Purgatory of Suicides: Book VI.
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-1-

    BLOOD! blood!   Ye human hell-hounds, when, oh
            when
    Will ye have had your fill?   The hazy morn
    Hath scarcely dawned upon this grisly den
    Of demon Power, ere yon poor wretch forlorn
    Is led to slaughter:—led? nay, fainting, borne
    Unto the ladder's foot!   Murder by law—
    In lieu of medicine till his wits return—
    For one impelled to kill, by his brain-flaw;
And then to weep, when he his slaughtered infant saw!

 

-2-

    It is the death-toll: there! they bear him on!
    I climb to read the lesson through my bars.—
    Hah! curse upon thee, priest!—is it well done
    That thou, a peace-robed herald pattering prayers,
    Dost head the death-march?   Trowst thou not it jars
    With that sky-message which proclaimed, thou sayst,
    'Peace and Goodwill to Man'?—ay, that it mars
    The face of mercy to behold thee placed
There, in grim state, 'tween spears with crape, in mockery,
            graced?

 

-3-

    'Tis passed—the chilling spectacle!   Farewell,
    Poor pale, weak, fellow-worm! 'twill soon be o'er—
    Thy tearful pilgrimage.   'Tis done!—the knell
    Ceases: and though I, happily, see no more
    Of the fell tragedy, the sullen roar
    Of groans and execrations, pierces through
    My dungeon-grating; for the gazers pour
    The heart's involuntary curse on you,
Ye hireling butchers who now 'give the law its due'! [1]

 

-4-

    Oh!   I would weep throughout the live-long day
    With memory how my fellow-man hath wept
    Through ages, and bewail him as the prey
    Of foul Draconian beasts which he hath kept
    In reverence high; but, that I feel, except
    The melting mood be mastered, and fierce ire
    As well, and Man becomes a calm adept
    In tracing errors to their spring, the fire
Of that real Hell that burns on earth shall ne'er expire.

 

-5-

    Why should I curse thee, priest?   Art thou not bound
    To obey thy patched creed's dogmas?   'Blood for blood'
    Thy rubric reads, with logic most profound!
    And, lest by disobedience, the world should
    Halt on its axle, ye, meek brotherhood!
    Must see the 'Law Divine' fulfilled.   He meant
    Not what he said—the Nazarene—the Good!
    Or, still the rubric stands for murderers: blent
With mystery is God's law: Himself knows His intent!

 

-6-

    Hah! how long will ye palter thus, to screen
    Your conscious inconsistency, and hide
    The Truth from Man?   Either the Nazarene
    Or Moses errs.   And, if stern homicide
    Man's homicidal will so well could chide
    Of old, the Law of Blood, maugre all change,
    Must still be wholesome.   But, ye should abide
    By all the Law: 'eye,' 'tooth,' 'hand,' 'foot'—avenge
Avenge!—Ye may not from the whole a part estrange! [2]

 

-7-

    Doff, then, thine alb, and don the ephod, priest,—
    If thou art Moses' minister; Ah, no!—
    Thou too successfully and long hast fleeced
    The sheep in that white garment to forego
    The gain of doubleness.   Neither art thou
    And thy smooth tribe unskilful to discern
    That while ye must stand by your yokefellow,
    The hangman, and together deftly learn
To prop kings' sway,—fair uses hath your coat extern:

 

-8-

    It symbols meekness well, and peace, ye preach
    To slaves: Christ's precepts are for them!   Your drame
    Hath thus its parts, and ye are prompt for each!
    Dark ambidexters in the guilty game
    Of human subjugation! how to tame
    Man's spirit ye, and only ye, have skill:
    Kings need your help to hold their thrones; while claim
    Of sanctity enables ye, at will,
To wield o'er prostrate Reason subtler empire still!

 

-9-

    What tyrants leave unvanquished in the mind
    By threat of chains, the gallows, flame, or sword,
    Ye humble by your Hell!—
                                                     Was I not blind—
    To judge ye inconsistent?   True accord
    Subsists between your new and elder 'word,'
    Ye throw away no part: it is because,
    With cunning shrewder than the simple horde
    O' the laity, ye ken the penal clause
Blends in one spirit fierce the old and late Jew's laws.

 

-10-

    'Forgive them, for they know not what they do!'—
    O Christ! how worshipfully great thou art
    Uttering such dying breath!   A lowly Jew,
    Born and brought up with bigots whose old heart
    Was nurtured, from far time, to count the smart
    Of suffering in a foe sweet to behold;
    From rule of blood for blood ne'er to depart,—
    Of eye for eye, and tooth for tooth; to fold
The law of vengeance, given while the thunder rolled,

 

-11-

    And lightnings flashed, and the loud trumpet pealed
    Forth from the shrouded hill, in the heart's core,
    As dearer than all treasures earth can yield;
    Law eulogised, confirmed by Prophets hoar,
    By solemn awe-rapt bards, and all the lore
    Thy country ever knew!   If not Divine
    Thou wert,—thy self-born light and love is more
    Miraculous than aught by all the line
Of the heart's precept-makers writ in page benign.

 

-12-

    Hunted to death,—nailed to 'the tree of shame,'—
    Fainting, expiring,—and thy last heart-prayer
    Breathing for them who gibbeted thy name
    Above that thorn-crowned head, nor did forbear,
    When spirit-desolation or despair
    Seized thee, to mock thy groans!   Forgiveness,—
            love,—
    For those who tortured thee!   Oh! if such rare
    Triumph o'er ill be human, it doth prove
A glorious nobility in Man enwove!

 

-13-

    And 'tis enwove in man: else, wherefore pleads
    High reason in that prayer?—'they know not what
    They do!'—Compassion for a being whose deeds
    Resulting from his ignorance denote
    His errors accidental: not inwrought
    By natural vice, or willed, in Reason's spite,
    When Knowledge shows the wrong.   By Reason
            brought
    Thus to regard our brother, inner might
Of love fraternal springs, and Pity's calm delight.

 

-14-

    What sayest thou, priest?   'It is not thus'?   Do threats
    Of Hell, then, fill the heart with this intense
    And holy bliss of pitying love?   Begets
    Thy rhetoric of the flames which Providence
    Almighty ever blows for bodily sense
    (By miracle also made eternal); worm,
    Deathless and sateless, preying without suspense
    On conscience: do these horrors sow the germ
Of love in Man, and threats renewed its growth confirm?

 

-15-

    And yet, thy Master preached this Hell: with all
    His sovereign magnanimity, and free
    Expanse of soul, the Nazarene a thrall
    Remained to the old desart-Deity,—
    The 'jealous' Vengeance-God!—
                                                     Shrewd Priest! of thee
    I judged but shallowly: thy puzzle-book
    Thou readst more skilfully than I; agree
    Thy teachers twain: the Galilean shook
Not off from his large mind the mountain-thunderer's
            yoke.

 

-16-

    Hell-fire,—coercion,—for the ingrate hard
    Who will not love the God set forth as high,
    Vast, indescribable, in His Love's regard
    For Men!   'Love Him; or He will magnify
    'His glory by consigning thee to die
    'In ceaseless flames an ever-living death'!—
    O Christ! how can I love what doth outvie
    All tyrannies in horribleness of wrath:
This monstrous Thing derived from an old monster
            Faith?

 

-17-

    Thine, Galilean, is of all earth's creeds
    The greatest marvel!   Wonder at thy toil
    Of tears, self-sacrifice, and love succeeds
    Each step we tread with thee—till this dread foil
    Unto thy moral beauty doth despoil
    The yearning heart of its impassioned hope:
    Death-stricken, blighted, doth the soul recoil
    From its tempestuous wish to love thee: droop
It must in doubt; and to its bourne in darkness
            grope!

 

-18-

    Oh! hadst thou not so lovely been on earth,
    I would not care to share thy Paradise:
    This wish to live beyond the grave hath birth
    Without my will: yet, by the sovereign voice.
    Of Reason 'twould be hushed, but that the bliss
    Of knowing such a heart as thine doth seem
    A boundless joy,—a good beyond all price:
    And still I wish thy heaven were not a dream;
And, to my latest hour shall doat upon that theme!

 

-19-

    Alas! thy repetition of that most
    Enslaving of all slavish thoughts—a Hell
    Wherewith the Priest may threat to tame the ghost
    Of him who dares in mortal life rebel
    'Gainst Faith or Kings—restrains the heart's love-
            swell
    Rushing to centre in thee, and reveals
    To Reason that thou couldst not burst the spell
    Of Circumstance—which even the mightiest seals
In impotence: we do but act as she impels.

 

-20-

    Greatest of moral miracles thou art:
    In godlikeness above all godlike men:
    Pardoning thy murderers, even while thy heart
    They pierced: born in a land where rock and glen,
    On every hand that met thy love-lit ken,
    Were during witnesses of brothers' blood
    Shed by, or for Jehovah!—Denizen
    Of such a clime—Child of so fierce a brood—
What wonder at one speck in thy vast sun of good?

 

-21-

    One link—thy penal Hell,—with the old Past
    Of Force, the homage-time so reverent—
    Connects thee: but, thy themes of mercy vast,
    Of love and brotherhood,—the aliment
    Shall be for kindred souls on love intent
    And mercy, every hour, until the might
    Their spirits draw from thine all-prevalent
    Shall render them; and they shall chase the sprite
Of Blood and Force that doth all human joyaunce
            blight.

 

-22-

    Goodness, thou didst enthrone: our generous sires,
    Drawn by thy generous themes, Woden and Thor
    Abandoned, quenching all their idol-fires
    To worship Whom they called 'the Good.'   Before
    Goodness personified thy Gospel's lore
    Taught them, they thought, to bow; and 'God' became
    Their Deity [3]
                                   What small shrill voice doth pour
    Its wailing from that grated window-frame?
What note of Pain doth thus my feeble brain-steps maim?

 

-23-

    Hah! murderous spider! when I watched thee spread
    Thy cobweb yestermorn, it did relieve
    A dreary prison-hour to mark each thread
    From thee, thou magic artisan, receive
    Its faery texture: while I saw thee weave
    That dædal miracle, this poison-thought
    Rose not that now impelleth me to grieve
    Much more than to admire—to grieve and doubt,
As, in a torment-web, like thy poor victim, caught!—

 

-24-

    Priest! dost thou smile, beholding how Thought's web
    Baffles and binds me with its mystery,—
    Yea, lays me, helpless as a limber babe,
    At Mystery's feet?   Oh! I will slander thee
    No more: if Nature hath a Deity,
    The Bible doth not slanderously limn
    His portraiture: Author of agony
    The living book doth, hourly, picture Him:
The written—thrones a Slaughterer 'tween the Cherubim!

 

-25-

    'Tis clear: who tries the Faith by Nature's test
    O modern Stagyrite!—between thy creed
    And Her must own 'Analogy' confest.'[4]
    'Submit thee, then, vain doubter!—since decreed
    'It is that Life consists of things of greed
    'And things to be their prey,—submit and bow
    'To Him who made them thus: back, that may lead
    'Thee to the Faith in which, thou dost allow,
'The Deity is drawn with Nature's girded brow!'

 

-26-

    Priest!   I will answer thee with that free soul
    These bolts and bars have only served to thew.
    Forty short summers towards my earthly goal
    Have I now journeyed, and, for me, but few
    More summers can remain: Wrong to eschew,
    And Right to treasure in the heart's recess,
    How can I lack dispose, while, to my view,
    The grave is yawning in its cold duresse
To close what tyrants leave of my clay's feebleness?

 

-27-

    Priest!   I have felt by turns from earliest days,
    As well as calms, the tempests of the brain:
    Fervid devotion, and the wild rapt blaze
    Of ecstasy in prayer; ascetic pain
    And fasting; midnight book-toil to obtain
    The key to facts—knowledge of tongues of old;
    Weighing of evidence—grave—long—again;
    With constant watchings how Man doth unfold
What is the impress true he bears from Nature's mould;—

 

-28-

    And this, in humbleness I would declare,
    And yet with courage, is my only Faith:—
    Goodness alone, with its blest, yearning care,
    Is worshipful—for Goodness only hath
    Power to make good and happy things of breath
    And thought.   If Man can be transformed
    Wholly to virtue, punishment and wrath,—
    Taught by all priests that on the earth have swarmed,—
Must be untaught; and Man by Love to Right be
            charmed.

 

-29-

    Goodness alone is worshipful.   Not what
    Gives life, but what gives happiness is good.
    I cannot worship what I own a blot
    To be in my own nature—hasty flood
    Of feeling that with ireful hardihood
    Would rush to do what I would soon regret:
    Nor can I worship, priest! thy Shapes of Blood,
    Or Nature's cause of Pain.   If to beget
Love in the soul these fail—shall worship there be
            met?

 

-30-

    I cannot worship what I cannot love.—
    If this be vicious, priest! show me the way
    To virtue: I will own—if thou dost prove—
    My error: but, till then, I humbly say,
    I think the error thine.   To resurvey,
    For proofs of Deity, great Nature's face,
    Drawn, yea impelled, unto Mind's latest day,
    I shall be by Her wonders; but—the embrace
Of All-pervading Goodness—shall I find It's trace?

 

-31-

    I say not that there is no God: but that
    I know not.   Dost thou know, or dost thou guess?
    Why should I ask thee, priest?   Darkness hath sat
    With light on Nature—Woe with Happiness
    Since human worms crawled from their languageless
    Imperfect embryons, and by signs essayed
    To picture their first thoughts.   'Tis but excess
    Of folly to attempt the great charade
To solve: and yet the irking wish must be obeyed!—

 

-32-

    Night hath returned on me,—even as it closed
    Upon these dizzying thoughts in human things
    Thousands of years ago:—Two Powers opposed
    Eternally,—or Good with boundless wings
    Brooding o'er Universe—the egg whence springs
    Evil: the Mede's, Hindoo's, Egyptian's strife
    To make himself believe some glimmerings
    He saw of Truth, through Nature's garment rife
With Mystery: Hebrew fable of primeval life

 

-33-

    In happy Eden—Eve, and glozing snake:
    Or myth more artificial of the land
    Of arts and song—Pandora's box, with ache
    And boil and pestilence, by man's rash hand
    Unlidded—punishment for theft of brand
    From Heaven:—
                             Night hath returned, as she returned
    To millions, who through life thus vainly scanned
    The face of mystery.   What, though they burned
In vain to know, yet never Nature's secret learned?

 

-34-

    Desire to know must still within us burn—
    Though its quick fire our fragile clay consume:
    For who would crawl in brutal unconcern
    Along his fated pathway to the tomb,
    Nor ever ask if thought-flame shall relume
    This clay, or it shall sleep a dull, dark, cold,
    Eternal sleep?—
                               I slept, and dreamt the doom
    Of suicidal souls—great souls of old—
I did, once more, in mystic spirit-land behold.

 

-35-

    The thrones were set, in gorgeous show, beneath
    The rainbow-roofed and column-girt expanse,
    Filled with the votaries of self-wrought death
    I saw before; and with like cognizance
    Of crown and sceptre, shedding radiance
    From gems and gold, they sat,—or, lesser state
    Kept, as of civic power's participance
    The fitter emblem.   'Sdeignfully elate
Some sat, while some sent forth deep glances of debate:

 

-36-

    For, mingled with the thrones, rose seats of strange
    Fantastic structure—seeming, medley-wise,
    The courage, cunning, pride, despair, revenge,
    The love of fatherland, or high emprise,
    Wisdom, or eloquence, to symbolise
    Of their famed occupants—a lustrous host
    Begirt with rays, whose thoughts wore no disguise,—
    So that my spirit scanned each musing ghost,
And read the characters in his mind's book engrossed.—

 

-37-

    Transcending far, in grace, all regal thrones,
    Twin seats neighbouring the godlike Spartan's stood,
    O'ercanopied with bended necks of swans,
    And wings of doves circling their callow brood,
    Adorned beneath with blossom, bell, and bud,
    The loveliest of every season's growth,
    In garlands woven, upon drapery strewed
    With bees that swarmed on infant Plato's mouth,
And lucent shells that gem the sea-shore of the south:

 

-38-

    Whereon, sat he whose lightning-tippëd tongue
    Had made Greece glorious unto farthest time,
    Had Socrates ne'er lived, nor Homer sung,
    Nor Marathon been found beneath her clime;
    And by his side, his brother Greek, the prime
    In rhetoric art, Isocrates,—whose pen
    Could fill the Attic mind with throes sublime,—
    Ay, fire the brain of humblest citizen
With ecstasy unknown to gross-souled, late-born men.

 

-39-

    An elder glory, near Demosthenes
    And his fraternal sprite, on radiant seat
    Upborne, like Neptune's chariot on the seas,
    Appeared: prows of the Persian's prostrate fleet,
    And eagles' wings, and tridents—hatchments meet
    For victory—with oaken wreaths, adorned
    His bright shell-chariot; while with prancing feet,
    His fish-tailed steeds the waveless pavement spurned,
And, proudly, to the roof, their wide-spread nostrils
            turned:

 

-40-

    And throned in glory sat the illustrious shade
    Of him whose name with Salamis shall live
    For aye,—'less Freemen fail and Freedom fade
    On every shore, and some new Xerxes give
    To earth his will for law, and ocean grieve,
    Mirthful no longer at the tyrant's whip.—
    That latest Greek who struggled to retrieve
    His country's greatness, and the plumes to clip
Of Rome's fierce eagle, by Achæan captainship,

 

-41-

    Sat next Themistocles,—the latest Greek
    Worthy the name,—Diacus,—who, when fell
    Corinth with Carthage, scorned to live a meek
    Breath-unit in a world now Rome's, or swell
    Her earth-spread train of slaves.   Immoveable
    Sat Zeno, stoic sire, on shapeless rock
    Of ebon granite, with a look to quell
    Kings' mindless pomps, so loftily it woke
The regal soul to spurn false grandeur's gaudy yoke.

 

-42-

    His noblest Roman son the suicide,
    Of Utica, with simple oaken crown
    Adorned, sat on a kindred rock, and eyed
    The enervate Antony upon his throne,
    Until he seemed to shrink beneath that frown,
    And shun its keen reproof.   A mystic shape
    On milk-white steed, girt with a starry zone,
    Sat smiling as he saw the pavement gape:
Emblems of Rome's cleft forum, Curtius, and his
            leap.

 

-43-

    Twin-seats, again, I saw, near Antony's,—
    But, unlike his, of iron mould,—and blazed
    With sword and spear, and manifold device
    Of slaughter,—whereon sat the twain oft praised
    For patriots: the aristocrats who raised
    Their daggers 'gainst the despot—not to pave
    Plebeian paths to Right; but, long bedazed
    With freedom false, patrician power to save:
They who, near Philippi, sped, world-sick, to the grave.

 

-44-

    And near them Caius sat—th' Agrarian,—
    Cornelia's younger boast,—the truly great
    And good, though stamped with History's hireling ban
    With simple oaken chaplet he kept state
    Kings seemed to envy, as he smiling sate
    On cornucopias shedding Ceres' fruit
    From wreathed gold,—while o'er him bended date,
    And olive, orange, fig, and cocoa nut,
Festooned with vines, and draped with green gourds
            round the root.

 

-45-

    On either hand the Gracchus, miniature
    Array of honours gilded Carbo's brow,—
    With his young head that once, by act impure
    Of vengeful Sylla, his great father's foe,
    Bedecked a pole i' the forum for a show—
    Jugurtha's conqueror's son. [5]   With these appeared
    Full many a Roman ghost that fled from blow
    By bestial Cæsars threatened: souls that feared
Not death itself; but—to die tyrant-massacred.

 

-46-

    Nor lacked there Roman spirits of the days
    When Rome and her old gods of friendly faith
    Were nullified by new Byzantium's blaze,
    And its exclusive creed.   Crowned with sere wreath,
    On mouldering columns, Photius sat, who death—
    A freeman's death—preferred, to humbling loss
    Of self-respect,—giving away his breath
    When false Justinian bade old Pagan gloss
Should cease, and all the world bow down before the
            cross. [6]

 

-47-

    Rome's elder terror, by the Pontic king
    Appeared—the one-eyed Carthaginian:
    Athwart, he sat, upon a living thing
    Of monster form—a seat equestrian,
    Blending an elephant whose forehead's span
    Was vast as Hindoo Ganesa's; a pard
    With hide besprent, like that gruff Scythian
    By Ceres changed; [7] and feet of beast that marred
The seer, but halted, by the ass, the corpse to guard. [8]

 

-48-

    Fast by the thrones of Saul and Zimri lay
    A mass of hideousness, where crocodile,
    And snake, and scorpion, and tarantula,
    Were blent into one reptile, huge and vile—
    The dorsual seat of that old peer of guile
    Who hanged himself because the Archite's rede
    Was ta'en by rebel Absalom. [9]   On pile
    Of hybrid life—half-bull, half-desart-steed—
Sat Eleazar, of the Maccabees' bold breed. [10]

 

-49-

    And Razis [11] near him sat, on monster beast
    More fell, commingling tiger, wolf, and bear,
    With claws and beak of bird that maketh quest
    For dead men's flesh.   Where the Byzantines were
    Sat Arbogast the Frank [12] with savage stare
    Leaning upon a shape half-stag, half-hound.
    And other suicides assembled there,
    Of Gallic mien, gazed haughtily, and frowned,
As if they liked not well the regal pomps around:

 

-50-

    These shapes, methought, were they whom, late, I
            saw,
    When wandering over Freedom's desert plain,
    I came unto a mound, and stood with awe
    To see the hoary cirque—the ruined fane.—
    And other spirits which had filled the train
    Of my night-visions I, again, beheld:
    The bards were there from Phantasy's domain—
    The mystic grove; and with these sprites of eld
Came, now, a late-born host which in that region dwelled.

 

-51-

    And, from the Mount of Vanity, methought
    The Indian and the Agrigentine seemed
    To be remet,—while they had with them brought
    Of spirits I beheld when erst I dreamed,
    A host whose essences defiance gleamed
    For contest of the soul.   Nor lacked they feud
    For long: mind-syllables, terse, vigorous, beamed
    Forth from the spiritual similitude
Of the great Pontic king,—who thus debate renewed:—

 

-52-

    "Spirits! who waits preamble, or proclaim
    Of thesis, since to all our argument
    Is known?   The Spartan saith this goodly frame
    Of kingly pomps Nature hath sagely blent
    With typic forms—on our instruction bent—
    And foretells utter change—Equality,
    Knowledge, and joy, for ever confluent
    Through Hades; and for Earth like destiny.
Say, Spirits, with the Spartan's do your thoughts
            agree?"—

 

-53-

    Thus Mithridates spake; and, straight, the theme
    Cleanthes seized.   With meek and modest grace
    At Zeno's feet he sat, and diadem
    Or tiar of gold upon his brow to place
    Had mockery seemed—so brightly beamed its trace
    Of mental nobleness through the rare veil
    That clad his essence.   In that mystic space,
    When he arose, kings' splendours seemed to pale
In glory, 'fore his soul's refulgence spiritual.

 

-54-

    "Monarchs, and bards, and sages old,"—he said;
    "I utter first, my humble sentence brief,
    That spirits of deeper reach, and skilled to thread
    The maze of symbol, type, and hieroglyph,
    May follow, more at large.   I yield belief
    To Nature's sage interpreters of things
    When Reason guides their theme; but, for my chief
    In wisdom I acknowledge none who clings
Fondly to worship of his own imaginings.

 

-55-

    "If Reason guide the Spartan, it is well:
    If Phantasy, I heed him not: unskilled,
    Myself, in riddles, I will simply tell
    My judgment from within.   On earth, I toiled
    A menial slave by night, [13] my toil beguiled
    With sweet thoughts how the morning would
            renew
    Wisdom's boon nurture, that by day distilled
    From Zeno's spirit on my soul like dew,
Until my being to intellectual stature grew.

 

-56-

    And, if the Past I could live o'er again,
    The joys of wisdom to the gauds of power
    I would prefer: even now, while in my ken
    Glow regal grandeurs, how they seem to cower
    Before the spirit's nobler, loftier dower—
    Wisdom and Virtue!   Monarchs, to offend
    I seek not: but that changes o'er ye lour
    I also prophesy!   Man will ascend
To Truth, and soon unto false glory cease to bend.

 

-57-

    "Mind is awake, in Hades; while, on earth,
    Crowds ask aloud what truthful reverence
    Mere show can ask; demand the proof of worth
    From Privilege that lolls in indolence
    While Poverty toils on with pang intense
    Of bodily hunger; and proclaim, in ire,
    Their stern resolve, that throned magnificence—
    The dullard son derives from doltish sire—
With conquerors' pomps, late won by murder, shall
            expire!"—

 

-58-

    He ceased; and Appius, Rome's old lecher vile,
    With base effrontery uprose to jeer.
    But indignation burst from regal pile
    O' the Pontic king, that whelmed with shame
            and fear
    The rude one, and subdued his scoff and sneer:
    And albeit Nero Mithridates blamed,
    Yet, on the lewd decemvir fell severe
    And ireful glances from a host ashamed
To call him Roman—till he fled forth spirit-
            maimed!—

 

-59-

    When, lo! a filthy and obscene baboon
    Upgrew in Appius' seat; while kings aghast,
    Dumbfounded, gazed to see the creature soon
    Take up the Roman's staff, he, in his haste,
    Let fall, and mock the pomp of each dynast
    That there held golden sceptre!   All were mute
    With wonderment—till darkness overcast
    The throne where lately sat the dissolute
Old Roman,—and then vanished throne and savage

            brute;

 

-60-

    While, in the rainbowed sky a giant hand
    Appeared, and pointed to the throneless void,
    Filling the wonder-stricken sceptred band
    With deepest dread.   Lycurgus, meanwhile, eyed
    The change with smiles,—yet not as one that joyed
    To view the Roman's sufferings, or his fall,—
    But, seeming glad to know one shape destroyed
    Among those images of human thrall—
As earnest that like change should pass upon them all. 

 

-61-

    He spake not: but the monarch-spirits gazed
    With awe upon the Spartan's volumed look,
    And read his thought—
                                               By splendours unbedazed,
    By prophecies or fears of change unshook,
    The aweless Carthaginian silence broke:—
    "Will this strange visitation check the beast
    Of haughty Rome,"—he said,—"this vengeance-stroke
    Of the high Powers that rule this mystic coast,
Offended with the Roman monster's obscene ghost

 

-62-

    "Such was Rome's progeny in her fresh youth—
    Her age of public virtue-when, with vaunt
    Of kingly vipers crushed in their young growth,
    Her victor plebeians swelled their choral chaunt!
    What wonder, then, that her exuberant
    Maturity conceived gigantic forms
    Of turpitude, so foully miscreant,
    That Nature shuddered to reveal their germs,
And, while their mother bore them, darkened earth with
            storms! [14]

 

-63-

    "And shall their images sit here enthroned
    With virtuous shapes, while thus the Powers Divine
    On one take vengeance?   Will they thus confound
    Desert with baseness?   Not from typic sign,
    Abounding in this mystical confine,
    I prophesy: but confidence in Right,
    'Spite of reverses the Gods intertwine
    With Virtue's warrior course, fills me with bright
Anticipations they will yet the Good requite.

 

-64-

    That ruin threatens Thrones of bloated vice,
    I doubt not; but, that Good with Ill shall fade,
    I credit not the Spartan aruspice:"—
    Thus Hannibal the gathering fears allayed
    Of some; but rendered guiltier Thrones afraid
    Their fall was near,—so that with fiendish rage
    These swelled: but judgment soon the tempest stayed!
    Two of Rome's swoln embruted lineage
Evanished from the view of king, and bard, and sage;

 

-65-

    And, for brief season, upon Nero's throne
    A tiger sat upright, with robe bedecked,
    And glared upon a swine Bonosus' crown
    That wore, and held its brutal shape erect
    Upon the drunkard's seat.   Each did affect
    Despotic airs, sceptred and diademmed,
    Till, by the lesson did his pride detect
    Full many a ghost that there sat crowned and
            gemmed;
And some within their essence royalty condemned.

 

-66-

    Anon, fell darkness on the mimic brutes;
    And then a void was left where each robed beast
    Had sat with mock-monarchal attributes;
    While, from the roof, huge pendant hands impressed
    Deep dread—pointing to either space divest
    Of throne and image—that the Spartan's word
    Might soon be signally made manifest;
    And silence chill, such as in sepulchred
Earth-regions dwells, did long that hall of Thrones
            begird.—

 

-67-

    At length, uprose the Gracchus, and with calm
    And graceful act, but look that inly glowed
    With noblest fervour, laid aside his palm,
    While thus, in generous tide his accents flowed:—
    "Spirits, that sit mysteriously endowed
    With sign of sovereignty, I now conjure
    Your essences by these strange judgments bowed,
    Say,—if it would Man's general bliss ensure,—
Could ye bemoan your empty splendour's forfeiture?

 

-68-

    "What veritable good, in your proud joy
    On earth, could ye possess?   While hunger keen
    Tortured the Poor, did not your banquets cloy?
    Could ye, beholding ragged Misery's mien,
    Feel really happy in your grandeur's sheen?
    While thousands wandered homeless o'er the soil,—
    Worn, suffering, fainting, wretched,—did ye lean
    On your soft pillows won from Labour's spoil,
And never think with pity on the sufferer's toil?

 

-69-

    "It could not be: for ye had human hearts:
    Ye knew men were your brethren, and deep thought—
    Such as men feel when wounded conscience smarts—
    Must oft have stirred within ye, and have smote
    Your bosoms with remorse, until it brought
    Ye well-nigh to resolve ye would descend
    From your afflictive thrones, and bring to nought
    That human scourge—your power; all woe-toil end;
And, to lift up mankind your life-long effort lend.

 

-70-

    "Ye must have thought—to banish want and sorrow
    Would bring the heart more truthful happiness
    Than all the gaudy lustre ye could borrow
    From the toil-worm, for robe and train and jess,—
    From jewelled crown, and gold in its excess:
    But ye were held by Fate; her power restrained,
    Controlled, benumbed your wills that yearned to bless
    Your weeping brethren, and ye thus remained
Agents to work out evil,—and for evil reigned.

 

-71-

    "But Evil brings forth Good, as Good, of old,
    Evil produced,—so now, when all things shew
    The mystery of Existence doth unfold
    Some glimpses of its issue; and the True
    From out the hollow False doth brightly glow,
    And cannot, longer, be from Man concealed,—
    So now, Good shall result from Evil: woe
    And want shall cease; Man's heart-ache shall be healed;
And, in your fall, the true Elysium be revealed.

 

-72-

    "Do ye not joy at this, even now, discerning
    What potent sympathies unite old Earth
    And Hades?—with what aspirations yearning
    Spirits in penal realm are giving birth
    To large fraternal thoughts that wander forth
    Diffusing faith that all shall gladness prove?
    Kings,—brothers,—stifle not the germs of worth
    That now within ye spring!   With us commove
To usher in the jubilee of Truth and Love!"—

 

-73-

    The Agrarian ceased; and with his passionate plea
    Enkindled, rose the Attic orator:—
    "O kings, can outward state ennoble ye,"—
    He said,—"can visionary blazons more
    "Exalt ye, than the healing balm to pour
    Of gentle goodness on your brother's soul?
    Oh, is not goodness truly regal?   Frore
    With gold and gems, and frowning cold control,—
Is he, indeed, a king,—whose heart's unpitiful?

 

-74-

    "Is he not truly an ignoble churl
    Who knows no heart-thirst for another's weal?
    O kings, how small the sacrifice to hurl
    Aside these vanities, if ye could feel
    True brotherhood with Man!   Earnest appeal
    The generous Roman to your nobler thought
    Hath made; but still your essences reveal
    Returning sternness, and returning doubt
Whether these judgments ruin to your thrones denote.

 

-75-

    "Ye cleave to your old state, and still believe
    Abandonment of shining sovereignties
    Would argue weakness while these emblems weave
    Assurance that your destiny defies
    Assault from Hades' dim confederacies,
    Lapse of duration, or foreboding seer,—
    And yet, how know ye, monarchs, that the guise
    Of mystery which shrouds this penal sphere
Ye penetrate, and read with comprehension clear?

 

-76-

    "Before the Spartan's augury ye spurn,
    I challenge ye to answer,—while the hand
    Of ever-fashioning Nature ye discern
    Mingling, on earth and through this mystic land,
    The frightful with the beautiful and grand—
    The pleasant with the painful—woe with joy—
    Perfection with decay: hath she thus planned
    The universal frame for a huge toy,
That she may, endlessly, be building to destroy?

 

-77-

    "Can ye at such sage judgment, kings, arrive—
    That the vast Soul of all things works in sport
    And mockery?   Or, is all preparative
    Of some great issue, merely?   Inexpert
    To make a universe that shall consort
    Each part with each, so that no blot shall mar
    Its pure, consummate beauty, Fraud malvert
    Its boon design, or Force diffuse foul jar
Through its blest harmonies—judge ye the High Gods
            are?

 

-78-

    "Or, rather, have they not in embryo left
    The mighty macrocosm, for some great end
    Of all-pervasive bliss to be vouchsafed
    Hereafter?   Powers paternal that extend
    Their providence to all, we apprehend
    The sovereign gods to be; and ye will seem
    Most like them, kings, if ye in pity bend
    O'er earth and Hades, yearning to redeem
All being from woe, and render joy and Love
            supreme!"—

 

-79-

    Thus spake Demosthenes, while kindred glow
    Of earnest and fraternal love suffused
    The visage of Themistocles, and threw
    Such glory round, that some the cause espoused
    He rose to plead, ere language had aroused
    The intellective sense his theme to scan:—
    As when, among earth's orators, hath choosed,
    From some exterior grace, each partizan
His favourite, ere debate proclaims the nobler man.

 

-80-

    "Monarchs, your brotherhood with man I plead,"—
    He said:—"knowing no higher theme from whence
    "To argue that your essences self-freed
    Should be from this false supereminence:
    And, if that plea prevail not, eloquence
    I lack to charm with guileful words the mind
    Which knows no worship for the excellence
    Of goodness.   Kings, I plead for humankind!
Aid us our race in earth and Hades to unbind!

 

-81-

    "It is to noblest, loftiest sacrifice
    I call ye: sacrifice of selfish loves
    And preferences—to swell the overbliss
    Of all Humanity.   Think ye, who proves
    His truthful greatness thus, where'er he moves,
    Shall not reap grateful reverence of more worth
    Than all your pomps?   'Thee, brother, it behoves
    'Our souls to love!—blest bringer of our mirth!'—
Bliss-throngs beholding him, with smiles, shall
            utter forth.

 

-82-

    "Thy glance significant, O Pontic chief!
    Reminds me that on earth man's gratitude
    Is slow of growth, and of existence brief,—
    While patriot deeds, by jealousy misviewed,
    Oft, for their guerdon, yield unkindly feud.
    Great spirit! magnanimity exalts
    Man more, far more, than power: who hath subdued
    Revenge for injuries, and all the faults
Of brethren with compassion yearns, wins blest
            results.

 

-83-

    "I dwell not on such thoughts: if I had wrong
    From fatherland,—O name that wakest the thrill
    Of tenderest love!—wrong's slender sense hath long
    Evanished.   But, I ask, what wrong, in will,
    Or word, or act, kings bear from man?   Deep ill
    Monarchs have wrought each other; but the race
    Of Man hath reverenced the most imbecile
    Of regal shapes, nor ever sought to abase
A monarch till he made his realm a charnel-place.

 

-84-

    "Nought have ye, then, to pardon; but, to ask
    Forgiveness, rather.   Yet, to see him lay
    His gorgeous gauds aside, and cease to bask
    In splendours wrung from woe, would throw a ray
    Of glory round a king so bright that they
    Who witnessed it would deem him all-divine,
    And doubt he ever had borne evil sway.
    All earth would honour him: his deed benign
Spirits would magnify, through Hades' dim confine.

 

-85-

    "O kings, be truly noble!   For the weal
    Of All, your high volition exercise,
    And burst, through Earth and Hades, the dark seal
    Of sympathetic evil that now lies
    On being.   Come, aid us in the bright emprise,
    Begun on earth, nor in these mystic realms
    Deserted: for we will antagonize
    With Wrong till victory crowns our spiritual helms,
And boundless love and joy the human spirit whelms!"—

 

-86-

    The Athenian ended; and the Hebrew king
    Raised his colossal form, with tremulous haste
    To tell how freely he away would fling
    All shows of grandeur, to repair the waste
    Of human bliss and see mankind embraced
    By boundless love.—
                                        "Kings, Shophets, seers,"—he said,—
    "By ordinance Divine in Sheol placed
    On thrones and mystic seats, what can bestead
The human soul from garish gauds thus round us spread?

 

-87-

    "If on our wills the general bliss depend,
    What can withhold that now we abdicate
    These royalties,—the reign of Evil end—
    The revelry of Wrong?   And, wherefore wait
    Till some more signal judgment consternate
    Our essences?   Ye seem unmoved! and I
    Doubt deeply whether zeal to emancipate
    Tophet and Earth from penal torment's cry,
And suffering's groan, will meet the smile of the Most
            High.

 

-88-

    "When Samuel, in my sight, to pieces hewed
    The royal Agag, whom I longed to save,
    I saw that when Jehovah had a feud
    With his poor human worm, He would not wave
    His claim to justice; but, upon the slave
    Who dared to step between His holy wrath
    And the doomed victim, He would vengeance have—
    Slow,—signal,—sure!   The Everlasting's path
Who can find out?—who comprehendeth what He saith?

 

-89-

    "His prophet did my humble head anoint,
    And said the Lord had chosen me to rule.
    Exterminating war God did appoint
    On Amalek, next:—His ways are wonderful!
    When I besought, at His Divine footstool,
    Pardon for weakness, Agag's holy slayer
    Said God did not repent like man!—How dull
    Are our perceptions!   Did He not declare
Me monarch, and repent?—He who refused my prayer?

 

-90-

    "All, all is mystery!   I desired no throne:—
    My father's asses, as I, following, roamed
    O'er the wide wilderness,—if on me shone
    The cheering sun, or sterile Nature gloomed,—
    A kingdom seemed to me.   But I was doomed
    To know the mockery of earthly bliss!—
    And is not Sheol mockery?   We are wombed
    In dread and doubt, fearing to do amiss;
And, to do well, lack power to burst our destinies!"—

 

-91-

    Abruptly, in despair, thus ended Saul,
    And on his throne sank down; while smoothly rose
    Achitophel, and round the regal hall
    Glanced,—then, obsequious, cringed, ere to disclose
    His frauds he made essay, or to dispose
    Them in the guise of truths:—
                                                          "Potential Shades,
    And great Regalities,"—he said;—"why lose
    "In arguings vain—since mystery being pervades—
The respite to deep pain Nature for ye here spreads?

 

-92-

    "Why thus afflict your essences with fears?
    Why droop, dispirited, and pale and shrink,
    As if the soul were still a thing of tears,
    As when it wore earth's clay?   What, if some think,
    Or dream, that these imperial pomps shall sink
    To nought? where is the doting prophet's proof
    Of his true inspiration?   Not a link
    Is broken that your thrones, with wonder-woof,
Blends with these columned shapes, and this supernal roof.

 

-93-

    "Judgment hath fallen on the guilty seats
    Of some: what then?   On earth stern judgments fell
    On the incorrigible: guilt still meets
    Its bad desert: this is nought new.   Dispel
    Your gloom, great kings, that in high thought excel,
    Soaring beyond the crowd!   Like eagles, preen
    Your splendours, and this boding prophet quell
    With winged vengeance!   Shall ye suffer teen,
Because this dreaming fantast thus doth overween?

 

-94-

    "Monarchs are gods, in lustre and in strength:
    Thrones were, and are, and shall be: they exist
    By an eternal fitness: neither length
    Of spiritual duration hath decreased
    Their virtue, nor can captious casuist
    Allege true reasons for their overthrow.
    I challenge anarch revolutionist—
    By thoughts of reach, not dreams—sound cause to show
Why Thrones, in Sheol and on earth, to Change shall bow.

 

-95-

    "Thou, regal Saul, spakest of thy earthly course.
    Know thou, that monarchs by good counsel stand,
    And fall by evil rede.   Changes, perforce,
    Must come: young Comeliness will, aye, comand
    More love than Age: valour to wield the brand
    More worship than sleek sloth: issue of joy
    Awaiteth kingly acts in every land,
    Unless the monarch doth his heart upbuoy
By fulsome counsel, and his own fair peace destroy."—

 

-96-

    Thus spake the Hebrew courtier-suicide,
    And looked for plaudits; but, the Maccabee
    Rose up in haste, his glozing strain to chide:—
    "This from Rebellion's counsellor do ye
    Endure?"—he said;—"the flames of anarchy
    Who blew with viperous breath—shall kings advice
    Receive from him—the tool of Treachery?
    Shall not the part this hoary cockatrice
Played, while on earth, to prove his worthlessness
            suffice?

 

-97-

    "Oh, monarchs, nobler, holier counsel take!
    Not scornful war to wage on the calm ghost
    Of the Laconian, vile revenge to slake;
    Not of your gaudy pomps to swell and boast,
    Regardless of the souls in Tophet tossed
    In agony, and of Earth's myriads born
    To pain, and in degrading cares engrossed:
    Oh, treat not thus the Spartan's words with scorn;
If, by some deed of yours; mankind may cease to mourn!

 

-98-

    "Oh, cleave no longer to these grandeurs vague,
    If they the jars and wounds of earth prolong—
    Slaughter and famine, pestilence and plague,
    Bondage of weaker brethren to the strong,
    Envy and hatred, robbery and wrong!
    The bards on Judah's mountains, where we drew
    The sword against our tyrants, in their song
    Foretold Earth, one day, should be born anew,
And smile with brotherhood of all—Gentile and Jew.  

 

-99-

    "And if, in Sheol, the Danaian's mind
    Survey the future with prophetic glance—
    Discerning inmost sympathies that bind
    Earth's thrones with yours—the deep significance
    Perceiving of strange shapes that but enhance
    The wildered wonder of inferior souls—
    Monarchs, resist not His high puissance
    Who universal destiny controls,
And to His chosen ones, the fatal scroll unrols."—

 

-100-

    Thus Eleazar spake; and Nicocles,
    The Paphian king, essayed, with gentle zeal,
    To aid like counsel:—
                                           "That the stronger seize
    The weak,"—he said,—"and trampled nations feel
    "The conqueror's burthen; that victorious steel
    Bereaves the widow and the orphan child
    Of earthly hope and joy; that human weal
    Is sacrificed to Power, and Man is spoiled
Of every good, by Wrong; proofs Earth, for ages, piled.

 

-101-

    "And, while on earth thrones stand, monarchs will vie
    With monarchs, in excess of pomp and power;
    Slavery and woe conquest will multiply;
    And Death, in crescent shapes, mankind devour.
    Not before dreaming oracles I cower,
    Fearing more pain from ruin; but to purge
    Hades from present pain, and speed Earth's hour
    Of jubilee, brothers, like suit I urge,
That we in equal state these sceptred splendours merge!"—

 

-102-

    "And I," spake Otho, "join the fervid prayer,
    "And plead for preference of the general good
    To sordid selfishness, and empty glare
    Of unsubstantial shows: our brotherhood
    With man demands it: while our thrones have stood
    Thus mystically radiant, clouds of gloom
    Have enwrapt millions, men shed brothers' blood,
    And Toil's child found no refuge but the tomb!
Spirits, to quit these pomps, I give my instant doom!"

 

-103-

    "Lo! while the Cyprian and the Roman spoke,
    Transcendant glories decked their glowing brows,
    And joy-beams from the Spartan's countenance broke,
    That seemed a peerless light to circumfuse
    On thrones and statues.   Inly to arouse
    His vengefulness, Achitophel essayed;
    But utterance failed; and, shuddering with strange throes
    Of some new torture that upon him preyed—
A ghastly sight he stood; while kings looked on dismayed.

 

-104-

    Distorted grew his visage, limbs, and trunk—
    Though spiritual essence—till they joined
    His reptile seat; and into it he shrunk
    With grin horrific, and, with it combined,
    Crawled, prostrate: hybrid monster undefined
    In loathsome hideousness: a shape more strange
    Than night-mared gourmand's glut-vexed brain e'er
            coined;
    Or madman formed, at full of moon, or change;
Or bard, with frightfullest phrenzies smit, could
            misarrange!

 

-105-

    Slow waned the uncouth horror-spawn from sight
    Of spirits, who, with stark marmorean look—
    Such as, at banquet, did the countenance blight
    Of Pelops' sire—sat, with soul-palsy strook:
    And with such goading sense of self-rebuke
    Ached the Cathaian and Assyrian kings,
    Nile's queen, and paramour,—they could not brook
    To be beheld,—but hid, like guilty things,
Their faces: smitten with remorseful torturings.

 

-106-

    Kings' faces, now, with apprehension deep
    Were filled, and some, to wailing words gave vent:
    When, like a veteran seaman who would keep
    Undaunted heart, though sails and cordage rent,
    And rudder broken, render impotent
    The pilot's strength and skill,—and fear and grief
    Burst from young sailors' tongues with eloquent
    Expression of despair,—the Pontic chief,
Though shook, thus sought, with speech, to minister
            relief:

 

-107-

    "Spirits, I rise not to renew debate
    On human rights, nor arguings to gainsay
    Of those who favour new and equal state
    In Hades and on earth.   Let him who may
    Contend 'gainst Nature's impulses that sway
    The soul to tender and fraternal thoughts—
    If custom did not blight them in our clay,
    And taint the spirit's essence.   No cold doubts
Have I, that Men, as brothers, share like attributes.

 

-108-

    "Nor do I cleave to kingship from regard
    To Nature's great distinctions, though she gives
    With choice, not blindly: genius of the bard
    To one; deep reach unto the sage who dives
    Into her mysteries; prerogatives
    Of leadership, not less, to some who wield
    A natural power o'er men—a strength that lives
    And germs within, compelling men to yield
Unto its forceful energy where'er revealed:

 

-109-

    "I dwell not to repeat what hath been told—
    How Nature thus elects, yet doth impress,
    Each human essence with so like a mould,
    That all are brothers in their helplessness—
    Children of Fate—driving to refugeless
    Despair their kind, or being, themselves, forth driven.
    Maugre these thoughts, if mankind may possess
    General beatitude when thrones are riven
From their foundations—let the judgment now be given!"

 

-110-

    Wherefore this pallor, brother Thrones?   Why faint
    And fear?   When we threw off our mortal load
    And gained these shores, unlike what earth-dreams paint
    Of life beyond the grave, we were endowed,
    At torture's lapse, with pomps, in kingly mode,
    Ere we could choose.   What guilt, then, have we nursed,
    By wearing these regalities? what rod
    Deserved? in what new penalties amerced
Shall spirits writhe? in what new regions be dispersed?

 

-111-

    "And wherefore fear, if such, for Nature's sport,
    Be destinies that wait us?   Let us meet
    Them calmly, since we cannot controvert
    Our fate.   I pause—to see upon his seat,
    Neither unsceptred nor discrowned, as yet,
    Imperial Otho, and the Cyprian prince.
    Wait they the Spartan's sign?   Why doth his threat
    Tarry in its fulfilment?   Monarchs, since
Thrones fade not, wherefore should mere bodements us
            convince?

 

-112-

    "Wise men use omens for their ends, on earth,
    While fools and weaklings see, or hear, and quake.
    Star-gazers saw a comet, at my birth;
    And, at my father's death, I saw it shake
    Its fiery hair, as it the world would wake
    To see a king.   The double omen served
    To fix expectant looks on me, and make
    My name, itself, a host.   That knowledge nerved
My soul to combat Rome: my courage, else, had swerved."

 

-113-

    "Not to the fiery star,—but, to kind rule
    I trusted to infix my subjects' love;
    And, while I left each astrologic fool
    To prate of hosts he saw in heaven above,
    Asia's vast swarms I sought, on earth, to move
    Against all-grasping Rome.   Knowledge and Will
    Enable men and spirits oft to prove
    Superior to all circumstance of ill;
Ay, render them, by Fate itself, invincible.

 

-114-

    "Kings, if we quail, we draw destruction down:
    Resolve preserves our state.   Thrones, I aver,
    The energy of will upholds each throne
    In Hades, nor can prescient sorcerer
    These dazzling seats from their foundations stir,
    If we put forth resolve."—
                                                   He ceased, disturbed;
    And though his words of resolution were,
    His strength was weakness.   No applause reverbed
Through the wide hall; for, apprehension thought absorbed.

 

-115-

    Deep silence reigned, until the Spartan rose,
    With godlike dignity, and thus began:—
    "Spirits, I triumph to foresee the close
    Of Error's reign.   Kings hold their last divan.
    When next beneath this arch cerulean
    We meet, All will be equal!   But I cease
    To prophesy; and calmly trace the plan
    Of Sovereign Nature, since She seeks your peace,
Your joy, Spirits! that henceforth, endless, shall increase.

 

-116-

    "Error from human ignorance darkly sprang.
    As children misname things, and shout or shriek,
    From pleasure or affright, so mankind sang,
    In rhapsodies of joy, the golden streak
    Of morn; and, when they heard the thunder speak,
    Bowed down in awe, and wept.   Infants in mind,
    They marvelled, and made gods of visage meek
    Or terrible; and, then, to them assigned
Rule o'er the sun and cloud, the sky, and sea, and wind.

 

-117-

    "Thrones, likewise, sprang from human ignorance:
    Nature's rude elements presented war
    For Man: rocks, earth-flames, ocean's vast expanse,
    Storms, forest, savage beasts, were found to mar
    Man's ease or rest: on every side a bar
    Opposed itself, alike to further good,
    Or present peace.   Then, he an exemplar
    Was held who overcame by hardihood,
Lion or bear, horrors of cavern, flame, or flood.

 

-118-

    "Such were old Earth's primeval monarchs: kings,
    Leaders, by courage, holding simple sway—
    If sway they held—by useful compassings
    Of larger means for nourishing man's clay.
    O Mithridates, when I heard thee say
    Some were born natural leaders, unto these
    I turned—the chiefs of patriarchal day—
    Comparing them with lords that Earth now sees:
The puny hildings man approaches on his knees!

 

-119-

    "Cities were built, and man subdued the soil.
    But, now, Craft grew, and seized on mystery—
    Life, death, sun, stars—all that the sons of toil
    Saw without comprehending; and, with glee,
    Secret but strong; made Man a devotee
    Become, credent and humble—reverent land
    Rendering unto the Priest as lowlily
    As to the gods this minister of fraud
Said he heard speak,—while men him listed, overawed

 

-120-

    "Then, between Priest and King grew contest rife
    For mastership; and Ganges and old Nile,
    Whose sacred servants foremost led the strife,
    Beheld the proof, in many a mighty pile
    That deckt their marges, how completely Guile
    Could triumph over Strength.   But, in the end,
    Altar and Throne felt it unworth the while
    To waste each other,—since they shrewdly kenned
The prey enough for both: so King called Priest—his
            friend!

 

-121-

    "Long, dreary, miserable years have fled,
    Since the foul compact first was ratified,
    By Priestcraft placing on throned Kingship's head,
    With hands in reeking blood of victim dyed,
    The gaud of gold—the sign of kingly pride:
    Long, dreary, suffering, weeping, wailing years.
    Oft have the bruised and trampled sufferers tried
    To rise; but the Priest's curse woke inward fears,
And they bowed down again unto their toil with tears!

 

-122-

    "Yet, in some climes, the sufferers dared a deed
    Of glorious boldness: breaking Kingship's chain,
    And,—standing upright, from their fetters freed,—
    Sang songs of joy that o'er the purple main
    Floated in triumph, till the startling strain
    Kings heard in other lands, and called their slaves
    To arm, and quell the sacrilegious train.
    And, often, when their menials crossed the waves,
They gained, in patriot-land, not conquest—but, their
            graves.

 

-123-

    "But, Treason germed, even in Freedom's womb;
    And Power and Craft were born again—the twin
    Ubiquities of Evil that still gloom
    The bleeding world, and widely o'er it win
    Accursed sway.   Thus, ever to begin
    Anew was Freedom's struggle; and the proud
    Duality of Thraldom did but grin
    And mock, at length, thinking the strugglers cowed
By loss, and sunk into a helpless, murmuring crowd.

 

-124-

    "Hence, out of Evil, Good hath grown: for, now,
    Good shall begin to overcome.   The strong
    Become remiss, the weak to overthrow
    Their masters, and redeem themselves from wrong
    Safely aspire.   Thus, Right its sinews strung
    Afresh while Might securely slept, or woke
    For dalliance and debauch: thus Right, grown young
    And strong, by hardship, will throw off the yoke
Of hoary Might too palsied to withstand the shock.

 

-125-

    "Say ye, Right's triumph, like a dream, shall fade,
    'Neath swift rewaking vigour of throned Power?
    Monarchs, be not deceived!   Right, now, hath aid
    From Knowledge—hid by priests in secret bower,
    And when thence 'scaped, caught, and to dungeon-tower
    By them condemned—yea, to the fiery flame!
    They knew not of her high immortal dower—
    The veritable Phœnix—whom to tame,
Or to destroy, will ever mock old priestly aim!

 

-126-

    "Lo! she hath ta'en young Freedom by the hand,
    And, in the strength and comeliness of youth,
    Supplanting Craft and Power in every land,
    And heralding the reign of Love and Truth,
    They go!   Yet little reek they of the growth
    Of Right and Knowledge, who the glorious pair
    Regard not: the besotted shapes uncouth
    That dream, like age-crampt spiders in their lair,
Their cobweb safe, though 'tis a sport unto the air.

 

-127-

    "And ye, in Hades, monarchs, though beholding
    Judgments on monstrous vice, are slow to yield.
    Meanwhile, on earth, like judgments are unfolding:
    For, thus, in mystic sympathy upsealed,
    Of mortal men and spirits unannealed
    The destinies remain; and, soon—though Might,
    Counting her hirelings proudly horsed, and steeled,
    The judgments mocks and scorns—a total blight
On Power, and Craft, and lordly Privilege, shall light.

 

-128-

    "Kings, by your own great deed; ye can avert
    The threatened ruin.   Let the glowing themes
    Of brotherhood, before ye urged, exhort
    Ye to denude your spirits of their dreams
    Of selfish good—to cast your diadems
    And sceptres down—resolved the grand emprise
    To aid of glorious Goodness!   I see beams
    Of high resolve from forth your essence rise:
Though, still, in some, old Prejudice doth agonize!

 

-129-

    "How vain that agony!   The strains of truth
    And loving earnestness, full souls have poured
    Forth to your thought, shall work within ye ruth
    For human woe: and, soon, resolve matured
    Shall be within ye to make firm accord
    With Mercy's gentle champions: for, it hath
    Been here proclaimed, that some have long explored
    The way to end Man's misery, strife, and wrath,
And bring in Peace,—if, haply they might find the path.

 

-130-

    "And, brothers, here we solemnly obtest
    The Sovereignties of Nature that the toil
    We will not end, till Men and spirits blest
    Hold general jubilee!"—
                                                He said;—and, while
    He stretched aloft his hand,—from motley pile
    And throne, great souls arose, and instant raised
    A hand aloft—each with a godlike smile!—
    And light empyreal from each Essence blazed,
Until I woke,—with the bright vision soul-bedazed!

__________________

 


NOTES TO BOOK THE SIXTH.
 
1.—Page 149, Stanza 3.

Ye hireling butchers who now 'give the law its due!'


SIX human beings underwent capital punishment in front of Stafford Gaol during the two years I remained in it.  The entire procedure in any one instance, of course, I could not witness; on one occasion, only,—when, on account of the early hour and season of the year, I had not been removed from my night-cell,—I beheld the grim preface to the legal butchery.  Without repeating testimonies of reflecting men who have attended executions, as to the hardening effect of those savage spectacles,—I will just observe that while the sound of the death-bell for the first execution filled me and my fellow prisoners with paroxysms of distress,—on the second, third, and fourth occasions, we became comparatively unconcerned.  And, when I was left a solitary prisoner, the sound of the death-bell for the last time, created a few bitter thoughts of the abhorrent and uncivilised nature of the impending tragedy; but a kind of careless disgust followed, from the instant reflection that all my dislike of the brutal transaction was vain.  And, within ten minutes after the death-bell had ceased, I actually caught myself humming "The Banks and Braes o' bonny Doon!"  Now, a more sensitive and excitable human creature than myself, perhaps, does not exist: but there is the honest fact—such as startled me by its strangeness, at the time:—let the advocates for the usefulness of capital punishments, as "impressive moral lessons," make what they can of it.

 
2.-Page 150, Stanza 6.

Avenge!—Ye may not from the whole a part estrange!


    Compare Exodus, chap. xxi., verse 24, and Matthew, chap. v., verses 38, 39.

 
3.—Page 154, Stanza 22.


Taught them, they thought, to bow; and 'God' became
Their Deity—


    The established etymology of the word "God," is that which derives it from the Saxon adjective signifying good, as I have given it in the text.  But there are scholars who doubt of the correctness of this derivation.  "The chief who conducted the Goths into Scandinavia appears by his Gothic names Odin.  Wodan and Godan, to have been confounded with the Deity, because his name, like the Persian Udu, the Gothic Aud, denoted power; . . . .The Bodh, Veda, or Vogd of the Indians, Tartars, and Russians, the But, Bud, Wud, of the Persians and idolatrous Arabs, the Qud or Khoda of all the tribes of Turkey throughout Tartary, the Godami (Gaudama) of the Malays and Ceylonese, appear to be merely different pronunciations of Wodan, especially as bodh or boodh in Sanscrit and the common dialects of Hindostan is used for our Wednesday or Odin's day."—Thomson's "Observations introductory to a work on English Etymology: John Murray. Albemarle Street, 1818."—See also Godfrey Higgins's "Anacalypsts."

 
4.—Page 155, Stanza 25.


                                     between thy creed
And Her must own 'Analogy' confest.—


    The ascription of the epithet "modern Stagyrite" to the mitred author of the celebrated "Analogy" may seem untasteful to the learned reader; but I could not resist the wish to register my conviction, in some form, that of all the reasoners for the truth of written Revelation, Butler is the most potent.

 
5.—Page 160, Stanza 45.


Bedecked a pole i' th' forum for a show—
Jugurtha's conqueror's son.


    The younger Marius.—For affirmation of his suicide see Appian de Bellis Civilibus, lib. I, c. xciv.

 
6.—Page 160, Stanza 46.

Should cease, and all the world bow down before the Cross.


    Photius.—"A secret remnant of Pagans, who still lurked in the most refined and most rustic condition of mankind, excited the indignation of the Christians, who were perhaps unwilling that any strangers should be witnesses of their intestine quarrels.  A bishop was named as the inquisitor of the faith, and his diligence soon discovered in the court and city, the magistrates, lawyers, physicians, and sophists, who still cherished the superstition of the Greeks.  They were sternly informed that they must choose, without delay, between the displeasure of Jupiter or Justinian, and that their aversion to the gospel could no longer be disguised under the scandalous mash of indifference or impiety.  The patrician Photius, perhaps alone, was resolved to die like his ancestors: he enfranchised himself with the stroke of a dagger, and left his tyrant the poor consolation of exposing with ignominy the lifeless corpse of the fugitive."—Gibbon, chap. 47.

 
7.—Page 160, Stanza 47.


                                                 a pard
With bide besprent, like that gruff Scythian
By Ceres changed;


    Lyncus.—Ovid. Metam., lib. 5. v. 660.  To Ovid's simple expression, "Lynca Ceres fecit,"—it is added to the notes of Lemaire's edition, "Hyginus, fab. 259: Ceres eum convertit in lyncem varii coloris ut ipse variæ mentis exstiterat."

 
8.—Page 160, Stanza 47.


                                  and feet of beast that marred
The seer, but halted, by the ass, the corpse to guard.


    See I Kings, chap. xiii., verses 24, 25.

 
9.—Page 160, Stanza 48.


Who hanged himself because the Archite's rede
Was ta'en by rebel Absalom.


    "And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.  And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself."  2 Sam. chap. xvii.—Suicides, it seems, had "method in their madness," even in those days.

 
10.—Page 161, Stanza 43.

Sat Eleazar, of the Maccabees' bold breed


    Eleazar the Maccabee (I Mac. chap. vi.), who "put himself in jeopardy, to the end he might deliver his people" by slaying Antiochus (though he only succeeded in slaying Antiochus' elephant), is usually classed as a suicide, by writers on that subject.

 
11.—Page 161, Stanza 49.

And Razis near him sat, on monster beast


    See 2nd Maccabees, chap. xiv., vers. 37—46, for an account of his wild suicide.

 
12.—Page 161, Stanza 49.


                           Where the Byzantines were
Sat Arbogast the Frank with savage stare


    "Arbogastes, after the loss of a battle [won by Theodosius], in which he had discharged the duties of a soldier and a general, wandered several days among the mountains.  But when he was convinced that his cause was desperate, and his escape impracticable, the intrepid barbarian imitated the example of the ancient Romans, and turned his sword against his own breast."—Gibbon, chap. xxvii.

 
13.—Page 162, Stanza 55.


                                     On earth, I toiled
A menial slave by night,


    Cleanthes is a noble Greek example of mind triumphing over difficulties.  He was at first a "fisty-cuffer,"—as the old translators phrase it, in the edition of Diogenes Laertius "made English by several hands:" 1696;—"but coming to Athens, with no more than four drachmas in his pocket, and meeting with Zeno, he betook himself most sedulously to the study of Philosophy, &C."  "By night (says Enfield, who renders Laetius more elegantly) he drew water as a common labourer in the public gardens, that he might have leisure in the day-time to attend the schools of philosophy.  The Athenian citizens observing that though he appeared strong and healthy, he had no visible means of subsistence, summoned him before the court of Areopagus, according to the custom of the city, to give an account of his manner of living.  Upon this he produced the gardener for whom he drew water, and a woman for whom he ground meal, as witnesses to prove that he subsisted by the honest labour of his hands.  The judges of the court were so struck with admiration of this singular example of industry and perseverance, that they ordered ten minæ to be paid him out of the public treasury,—which, however, Zeno would not suffer him to accept. . . . . Cleanthes was for many years so poor that he was obliged to write the heads of his master's lectures upon shells and bones, for want of money to buy paper."—The suicide of this philosopher, at a very advanced age, was singularly quiet and yet heroic.  His physicians recommended fasting for some disease with which he was afflicted; and having abstained from food for two days, although he had thus subdued his disorder, he refused to eat again, saying that since he had travelled so far towards the end of life he would not go back again,—and accordingly died by voluntary "total abstinence."—The testimonies to the elevated morality of his life are abundant.

 
14.—Page 164, Stanza 62.

And, while their mother bore them, darkened earth with storms!


    The last lines of this stanza were composed under an impression that an earthquake or violent tempest signalised the birth of Nero, Caligula, Domitian, Elagabalus, or some one of the monsters who presided over the Roman world.  Memory, it seems, betrayed me; and I had no means of correcting my inaccuracy, in prison.—The mistake, however, does not seem of such importance as to demand that I strike out the lines of the stanza, or substitute others for them.

 
15.—Page 177, Stanza 112.


                                     That knowledge nerved
My soul to combat Rome: my courage, else, had swerved.


    The comets which appeared at the birth of Mithridates, and at the period of his ascension to the throne of Pontus, together with their significance of the future greatness of this remarkable potentate (whom Cicero terms the greatest that ever reigned) are alike matter of the gravest history:—"Hujus futuram magnitudinem etiam cælestia ostenta prædixerant.  Nam et quo genitus est anno, et eo quo regnare primum cæpit, stella cometes per utrumque tempus septuaginta diebus ita luxit, ut cælum omne conflagrare videretur;" &c.—Justin. Hist., lib. 37, cap. ii.

 



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