the Nile !
No time, on earth, your effigies shall spoil
Of lasting laurels, wreath so fitly blending
With Daphne's virtue valour without soil ! [31]
In Hades, triumphs, coy loves never ending [ing!

Shall still be yours, the future the bright past transcend-



Darling of Fate ! to swell thy self-sung laud
Let spirits vie! let grateful kings bow down
And homage thee, by loud trump overawed
Of thy great glory, which thyself hast blown !
Vauntful buffoon, that thou dost fill a throne
In this mysterious clime, adds to the scourge
Of princely spirits : mockeries, this crown
And sceptre 1 pronounce, whate'er some ur-'e
Of ceaseless pomp, if shapes like thine these visions forge.



OF SUICIDES. 37

civ.

Whht wert thou but an upstart and an ape
Of spirits truly regal who thy freak
Of kingship suffered, till maturer shape
Their own great plans of sovereignty could take ?
Fawning on Julius, who beneath thy sleek
Exterior saw and mocked the thriftless flame
For empire, or, on young Octavius meek
And crafty, hurling sneers, thy petty game
Subserved the master-spirits of the Roman drame.

cv.

And when thou hadst subserved their astute end
Thou wast laid by. Boaster, 'tis not the fool
Who blabs his aims, and thinks each man a friend,
Whom nature marks for empire : but a tool
She shaped him; and, to spirits born for rule
He hath his use, to Fate's true darlings, skilled
To hide their reach with feigned indifif reuco cool,
Or virtuous humbleness, and ever filled.
With wary watch of all by whose lent thews they build.



Our Roman greatness by such masonry
Of mind was raised, until the Julian boy
Laid on the top-stone with felicity
Of skill : ever of power appearing coy,
Continuing antique symbols to employ,
Titles and forms of the old commonwealth,
Hallowing the shade securely to destroy
The substance of licentiousness: wise stealth,
By which the pulse of sovereignty gained vigorous health.



With ' bread and theatres' the vulgar gasp [32]
Was wisely fed, when Wisdom thus had won
The earth's rich rule : to our illustrious grasp
The reins of empire were bequeathed, our own
By right of power, craft, favour: handed down
Entire by us, the pusillanimous brood
Of later days reared a divided throne,
And lost trie heritage whose amplitude
Comprised the general world's wealth, wisdom, hardihood.



38 THE PURGATORY



Not more I mock when cloud-wrapt shadows doat,
And fondly prate of barbarous unknown shores,
Than I despise ye, sceptrelings distraught
With pride, souls of empireless emperors,
That round me sit ! How rich a dower was yours !
By how much toil of sinew and of mind
Collected, conglobated, were Earth's stores
Treasured in Rome, the Eternal ! throne assigned
By Nature and the Gods for sway of human kind!

cix.

Never shall men, again, view aught august
And glorious as Rome that mighty heart
O' th' world whose pulses fed with life robust
By million health-fraught veins, mingling athwart
Her giant trunk, did duly re-impart
Vigour and strength to every distant limb !
How gazeth, even now, the Afric swart,
Fierce frozen Kelt, Teuton, or Tartar grim,
Untombing some huge vertebra or relic dim



Of Rome's vast skeleton, a monstrous bulk
O'er isles and continents that lies, supine,
Wondering what giant soul the mighty hulk
Served, in far unknown age, for earthen shrine !
Dwarfed, dastard heirs to Caesar's lofty line,
If courage to defend what they bequeathed,
1 f soul to comprehend their grand design,
They could on your weak essences have breathed,
Rome's life with glory had been perdurably wreathed !



Inferior natures, your effeminate gripe
Of the world's sceptre was dissolved like dew
Upon the grass what time the sun doth wipe
Up evening's lingering tears : so feeble grew
Your grasp of power the Roman world scarce knew
Ye had a throne, at last,- for ye had ceased
To be its masters long before it threw
Your filmy fetters off' to don the vest
Of vassalage unto the smooth, tiara'd priest.



OF SUICIDES. 39

CXII.

Ye despicable things, that sit and swell
Yourselves in empty pomp ye that betrayed
Rome's glory to the Goth

Vile spirit, quell

The tempest of thy 'madness ! spake the shade
Of fierce Maximian : Who dost thou upbraid,
Coward, with tim'rousness ? monster, with vice
And idle dissoluteness ? Of all who swayed
Earth's sceptres, thou unworthiest shar'st this bliss,
These shadowed thrones in spiritual necropolis !

CXIII.

Slanderer, remember that Maximian strove
To prop the falling state, nor age his hands
Unsinewed for the sword ; but round him wove
Their fatal net domestic traitor bands.
That one, stern Truth with foulest vices brands,
Doth play the chidester, here, one, who should hide
His head in shame, uncensured reprimands
Thrones who excel in virtue, doth betide,
I fear, our essence still to weakness misallied.

cxiv.

Thrones of the West, why sit ye tamely, thus,
Bearing reproach from a vile miscreant
Whose name doth blot Rome's annals ?

Nebulous

With thought grew, now, the spirits arrogant
On neighb'ring thrones, seeming with wrath to pant
And throb, as throbs the thunder cloud : their rage
Soon burst in tumult : Nero, scornful taunt
Renewed ; and Rome's whole self-slain lineage
Seemed on each other clam'rous, ireful war to wage.

CX.V.

As, when upon a seat of gamesome hares,
Or brood of quarrellous birds, the soaring kite
Stoops suddenly, victor with vanquished shares
Silent and swift retreat, so shrunk with fright
To ignominious dumbness each fierce sprite
Of haughty Rome when rose the Pontic king,
Hurling a frown of intellectual might
Among their cowering sceptres. Thus, to bring [ling: [33]
Thought to Power's rescue, strove the strong-souled Ester-



40 THE PURGATORY



I marvel not, illustrious Spartan ghosf,
That thou, with truest sapience, dost leave
Rome's mimic gladiators to be tossed
With rage of earth's old pride, which still doth cleave
To these thin vehicles, and, perhaps, will grieve
And vex our fleshless essences for aye :
I marvel not, that, scorning to achieve
A worthless conquest, to commutual fray
Thou leav'st thy foes : let Folly, kindred Folly, slay !

cxvn.

Let Rome's throned pigmies argue, answerless !
A brood on whom I grudgingly bestow
A frown, recalling Sylla's dreadlessness,
Gorgeous Lucullus, and the godlike brow
Of Pompey, minds that, each, to have for foe,
Ennobled strife more than the glittering stake
Of Asia's sceptres, and magnific show
Of twenty realms in arms of whom none spake
A tongue their chief unknew nor burned his yoke to break

[34]

CXVIII.

But, while ignoble combat of the soul
Thou nobly scorn'st, I marvel, Graian wise,
That, here, in Hades, thou dost seek control
O'er mightier essences, by worn-out guise
Of mystery. Not to antagonize
Thy spirit I seek, but challenge pertinent
And weighty cause for startling prophecies
Of dissolution. How to thee hath lent
Unerring Nature, Her divine premonishment ?

cxix.

Since, in this after-life, no more by dull
Deceptive sense, from sound, sight, touch, doth earn
The labouring soul her knowledge ; and though full,
Of images our being, since all intern
They germ, and, from our working thought yborn,
Take spiritual embodiment ; since live
These shapes by plastic throes with which we yearn
Essentially, and Essence can derive
No unknown truth from the mere representative



OF SUICIDES. 41

CXX.

Of its own ever-active energy ;
Since all we view, or seem to view, in space
Irradiate, thus, with emblemed royalty,
Is reflex of ourselves, and we erase
These splendours when, by Nature's law, to trace
Again our steps o'er penal wilds we range,
Or seem to range, and with refulgent grace
Resume these thrones, in season due; since change
Of bliss, or woe, by law inexplicably strange,

CXXJ.

Results from our own intellectual force ;
What warrants thee predicting force shall whelm
Our regal state with ruin, in the course
Of spiritual duration, and disrealrn
Hades of kings, humble the trophied helm
Of all her myriad heroes, and exalt
The serfs of her mysterious penal realm
To equal state, never to know default
Or end, beneath the glory of this gem-pi ankt vault ?

cxxn.

What canst thou know, though intellection deep
Be thine, that we know not ? Thou shar'st our pain,
When pain returns. If o'er thy essence sweep
Like woes with ours, how doth to thee pertain
Superior potency ? Lacon, explain
Thy bold vaticinations, or, henceforth,
Expect from kingly spirits naught disdain
And dumb contempt, or tempest of their mirth, [birth !
When to more dark-wombed wonders thou giv'st dreaming



So spake the soul of Mithridates, while
Awe or approving silence held the Thrones
Who in that mystic clime of self-exile
Kept disembodied pomp of glistering crowns
And lustrous sceptres. Veiled with gloom of frowns,
Or lit with eagerness, each visage seemed,
Now, on the Spartan fixt. Soft spirit tones
Of suasiveness, soon, from his essence streamed;
And thus, of past and future life, he calmly themed :



42 THE PURGATORY

CXX1V.

Spirits of Men, with reverence whom I hail
And with fraternal love albeit I deem
These sculptured blazonries a vision frail,
Or, like their antitypes on earth, a dream,
For that your high Humanity supreme,
I judge, o'er names and empty pomps ; forbear
To count me fabling fantast, and beteem [35]
Me, shunning mortal passion, to declare
My thought, by spiritual tongue auxiliar.

cxxv.

Contest I court not, nor to wrathful strife
Seek to impel ye by defiance brave :
Brothers, 1 wot, that earth's poor troublous life
Had storms enow : rude storms that hither drave
More than a moiety of ye that rave
Upon these thrones, contending as if wrath
Were reason. Sages say, on earth, the grave
Ends passion's turmoil, and the spirit hath,
At death, 'mid shapes all passionless, its gentle path.



How little truth they knew! how much affirmed
From love, hope, fear! How little know we still !
How oft, when pleasing shapes from thought have germed
Within us, have we strengthened them with will
That they should live ; until they seemed to fill
Our utmost life ! Yet, were they things of nought :
Soul-mists from essence streaming, volatile,
In Hades, as, on earth, ethereal, float,
From perfume and putreserice, vapours picture-fraught.



Perchance thou judgest well, sage Pontic shade,
Attributing this typic statue-crowd,
And this enthroned and diademmed parade,
To demiurgic power with which doth brood
The soul on space, verisimilitude
Of what it loves and wishes swift creating :
Yet, if these shapes with substance unendowed [dating,
Thou deem'st, their life, like ours, from change still
I argue, from past change, more change our state awaiting.



OF SUICIDES. 4b



I seek no vulnerable thought to pounce
Upon thy metaphysic argument
To frustrate; nor will, rashly, aught pronounce
Of this strange after-life. 'Twere insolent
To dogmatize where being still is blent
With mystery. When, therefore, I opine
Thou err'st, my spirit tells with diffident
Emotion that to other close than thine
Her slow deductions lead pond'ring on this design



Pledge of their perpetuity, or proof
That kings derive from Nature, in these shapes,
Monstrous and fear-fraught, that to prop this roof
Preposterously essay, if, any, dim, escapes
My dull perception. Wondrous were collapse
Of heaven's own bow ! more wondrous if its fail
Could crush an insect ! Falsely thus bedrapes
Nature's fair face with fancies that appal,
He who mankind would for his selfish ends enthral.



The Power that forms, supports, and governs Man,
Smiles on him evermore; benignly woke
His infancy with love ; unfolds Its plan
Of happiness in the fair-written book
Of Man's own nature, and the forms that look
Upon his essence from the outward world ;
Implants no instinct in his breast to mock
His life; but hath his sentient clay impearled
With reason sovereign gem in fragile folds enfurled.



A thing of beauty, though but frail, in joy
Perpetual might his mortal life be passed;
But fablers do his peace and bliss destroy
With falsest fears : each hour is overcast
With gloom : at death he shrinks ; yea, grows aghast
At thought of the dread future, which, to shun,
He must propitiate mystic demons vast,
By rites that serve to load with pious boon
The smooth and crafty priest Who consecrates the throne.



44 THE PURGATORY



Ye frown, shadows of monarchs, and deport
Yourselves full fiercely : yet, with mental eye
This vision scan, and, that its forms consort
With truths I have proclaimed, and typify
Force joined with Fraud, ye, also, will descry.
Do not your spirits hear me witness strong
That they the real monsters are who try
To fill man with belief that they prolong
His respite from some monstrous vengeance o'er him hung ?



Whether I read these images aright
Or err, for high Humanity I claim
Precedence of all pomps. Spirits, if might
Or wisdom are inherent in the name
Monarchal, if the sceptre doth enflame
The soul of him who sways it with the thirst
For virtue, if Time doth not count with shame
Its regal dolts and cowards, nor is curst
With vice of monster kings, I have their names aspersed.



Let your own argument, your sage delatt-,
Confute me, when, in sorrowing ire, I say
Your race, in every clime, doth merit hate
And vengeance from mankind the trembling prey
Ye ever tortured ere ye deigned to slay !
But I renew not strife : spirits, -I glow
With nobler aim aside to see ye lay
These vanities, scorning the gaudy show
That emblems freedom's, virtue's, wisdom's dirts! foe :



For such is kingship propp'd by altar-craft :
But I renew not strife : spirits, I stand
Self-sentenced-, self-condemned, since to engraft,
Mystery with Truth, in my loved fatherland,
I sought, judging mankind might be trepanned
To reverence Freedom when her virgin face,
Enmasked with sanctity, looked grave and grand :
Unskilled to know that her own native grace,
Alone, could charm men, lastingly, to her embrace.



OP SUICIDES. 45



Ye clepe me Prophet ! I accept the jest
For earnest; and, with mystic wreath thus crowned
By your united voice, Mystery attest
To be the tyrant Power from whose profound
Soul-bondage Man is breaking: whispering sound
Of Truth's young breath greets Europe's grateful ear;
And Freedom, in some hearts, a throne hath found
On that new shore where still, alas ! appear
Earth's olden stains : the helot's stripes the helot's tear '



Afric's dark tribes, and Asia's populous swarms,
The voice of Truth, and Freedom's holy call
Shall know, ere long upstarting, not to arms,
For blood and slaughter; but to disenthral
Their pew-born spirits from funereal
And priest-forged fears ; to shake their ancient slough
Of sottish ignorance off; no more to crawl
In abjectness 'fore hideous gods ; nor throw
Their slavish frames 'fore kings, in vile prostration low.



Spirits, to tell of wondrous sympathy
Subsisting still, despite our severance
From earth, between flesh-clothed humanity
And unclothed Mind, were futile occupunce
Of torture's lapse, which now doth swift advance,
As ye perceive, once more, unto its bourne.
Albeit uncompreh ended, consonance
Of Mind's progression in this strange sojourn
Subsists, ye know, with minds of men on earth that mourn.



That Essences shall glad deliverance reach,
In penal clime of suicide, our hope,
Unquenchable by torment, seems to teach ;
And spirits who in Hades never droop
With Earth's old doubts, gathered in eloquent groupe,
Deep descant hold of glorious state to come
For men and spirits, mystic horoscope
Interpreting that, either side the tomb,
Men's weary souls, in unison, shall reach blest doom.



16 THE PURGATORY



And Minds presaging this deliverance blest
For fleshless Essences, joy for Earth's teen,
Truth for its error, from its slave-toil rest,
Foreshew that love fraternal shall with sheen
Genial and mild dissolve the marble mien
Of selfishness to soft beneficence ;
Until, as yearned the godlike Nazarene,
It yearns o'er pain and woe, with affluence
Of healing help and soul-restoring condolence.



Nor less presage they that the trodden crowd,
Long left to grovel in degrading mire
Of bruted life, and sunk in desuetude
Of reason's energy, her living fire
Shall feel anew, and nobly thence aspire
To feed the mind with knowledge till its thews
Acquiring might, they reassert their higher
Gradation spiritual. Such hope diffuse
Far-reaching spirits, hope that ev'n despair subdues.



Thrones, ye perceive your splendours 'gin to pale ;
And soon we must our penal throes renew.
I cease my theme ; and may have erred; for frail
Is still our wisdom : it may be, the Few
Shall still the Many trample and subdue :
That Truth and Liberty shall bloom to die,
Like glorious winged things, that, swift, pursue
The sunbeam-atoms for a day, then hie
To death: blending, as 'twere, a breath a smile a sigh!



It may be that the numan soul is mixt
With nature of decadence and frail change,
Essentially : that never stably fixt,
But mutable, eternally to range
From ignorance to wisdom, then, by strange
Return to ignorance, may be its fate,
Inevitably: that when their brief r enge
Slaves take on tyrants, they emanci ; te
Tuemselves in vain, and Nature doth their strife frustrate:



OP SUICIDES. 47



Spirits, it may be emptier than a dream
That fair Equality shall one day hold
Sole sceptre on the earth : that Man shall deem
His brother man too sacred to be sold
Or slain, to be by any power controlled,
Save the soft force of love and wisdom : field
It is for thought : thy dogma, monarch old,
' There must be conqu'ring lords and slaves that yield'
The Future may attest as the stained Past hath sealed.



These splendours pale! Spirits, with me combine
Your sentence that to this deep argument
Large aidant minds who tenant this confine
Be summoned, when our penance-term is spent,
And o'er us this gemmed roof, once more, is bent.
New lights on truth may issue from their rays
Of cogitation ; and some joint consent


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