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

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Still more the spiritual health : in torment's wave
Were the soul steeped for ever, her guilt's grain
Would only be more fixed : who scourge the slave
On earth, but nurture, by his galling pain,
The rebel will they would by chastisement restrain.

cix.

Great Judge of men and angels, 'tis not thus
Thou governest ! though I, in th' Hell I sought,
Like fools on earth, such censure libellous
Have oft pronounced upon thy rule, and thought
My folly wisdom ! Human crime is caught
In fatal net of its own consequence :
Afflict Thou dost not : though our minds, mistaught,
Oft represent Thy vast omnipotence
Bending to scourge poor worms for waywardness prepense !

ex.

For waywardness that in the dust to crawl
Inclines, beyond the track Thy wisdom hath
Appointed. Spirit, though Hell's shades enthral
Our being, we are not of vengeful wrath
The victims, but have found, by self-made path,
The suffering we pursued of choice : not force.
Evil, remedial of itself, by death,
Pain, suffering, grief, repentance, shame, remorse,
God hath appointed : Evil, breathes not endless curse.

CXI.

Evil, for means of richest, greatest good
The uncontrolled Controller hath devised :
Such His peculiar scheme. O what a flood
Of beatific light hath now baptised
Me ! Being's discord shall be harmonized
For Woe, throughout all space, shall be destroyed.
Goodness Ineffable disnaturalized
Would be, Jehovah's Deity be void,
Unless from pain His universe were purified.



OF SUICIDES. 109

CXII.

Spirit, rejoice, ev'n though the gnawing worm
Enter thine inmost essence, and pain pierce
Thy being to the core ! Maugre this storm
Of torture, we shall reach repose : this fierce
Consuming woe shall end ; the Universe
Shall be, through endless ages, resonant
With voices tuned by joy : Love shall rehearse
The Maker's wisdom, and His creatures chaunt,
Blissful, the everlasting chorus jubilant!

CXIII.

Why, how I rave again ! with visage changed
The spirit called of old ' Perdition's Son'
Exclaimed : Is not my tortured soul estranged
From happiness ? Do I not hate mine own
Existence ? for annihilation groan,
And hate all that partake this life unblest ?
Leave me, foul sprite, to my despair alone !
Dost thou not know that sceptered ghosts make quest
For fawning things that will their robbers' right attest ?

cxiv.

Such errand to my cavern, late, did bring
Old gray Achitophel the cast-off tool
Of royalty, who, still, like thee, doth cling
To tyrants, though they spurn him. Kingly rule
Grows problematical : on earth, the dull
Tame slaves of toil sullenly fold their hands,
Dreaming to starve their lords : Hell's self is full
Of rebel thoughts 'gainst Thrones : brood of brigands

Quake 'mid their pictured pomps : their dread thy zeal

[demands,
cxv.

Haste, minion, to recruit the minished host
Of their defenders thou who didst so well
Subserve their pride on earth ! Never more boast
Of boundless loyalty, if thus rebel
Thy fears 'gainst duty, till resolve they quell.
Hah ! pangs of shame thy spirit paralyze !
Thy dread is just Outcast of earth and hell !
Hell's Thrones, to scout thee, would indignant rise,

Did they thy craven guilt-smit image recognize !



110 THE PURGATORY



Base spawn of fear and guilt, get hence, and cage
Thy lunacy in some dark desert nook
Where none may hear thee curse, and spume, and rage
For curse thou shall ! Hence ! and again invoke
The Radiant Boy !

Cease, hellish fiend, to mock
My tortures ! cried the fallen minion, stung,
Anew to madness : Lo ! thy gibes have woke,
Again that form ! but Hell's dark clime hath flung
Strange horror o'er that brow that beamed so fair and young.

GXVII.

Hah ! false, deluding phantom, now I see
Thou wert a minister of Hell to beck
Me to destruction ! Jew ! why thus at me
Glr.rest thou, wonder-struck, and seem'st to seek
Vainly, the object of my fear P Apeak
Among thy snakes, he sits : behold him there !
View'st not his frown ? dost thou not hear him speak ?
Off, Radiant fiend ! I know thee, now ! Forbear
To taunt my soul with crime for which thou spread'st the

[snare !

CXVIII.

Thou liest, foul sprite ! the guilt of Emmett's blood
Belongs not me : they counselled him who fled
When brave Fitzgerald fell : joined with his mood
Of rashness, this to hopeless struggle led
That gallant boy ! Fiend, urge it not ! the thread
Of Fate in his own hands he took ; to woo
The daughter of the golden-tongued, instead
Of flight, chose danger [3] and the tiger crew
Of Power, with vengeful fangs, upon his own life drew !

cxix.

Foul spirit, mock me not ! thou dost but tempt
My soul to deeper crime !

False minion, hold !

Iscariot cried ; this region is exempt [sold

From Earth's old dreams : nought seest thou ; but hast
Thyself to falsehood till thy heart is bold
To forge wild frauds ev'n here !

Curst Judas, cease

Thy taunts ! ' 1 come' it saith, ' thy heaven t' unfold
' Thy ancient heav'n the haggard, thought-worn face
' Of Pitt : that thou mayst dream old dreams of power and

[place !'



OP SUICIDES. Ill



Perditioned Jew ! seest not the portraiture
The fiend hath raised ? List what he saith ! ' Now view
' The magic eye, once more, which cleft th' obscure
' Opaque of thy dull clay, his fit tool knew,
' Accepted thy meek offers to eschew
' Rash, youthful promises, and cheered with smiles,
' Prurient with place, the recreant to pursue
1 His snaky course of patricide ! Recoils
' Thy spirit from such vision of its patriot toils ?

CXXI.

' Dost think it would recal the withering sneers
' Of Ponsonby, or Grattan's lightning glance,
' Till thou wouldst quail with sense of ancient fears ?
' Courage ! thou thing of cut-throat puissance !
' What of their sarcasm's empty fulminance ?
' Thou wast a victor 'spite of all their gibes !
' Thy country's suicide was won ! Perchance
' Thy own for smallest sin Hibernia's tribes
' Will count the hosts thou sold'st to Pitt for traitor bribes !'



Vile Jew ! why dost thou scoff with hellish glee ?
Hark ! 'tis the Fiend, again ' Would'st gaze
' On Brandreth's gory head ? I'll bring it thee,
' Fresh reeking from the scaffold, with the glaze
' Of death still in its eyes ! Hah ! thou shalt craze
' With joy, gloating thy fill upon that throat
' The mangled throat of Thisttewood ! Pourtrays
' It thy own wound ? Stifle the troublous thought,
1 And once, again, upon thy spy-trapped victim gloat !'

CXXIII.

The Fiend's fierce eyes how gleefully and fell
They glister like the eyes of Earth's vile things
That hunt for blood ! Again it saith ' How well
' The eyes of Castles and their glisterings,
' Edwards' and Oliver's, o'er trafSckings
' Of blood for gold thou dost remember ! Start
' Not now ; for, swift, thy Radiant angel's wings
1 Shall toil to bring that thou mayst mock its smart
With life's old relish Caroline's lorn broken heart!



112 THE PURGATORY

CXX1V.

' Gloat, gloat thy fill upon each torturous pang !
' Dost shrink ? Courage ! they were her dying moans !
' The music thickens : 'tis the sabres' clang
' Mingles with shrieks ; and, now, a peal of groans
' Comes up from Peterloo ! What, though the stones
' Would rise and curse, were thy vile image there ?
' Thou shalt have joy in listening to the tones,
' Renewed in Hell, of Hunger's loud despair!
' Hark ! what wild choir breaks forth ijTantnem debonair ?

cxxv.

1 Behold thy Radiant angel hath called up
' Thy bread-taxed victims, in their lank array ;
' And with the hunger-bitten weavers' troop,
' Thy fatherland's crushed children leave decay !
' All rise and hymn thy glorious deed at Cray !'
Hell-Fiend, avaunt !

And, forth, the minion fled
Shrieking with horrid madness ! Me, dismay
And terror woke; and, from soul-quelling dread
Set free, I blessed the morn, upon my prison-bed.



NOTES TO BOOK THE THIRD.

-'



[1] Stanza 51. " 'Twas in my manhood's youth, he proudly
said ;" Mine is but a poetical version of the suicide states'
man's vision : here follows the prose from Winslow's " Ana-
tomy of Suicide" (published 1840) pp. 242-4. " It is now more
than thirty-five years ago that the following singular circum-
stance occurred to the Marquis of Londonderry : He was on
a visit to a gentleman in the north of Ireland. The mansion
was such a one as spectres are fabled to inhabit. The apart-
ment, also, which was appropriated to his lordship, was
calculated to foster such a tone of feeling from its antique
character ; from the dark and richly-carved panels of its
wainscot ; from its yawning chimney, looking like the en-
trance to a tomb ; from the portraits of grim men and
women arrayed in orderly procession along the walls, and
scowling a contemptuous enmity against the degenerate
invader of their gloomy bowers and venerable halls ; and
from the vast, dusky, ponderous, and complicated draperies
that concealed the windows, and hung with the gloomy gran-
deur of funeral trappings about the hearse-like piece of furni-
ture that was destined for his bed. Lord Londonderry ex-
amined his chamber ; he made himself acquainted with the
forms and faces of the ancient possessors of the mansion as
they sat upright in the ebony frames to receive his saluta-
tion ; and then, after dismissing his valet, he retired to bed .
His candle had not long been extinguished, when he per-
ceived a light gleaming on the draperies of the lofty canopy
over his head. Conscious that there was no fire in his grate ;
that the curtains were closed ; that the chamber had been in
perfect darkness but a few minutes previously, he supposed



114 NOTES TO BOOK THE THIRD.

that some intruder must have entered into his apartment ;
and, turning round hastily to the side from whence the light
proceeded, he, to his infinite astonishment, saw not the form
of any human visitor, but the figure of a fair boy surrounded
by a halo of glory. The spirit stood at some distance from
his bed. Certain that his own faculties were not deceiving
him, but suspecting he might be imposed on by the in-
genuity of some of the numerous guests who were then
inmates of the castle, Lord Londonderry advanced towards
the figure ; it retreated before him ; as he advanced the
apparition retired, until it entered the gloomy arch of the
capacious chimney, and then sunk into the earth. Lord Lon-
donderry returned to his bed, but not to rest ; his mind was
harassed- by the consideration of the extraordinary event
which had occurred to him. Was it real, or the effect of an
excited imagination ? The mystery was not so easily solved.
" He resolved in the morning to make no allusion to what
had occurred the previous night, until he had watched care-
fully the faces of all the family, to discover whether any
deception had been practised. When the guests assembled
at breakfast, his lordship searched in vain for those latent
smiles, those conscious looks, that silent communication be-
tween parties, by which the authors and abettors of such
domestic conspiracies are generally betrayed. Everything
apparently proceeded in its ordinary course ; the conversa-
tion was animated and uninterrupted, and no indication was
given that any one present had been engaged in the trick.
At last, the hero of the tale found himself compelled to
narrate the singular event of the preceding night. He re-
lated every particular connected with the appearance of the
spectre. It excited much interest among the auditors, and
various were the explanations offered. At last, the gentle-
man who .owned the castle interrupted the various surmises
by observing that 'the circumstance which had just been
recounted must naturally appear very extraordinary to those
who had not been inmates long at the castle, and were not
conversant with the legends of his family ;' then, turning to
Lord Londonderry, he said, 'You have seen the Radiant



NOTES TO BOOK THB THIRD. 115

Boy. Be content ; it is an omen of prosperous fortunes. I
would rather that this subject should not again be men-
tioned.'

" This was no doubt an hallucination of the senses. On
another occasion, when in the House of Commons, Lord
Castlereagh fancied he saw the same ' Radiant Boy.' Does
not this fact establish that his lordship's senses were not
always in a healthy condition.' It is possible that when im-
pelled to suicide he laboured under some mental delu-



[2] Stanza 58. Roderick O'Connor, king of Connaught,
who, finally, surrendered his title of " Lord of all Ireland,"
to our Henry II. seems, from Iceland's account, to have
been the last monarch of the ancient Irish race who held a
national assembly at Tara : it is described as " a numerous
and magnificent convention of the states, in which his gran-
deur and authority were so strikingly displayed, that the
ancient honours of his country seemed to revive, at the very
moment when all such expectations were on the point of
being utterly extinguished."

[3] Stanza 118. The love of the unfortunate and noble-
minded Robert Emmett for the daughter of Currau, is well
known to have been the cause of his delay to quit Ireland
after the failure of the insurrection in which he was engaged ;
the delay, of course, led to his apprehension and death.



i 2



THE

PURGATORY OF SUICIDES.

BOOK THE FOURTH.



WELCOME, sweet Robin ! welcome, cheerful one !
Why dost thou slight the merry fields of corn,
The sounds of human joy, the plenty strown
Prom Autumn's teeming lap; and, at gray morn,
Ere the sun wakes, sing to the things of scorn
And infamy and want and sadness whom
Their stronger fellow-criminals have torn
From freedom and the gladsome light of home,
To quench the nobler spark within, in dungeon'd gloom?

ii.

Why dost thou choose, throughout the live-long day,
A prison-rampart for thy perch, and sing
As thou wouldst rend thy fragile throat ? Away.
My little friend, away, upon light wing,
A while ! Me it will cheer, imagining
Till thou revisit this my drear sojourn,
How, on the margent of some silver spring
Mantled with golden lilies, thou dost turn
Thy pretty head awry, so meaningly, and-yearn,

in.

From out that beaming look, to know what thoughts
Within the barb-leaved hart's-tongue dwell [1]
The purple eye petalled with snow, that floats
So gracefully. Dost think the damosel,
Young Hope, kirtled with Chastity, there fell
Into the stream, and grew a flower so fair ?
Ah ! still thou linger'st, while I, dreaming, tell
Of pleasures I would reap, if free 1 were,
Like tnee, to breathe sweet Freedom's balmy air.



118 THE PURGATORY

IV.

Away ! for this is not a clime for thee
Sweet childhood's sacred one ! The hawthorns bend
With ruddy fruitage : tiny troops, with glee
Plundering the mellow wealth, a shout will send
Aloft, if they behold their feathered friend,
Loved ' Robin Redbreast,' mingle with their joy !
Did they not watch thy tenderlings, and wend
With eager steps, when school was o'er, a coy
And wistful peep to take lest some rude ruffian boy,

v.

With sacrilegious heart and hand, should rob
Thy nest as heathenly as if ' Heaven's bird'
Were not more sacred than the vulgar mob
Of pies and crows ? Flee, loved one ! thou hast heard
This dissonance of bolts and bars that gird
Old England's modern slaves, until thy sense
Of freedom's music will be sepulchred.
Hie where young hearts gush taintless joy intense,
And, 'mid their rapture, pour thy heart's mellifluence !

VI.

Still linger'st thou upon that dreary wall
Which bars, so enviously, my view of grove
And stream and hill, as if it were death's pall ?
O leave this tyrant-hold, and, joyous, rove
Loved bird of home' Bird of our fathers' love
Where the thatched cottage, clad with virgin rose
And sweet-brier and rosemary, thickly wove
Among vine-leaves, with nectared garland woos
The amorous bees that, songful, do their love-sweets spouse.

VII.

Hasten, dear Robin ! for the aged dame
Calls thee to gather up the honeyed crumb
She scatters at her door ; and, at thy name,
The youngsters crowd to see their favourite conn-.
Fear not Grimalkin! she doth sing ' three-thrum,' [lil
With happy half-shut eyes, upon the warm
Soft cushion in the corner-chair : deaf, dumb,
And toothless lies old Growler : fear no harm,
Loved Robin ! thou shalt banquet hold without alarm,



OF SUICIDES. 119



Ah ! Chanticleer hath eyed the dainties spread
For thee, and summons his pert train (he prize
To share. Lo ! how the children ask with dread,
Of the old grandame with the glazed eyes,
' Why Robin does not come ?' The pet one cries,
Because he sees thee not, unpacified,
Ev'n with the apple tinct with vermeil dyes,
The first-born offers with a kiss ! Abide
Not here, expected one, lest woe the cot betide !

IX.

If thou return not, Gammer o'er her pail
Will sing in sorrow, 'neath the brinded cow,
And Gaffer sigh over his nut-brown ale ;
While evermore the petlings, with sad brow,
Will look for thee upon the holly bough,
Where thou didst chirp thy signal note, ere on
The lowly grunsel [3] thou didst light, and shew,
With such sweet confidence, thou darling one !
Thy blythesome face, and, on thee, all cried ' benison



Alas! I mind me why thou linger'st here !
My country's happy cottages abound
No longer. Where they stood and smiled, uprear
The 'Bastile' and the gaol! and thou hast found
Such refuge, Robin, as, upon the ground
Where Alfred reigned, and Hampden fought and bled,
Where Milton sung, and Latimer was crowned
With glorious martydom, is portioned
Unto our fathers' sons, who win with tears their bread.



Bread! nay devour with greed the grovelling root,
As recompense of labour for their lords ;
Or, spurned, when begging to have, like the brute,
Fodder for toil, and coerced into hordes
Of midnight spoilers, swell the black records
Of cruelty and crime. ' This dear dear land' [4]
Is dear no longer : its great name affords
Thoughts but for curses! Ay, where the brave band
Sang in the flames lit by (he brood of Hildebrand ;



120 THE PURGATORY



Where strode the iron men of Runny mede,
And quelled the tyrant ; where burns memory
How lawless Falseness, sprung of royal seed
And sceptred, paid stern forfeit by decree
Of broad-day justice unto Liberty ;
Where noblest deeds were done ; upon this isle
' This precious stone set in the silver sea' [5]
Men talk of England as of something vile ;
And wish they could forget her, in some far exile !

XIII.

The cottage babes were mourning, did I say,
For that the threshold their loved visitant
Presented not ? Alas, poor bird ! Thy lay
And all its sweetness is forgot : their want
Of bread hath banished thoughts of Robin's chaunt :
The children plenty know no more ; and Love
And Gentleness have fled from Hunger's haunt :
Fled is all worship for fair things that rove
Among fair flowers worship in young hearts sweetly wove.

XIV.

Fair Nature charms not : fellowship with song
And beauty, germs from which grow, for the good
Deep reverence, and for the frail, though wrong,
Pity and tenderness : all these, the rude
Chill breath of Want hath stifled in the bud;
And beggar-quarrels for their scanty crust
Now fill the bosoms of the lean, dwarfed brood,
The peasant father sprung from sires robust
Beholds at home, and wishes he were laid in dust !



Ah ! darling Robin, thou wilt soon behold
No homes for poor men on old England's shore :
No homes but the vile gaol, or viler fold
Reared by new rule to herd the ' surplus poor'
Wise rule which unto Pauperism's foul core
The rich man's purse-plague's core shall penetrate :
Paupers shall multtpli/ their race no more
Except they five in palaces ! Debate
Upon the rule they may : but, the slaves bear their fale !



OF SUICIDES. 121

XVI.

Slaves, abject, bloodless, soulless, sneaking slaves !
Your fetters are perfected, now ! Tug, strain,
Toil, sweat, and starve, and die ! For, whoso raves
For larger pittance from his lords humane,
Or, malcontent, dares from hard toil refrain,
He shall be Bastikd! His wise lords say well
Such grumbling slaves might nurture bold disdain
In their serf-offspring : better 'tis to quell,
At once, and, in the germ, creatures that might rebel!

xvn.

Cowards, why did ye suffer knaves to forge
These eunuch-fetters ? why so tamely don
These chains?

Beshrew this rising in my gorge
To think that others 'neath their fetters groan,
And. do not break them ! Wear I not my own ?
Ay, and must wear them, while my tyrants choose.
Well : let me bide my time; and, then, atone
For that real crime the failing to arouse
Slaves against tyrants. I may, yet, before life's close.

XVIII.

The sun has faded. Robin, 'tis full time
Thou fledd'st to covert: cease thy song, and hie
Away to rest ! but let me hear thy chime
Renewed to-morrow ; for home's minstrelsy
Is precious 'mid these bars. Robin, good-bye !
'Twas Childhood's farewell ; and I carthot yield
This heart to bitterness so utterly,
But that the sense of fondness, now upsealed
Therein, will struggle till its pulses be revealed.

XIX.

Once more resounds the hateful clank of bars
And bolts : once more I gain my narrow lair.
Of bondage-life new-fangledness ne'er mars
The drear perfection : Morrow is the heir
Legitimate of dull To-day ; and where
Yesterday gazed upon the chill damp wall
And yawned, To-day looks on with the same air
Of listlessness. Food, sight, sound, converse pall :
Only the fountains of the dead well spiritual



122 THK J'URGATOKY

XX.

Waters that purify the stagnant mind

From morbid loathings that would madness breed,

Amid this sickening slough of unrefined

And vulgar circumstance.

My spirit, freed

From matter, seemed on enterprise to speed,
Once more, across Death's gloomful ocean wave;
And raught the shore where penance is decreed
To souls forsaking, with presumption brave,
Their clay ere Nature's sentence lays it in the grave.

XXI.

The sculptured aisle the dome were quickly gained,
And past. And now, a feeling and a sense,
Or, what were likest sense and feeling, reigned
Throughout my being of a power intense
To summon up the soul's experience,
And view, as in a mirror, her whole course
Of consciousness : filled with this opulence
Of intellective might, unto each source
Of mortal joy the mind recurred, with mystic force.

xxn.

Her reminiscence seemed so full and clear,
Of pleasures past, so consolably viewed
She Life's young worships pure, that Hades' sphere
Grew gladly bright, and the dread clime seemed hued
Like vernal earth. Childhood's sweet fields renewed,
With daisies atid with king-cups gay begemmed,
I saw : then Lindsey's sweetest sanctitude
Of Druid woods arose, where, giant-stemmed,
Upreared old trees anew with verdure diademmed.

XXIII.

Cirqued with his offspring stood the central oak
Of myriad years, throwing each glorious bough
Abroad as bravely as when music broke
The solitudes while there his parent grew,
And ' deny-down !' was sung, and mistletoe
Was gathered by the bearded hierophant,[6]
And troops of primal men their eagled foe
Fierce staggered, chased the bison to his haunt,
And slew, in his own den, the wolf so grim and gaunt.



OF SUICIDES. 123



Along mazed paths beloved of those old trees
I seemed to walk 'mong flowers all faery-frail,
Azure-robed harebells, chaste anemones,
Primroses wan, and lilies of the vale,
Each bud so beauteous that speech would fail
To say how lovely 'twas : for, gushing tears
Of ecstasy can only tell the tale,
Unto some kindred heart that Nature cheers
As rapturously, how fair are flowers of childhood's years !

XXV.

And melody awoke of sweet wood-lark
And mellow-throated blackbird ; sibilance
Of thousand tiny things, each like a spark
Of gold or emerald, its radiance
Amid the noonbeam sporting ; utterance
Of love's soft throbbings by the stockdove coy ;
Shrill minstrelsy of throstles ; puissance
Of sylvan harmonies with flood of joy
The heart seeming to deluge, and its sense o'ercloy.



And still the land was Hades, and the soul
Lived consciously discerpt from her clay shrine,
And viewed through plenitude of her control
Over the past, in mirror chrystalline,
Life's joys; nay, seemed her essence to entwine
With them until again she lived them o'er.
The harping of an unseen hand divine
Now woke carols of courtly troubadour,
Till the old forest echoed with proud songs of yore

XXVII.

Lays that with fluttering bosom many a maid
Of southern clime oft listed from some high
And envious turret, rapturous serenade
Of glowing love, mingled with bitter sigh
And passionate upbraiding, breathed to die
Upon the breeze. Anon a strain upsent
That unseen harp, shrill as when cleaves the sky
The battle-trumpet : gorgeous tournament
The harper sang, and shock of knights armipolenl :


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