Purgatory of Suicides: Book V.
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-1-

    HAIL, eldest Night!   Mother of human fear!
    Vague solitude where infant Man first felt
    His native helplessness!   Beneath whose drear
    And solemn coverture he, trembling, knelt
    To what in thy vast womb of darkness dwelt
    Unseen, unknown!—but, with the waking Sun,
    Shouting, sprang up to see glad Nature melt
    In smiles, triumphantly his joy-God run
Up the blue sky, and Light's bright reign again begun!

 

-2-

    Hail, starless darkness!—Sterile silence, hail!
    Would that o'er Chaos thy wide rule had been
    Perpetual, and reptile Man's birth-wail
    Had ne'er been heard; or, over huge, obscene,
    And monstrous births of ocean or terrene
    For ever thou hadst brooded; so that Light
    Had ne'er mocked mortals, nor the morning sheen
    Broke thy stern sigil to give baleful sight
To Man—whose look upon his fellow is a blight!

 

-3-

    Season of sepulchred and secret sin!
    Beneath thy pall what vileness doth Man hide,
    From age to age,—the moral Harlequin
    Who dons the saint to play the fratricide.
    Villany's jubilee!—Crime's revel-tide!—
    Whose archives opened would yon judge proclaim
    More criminal than the thief he lately tried,—
    Yon priest an atheist,—and hold up to shame
Myriads of knaves writ 'honest ' in the roll of Fame!

 

-4-

    Mute witness of frail beauty's primal wreck!
    Carnival hour of gray-haired Lechery!—
    Foul harvest-time of her who sits to beck
    O'er her cursed threshold yon boy-debauchee,—
    The bawd, all palsy-twitched, whose feignful glee,
    When he beholds her face upon the morrow,
    With sobered brain, will freeze his jollity
    To speechless horror, till he fain would borrow
Thy veil, once more, to hide his young remorseful
            sorrow!  

 

-5-

    High noon of the adulterer, who doth ask
    Of yawning hell to triple thy black hour,
    That he, unshooned, may safely, 'neath thy mask,
    Reach the unfastened, guilt-frequented door,
    And steep his soul in sin unto the core!
    Mirth-bringer to the thief grown hunger-fell,—
    Who laughs to clutch the miser's coffered store,
    And, rendered shrewd by law, with smothered yell,
Sends the rich shrivelled fool where he no tales can
            tell!   

 

-6-

    Thou great conspirator with men of blood
    To curtain murder till the guilty proof
    In some lone cave or unfrequented wood,
    From man's short-sighted vigilance aloof
    Can be earthed up!   Oh! if the ebon woof
    Thou stretchest o'er the land could now be changed
    Into a mirror, how the poor dupe's scoff
    Would burst upon his teachers seen estranged
From rules they taught!   How he would burn to be
            avenged!  

 

-7-

    At base pretensions unto comely worth,
    At foul Hypocrisy's true features shown,
    How would the universal curse burst forth!—
    Hah! how I doat!   Am I an idiot grown
    In the dank dungeon?   Is not the World known
    Unto Itself to be a stage of cheats,
    Where, whoso plays with skill, if he depone,
    Glibly, that each sworn brother-knave's deceits
Are fair, the skilful knave a world-voiced plaudit
            greets?   

 

-8-

    And, were thy pall, dim Night, asunder torn,
    And ugliest portraits thou dost veil laid bare,
    For worship men would soon exchange their scorn.
    With flagrant front do not Day's vices glare,
    And men that they are virtues sleekly swear?
    Darkness! still hold thy provident control
    O'er half man's life, that some thy cloak may wear
    To sin with shame: more seemly 'tis than stole
Of sanctity that hides, by day, the filthy soul.

 

-9-

    Darkness! thy sceptre still maintain,—for thou
    Some scanty sleep to England's slaves dost bring:
    Leicester's starved stockingers their misery now
    Forget; and Manchester's pale tenderling—
    The famished factory-child—its suffering
    A while exchangeth for a pleasant dream!—
    Dream on, poor infant wretch!   Mammon may wring
    From out thy tender heart, at the first gleam
Of light, the life-drop, and exhaust its feeble stream!

 

-10-

    Darkness! still rule—that the Lancastrian hive
    Of starveling slaves may bless thee: for even they,
    With all their wretchedness, desire to live!—
    Ay, wen desire to live—to whom the day
    Will bring again their woman's-task—to stay
    At squalid home, and play the babe's meek nurse
    Till sound of factory-bell, when they away
    Must haste, and hold the suckling to life's source,
Within the rails!   Upon their tyrants be my curse!   

 

-11-

    Nay, rather light that curse on ye, yourselves,
    Ye timid, crouching crew!   Is there no heart
    Among ye stung to see the puny elves,
    His children, daily die; his wife dispart
    Her hair, and glare in madness?   Doth the smart
    Of slavery cease to rankle in your veins?
    Faint, though ye be, and feeble, will none start
    Unto his feet, and cry, while aught remains
In him of life—'Death! or deliverance from our chains'?   

 

-12-

    Cowards! do ye believe all men are like
    Yourselves?—that craven fear doth paralyse
    Each English arm until it dares not strike
    A tyrant?—that no voice could exorcise
    Old Tyler's spirit, and impel to rise
    Millions omnipotent in vengeful ire?—
    Fool, that I am!—are there not hungry spies
    On every hand, who watch, for dirty hire,
Each glance of every eye that glows with Freedom's
            fire?—

 

-13-

    Whose bethinks him that the eager grasp
    Of foremost friendship's semblance may denote
    The deeper venom of the darkling asp,
    And that the multitude's applausive shout
    May be the prelude to their hate;—if doubt
    And hesitance arrest his fervid pulse,
    And cool it to consistence with due thought
    For his own offspring;—if their prattlings dulce
Seduce him from resolves that do the soul convulse  

 

-14-

    With troubles, contests, perils myriadfold,
    And threatening prospect of a baleful end
    By the vile halter,—in the dungeon cold,—
    Or on the transport-shore without a friend
    To sympathise, but hordes of slaves to rend,
    Even in its death-pangs, the lorn exile's breast,
    With brutal taunts:—Oh! let him reprehend
    That knoweth none of these,—but here confest
Shall stand my sentence,—while I am a dungeon-
            guest:   

 

-15-

    I reprehend him not, that wisely looks
    Before he leaps,—and looks again!—
                                                                     Poor slaves,
    Forgive that hasty curse—forgive!   Rebukes
    From me ye little need, while the rude waves
    Of suffering overwhelm ye!   Seek your graves
    In peace! for ye are hasting thitherward
    Apace.   Why should ye a vain strife 'gainst knaves
    And tyrants struggle to maintain?   Discard
All torturous hope: Redemption's path for you is
            barred!   

 

-16-

    Drudge on in peace!   Ay; though ye starve, still
            drudge,
    Lest from your fondlings ye be torn, to herd
    With eunuch-paupers!   Tyrants wreck their grudge
    Not as of old: high lords then massacred
    The scurvy slaves who insolently dared
    To murmur: now they wisely take revenge
    On murmurers like men who have conferred
    With meek Philosophy; and mildly change
Murder of breathing things for annihilation strange

 

-17-

    Of things designed, as they believe, to breathe!
    And if they do not thus believe, they lie—
    The atheistic hypocrites!   To sheathe
    The sword in ye were barbarous: ye shall die
    Humanely slow; and they will meekly try
    In peace to end ye!   'Tis the radiant dawn
    Of Christian Civilisation!   Purify
    The earth they must by sweeping off your spawn—
Even as the sun sweeps noxious vapours from the lawn!   

 

-18-

    Drudge on, in silent meekness!   Tamely drag
    Life's fardels as ye may: 'twill soon be spent—
    This loan of breath; and they will find some rag
    To wrap ye in at last!   When ye are blent
    With other churchyard things—from riches rent
    And pride—ye will be even with them!   Pine
    A few more hours!   Your goodly tenement,
    The grave, is near: that fair, serene confine
Where ye will never hunger while your lordlings dine!— 

 

-19-

    Hark! 'tis Consumption's hollow cough that rings
    From yon damp felon-cell!   How dread these vaults
    Of living Death seem 'mid such echoings
    At midnight!   What strange doubt the soul assaults,—
    What frightful boding! till the heart's pulse halts,
    As if it were afraid to beat so loud!—
    Let me to rest!   To-morrow, when the bolts
    Are drawn, once more, this feeling of the shroud
May flee: the spirit be, again, with hope endowed:  

 

-20-

    With hope for Man's redemption: though a crime
    It is for prison-thralls of such a hope
    To breathe!—
                             I slept, and saw, again, the clime
    Of suicidal souls.   One of a troop
    Of travellers newly come, beneath the cope
    Sepulchral of the vague, vast, caverned span
    I stood.   Anon, adown an aisle whose slope
    Invited, on new travel, I began
To wend, forth from that region subterranean.

 

-21-

    Upon a bleak and barren plain, I dreamed
    That I emerged, where one tall pillar reared
    Its height until among the clouds it seemed
    To end.   Yet, 'twas but mockery when I neared
    This lofty wonder—for its top appeared
    Beneath man's stature.   Low, around the base,
    Lay broken sculptures of great names revered
    In times of old; but ruin did deface
Them till they looked like Memory in her burial-
            place.  

 

-22-

    And then another, and another stone
    Uprose, in the far distance,—each the aim
    Vain-glorious of its founders making known
    More by its wreck than record of the name
    Or deed it had been stablished to proclaim,
    Food for despondence, thus, the brooding mind
    Gathered with semblant shapes that fleeting came
    Athwart its vision: for, as flits the wind,
These imaged columns fled, or with new forms
            combined.   

 

-23-

    In allegoric lessons for the soul—
    Of Liberty, each marble fragment strewed
    Upon that plain, each pictured deed and scroll,
    Told, as it lay; and I the ruin viewed:
    'She is a goddess Man hath oft pursued,—
    'Won seldom,—and hath never yet retained
    'Her living presence!'   Dreary solitude
    O'er all I saw in saddened vision reigned,
Until a verdant mound my anxious spirit gained.

 

-24-

    And, on the mound, methought, a mystic cirque
    Of giant stones in simple grandeur rose,
    Resembling Earth's first fathers' handy-work—
    Their temples, or their tombs.   Of Freedom's cause,
    When Gallia's sons bound laurel on their brows
    Blent with the oak, full many a devotee,—
    Self-exiled from the wrath of friends grown foes,—
    'Mid that cairn's shadow seated seemed to be,
Deep brooding on the Past: a stern confederacy.

 

-25-

    Unapprehensible unto their thought
    My being seemed, as I the cirque surveyed:
    Albeit, so veritably that I mote
    Not doubt, sat there each patriotic Shade
    Revealed.   Their spiritual brows arrayed
    In light unearthly seemed; and, soon, to tell
    His thoughts each form began, while Spirit made
    Response to Spirit: waking not the swell
Of sounds, but voiceless, Mind to Mind seemed
            voluble,—

 

-26-

    "How long shall poor Humanity lie waste
    On earth!"—began this mystic utterance
    Buzot,—of La Gironde's great sons not last
    In toil to break the feudal bonds of France:
    "How long will Liberty make tarriance,
    Nor haste to bless our race!   Brothers, I deem
    Our agony in this strange heritance
    Of after-life a far less rueful theme
Than thought that Tyranny on earth is still supreme.

 

-27-

    "Of suffering here I reck not; since from earth
    Come spirits hither still, that each declare
    Our ancient home enslaved.   Who would have mirth
    In after-life while Earth's poor children wear
    The fetters of the despot, and despair
    To break them?   This is woe,—this, this,—to feel,
    That all in vain we broke the priestly snare,
    And, with our heart's blood, did to Freedom seal
Fealty!   France, loved France, now feels the iron heel!

 

-28-

    "Crushed, hated monarchy, again doth crush
    Fair France; mirk superstition again weaves,
    Successfully, her limëd web,—ay, flush
    With life; more than her ancient realm retrieves.
    Soul of Condorcet!—tell me that misgrieves
    My spirit, if unto thy thought profound
    Hope scintillates; if thy strong vision cleaves
    The clouded future, and thou viewest unbound
Loved France, and Europe quake at her old trumpet
            -sound.

 

-29-

    "Deep-searching Spirit, tell me, did we err—
    Deeming the Palestinian story fraud
    Or dreams, while we ourselves the dreamers were;
    Deeming Earth's sceptres a pernicious gaud,
    And dying to defend the banner broad
    Of Universal Liberty, while meek
    Obedience unto kings, and reverent laud
    Our duty was, of Him the fablers sleek
Extolled—the Torturer stern of Man from vengeful pique

 

-30-

    "Belike I err, even now, and more involve
    My being in woe, thus lightly Powers august
    And solemn naming.   Yet,—the strong that wolve
    The weak!—the powerful that grind to dust
    The helpless!   Can I err, yearning to thrust
    Them from their thrones?   My brother, if the doom
    Of man be hopeful, tell!"—
                                                   With thought robust
    And daring, thus the sombre spirit whom
Buzot addressed replied,—scorning exordium:—

 

-31-

    "The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep
    Within the human heart,—lulled, drugged, and
            drowsed,
    By Power's robed mediciners who keenly keep
    Watch o'er its breathings,—and have ever choused
    Their prey into more slumber, when aroused
    For a brief breath by Freedom's vital touch,
    It startled its sleek keepers, who caroused,
    Gaily, beside their prostrate victim's couch—
Thinking it safe, for aye, within their privileged clutch!

 

-32-

    "The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep
    Within man's heart: the dark, blood-feeding brood
    Of serpents that so hush around it creep,—
    Now they perceive, with apprehension shrewd,
    Their terror—Trinity of Crown, Sword, Rood,
    Is near evanishment,—may justly dread
    The ruthless vengeance in its waking mood
    Of the heart's Titan thought.   Up from its bed
'Twill spring, and crush the asps that on its life misfed!

 

-33-

    "The spirit of Prometheus doth but sleep :
    The Mind's tornado wakes, through earth, even now!
    And soon it will to nought the fabric sweep,
    Of age-reared Priestcraft, and its shapes of woe,—
    Its Hell, Wrath-God, and Fear—that foulest foe
    Of human freedom!   'I will freely think!'
    'Twill boldly tell the surpliced cozeners—'Lo!
    'I dare your monster God!—nor will I shrink
'His tyrant tortures to defy—ev'n though I sink

 

-34-

    " 'Amid the bottomless abyss of pain
    'Ye say He hath created for His slaves!
    'There let Him hurl me!—and, despite the chain
    'Irrevocable, that binds me under waves
    'Of liquid flame, He shall find one who braves
    'His wrath, and hurls back hatred for a God
    'Who forms without their will His creatures,—graves
    'Their natures on them,—rules by His own nod
'Of Providence, their lives,—and, then, beneath His rod—

 

-35-

    " 'His scourge eternal, tortures them, without
    'Surcease or intermission!'   Endless fire
    For a breath's error, for a moment's doubt!
    Infinite Greatness exercising ire
    Relentless on a worm!   Why?   That the quire
    Celestial may His spotless glory sing—
    His attributes harmonious made by dire
    Infliction on his worms of suffering,—
And He Himself in joy ecstatic revelling!

 

-36-

    "Oh! what a potent poison hath benumbed
    The human mind, and robbed it of its might
    Inherent! since—affrighted, cowed, begloomed,
    And stultified,—this juggle of the Night
    It kneels unto, and calls 'divinest light!'—
    But, it will soon the jugglers' toils outleap
    Who long, behind the altar of their Sprite
    Of blood, have played at terrible bo-peep
With Man!   The spirit of Prometheus doth but
            sleep!"—

 

-37-

    He ceased, and proudly from his visage flashed
    Exultant hope's intensest radiance.
    As, when around Jove's Titan victim crashed
    The bounding thunder, and no mitigance
    Of pain the vulture gave, his soul's expanse
    Of hope for mortals filled with thought sublime
    The offspring of Iäpetus, till glance
    Of lightnings was forgot, and space, and time:
And Caucasus grew joyous as Elysian clime!

 

-38-

    Silent and solemn musings held the band
    Of patriot Shades, until, with suave aspect
    And diffident, the spirit of Roland
    Thus spake:­-
                            "The universe her Architect
    "All-wise proclaims; since without maim, defect,
    Or vain expenditure of means are all
    His works beheld: their Author they reflect:
    Unseen the Central Light Himself 'mid pall
Of His Own brightness shrouds,—the Godhead personal!

 

-39-

    "Yet men deny Him not because their ken
    Detects not his pure Essence,—neither fail
    To hymn His all-pervading goodness, when
    They view pain through His universe prevail:
    But, rather, as becomes their finite, frail,
    And borrowed life, sum up their dwarfish praise
    With meek confession that poor reason's pale
    Includes not perfect judgment of His ways
Who of Infinity the boundless sceptre sways.

 

-40-

    "Soul of Condorcet! if we now indulge
    The sceptic's thought, provoke we not the scourge
    We inly feel?   Woes, ceaseless, here promulge
    The vengeance of our judge.   Forbear to urge
    His justice!   Penal sojourn us may purge
    From earthly stain.   Let us, by duteousness
    Of mind, assist the cure; devoutly merge
    Our pride in awe; and reverently confess
Our wisdom blind—His wisdom's goodness question
            -less!"­-

 

-41-

    "I marvel at thy fear,"—in haste replied
    The sombre spirit: "yet I 'sdeign to blame
    "The weakness of a brother; but confide,
    By power of ministering reason to reclaim
    Thy mind from cowardice.   Roland! the game
    Of priests hath turned upon that master-trick
    For ages—'View thy finiteness with shame,
    And bow before the Infinite!'—Their quick
Presentment of that cheat still serves the politic

 

-42-

    "Successors of the Jewish fishers rude,
    As it subserved the hierarchs of old
    That, through the Orient, primal thought subdued,
    And humbled to the dust man's vision bold,
    Which would have scanned their secrets un-
            controlled.
    Roland! bethink thee what the cheat is worth!
    Grant that Infinity cannot unfold
    Itself to finiteness; that worms of earth
Their Maker's government behold but in its birth;

 

-43-

    "Grant that man, seeing but a fleeting part
    Of God's illimitable kingdom, knows
    Too little to fill up the boundless chart
    By guess; yet, needeth it no operose
    Deduction of our reason to disclose
    This truth unto the simplest, shallowest brain—
    In the vast future God cannot oppose
    Himself: new attributes if He sustain
Hereafter, Man now hymns his perfectness, in vain.

 

-44-

    "Thou callst God's goodness perfect: yet, 'It may
    Consist with perfect goodness,'—say the priests,—
    'Atoms of helplessness to damn, for aye,­—
    'Although Man's finite reason manifests
    'Rebelliousness against such dread behests
    'Of Infinite Sovereignty; it may appear
    'Lovely, hereafter,—though Man now detests
    'Such hideousness, nor doth, in heart, revere­
'Whate'er his lips profess—this Monster stern, austere:

 

-45-

    " 'It may appear throughout eternity,
    'Right and consistent,—though in time it seems
    'Monstrously wrong,—that His philanthropy
    'Which in creating man so brightly beams,—
    'A thing in whose vile nature never gleams
    'A spark of good desire,—a thing thus made
    'Ere it could choose,—which evil good still deems,
    And thence can choose but evil—till arrayed
'With power Divine it shuns its former nature's shade,

 

-46-

    " 'And seeks the light of holiness,—it may
    'Consist with His philanthropy to curse
    'This thing because it never kneels to pray,
    'And He withholds to infuse the will!'   Rehearse
    These subtleties the Priests until they sperse
    Man's mental strength, and blind him with a dust
    Of postulates: a dust that doth immerse
    All things in doubt; confounds false, true, base, just:
And jeopards even their godliest saint's devoutest trust:—

 

-47-

    "For, if—still perfect—God can violate
    Some of His Own great declarations, who
    Dares say it will His excellence abate
    If He break others?   May it not congrue
    Also with His perfections to eschew
    Fulfilment of His promises of bliss
    Celestial to the worms that render due
    Observance to His laws?   Folly, than this
Quirk of old Austin, ne'er framed frailer artifice:—

 

-48-

    "The cozener, seeking others to befool
    Sottishly fools himself.   For, hath the saint
    A firm dependence for that rest of soul,
    That endless cloyless joy his scriptures paint,
    If God of His own moral Self so faint
    A portraiture vouchsafes that what He saith
    Must be interpreted without constraint
    Of Reason, which Himself hath given, and Faith—
That is, the Future—must give meaning to His breath?

 

-49-

    "If what He saith in Time, by what He doth
    Throughout Eternity, must be explained,
    How shall His worms repose upon His oath?
    Seeing that He sweareth by Himself, unstained
    Would be His word—by deeds; since what pertained
    Unto Himself men had not known!   And, thus,
    The saint, though shorn of bliss, and in Hell chained
    To burn, thrust down with sinners, murderous
And false, no more than they,—could term the All­
            Marvellous!"—

 

-50-

    "Soul of Condorcet!"—harshly spake the ghost
    Of Pétion,—" I thy thought deep-searching own;
    "But wherefore is our after-life engrossed
    With this tame wordy-war?   Need we impugn
    Stale, senile fables which the wrinkled crone,
    Old Superstition, yet doth croak and crool
    Unto Man's infancy?   Her dying mean
    Will soon, on earth, be heard: no human mole
Will long be left to grope beneath her nighted rule.

 

-51-

    "Shall we our torture's scanty lapse misspend
    By coward reasonings on this side the tomb?
    The strife with scorn why not thus tersely end—
    Saith some cowled fabler—'Shall the clay presume
    'To prate unto the Potter, nor succumb
    'To his behests in silent awe?'—It shall
    Thou knavish priest,—if such behests bring doom
    Of endless torment on the victim thrall
Compelled, without its choice, through mortal life to
            crawl."—

 

-52-

    "On dreaming dolts,"—the shade of Valazé
    Exclaimed,—"fraternal suasion were misspent:
    "Dolts whom their craven fears will lead astray
    From manly thought as soon as they have lent
    Audience to reason.   Slow and impotent
    Of soul, Roland, on earth, thou always wert;
    But, here, in after-life, new wonderment
    We feel, beholding thy dull mind begirt
With fabling dreams thou soughtst, elsewhere, to
            controvert.

 

-53-

    Weak, fickle spirit, on old Earth, mis-sexed!
    Conjugal tie revealed to human ken
    The woman's soul unto thy clay annexed:
    'Twas thy brave helpmate breathed 'mong souls of
            men
    True manhood—the immortal Citoyenne!
    Dim, wavering Shade! when wilt thou strive to break
    This feminine bondage unto weakness?   When
    Demean thyself like to a man?   Awake,
Dreamer!—thy spirit of these fraud-forged fetters shake;

 

-54-

    "Or, if thou lovest the dreams that appertain
    To fools, seek the self-exiled climbing throng
    That share yon hill.   Hence, Folly we in vain
    Have striven to make wise!   Spirits, with strong
    Derision let us chase this slave of wrong
    Forth of our fellowship!"—
                                                  "Thou viler slave,
    Forbear!   Expurge the errors that belong
    To thine own spirit ere thou fume and rave
Against thy brother, thus intolerantly brave!"—

 

-55-

    So spake, and fiercely frowned, the Jacobin,
    Le Bas,—who with a look of stern delight
    Beheld, thus far, each haughty Brissotine
    Scourge his tame brother.   Soon, to join the fight
    Of words hastened full many a sturdy sprite
    Badged of 'the Mountain'—when the strife of blood
    Raged in distracted France: Girondist wight
    Gave gall for gibe: fell combat seemed renewed
Of Freedom's doubly suicidal brotherhood.

 

-56-

    Malevolence, and spite, and rancour burned
    Through their thin vehicles, with lurid flame;
    And madly, that he were, once more, disurned
    From the dark tomb to play an aftergame
    Of blood, each yearned, and did with zeal proclaim
    His frantic wish!   So horrible it seemed
    To witness how they raged, that being became
    A torture; and, unconscious that I dreamed,
Methought I mourned as one to baleful life condemned.

 

-57-

    But, lo! a sudden, silent pallor seized
    The hostile crew, beholding where upreared
    A Shape threatening as spectre unappeased
    By devilish wizard who beholds afeard
    The power his sable mischief hath unsphered,
    But lacks the deeper skill to lay.   Atween
    Two cirque-stones vast the huge, gray Shape appeared
    So stone-like, and so blind, yet stern, of mien,
That nought proclaimed it human save its gaberdine.—

 

-58-

    "Dark atheist blood!"—the mystic Shape began;
    "Cease to malign Him Who the sceptre wields
    Of Universe, all Being's Guardian!
    Whose glory seraphs chaunt on heavenly fields;
    Whose favour from their foes earth's chosen shields:
    Whose vengeance ye, in Sheol, [1] deeply prove!
    Foul sons of Belial! even your hatred yields
    Proof that Jehovah, from His throne above,
Governeth Men as much by judgment as by love.

 

-59-

    "Did ye not tear each other like the wolf
    And bear on earth?   Did ye not rend and rive
    Your fellow-clay until one crimson gulph
    Your city seemed?   Here, in the soul, survive
    Its cherished evils: judgment punitive
    Condemns ye thus to ravin in your minds,
    And slaughter with your thoughts.   Nor will ye strive
    To burst your dimning veil, for that each finds
Foul pleasure in the darkness which his spirit blinds.

 

-60-

    "Judicial blindness is your guilt-won lot:—
    And, though ye mock, your hard impenitence
    I here rebuke.   Until,—foul pride ye blot
    From your soul's core, and that Hell-born offence,
    Your self-willed doubt,—and bow with reverence
    Duteous to the Most High—returning peace
    Ye ne'er shall know: but torturous turbulence
    And rage of vengeful passions shall increase
Within ye; nor shall ye your wandering penance cease.

 

-61-

    "Jehovah hath a quarrel with your pride.
    Think ye that He will deign to justify
    Himself to atoms unto Nought allied?
    Not to the proud into His ways that pry—
    But, to the meek who on His word rely,
    He showeth favour."—
                                        "Slaughterous Shophet [2]
            hoary"—
    Condorcet's spirit hurled back proud reply,—
    "Repeat no more thy oft-told doting story.—
We bow not to thy Blood-God's homicidal glory!

 

-62-

    "Meek champion of the lofty deity
    Who clave the ass's jaw-bone to reprieve
    Thy murderous life, rather than cleave for thee
    A thunder-blasted tomb, though Fraud in misweave
    Such shapes as His and thine, to disbelieve
    That ye exist—we dare!   Abortive dreams
    Of lust and blood incarnate! fools receive
    For high realities the priestly themes
Of your strange deeds: Wisdom such barbarous tale
            contemns!

 

-63-

    "Unreal shape; begone!   False mist thou
    Engendered of our insane rage and broils:
    Or, with a myriad other mists athwart
    Our thoughts that flit, thou and thy god are
    Of truth, which, when her strength she overtoils,
    The purblind Mind creates—"
                                                    "Blasphemers bold!"—
    Samson burst forth in ire, while the hoar piles
    Of stone shook to their bases,—"leave untold
"Your daring sneers!   Provoke not vengeance
            manifold!

 

-64-

    "Vile slaves of self-deceit!—vaunt not your zeal
    For truth.   Whence is this horror ye profess
    For violence?   If ye to earth appeal
    What saith she, shuddering, of your foul excess
    Of fratricide?   To whom could ye address
    So fitly as to Murder Deified
    Your vows of blood?   Powers whose enormousness
    Of massacre and ravine thought outstride
High o'er the rites of mutual butchers should preside.

 

-65-

    "Affect no more this horror, so demure,
    Of His strict rule Who portions penance just
    Unto the filthy: favour to the pure.
    Could ye be gods, to sate your ravening lust
    For blood, whole human hecatombs slaves must
    Pile on your Moloch-altars day by day!
    Your lives disprove your claim to style august
    Of high philanthropists: ere ye inveigh
Gainst murder and revenge, mercy yourselves display!

 

-66-

    "Brood of assassins—ere ye mock at deeds
    Achieved by Israel's champion—with your own
    Compare them.   Faiths ye scoffed at—yet for creeds
    Slaughtered each other!   To destroy the throne
    Ye banded, since a monster curse 'twas grown—
    And then o'er crowds enfranchised raised the knife!—
    I wonder Earth, with headless corses strown
    And drenched with gore, from such horrific strife
Shrunk not upon her axle till she quelled all life!

 

-67-

    "Ye slaughtered for the sake of blood: I slew
    My foes in self-defence.   Ye murdered whom
    Yourselves made free!—I crushed the brutal crew
    Of haughty tyrants who to slavish doom
    Sentenced my fatherland,—ay, in one tomb
    O'erwhelmed myself and them, rather than live
    Myself a slave—my country slaved!   To dumb
    Confusion are ye stricken?   Let shame revive!—
Her glow, though late, may prove of wisdom nutritive.

 

-68-

    "Now, list my embassy from souls of kings
    And Gentile Shophets who in throned conclave
    Ye know, at lapse of penal wanderings,
    Sit girt with pomps, and visioned splendours have.
    Whether the Power that breathed all life Man gave
    Unto his brother like the ox and horse
    To minister, a sturdy, craft-trained slave
    For food, or did 'Equality' endorse
On human natures—they pursue abstruse discourse.

 

-69-

    "Such is the essence of their strife—surround
    It as they may with mist of words.   Had ye
    Less madly played your part millions unbound
    Might now proclaim the coming jubilee
    Of nations: Sheol's Thrones, through sympathy,
    Forbode their fall—conscious of mystic tie
    That binds them with Earth's crowns: their destiny
    And Man's they seek: I bid ye to the high
Debate:—but, first, your souls' dark errors rectify!

 

-70-

    "I leave ye to self-chastisement—that scourge
    More poignant than all tortures from without.
    May deep-wrought penitence your spirits purge
    From the foul stain of atheistic doubt—
    That ye, at length, may join the choral shout
    Of ransomed millions, when to end all pain
    God's great Messiah comes!—that vision fraught
    With bliss the rapt seers saw on Jordan's plain
And Judah's sacred hills.   Jehovah, haste Thy reign!”—

 

-71-

    He spake and faded,—as some threatening cloud
    Of fearful shape disperseth in thin air,
    Leaving no trace to show where, ebon-browed,
    But now, it frowned and darkened to despair
    The eye of day.   No more with rage to tear
    And rend each other burned the jarring host
    Of patriot Shades rebuked; but, to declare
    His chastened thought began Babœuf's pale ghost—
Equality's last self-exile from Gallia's coast.—

 

-72-

    "If brothers still we be,"—he said,—"and zeal
    For contest has not cancelled loftier sense
    Of right:—let us essay this strife to heal
    With kindliness: not vengeful virulence
    Will chase from Mind its raylessness intense,
    Nor free it from fanatic mists obscure.
    Boast we of Reason?—let us evidence
    The gift by pointing, with persuasion pure,
Our weaker brother unto Truth's bright cynosure.

 

-73-

    "I yield not to this terror-shape belief
    In his old fables; neither fail to know
    That earthly tyrannies derive their chief
    Strength from the fear with which men quake and bow
    To Powers Unknown.   Yet, brothers, do we owe
    Regard to these rebukes; let each, then, list;
    And cease these poisonous gibes whereby our woe
    Is deepened,—soul to soul antagonist
Becomes,—and Earth's old jars in after-life exist.

 

-74-

    "Fled we not hither less by inward dread
    Of ignominious death than sick at heart
    With our abortive strife, in which was shed
    Torrents of Frenchmen's blood?   Oh! let the smart
    Of anguish for self-errors here impart
    Regretful tenderness for frailties shown
    By brethren.   Still, I fear, these storms athwart
    Our after-life will come!   My stain I own;
And would by present pain for errors past atone!"—

 

-75-

    Spirits!"—rejoined Condorcet,—"Humbled thought
    "Doth not avail mind's errors to expel:
    Self-chastisement for frailty nurtures not
    The growth of wisdom: Reason doth rebel
    Against the slavish gloom which priests so well,
    For their vile ends, depicture as the true
    Discipline for the soul.   They most excel
    In wisdom who the past can calmly view
With deep resolve error in future to eschew.

 

-76-

    "Ay, they are wisest, best, who still maintain
    The calm, firm, steady toil to emancipate
    Mind from its frailties: Tears, on earth, are vain,
    And low regrets, in this our afterstate:
    Man's noblest part is still to battle Fate,
    Or Circumstance, or whatsoe'er afflict
    His essence;—joy, as grief, to moderate
    By Reason's rule—not monkish rigour strict:
Rule that with ease the soul may gratefully addict  

 

-77-

    "Herself to serve; and by sure steps, though slow,
    Thus climb Elysian height serene.   How long
    In circles shall we reason?   Whence the woe
    We here experience—save from passion strong
    And changeful?   Spirits! let us not prolong
    Debate amid these ruins; but the theme
    Renew where kings invite polemic throng
    Of essences!"—
                               I woke: for, like a gleam
Electric, vanished the wild actors of my dream!

__________________


NOTES TO BOOK THE FIFTH
 
1.—Page 141, Stanza 58.
Whose vengeance ye, in Sheol, deeply prove!


"Sheol"—the Hebrew word for Hades, or the region of the departed.

 
2.—Page 142, Stanza 61.
Slaughterous Shophet hoary!


"Shophet"—the Hebrew word for judge, or Ruler.  Shophetim is the title of the Book of Judges, in the original.

 



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