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

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I have sinned in using this fine old word for nurture. I do
not believe them.

[3] Stanza 10. Comus.

[4] Stanza 16. In plain prose, I mean that my rehearsal
of Milton, during the long hours of darkness in my sleeping
cell, frequently con verted the gloom into a season of ecstasy.
I had committed three books of " Paradise Lost" to memory,
while at the last, twenty years before my imprisonment ;
and I thus was enabled to realise the high value of such an
inalienable possession.

[5] [6] and [7] Stanzas 20, 24, and 25. Paradise Lost.

[8] Stanza 25. In reply to another critic (I beg pardon
of my readers for referring so often to the labours of these
gentlemen) I beg to say that the idea of presenting Milton
as my guide to the second imaginary visit to Hades, was not
copied from Dante. I have never, to this moment, read
Dante, either in the original, or in a translation ; but I find,
from a proee analysis of the " Divina Commedia," contained
in a periodical, that Dante presents Virgil as his guide during


his entire vision of " Hell, Purgatory and Paradise :" " My
minstrel guide from me departed" as soon as he had named
Empedocles and Cleombrotus ; and is merely affirmed to have
been my companion on the second "journey of a dream."
While my mind was tilled with Milton it was simply natural,
and needed no stretch of the conception thus to present him.
Certes, it is a most pitifully prevalent fashion, in these keen-
witted times, to set down even the very commonest thoughts
of little people as copies from the Great to whom all honour,
but, not in the shape of untruth !

[9] Stanza 29. " Lyoean craft." Lyaeus is one of the
names of Bacchus.

[10] Stanza 30." The ancient bard." The poetical per-
formances of Empedocles (without mooting the question of
his identity with Empedocles the tragedian) must have been
considerable. Diogenes Laertius (editio Amsteldami : Hen.
Wetstenii : page 529) records Aristotle's testimony that the
character of the Agrigentine philosopher's poetry was Ho-
merical," and takes especial notice of a poem on Xerxes'
transit of the Hellespont, and an address or hymn to the Sun
(in Appollinem prooamium.) Fabricius (Biblotheca Grseca :
editio Hamburgi : vol. 1, page 811) in the list of the works
of Empedocles places three books of hexameter verse on
Nature, 3000 hexameters on Lustrations, and 600 on Medi-
cine. In the same volume (familiar to all readers in the
British Museum library, 011 account of its nearness to the
catalogue-stand) the " learned" reader may peruse a speci-
men of this philosopher's poetry, being 168 lines of Greek,
on the Spheres, and may also acquaint himself with some
stout reasons why Empedocles should be considered as the
real author of the celebrated " Golden Verses of Pythagoras."

[11] Stanza 41. The highest testimonies to the philanthro-
phy, humane exercise of his medical skill, liberality in the
disposition of his wealth, and democratic spirit of Empe-
docles, are given by Laertius and others. See Stanley's or
Enfield's " History of Philosophy."



[12] Stanza 60." Calanus." The self-immolation of this
Indian philosopher, in the presence of Alexander the Gmit,
is described, with some variations of circumstance, by Arrian,
Plutarch, and others. King Sudraka, author of the Sanscrit
drama " Mrichchacati, or the Toy Cart," (recently translated
by Professor Horace Hayman Wilson,) also burnt himself
to death, as a religious consummation of mortal life, about,
it is supposed, 192 years before Christ.

[13] Stanza 64. Diogenes Laertius gives authorities for his
relation that the mode of Empedocles' suicide was discovered
by the casting up of his brazen sandals from the crater ot
Etna : other ancient authors discredit the entire narrative.




Hail, glorious Sun ! All hail the captive's friend !

Giver of purest joys, where Sorrow fain

Would enter and abide, and, traitorous, lend

Her power to aggravate the tyrant's chain :

Great Exorcist, that bringest up the train

Of childhood's joyaunce, and youth's dazzling dreamt

From the heart's sepulchre, until, again,

I live in extasy, 'mid woods, and streams,

And golden flowers that laugh while kissed by thy bright


Ay, once more, mirrored in the silver Trent,
Thy noon -tide majesty I think I view
With boyish wonder ; or, till drowsed and spent
With eagerness, peer up the vaulted blue
With shaded eyes, watching the lark pursue
Her dizzy flight ; then, on a fragrant bed
Of meadow sweets still sprent with morning dew,
Dream how the heavenly chambers overhead

With steps of grace and joy the holy angels tread.

Of voices sweet, and harps with golden wires
Touched by the fingers of the seraph throng;
Of radiant vision which the cherub choirs
Witness, with jubilee of rapturous song,
And without weariness their joy prolong,
I lie and dream, till, with a start, I wake,
Thinking my mother's home is still among
Earth's children, and her yearning heart will ache,
If, for those angel joys, her smile I should forsake. -



heart, now cold in the devouring grave,
And torn, no more, by scorn and suffering,
How fondly didst thou to thy darling cleave !
Although thy tyrants but a worthless thing
Esteemed him. Rankled, deep, oppression's sting
In thy recesses : still, in hardihood

Of conscious right, stern challenge thou didst fling
Back at thy foemen and their hireling brood ;
And beat unto old age with free and youthful blood !


Mother, thy wrongs, the common wrongs of all
To labour doomed by proud and selfish drones,
Enduringly have fixed the burning gall
Deep in my veins ay, in my very bones.

1 hate ye, things with surplices and crowns !
Serpents that poison, tigers that devour

Poor human kind, and fill the earth with groans,
Through every clime ! God send ye were no more !
Ye'd have a merry requiem, from shore to shore !


Taxes for king and priest a knave was wont
To filch from my poor widowed mother's toil ;
And while the prowling jackall held his hunt,
He battened on the offals of the spoil,
And mocked the sufferers ! How my blood did boil
When lately I beheld a gilded stone
Raised to the memory of this vermin vile,
And pious charity ascribed thereon
To him who gray beneath the Poor's grim curse had grown !


I laid my aged mother near the dust

Of her oppressor; but no gilded verse

Tells how she toiled to win her child a crust,

And, fasting, still toiled on : no rhymes rehearse

How tenderly she strove to be the nurse

Of truth and nobleness in her loved boy,

'Spite of his rags

O Sun ! thou dost amerce
My withered heart, for the poor fleeting joy
With which thy beams began my sadness to destroy.


Bright Gazer on the wilderness of woe
Called Earth, dost thou in mockery smile
Above, like all thou look'st upon below ?
I fondly hoped thou wouldst, a little while,
The captive of his cankerous care beguile ;
But, for one glimpse of childhood's cheerful bloom,
Thou hast brought back upon my heart a pile
Of achings kindred to the dreary tomb ;
And mak'st me feel I hasten to that realm of gloom.

What when my torturers have had their fill
Of vengeance if I, once more, freely range,
Beneath thy radiance, over vale and hill,
Through tangled wood, by stream, and moated grange,
And festooned castle wall ? Deep thoughts of change
And sadness will the flowers of childhood bring :
I shall be companied with voices strange
To childhood's rapture, and unskilled to sing
The merry song with which we made the welkin ring :

Sorrow will follow song of matin merle
And vesper throstle where young joys I took :
For, of the dead, where Lindsey's streamlets pur),
Remembrances are writ, in Nature's book :
The gentle violet may sweetly look
As heavenly blue as it was wont to glow :
But, like that darling floret by the brook,
'Twill breathe ' Forget-me-not !' and I shall bow
In grief, remembering there that joyous hearts lie low.

Thou gorgeous lamp to light man to the home
Appointed for all living! though elate
With throb of liberty regained I roam
O'er paths (o Life's glad morning consecrate,
Will not thy flame foreshew that for me wait
The prison-portals of the grave, and I but stay
At large on sufferance ? For, the writ of Fate
Will soon arrive, which not a breath's delay
Brooks, of their full surrender, from the forms of clay.

c 2



Oh ! couldst thou bare that dark captivity
From whence, released, none ever yet returned
To tell its secrets, how our dreams would flee !
Was it to know Death's truths, in life, that yearned
The hoary Kelt who on the cromlech burned
His brother, hymning thee, the sky-throned god P
For ages, Man thy huge gray shrines hath spurned,
Mocking thy worship ; but, like all who trod
Earth then, in dreams, still dream the children of the clod !


And thou, thyself, all glorious as thou art,
Supernal Sun ! what art thou but a dream ?
A splendid vanity a glittering part
Of the vast aggregate of things that seem ?
How know I that with veritable beam
Thou dost illume earth and her sister spheres ?
Or, whether they and thou, meer fictions, teem
From Mind, and thy great glory but appears
Not is and will, with thy beholders, fade with years ?

Hath Mind, more truly, substance, then, than thou,

Great Sun ?

Oh ! how poor human thought doth mock
Itself! I think I see: 1 think I know !
What further ? Nought to worms ! Although ye knock
At Truth's dark barriers, they will bear the shock
Till doomsday if it ever come! If sleep
Eternal comes, instead, then, at a stroke,
Away, it will hope, faith, and doubting sweep:
And, if we cease to be; why we shall cease to weep.


Alas ! the soul doth seek to gather balm,
In vain, from barrenness : alternative
So frigid, blank, and bare, affords no calm
To him whose heart desires for aye to live ;
And yet doth palpitate, despond, misgive,

More than it hopes.

Resplendent light ! now wanes
Thy beam ; yet, who the morrow shall survive
To see, shall thee behold gilding the plains,
And hear thy gladdened birds rechant their joyous strains :



And thus, my brother-worms, in days of eld,
Looked on thy resurrection, and believed
That since thy disentombment they beheld
Each morn, thou hadst a symbol for them weaved
Of glorious life to follow death : reprieved
From fear of what I fear, they danced, they sung,
And on the mountains where so late they grieved,
And wailed their dead, gay trophies to thee hung,
And shouted thy high praise till hill and valley rung :

Baal, whose mighty tabernacles rose,
Roofed by the sky, from Babel to Stonehenge ;
Whose Beltein fire her mountain child still shews
On Caledonia's hills, 'spite of all change :
Boodh, Veeshnu, Christna, of old gospels strange,
Through ages hymned by Hindoo devotee :
Osiris, whose dark murder to avenge
Pale Isis nightly glowed o'er Mitzraim's sea
Old priestly Jsile that glads the land of mystery.

Mithras, high deity of gorgeous Mede :
Thammuz, or Adad, of Chaldaic seer,
Or old Phoenician by the Hebrew's seed
Supplanted : Titan, or Hyperion, fear
Of new-fledged gods, assailed in cloudy sphere
Olympic : Phoebus or Apollo, bright
And young and fair, throughout the rolling year
Circled with song, or from the Delphic height,
Breathing dim oracles, 'mid priest-enriching rite

God, claimed by regal Incas as their sire,
Beyond the wave Columbian, where upcone
Earth's storehouses of silver : Sovereign fire !
The young soul's natural god ! Visible throne
Of holy Nature's Sovereignty unknown,
Invisible ! by whatsoever name
Adored and deified throughout our zone,
Thy worshippers all held thy risen flame
Did for the soul adumbrate some great after-drame !


On shadows leaning, these did vaguely urge
Their dreaming pilgrimage ; and, lest I lean
On shadows, too though thousand lights converge
To deck with loveliness the Na/arene
I hesitate, demur, surmise, and glean,
Daily, new grounds to doubt the Mythic dress
Phoenician woof, once more ! through which is seen,
I fear, thy ancient face bright Comeliness !
Fabling with future life poor grave-doomed worms to bless !

He whom the Arimathean's tomb enclosed
The Toiler blest, who on the vile cross died
But, 'spite of guards, the bonds of death unloosed,
Scattering the men of iron in their pride
Convulsed to helplessness, and forth did ride
Leading captivity captive ! Is he not
Magnific beam ! thy power personified
Night-tombed and, then, pouring dismay and rout
9.i Darkness, while Earth's million morning-voices shout?


1 love the Galilean ; Lord and Christ
Such goodness I could own; and, though enshrined
In flesh, could worship : If emparadised,
Beyond the grave, no Eden I could find
Restored, though all the good of humankind
Were there, and not that yearning One, the Poor
Who healed, and fed, and blest ! Nay to my mind,
Hell would be Heaven, with him ! Horror no more
Could fright, if such benignant beauty trod its shore !

1 love the sweet and simple narrative,
With all its childlike earnestness the page
Quadruple where those love-wrought wonders live:
I would the tale were true : that heritage
Of immortality it doth presage
Would make me glad indeed. But doubts becloud
Truth's fountains as their depths I seek to guage,
Till with this trustless reck'ning I am bowed
Man's heritage is but a cradle and a shroud !


Hark! 'tis the turnkey! and those bars and bolts
Jar their harsh summons to my nightly nook.
Farewell, grand Sun! How my weaic heart revolts
At that appalling thought that my last. look
At thy great light must come ! Oh ! I could brook
The dungeon, though eterne! the Priests' own hell,
Ay, or a thousand hells, in thought, unshook,
Rather than Nothingness ! And yet the knell,
I fear, is near, that sounds To consciousness farewell !


After these day-dreams 'neath the summer's sun,
The Soul I mean, the something that doth think
And dream : Name it aright, thou knowing one
Who kenn'st the Essence which doth ever shrink
From its own scrutiny ! began to link
Night's images to forms she waking saw

With the interior eye.

Upon the brink

Of a wild lake I stood, viewing, with awe,
Again unveiled, the realm of suicidal woe !

The spacious wave, before me, tempest-gloomed
And bleak and storm-tost, howled; and I seemed frore
With cold, and, shuddering, felt as if foredoomed
To sense of mortal hunger. On the shore
I wandered, while my thoughts, amid the roar
Of winds and waters, dwelt on One who stilled
The waves, and fed the hungry : and the more
My spiritual sense with hunger thrilled
And cold, the more that Form my inward vision filled.


And still I wandered by the howling lake,
Imagining what joy succeeded fear
In the poor fishers, when their Master spake
From the night-wave, and said, ' Be of good cheer !
' 'TLs I !' while one sprang out to meet him there,
But would have sunk, had not the meek One's hand
Him rescued. ' Who' 1 cried ' would not revere
1 Such power and love ? Worship I, on this strand
' Would give the Nazarene did He these waves com-



The soul, in her empassioned working, seemed
To' have spoken audibly, whereat, a sound
Or, what was likest sound came, as I dreamed,
Forth from the caves that hemmed that lake around,
Appalling, as when one with mortal wound
Is struck, and utters his last agony
Of wild despair. A face that did astound
My spirit met me, as I turned to see
What form to wildly wail on that stern shore might be.

Tongue cannot syllable the blighting curse
To which that visage gave soul-utterance :
For mastery despair, wrath, shame, remorse,
Contended, in each petrifying glance ;
And still their contest burning sustenance
Drew evermore from the consuming blaze
Within : ' My being's ceaseless heritance
1 Is agony !' seemed written in that gaze,
In letters not a universe of joy could raze :

Tt was a look unique in wretchedness :
Such as, in land of penance, could be worn
By none but him who, in his heart's excess
Of ill, his gust for guilt, engrained, inborn,
Betrayed to shameful death, and vilest scorn
Of butchering priests, the Being who only sought
To bless mankind and die ! The look of lorn
Remediless woe with which that face was fraught
Needed no speech to tell it marked Iscariot.

The guilty spirit knew that he was known :
So livingly the soul made manifest
Her inmost workings, in that visioned zone.
And who art thou ? the spirit of unrest
Exclaimed, that hither com'st on prying quest
To view Perdition's Son ? Let the dark sign
Of thy self-murder, which these shades unblest
Sternly reveal, restrain thy thought malign :
How know'st thou my sonl'sdeed more criminal than thine ?


Worship to Him my treason brought to shame
Thou talk'st of rendering, did he here display
His power and love, feigning to shift the blame
Of thy foul unbelief (thy words bewray
Thy atheist heart !) on Him who bears high sway
Above, and, in the chequered roll of time,
Allots each paltry worm his little day.
A vaunt dissembler ! Distant age and clime
Excuse not unbelief: 'tis the soul's self-spawned crime f

Depart, proud unbeliever ! Let suffice
That thou hast spied the Traitor : now thine eye
Fix on thine own earth-stains : plan new device
Elsewhere, thy heart with doubt to petrify
Tenfold, but stay not here ! No sceptic spy
Shall bide with me : my desolateness I'll share
With none ; these blasting shores, the howling cry
Of this wild lake, are my companions ! Dare
Not thou to offer fellowship with my despair !

He ceased, a while ; but I no vigour felt
To utter speech, or flee. As if a spell
Flowed from the spirit's eyes, and, entering, dwelt
Within my being's fenceless citadel,
I stood transfixt, and terror-frore ! Rebel
Against this silent helplessness, or break
The spell of dread, I could not ; though, to tell
My heart unto the fallen one, with ache
Unutterable, I yearned ! Again, Iscariot spake :

Dost still delay ? Fear'st thou to go alone ?
Take with thee, then, from out my serpent cave,
For company, yon fallen minion !
Come, near him, in his guilt-struck madness, rave,
And cry he cannot the fierce scorn outbrave
Of all he meets in Hell! though in Earth's life,
He outfaced cursings dread, until they clave
Unto his coward soul ; and, now, the strife
Of condign woe within, his face doth hieroglyph.


Come, see if thou canst read! Thy frozen isle
He lately fled. Belike of brotherhood,
The memory, may revive this thing of guile
This viper fell, that drained his country's blood,
And then let out his own ! From his low mood
Of infantile despair thy form may serve
This cast-off sleuth-hound of the craven brood
To rouse, once more. Follow ! if thou hast nerve
Of soul to look on horror, nor from courage swerve !

I followed: for, albeit the spell of dread
Forbade my utterance still, desire prevailed,
And power returned, to move. The spirit led
Where sterner horrors my rapt soul assailed :
Crowds of huge snakes their coils innum'rous trailed,
Forming a labyrinthine cave, vast volve
On volve, with scales impenetrable mailed,
All seeming fierce the mandate to dissolve
That held them there their mighty folds to circumvolve.

How achingly their eyes, amidst their wrath,
Large pain expressed, and how my fear was blent
With sympathetic pain, as on that path,
Encompassed, thick, with torturous coils, I went,
Life's waking wave with Sleep's stream confluent
Can never from my beating brain efface :
Designed for deepest treason's chastisement
That cavern seemed : goal for sin's fiercest race :
The bourne for Guilt too foul its footsteps to retrace !

A livid, baleful light the serpents clothed,
Or seemed to issue forth each burning throat
The monsters ever shewed. The frayed soul loathed
Her vision, with such shuddering horror fraught,
And prayed for gloom. At length, Iscariot raught
A space circled with snakes in deathly' array
Upreared, pointing with forked tongues, where smote
His breast, as on the rocky floor he lay
In speechless agony the suicide of Cray !


Arise, and see how curl thy brother snakes
Around thee! cried the tortured Hebrew ghost:
Look on the torment which at length o'ertakes
The perjured traitor on that cursed coast
He ploughed Life's sea to find! Vile viper! lost,
Abhorred ! driven forth of all in Hell's own realm !
Arise, I say, nor lie thus torn and tossed,
Tyrant, who swayed a triple nation's helm, [whelm !
Erewhile, and mocked while suffering did the land o'er-

By mortal images her dread describe
Cannot the waking mind, recalling, sad,
That dream, and memory of each horrid gibe
Iscariot uttered, as if wildly glad
To vent his rage, and pain to superadd
Unto his fellow's pain ! Rackt, speechless, prone,
While his curved spine the huge snakes cupola'd,
And venom'd anger from their eyes outshone, [one.
O'erwhelmed, soul-numbed with woe, remained the prostrate

Will no taunt rouse Hibernia's fallen child,
Her cut-throat and his own ? Judas resumed;
And swift, the snakes, the prone form leaving, coiled
Around the Jew their frightful folds, and fumed
More wildly as he raged : What hath be-rheumed
Thy courage, mighty parasite ? On earth
A prince ! With worm-worn monarchs catacombed !
How, after all thy greatness, can this dearth
Of pride enshroud thee ? Wilt thou wake old Hell to mirth ?

Vile pandar to the pomp-blown* lust-swoln Guelph ;
Rise. I adjure thee, and betake thee hence !
I will be fellow to Hell's inmost self,
Rather than unto thee, trickster prepense,
And double-dealer in each mean pretence
For forging fetters to thy fatherland !
Her champion first ; and then true subsequence
Of falsehood tool, her slavery that planned,
And for his guilty wages stretched his guilty hand!



Traitor, that sold his country for a price,

And then

Traitor ! the prostrate shape outburst ;
A price ! Did / my Master, with device
Of a false kiss betray, to foes athirst
For his most precious blood, my heart endorsed,
The while, with settlement of black receipt

The thirty silver pieces ?

Snake accurst !

Retorted Judas, think not here to cheat
Thy soul: my deed was foretold by the Paraclete!


The Comforter on earth I never knew
But here I know Him ! 'Tis my soul's support
That He, who did of old the seers endue
With mystic foresight, hath my being begirt
With deep assurance that, though long the sport
Of these strange tortures, yet, the hour will come
When my freed spirit shall her strength exert,
And wing her way to that bright happy home
Where joys, for sinners purged of stain, perpetual, bloom !


My crime, in verity, belongs not me ;
And, therefore, penance, endless, cannot claim
Me hers. I am the child of Destiny !
But thou thou self-stained thing of scorn and shame !
Thou torturer of millions ! whose foul aim,
Self-moved, self-nurtured, was thyself to steep
In crime, thy kind in tears enduring blame
Thyself must bear ; and o'er thy soul shall sweep
The tempest of His wrath relentless, ceaseless, deep !


Speak'st thou of destiny, base Jewish churl!
- Fiercely the tortured, maddened minion cried,

And sprang erect ; for, now, the tempest-whirl

Of bygone lunes the fall'n liberticide

Revisited, and puffed with fumes of pride,

As erst in mortal life : Of destiny

Talk'st thou? he wildly said ; Think'st thou to hide

Thy old arch-treason, thus? How, then, may I,
Much more, by Fate's behests, ray life-deeds justify ?




Was I not beckoned, in my climbing path,
By beaming visions supernatural ?
Shall I the sentence of eternal wrath
Acknowledge just since dreams, prophetica
Of what I should be, did my will enthral,
And bright angelic shapes, in gems and gold
Bediademm'd, with voice celestial,
Nightly, me bade to grasp with seizure bold
The prize, in Fate's weird book, for Castlereagh enroll'd

Hah ! utter not thy name that synonym
Of Villany ! exclaimed the self-destroyed
Betrayer of the Blest ; it doth dedim
Darkness itself to utter it ! 'Avoid
' That sound accurst !' the souls in air upbuoyed,
New come from Earth, in dismall'st accents, yell :
' Forbear that guilty name to tell !' the void
Waste shore and caves re-echo. Serpent fell,
I charge thee, utter not again that hatedname, in Hell !


Elate still reared Cray's suicide, enwrapt
In old life-dreams, the soul's habiliment

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