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

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Of morrice-pomp, for holidays adapt
At change and full of moon, on earth. He lent
No audience to this chiding ; but, intent
On telling his pride's dreams, began to spume,
And struggle after phrase grandiloquent,
The soul's old habitude, wherewith t' exhume

His moon-struck visions vain from memory's pictured

[tomb.

LI.

'Twas in my manhood's youth, he proudly said; [1]
I tarried, for one night, fast by the wave
Atlantic, where, in lovely verdure spread,
Old Erin laughs to hear the north-wind rave.
The hall that welcomed me was old, but brave
And stately stood, as stands the forest oak
After five hundred autumn tempests have
Against his stalwart arms their fury broke,

And, eke, five hundred times stripped of his kingly cloak.



94 THE PURGATORY

L1I.

The sun wae sinking in the gorgeous west,
As I drew near. The dark-fined ivy hung
Its graceful tendrils, like a bridal vest,
Around the aged walls, while softly sung
The minstrel evening breeze, with wanton tongue,
That castle's marriage to King Time. Bedight
With rainbow tints the clouds resplendent flung
On me, on towers, and leaves, for magic sprite
Fit bower that seemed ; and I some wand'ring love-spelled

[knight.

L1II.

Around my steed the giddy flittermouse
Sported, in whimsical ellipse, and passed,
On leathern sails, with haste to tell his spouse,
Hung, wizard-wise, by heels, in chimney vast,
While listed him the owl, that sage dynast
Of ruin, that a stranger marked by Fate
For princely fortunes was approaching fast
The moat, and soon beneath the old arched gate
Would bend, where, hoarsely croaking, the dark corven

[sate

L1V.

Forbear, poor palterer, thy crazy tale
Of bats and owls and ravens ! cried the fierce
And fallen Jew ; Think of the bitter bale
Which doth in Hell thy doating soul amerce
For mortal sins ! Let tortures real disperse
Thy lingering dreams of mock beatitude !
For pity sheer, I'll list thee misrehearse
Thy ditty; but in strain at least, subdued
To common-sense, this false apocalypse conclude !



My host received his guest as well beseemed
The lordly tenant of this feudal tower ;
In vein ornate the patricide rethemed
His air-built pride : His child, a peerless flower
Of loveliness, her eyes a brighter dower
Than myriad pearls, drooped o'er her father's arm,
As droops a lily, after evening shower,
Upon its parent stem. Soft, chaste alarm
Her light-veiled bosom told with undulating charm.



OF SUICIDES.



Full lowly bowed the reverend seneschal,
Girdled for state, with massive silver key,
As on we passed into the banquet-hall :
And, niched, among the antique carvery
The hinds were seen on meekly bended knee,
With perfumed cressets : evermore there met
The ravished ear, from unseen minstrelsy,
Hushed dulcet tones of harp and flageolette
Blent with rapt chaunt of madrigal and canzonette.

LVJI.

With festal revelry the banquet rang,
Till tusk and antler, spear and hauberk shook,
Around the baron's hall. Anon, upsprang
The younger guests : his ladye-love each took :
The dovelets blushed, and yielded, with coy look :
Then thrilled the rebecks, while the merry dance
Sped on, until, for mirth and wine, forsook
Their dizzy sport the youngsters, still, askaunce,
Eyeing each other, in their love's exuberance.

LVIII.

'Twas midnight : and, before they said, ' farewell !'
The revellers asked a boon of harper gray,
Who dipped his beard in the gold Rhenish bell
With youthful zeal, that he for them should say,
Unto his harp's loud chime, a roundelay
Of olden days, in Tara's hall once told,
When high O'Connor sat in proud array
Of crowned regality, and Erin old,
From sea to sea, with joy, bowed to the warrior bold. [2]



I cannot to thine ear the deeds recount
Of old Milesian chieftains, a stern line,
The Minstrel sang : in mem'ry's transient fount
So many streams of weal and bale combine,
Through life, and then the soul her anodyne
Inevitable' of death must taste, and now
We drink this bitter cup in Hell's confine,
That the mind shrinks, as if from mortal throe,
Her total journey, like a drudge, to overgo.



96 THB PCRGATORY

LX.

Suffice it that I say that aged man
Wound up his lay with patriotic tears 5
While my heart raged, as if a hurricane
Of joys, its current, with alternate fears,
Had swoln. I felt distraught as one who hears
Himself poean'd for victory ungained
As yet, but certain to be won, though years
Of hate before he reach the laurel stained
With blood be his: that victory's fruit hiscountry chained !



With taper dim, through vault and thick-ribbed arch,
Six aged hinds, to light me to my sleep
Stept gravely on, as if in funeral march.
But, when alone, how my cold skin did creep
To see grim eyes upon me scowl and peep
From out the oaken pannels round my couch !
One painted warrior looked as he would leap
And crush me, for a foreign scaramouch,
Such frowning hatred did his portraiture avouch !

LXU.

Plumed like a hearse, a lordly canopy
Adorned my bed, in old baronial mode,
Its cumbrous velvet folds on ebony
Supported, and their drooping festooned load
Burthened with gold and jet. Breathless, I glode
Into my downy nest, in darkness, while
My throbbing heart 'gan thickly to forbode
Some unknown ill ; but struggling, I this pile
Of spectrous fears threw off, as fancies infantile.



Sleep fled; and soon the gray-haired harper's song
Filled all my chamber, like a serenade
Which some benign enchantment did prolong
Until so heavenly melody it made
That Darkness hasted to her nether shade,
And Light held sceptre in that resting-place
Of ancient pomp. O'erjoyed, and yet afraid,
I gazed around when lo ! a form of grace,
Haloed with glorious light, revealed its radiant face !



OF SUICIDES 97



Resting my arm upon my silken pillow,
But helplessly recumbent as a child,
I lay, and gazed, while, like the heaving billow,
My bosom swelled ; yet, though with wonder wild
My hair stood up, serene, that angel mild
Stood pointing to a seat nigh to a throne
Limn'd all in light, and, with high meaning, smiled
A moment and that visioned form had flown ;
But woke my soul like warrior's at the clarion !



' Fame fame !' shouted my burning, bounding heart,
Until my tongue made vocal its excess :
' I will enact the splendid afterpart
' Of life begun this visioned beauteousness,
' This minstrelsy divine, alike, confess
' My destiny appoints ! They shall not weave
' For me, in vain, that fair viceregal dress
' The Fatal Sisters three ! My soul shall cleave '
' Unto its toil until it doth the palm achieve !'

LXVI.

Next morn, unto my grave and lordly host
I did these visions of the night reveal.
With deeply troubled look his breast he crossed,
And spake these words : ' Thy lips, I charge thee, seal
' Upon this theme, if that thou wishest weal
' To thine own soul : for signal woe or. joy
' Upon thy rest these midnight visions steal :
' High destiny is thine, if thou destroy
' It not thyself ! Know, thou hast seen the Radiant Boy !'



What followed on these visitations bright

Enough ! the Palestinian suicide
Exclaimed : If longer ravings to indite
Thou dost attempt, these serpents that deride
Thy tale already, sequel to such pride
Run mad will bring with heavy emphasis.
What followed ? why, thy guilty heart was dyed
With blood : thy hand, for very cowardice,
Thou didst not stain except to shorten tfhy life's lease !
7 H



yo THE PURGATORY

LXVIII.

What followed ? Thou art here ! Thy race of guilt,
And pride and madness is, on earth, outrun ;
By thine own hand thy life's vile current spilt,
And Hell's eternal agony begun ;
Yet seek'st thou, like a lunatic buffoon,
To mock thyself and others with the dreams
That haunt the brains of each mere child o'th' moon,
Beneath his natal star's pale borrowed beams
Sleeping, 'mid ruins gray, or lost, by haunted streams.

LXIX.

The Radiant Boy forsooth ! Some doating fool,
Possessed with superstitious wonderment,
And barbarous pride of fancied elvish rule
Sway'd o'er his barbarous house, a ready vent
Found in thy crazy ear for lunes uppent
Too long within his heated mind. How long
Wilt mock thyself ? For ever thou art rent
From peace; and, on thy soul, with tortures strong,
The poor's Avenger recompenseth, now, their wrong !

LXX.

I tell thee, fierce one ! that this radiant form
Cried the fall'n lunatic, again I saw,
While sitting in the senate ; there, no swarm
The moon could raise of vaporous fancies raw
To juggle and mislead my brain. What law
Of mind hast rtiou discovered, in this crypt
Of horrors, that can warrant thee to draw
Hope for thyself from old prophetic script
And yet to slay my soul with Fate's strong shield equipt ?

LXXI.

Shall I, of mental liberty bereft
In life ; my will, Mind's pilot, all enthralled ;
The soul's frail bark herself to fury left
Of these tempestuous visions swift upcalled
Without her own intent; shall I, appalled
With fear of justice, from His sentence shrink ?
The weakest worm on earth that ever crawled
Would not, thus impulsed even to the brink
Of life, consent to its own curse, and, yielding, sink.



OP SUICIDES. 99

LXXII.

Whether thy soul to its own curse consent,
Or ape the rebel, said Iscariot,
That curse waits not thy blind arbitrament :
'Tis fixt with mine : in vain we seek to blot
The sentence from His book : our fatal lot
Is cast, and must be borne. Thou hadst thy tide
Of sanity : if, then, her antidote
The sober soul, industrious, had applied
To thy disease, she would have purged this crazy pride.

LXXIII.

Thou know'st this true : then, cease thy heart to chafe
With these ill-masked deceits. My soul dislodge
From bulwark which Jehovah doth vouchsafe
Thou canst not. Good from Evil the Great Judge
Produceth : not delirious subterfuge
Is this. God did appoint my soul to sin :
Unto His high decree I bow : His drudge
I am : His purpose answered I shall win
My seat in that bright realm where beam the seraphin !

LXX1V.

Evanished, now, his air of pomp superb,
And shook with woe, the fallen thing of state :

His frenzy fled.

Alas ! how deep reverb

These shades my curse ! he cried : in vain 1 prate
Of impulses and dreams, with wish to palliate
My conscious guilt : I feei my sentence just !
And now, with trust devout, to mitigate
My woe, I'll seek : I bow to His august
Decree : I, also, in His Providence will trust !

LXXV.

Son of Perdition ! if thou wert by Heaven
Designed, mysteriously, a guilty aid
Of holy purposes ; if, thus, the leaven
Of evils which His universe pervade,
By His permission, God hath decreed and made
A source of blessing ; may not I look up
Beyond the cope of this dark, joyless. shade,
For dawn of bliss ? Unto the dregs, if hope
Be there, immurm'ring, will 1 drink my bitter cup.

H 2



TH PURGATORY



Know, humbled tyrant, though my soul begins
Thy miseries to pity, and forget
Her own, spake Judas ; penalty for sins
Thou canst not choose but feel : a deep, dark debt
Of woe thou hast to pay : for thee doth whet
Her torturous beak a vulture more malign
Than gnawed the fabled Titan : Conscience yet
Must prey upon thee, till thou wail and pine ;
And, still, for ages, must thou feel her fangs condign !

LXXVIl.

1 Unmurrn'ring* wilt thou drink of Torture's dregs ?
Why, thou hast not the courage of a worm
When trouble truly comes : thy spirit begs
For ease, ev'n now, while only in its germ
Of misery, and ere the countless term
Of its desert of pain is, scarce, begun !
How wilt thou murmur, then, against the storm
Of penal wrath enhanced, and seek to shun
Thy cup, 'plaining the measure doth the brim o'errun ?



Yet, to the bitter dregs it must be drunk !
The Guelph loved fawning ; but in Hell's domain,
Thy power of courtier-cozenage is shrunk
And withered : thou would'st coax, and cant, and feign,
With torment's executioner, in vain :
Conscience I mean. Hah ! even now the edge
Of her fell tooth is sinking in thee ! Pain
Unintermittent, pain without assuage,
That thou must suffer still will be the direful pledge !

LXXIX.

Thou feel'st thy portion just ; but like a lithe
And eager adder 'neath the planted hoof
Of forest steed or ox, dost twist and writhe,
With madd'ning agony. Hah ! how aloof
Thou stood'st from mercy, while on earth ! Disproof
That millions starved and suffered, thy false tongue
Forged, daily : not a tear-drop in behoof
Of suffering from thy stony eyes was wrung
For one of all the thousands that thy treachery stung !



OF SUICIDES. 101

LXXX.

Wilt thou deny that there is suffering now ?
Now ? while the worm of conscience thou dost feel ?
Th' undying worm ? Why, what is the weak woe
Thy coward soul can bear, though Hell unseal
Her quintessence of torture ? 'Twill be weal,
Compared with aggregate of woe thy heart,
Remorseless, wrung from millions whose appeal
To Right was vain ! millions of sires whose part
Of woe though first, was least : they left an after-smart !

LXXXI.

For whom ! For millions of their starveling sons
And famished daughters, who still pine and moil
By law : mere skin-and-bone automatons !
Oh ! serpent ! how my spirit's tide doth boil
Against such viperousness as thine ! The coil
Of mortal life is mine no more : I would
It were but for one day ! How would I toil
To lave my hands in some such viper's blood,
And purge my mountain sin by spilling the vile flood !

LXXXII.

What breathe ye for, on earth, such slime-born things ?

To suck your brethren's blood ; and, while ye gorge,

Mock your poor victims ! Thy dark revellings

In human blood and human tears their verge

Have reached ; but, how it swells the ocean surge

Of tears and blood thou and thy teacher drew

A fresh-bom stream from anguished hearts ! Twould

purge

Cain's sin and mine, with patriot brand to hew
Into one heart like thine a festive avenue !

Lxxxin.

Hah ! how they shouted while thy mangled clay
Was borne unto its burial ! the few men
Whom blood of their old fathers, for one day,
Stirred into more than slaves ! Oh ! it was then
While terror quelled even the iron ken
Of thy stern fellow-lizard, who his claw
Held up, and breathed an idiot ' hush !' 'twas then
Thy waking victims should have filled Death's maw
With the whole vermin brood that human vitals gnaw !



102 THE PURGATORY

LXXXIV.

Thou 'also, to His Providence wilt trust !'
A hypocrite thou wert, in life ; in death
A coward : thou art both, in Hell ! Thy gust
For meanest vice fled not with flight of breath :
Thy soul, escaped from out her pampered sheath,
Yet hugs her stain ! What wonder, though the Guelph
Oft spat upon thee, that thou, still, the path
Didst keep of fawning ? Meanest, vilest elf,
That ever played the tyrant, loathe thy' abortive self!

LXXXV.

Shall I from thee receive this foul rebuke ?
Respake the soul-stung, fallen sycophant ;
Tamely, fierce gibe and dark contumely brook
From one whom all men deem a miscreant,
An outcast vile, and not hurl back each taunt,
Each withering sneer, wherewith thou seek'st to gall
My wound ? Were my whole essence adamant
The soul would strive herself to disenthral
From force of gibes so fiercely, foully cynical.

LXXXVI.

From thine own mouth I will thy heart convict
Of its inherent vileness. Thou hast striven
With unrelenting malice to afflict
My soul ; and thy foul game hath foully thriven,
Chiefly by sarcasms 'gainst the prince now riven
From all lust linked him with above the grave.
Suppose thy censure forceful: grant him given
A living prey to his heart's vice a slave
To filth so abject that the worms, which now their brave

LXXXVII.

Carousal hold amidst his putrid clay,
Find him not more uncleanly than in life :
Grant that his kingly course affords no trait
Of nobleness : that selfishness was rife
As lust within him : that his soul a strife
Perpetual shewed the trampled human crowd
To bruise more vilely still : that while the knii'e
\Vas at their very throats his scoffs were loud,
And he could see them bleed and die, unmoved, unbowed :



OP SUICIDES. 103

LXXXVIII.

Grant that he thirsted but for power to wring

From out his subjects' hearts the last life-drop
If it would minister to his revelling
One guilty hour : grant that a sot, a fop,
He was by turns : a blackleg, then to groupe
Of swindlers fugleman ! becoming, soon,
The god of earthly gauds, and to the top
Of his vain bent fooled on, by each baboon,
Tinselled with titles, that beheld the holy spoon

LXXXIX.

Bestow its unctuous virtue on his head,
And laughed to see the gew-gaw placed thereon,
The grown child's gew-gaw ! while, in pomp outspread,
Peers, prostitutes, pimps, prelates, round his throne
Knelt blasphemously homaging th' o'ergrown
Monster of vice, their grandeur fed, the while,
With tears of starving thousands ! Grant this known,
And then, poor, silly Jew ! I can but smile
To hear thee thus my fallen soul taunt and revile !

xc.

For, if the royal Guelph my mirror were
Iscariot ! who was thine ? Hah ! how thine eye
Bespeaks thy heart's deep .shame ! Thy exemplar
How worshipful, how holy, and how high
In excellence ! His beams to purify
Thy baseness did that sun of goodness pour
Upon thee; but thy sin was of a dye
Too deep-grained and thy heart, within its core,
Worshipped an earthen god, and there his image wore.



And thus it was in vain that to thy eyes,
Within thy ears, His deeds and words of love
Were present, day by day. Anatomize
Thy heart, and thou wilt find that stain enwove,
Entextured there, ev'n now ! Yea did here move
The Blessed One before thee clad in light
And loveliness, the vision would not prove
Sufficient to o'erawe thee, if to sight
The silver bait were offered : that thou could'st not slight !



104 THE PURGATORY

XCII.

Thou art accurst, and justly. Vile and low
Were thy desires through life : a groveller base
Thou ever wert, and vainly from Hell's woe
Thou drearast to be set free. Hell's thy own place,
Mean barterer ! Unless thou canst erase
From out thy sordid nature the low vice
Of avarice, dream thou no more of grace !
Before thou sitt'st in Jesu's Paradise,

Satan shall, re-enthroned in highest heav'n, rejoice !

XC11I.

How can it be, vile Traitor to the Blest !
That after-knowledge by thy sinful soul
Of God's foreknowledge can of guilt divest
Thy mind ? His knowledge did not thee control
Before thy act : it was thy treachery foul,
Thy itch for petty pelf, base, sordid thing !
That spiritual leprosy, which stole
Daily, through all thy heart, until its spring
Was tainted, and thou fledd'st to bloody bartering !

xciv.

Proclaimed He not thy treason while it germed
Within thy heart shut up ? yea, ere a word
Forth budding from the hell-sown seed confirmed
Thy foul intent? Perditioned, curst, abhorred,
Thou wast, before thy mother's womb was stored
With embryon of thy being ! 'Twas decreed
Of the Most High witness His own record !
That thou shouldst breathe solely to do that deed,
And on thy traitorous soul th' undying worm should feed !-

xcv.

He spake no more ; for, speechless horror filled
His soul to witness how the tortured ghost
Of Judas writhed with rage, and in what wild
Distorted folds the scaly monsters tossed
Their horrid hugeness, with the Traitor lost
A mystic sympathy evincing ! Hell
Seemed Hell indeed, while I upon that coast
Beheld those snakes round Judas coil and swell,
As if to wilder rage his soul they would impel !



OF SUICIDES. 105

XCVI.

I trembled as I gazed. But, as I dreamed,
A wondrous change swift o'er my vision came.
No more the serpents writhed : no more outgleamed
From the Jew's eyes a wild demoniac flame :
Calm and subdued, mingling with conscious shame
A look of dignity, awhile he stood ;
And, when he speech resumed, how deep the blame
His deed deserved his Treason 'gainst the Good
Acknowledged ; and, forthwith, a mystic theme pursued.

xcvn.

More, far more than thou say'st, is mine, of guilt,
He said : Deeper, far deeper, is my stain !
Not that I count it thus because they spilt
The blood of Him I sold : they would have ta'en
His precious life had no vile thought of gain
E'er prompted me, or others, to betray
The Blessed One. What can the wolf restrain
From the meek lamb ? the vulture from his prey ?
How shall the Good have peace, when Wickedness bears

[sway ?

xcvni.

Who that e'er dared to mock the tyrant's gaud,
The hypocrite's deceit, could hope escape
From Tyranny, and Avarice, and Fraud ?
The demon-trinity knaves still bedrape
With pomp and sanctity, till slaves, agape
And palsied, see them wolve and victimize
The best of human kind, yea, tamely shape
Their coward tongues to praise, when they should rise
And hurl to dust the things of pride, and greed, and lies !

xcix.

My stain is deeper than thou know'st to tell.
Not that I count it thus because I sought
For glittering dust His precious life to sell :
My poverty begat in me that thought,
When 1 discerned the toils had nearly raught
Their aim who laid them for his life.' False one !
My spirit's crime thou foully dost misquote :
The vision deep within no longer shun :
Behold thy soul with tide of pelfish love o'errun !



106 THE PURGATORY



A sordid thing thou said'st I was ! Is toy
More precious to a child, than gaudy sheen
Of baubles was to thee ? Wert thou e'er coy
Of silver as the price of blood ? With mien
Repentant didst thou restitute, and clean
Confession make before thy weasand-stroke,
As I before my rope ? Wert thou not keen
Of gold and power until thy clutch was broke
With o'erstrained struggles to increase thy country's yoke ?



Oh ! I might limn thy worthless effigy,
And with a truthful power, until thy heart
Were wrung to its vile core with agony !
But the strong tempest leaves me : and the smart
Wherewith thy soul would writhe would but impart
A kindred woe to mine. A sordid thing !
Saidst thou, I was ? Oh how old thoughts upstart
At that tyrannic taunt! old thoughts that wring
My soul until they well-nigh back the tempest bring !

en.

Hah! tortured torturer! while they moil unfed,
If poor men sink in vice ; if, 'midst their toil,
So ill-requited, grovelling thoughts are bred
In Labour's children ; if th' uncultured soil
Of their neglected minds base weeds defile,
Whose is the crime ? The trampled toilers' ? or
Their iordlings' ? who, while they, as thou, revile
And taunt the trampled ones, trample them more ;

And hug, themselves, the vice they charge their slaves to'

[abhor !
cm.

A groveller if I was, charge thine own tribe
The titled plunderers with the guilt ! or make
Them share the censure with the knavish scribe
And canting Pharisee ! Each did partake
The spoils of my hard toil upon the lake ;
But, while they feasted, left me to misfare
With hunger, cold, and tempest, or the ache
Of oft -impending death : disdaining care

Whether I did the brute's or human nature wear !



OP SUICIDES. 107

CIV.

Unto their Judge I leave them ! He will mete
Their sentence with the measure just, of woe,
As now He measures thine. Forbear deceit,
Henceforth : thy guilt, in making grovellers low,
Exceeds my guilt in grovelling. Lowly bow
In shame, till it be interpenetrant
Through all thy crimeful soul. My stain, I know,
Is deep ; no more of guiltlessness I vaunt :
That boast were vain for Hell's self-exiled habitant.



Ay, 'twas the sun of goodness on me shone :
Goodness unmeasured, undescribed, untold :
Goodness that strove its godlike benison
To pour, alike, upon the ingrate cold
As on the hearts its mercies manifold
Made dance with thankfulness: Goodness unfelt,
Unwitnessed, unconceived. in mortal mould,
Before : Goodness that from its treasure dealt
So bounteously, as if it would the wide world melt



Into a sea of bliss, and deluge heart
Of man with joy ! Goodness that' wept with those
Whom grief constrained to weep : Goodness the smart
In human bosoms torn by earthly throes
That strove to medicate with love ; to close
The spirit's wounds with tenderness ; and heal
The mind bruised with the burthen of its woes :
Goodness that glowed with inexhaustless zeal
To spread, enhance, perfect, eternize human weal !

cvn.

And I, amidst His radiance of love,
Was dark and frozen still ! Curst be my doom
To all eternity ! Never above
May I behold that slighted One ! My gloom
The heavenly beam of mercy failed to' illume
On earth ; and I deserve not now to find
The love 1 slighted then. If, to consume
My soul, Hell's stores of torments were combined
Too lightly, even then, had Heaven my curse assigned !



108 THE PURGATORY

CV1II.

Ten thousand hells hath merited my sin
Against Ineffable Goodness ! How I rave
Amid my madness ! Remedy akin
To the disease were tortures that deprave


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