Purgatory of Suicides: Book VIII.
Home Up Autobiography Thoughts at Fourscore Gulf of Time Old Fashioned Stories Self-help Prison Rhymes, etc. Baron's Yule Feast Paradise of Martyrs Poets of the Poor Reviews, etc. Main Index Site Search



    UNBIDDEN visitors,―yet welcome,―tears
    Gush forth, while streams that dulcet melody―
    The tremulous, soft "Sicilian Mariners"―
    Upon the evening air.   How Love doth flee,―
    Winged by the thrill of organ minstrelsy
    So suddenly renewed within a gaol, [1]
    To visit the heart's home!   Thoughts full of thee,
    My bosom's own,―so blest they banish bale
For joy,―breathe from the tones of that heart-madrigal.



    How wondrous is existence!―what strange ties
    It hath: what individable soul-links
    There be with formless sounds and harmonies
    The Mind, dulled by Life's grosser turmoil, thinks
    Extinct in power,―bereft of charm: how sinks
    My spirit into Rapture's lap, even now:
    Such ecstasy, in Thraldom's spite, Love drinks,
    By help of those sweet notes, from gentle flow
Of Memory's streams, that joy saith nought can bring back



    Hush! 'tis my infancy's quaint "Evening Hymn,"
    My mother's favourite! Tears! ye best can tell
    What thoughts the heart's deep fountains overbrim
    With tenderness when that loved choral swell
    Its potency o'er memory sways.   A knell
    It seems;―and yet, a carol sweeter far
    Than mirth can troll.   Lives in its strain a spell
    Which shews the grave that dear brave face doth mar,
But ever shields that heart from the oppressor's war.



    Hark! 'tis the grand "Old Hundredth" that now peals
    Its solemn glory through the trancëd soul!
    That matchless marshalry of chords reveals,
    Luther! thy free-born majesty: [2] they roll
    So boldly, gravely full,―that man's control,
    We feel, befits not the thewed mind upgrown
    Which germs such thought-sounds.   Term ye me a thrall?
    How, then, upwakes the Saxon with each tone,
Within me?   Nay, I feel true freedom still my own!



    Vain are your fetters, tyrants, for the mind!
    Thy championship, brave stripling, proved them vain,
    What time thou didst so fearlessly unbind
    Old Europe from the triple tyrant's chain,―
    Enthroning Reason the soul's suzerain:
    Reason the judge o' the book.   True warrior
    For all men's right to think unawed by man,
    What though mirk Superstition on the shore
Of Mind still lingers?   She shall raise her throne no more.



    Thy enterprise is speeding, and hath sped.
    I care not that thou didst not comprehend
    Its ultimate: it may be, wholesome dread
    Of wild excess Nature doth sagely blend
    With courage in great souls; and, that the end
    Of noblest change must gradually be sought,
    And Reason's heroes with Mind's foes contend
    From step to step,―yea, victory for Thought
By years of struggling toil be stably, fully wrought.



    I care not though some weaknesses were thine.
    Who shares thy giant strength?   None but the high
    And mighty mental lineage who divine,
    From age to age, the ground whereon to ply
    At vantage their souls' sinews, and rely
    On their own strength in truth for victory.
    Thou art our own, great Saxon! we descry
    Our brave old Wickliffe's soul restored in thee;
And claim thee for our honoured land of Lollardy!



    Honour, all honour to ye, glorious band
    Who broke the bondage of the Priest of Rome!
    Sires of our common Saxon fatherland,
    England and Germany, a glorious home
    Ye left us,―if we will!―amid the gloom
    'Lighting a candle' by your noble lives
    And martyred deaths that, quenchless, shall illume
    Our land for aye!   Oh, that death-vaunt still gives
Us strength; and with it, brave one, thy great deed
            revives! [3]



    What though those words, like oracles of old,
    Were sealed, in their full meaning, to the seer
    Who uttered them?   The future shall behold
    Their splendid verity, with vision clear!
    Then―honour to each stalwart pioneer
    Of mental Freedom,―Wickliffe, Jerome, Huss,
    Luther, Melancthon, Cobham, Latimer!
    Honour to all who dared the flame, scorn, loss,―
Who spurned to live mere spirit-thralls inglorious!



    O thrice-blest children of that age of light
    And love, which now from the far future beams!
    To you it will pertain to place aright
    In Truth's great temple whom herself esteems
    Her true disciples.   Ye, when Time's dim dreams
    And weakling fears are fled, and Knowledge pure
    Hath given the topstone to Truth's fane,―like gems
    In gold, shall place each dazzling form secure
In its eternal niche.   Our hands were premature!



    But, when the toil of Mind hath wrought its aim;
    When later Faiths, like older Phantasies,
    Are reckoned with the Past; when Man's high name
    His grandest title is; when things of lies
    And bloodshed,―thrones and altars,―creeds, and toys
    Of Priests and Kings,―Knowledge hath swept away;
    When Wisdom hath outgrown the childish guise
    Of mythic story, and put on the array
Of manhood; in that boon, free, happy, brother-day,―



    It may be―that, in Truth's eternal fane
    Enshrined, each in his kindred niche of glory,
    He quaintly termed 'rebellious needleman,' [4]
    By thee, great age-fellow!―with martyr gory,
    Or some old stout confessor of faith hoary,
    May stand, as right co-workers, equal, true,
    For Truth; although the world's old bigot-story
    Of Man's mind-infancy did long misview
The scope of their twin-toil: scope that themselves scarce



    It may be that, around that temple's space,
    Splendours may wreathe full many a doubter's brow
    As brilliantly as they illume the face
    Of philanthropic creed's-man.   'Mid the glow
    Of sculptured excellence, in shining row,
    Herbert of Cherbury, Hobbes, with Locke and Boyle―
    Hume, Godwin, may, with Paley and Butler, show―
    Statued with equal honour in Truth's aisle―
Lit with one ray―how truly kindred was their toil!



    Spinoza and Rousseau, Bayle and Voltaire,
    With Fenelon, Erasmus, Pascal, shrined―
    May beam in brotherhood eternal there!―
    But, for thy future children doth the mind
    Most fondly yearn, loved fatherland! and find
    Its sweetest dreams flow thence.   O that some dream
    Would visit me revealing humankind
    As the far future shall discover them―
Living as they shall live on this loved ocean-gem!



    What Howard, when the dungeon is forgot;
    What Montague, when no man's blood is shed;
    What Hale, when justice can be no more bought;
    What Bernard Gilpin, when no poor lack bread;
    What Cartwright, when no tyrants on them tread;
    What Clarkson, when the world hath not a slave;
    What Owen, when free thought awakes no dread;
    What Mathew, when there is no sot to save;
What men shall grace our isles when Wrong hath found its



    O thrice blest children of that age of light
    And love which now the trustful spirit sees,
    Bright beaming from afar―Ye will not slight
    Your noblest fathers, nor their memories!
    But, tombing names of blood and pride that please
    The human patient, whom to drug and craze
    Guile, long, with Power, hath striven―Ye to sweet ease
    Of health, in heart and mind, restored shall raise,
With filial hands, true trophies to your fathers' praise!



    Bourse of the world wilt thou be, London, then?
    For still I turn with fondness to thy face,
    And doat upon thee―though I, mournful, ken
    Too many a blemish there!   Wilt thou a grace
    Be, then, among Earth's cities?   Or, shall race
    Arrive from some far clime, new emigrants
    To found a home, and find thy desart-space
    Renewed, my country!―howling forest-haunts
And wilds "peopled with wolves thy old inhabitants?" [5]



    Shall Gain forsake thy marts, great queen of Thames?
    Thy merchant-navies vanish?―and, where Pride
    In famine-woven silks and blood-bought gems,
    Now rolls her chariot, shall Decay divide
    Empire with Silence,―there the lizard glide
    'Mong crumbling walls,―and there the badger peep
    Forth from sere weeds that half his gray head hide,
    Save when uplifted by the winds that sweep
'Mong chambers where thy pampered lords no longer



    Or, shall true grandeur deck thee: bounding joy
    Of human hearts feeling their fathers' home―
    That happy home―renewed, and thee the Eye
    Become of the wide world?   Gaol, 'Bastile'-doom,
    Treadmill, whip, gallows, demon War's costume,
    And all his trophies and his engines gone:
    No Vileness robed―no Worth in rags; Health's bloom
    On cheek of sturdy sire and manly son,
Proving what secrets Science hath from Nature won:



    Mind writ in every face; books million-fold
    Increased; and galleries vast with breath-shapes hung
    Raffaelle might worship, or Apelles old;
    Groupes from great Shakspere's world, or Chaucer's
    In bronzed or marbled life, seeming up-sprung
    From some new Phidian realm of earth beneath
    To gem the populous squares; Music's full tongue
    Telling to millions what Mozart in death
Enraptured heard, but could not the boon-sounds
            bequeath; [6]



    And all—for ALL!   Rank, class, distinction-badge,
    For ever gone!   Labour by Science made
    Brief recreation—not by Privilege
    Avoided, nor its thrift in name of Trade
    Or Commerce filched.   To give a brother's aid
    To brethren, and enlarge the general bliss
    From knowledge, virtue, health—beyond parade
    Of pomp or gold—affording joy.   I wis,
When Truth doth reign, Earth shall be such a



    Do I reharp like themes?   Perchance, the gaol
    Doth stagnate thought.   And now the blythe old man
    Is gone, who joked, and told his merry tale
    Each morning when the prison-day began,—
    Who spread instruction through the hours' long span,
    Mingling the grave and gay with cheery tongue.
    O how I miss the septuagenarian! [7]
    I wonder what hath kept his heart so young,
That still he dreams to live and see the end of Wrong!



    Gone, are my younger fellow-rebels all,
    To bustle, once more, with Life's elbowing crowd;
    And I am left, a solitary thrall,
    Where stillness like the silence of the shroud
    Pervades both night and day, save when aloud
    Clash bolts and bars, and the shrill curfew tells
    The prisoner must to bed.――
                                                         The vision glowed
    Again in sleep; and, where the spirit dwells
I seemed to dwell,—the spirit that its own Life quells.



    A sense of loneliness, methought, I felt,
    When from beneath the dome, again, I passed,
    And wandered over mountains where none dwelt,
    But doleful voices from the howling blast,
    Cowed the lone spirit, while gloom-clouds o'ercast
    The dull gray sky.   Anon, the way descended
    Into a darksome clough, where centre vast,
    With jaggčd mouth, the dern, dark pathway ended,
And with its lowering brow some gloomier change



    I entered, but trod timidly the rock
    That echoed hollowly my steps of fear;
    And oft I halted, hearing voices mock
    And chide my rashness for o'erventuring there;
    Till, when I turned, thinking the cavern drear
    And its unproven perils I would flee,
    It seemed as if dank vapours rose to blear
    My vision; and, forthwith, they fell on me
With noisome blight, till I was blinded utterly.



    Chilled unto marble horror with the sense
    That I was blind, I would have shrieked, but, lo!
    The will had lost its wonted prevalence
    O'er faculty or organ; and with throe
    Unutterable I sank, feeling my woe
    Too grievous to be borne.   But, as I fell,
    I ceased to grieve, feeling new might endow
    My spirit—might to picture or to tell
I ken not, 'twas so wildly indescribable.



    Onward I floated—for no joint or limb
    I seemed to need—into a region dark
    Beyond all thought: Earth's midnight is but dim
    Compared with the primeval blackness stark
    And stript even of minutest atomed spark
    Of light my new intelligence perceived
    In this strange clime.   I, its stern shapes to mark
    Seemed thence empowered that I was now bereaved
Of grosser sight, and with new eyes that soul-realm



    Eyes most intensely vision-rich that cleft
    The dread opaque gleefully as young eyes
    On earth view brightest stars in the blue weft
    Above; or lustrous gem-shells scrutinize
    In fountains pellucid, then grasp the prize,
    At jeopardy of life.   Yet, I beheld
    Emblems of mortal gloom and miseries,
    Much more than joy: but in them was revealed
Grace so transcendent that the mind with rapture



    To feel its essence gifted with the power
    Of viewing in thick darkness shapes of grace
    And beauty so unspeakable.   Meteor,
    On marish seen, or victims' burial-place,—
    Phantasmagoric slights, where figures chase
    Each other in illusive vision wild,—
    Spectrous deceits the human eye doth trace,
    By brain-sick fancy or shrewd art beguiled,—
All fail to explicate how mystic mind was filled



    With sculptured forms in darkness, and rich hues
    Of pictures crowded on her rapid glance.—
    First, statue-groupes arose that did suffuse
    The soul with Love's woe-tears:—Orpheus' joy-trance
    At his Eurydice's deliverance—
    Quick changed to pain and horror, as he turned—
    Alas, too soon! ill brooking tarriance
    Of looks—lips—clasped embrace: the bliss-cup earned
In vain—to atoms dashed—by Love's own madness



    Then, Galatea, with her shepherd love,
    Was statued, breathing joy, quick chased by pain;
    For o'er them bent the Cyclop, ire enwove
    In his grim glance; and wildly o'er her swain
    The sea-nymph writhed when she beheld him slain.
    Soon, seemed Leander, struggling with the wave
    In death, and Hero leaping in disdain
    Of life, with haste into her watery grave.—
Then, images of grief and fate the darkness clave:



    The Carian queen,—in that fair monument
    She built for her loved spouse, and which the world
    Proclaimed a wonder—o'er the dead was bent;
    And he who sung how the great Titan hurled
    Defiance back at Jove,—stricken, brain-whirled,
    Fell, as the tortoise from the eagle's beak
    Dropped on his head,—the oracle upfurled
    In mystery accomplishing.   The Greek
Sublime, pitying his slanderers, and with courage



    Drinking the hemlock, while in aching grief
    His friends stood round, then passed; and, next,
            rose two
    Sad images depicturing man's poor, brief
    Mirth-hour on earth: Pollio's fair child, that drew
    Its earliest breath in laughter, but scarce knew
    Life ere in death it faded; and the stern
    And melancholy Agelastus, who
    Neer laughed but once, and then, in Cynic scorn,
To see the thistles by the ass for lettuce torn. [8]



    Then rose twin corpses of the craftsmen sage
    The Pythian's oracle that deftly reared,—
    With Juno's priestess' duteous lineage
    Who drew their mother to the fane: reward
    Of death, as the best gift, on each conferred
    By the high deities, for wondrous skill
    And filial piety. [9]   Countless appeared
    The sculptured shapes, thereafter, that did still
Pourtray grief, fate, life's swiftness, and all human



    Praxiteles, his mirror seemed to dash
    To living fragments which a thousand-fold
    Showed his deformed rude visage to the rash
    Enraged destroyer: Hoar, in gloomy hold
    Trophonius sat: young Phaëthon the bold
    Fell from the chariot-sun: vortex and rock
    By vexed Messina's shore, worn voyagers old
    Seemed toiling to escape,—yet swiftly broke
The billows o'er them, and they bowed beneath
            Death's stroke.



    And while these semblances I, wondering, saw,
    With thousands more, mysterious music streamed
    Upon my soul, refreshingly as blow
    The evening gusts on toiling swains condemned
    To reap all day, whilome the sun heath beamed
    His fiercest fires: blythely their hook they ply
    To win substantial good; yet, when redeemed
    From overheats, breathe joyously:—so I,
With sense of ease, listed the soothing minstrelsy.



    And soothing 'twas, though sad: a wildering strain
    Unearthly,—or, if like to aught on earth
    Most like that theme which breathes her spirit's pain—
    The 'Mater dolorosa' [10] with such birth
    Of sweetness, that, once heard, we deem thenceforth,
    Grief-music thrills more deep deliciousness,—
    Ay, more essential joy,—than strains of mirth!
    Most like that voice of rapturous soul-distress
It was; and, wordless, seemed these woe-thoughts to



    'Oh! what shall quell Life's universal sorrow?
    'In Hades' realm of darkness, drear and deep
    'As Death's, or where gloom-prison Earth doth
    'Light from the gaudy sun, all creatures weep,
    'All spirits ache!   Duration on doth sweep,
    'Bringing no other change than newer woe!
    'Oh! that this waking to eternal sleep
    'Might change, and spirits cease to think and
'For ever quenched Life's inward like its outer glow!



    'Oh! what is youthful Love?—a torturous dream:
    'What conjugal affection?—pain and tears:
    'What Life?—capricious gift of Powers supreme
    'That mock Man's hopes, and laugh at his weak fears:
    'Heath Virtue a reward?—the wicked's sneers:
    'Hath Bliss existence?—in the realm of Nought:
    'Can Fate be shunned?—when Essence disappears;
    'But all in Hades or on Earth who thought
'And life inherit in her web of woe are wrought.



    'Spirits, look onward!—what do ye perceive?
    'Woe-thought to come--a future filled with gloom—
    'Ages in which your essence still shall grieve
    'That it exists, and long for instant doom
    'Of blank annihilation.   Your old home
    'Look back upon!   What is Man's journey thorough
    'Earth's life?   Grief from the cradle to the tomb—
    'Toil-thought for bread to-day—a shroud to-morrow:
'Oh, what shall quell, for aye, Life's universal sorrow?'



    The enraptured anguish of my spirit ceased,
    For now this minstrelsy I heard no more;
    And every sculptured emblem, which a feast
    Of visioned wonderment had set before
    The soul's interior self, evanished.   Roar
    Of multitudinous voices came, and crowd
    On crowd of Sorrow's suicides the shore
    Of Darkness, in desponding phalanx, trode,
Wailing they could not 'scape Life's ever-during load.



    By thousands, the stern, giant Cimbri trooped,—
    And Xanthians and Saguntines,—they who fled,
    In olden times, from life, by act abrupt,
    Rather than wear the conqueror's yoke.   That dread
    And sullen band of Jews who undismayed,
    In old cathedralled York, by their own hand
    Met death, to shun the fiendish vengeance spread
    For their rackt tribe, [11] stalked by on Darkness'
'Twere long to tell the Sorrow-crowds my spirit scanned:—



    Of every age, and every mortal clime
    They were; and 'twas appalling their array
    To view, and think of nations choosing crime
    Of suicide,—hasting themselves to slay,
    Rather than be their butcherous brethren's prey!—
    The multitudes had passed, and a slow river
    Methought I reached, upon whose banks a gray
    And solemn man whose every nerve did quiver
With woe, walked, murmuring at existence and the



    And him there met the noble Roman,—made
    A rightful heritor of lasting fame
    By matchless Tully's friendship,—though such aid
    His own high sense and virtues might disclaim—
    Were it not native to the sovereign flame
    Of genius, like the sun, to render gleam
    Of lesser lustres dull, and give a name,
    Even to brightest things, less for their beam
Inherent, than the ray lent by its fire supreme.—



    "Pomponius, hail!"—began the solemn sire;—
    "Thee have I longed to meet in this demesne
    Of mystic darkness,—for until I tire
    To loathing, have I walked with ghosts obscene,
    Listening their threadbare tales of vulgar teen.
    Friend of Rome's noblest tongue and largest mind,—
    Thee, calm Philosophy with thought serene
    To bear unmoved the common woes assigned
To man, must have endowed: what subtle woe was



    "Unto thy soul on earth, that thou its coil
    Shook off?   Could loftiest friendship, wealth, and
    With joys refined, thee fail to reconcile
    To life?   O Atticus, while I had these,—
    While on my peace no feminine fiend did seize,
    Dishonouring my children, and my own
    Hoar age covering with shame, [12]—a gift to please
    I found Earth's life,—not that insipid boon
Which some proclaim it, ere the mortal scene they shun.



    "But thou hadst no soul-harrowing shame to meet
    In every neighbour's eye: men did not point
    At thee the finger,—and, anon, repeat
    The damning whisper, or the subtle hint,
    Wherever thou wert seen.   What mystic dint
    Invisible of Sorrow's sting could pierce
    Thy heart,—and make the world seem so disjoint
    That thou must flee it, hither to immerse
Thy soul in gloom?   Roman, where lay thy life's fell



    "Pontalba!—for thy sorrow-notes reveal
    Too truly, reverend mourner, who thou art"—
    The thoughtful Roman answered:—"to unseal
    "My secret I will haste.   Within the heart
    I ever wore this canker: that depart
    I must, or late, or soon,—must yield my breath,
    Unknowing of what joy or aftersmart
    The soul inherits in the realm of Death,—
Or whether he the spirit's flame extinguisheth.



    "Strong pain corporeal hurried me to take
    My fatal step more early than, perchance,
    I, otherwise, had sped from Life's heart-ache:
    Yet, ease returned, long ere the severance
    Was made 'tween clay and spirit: but, the advance
    Begun towards Death, retreat more terrible
    Appeared than forward march; [13]—the sustenance
    Of Life's huge load, a second time!—the spell
Half-broken to repair!—farewell, and yet farewell!—



    "I could not face such horror, for I knew
    That I should hourly see my funeral urn,
    And that more bitterly it would imbue
    Life's joy with sorrow, if I should return
    When I had well-nigh reached the portal stern.
    Oh, tell me, mourning sire,—if Death with thee
    Was not the great Smile-queller: the thought borne
    For ever uppermost, that strangled Glee
Even in its birth,—or made its breath an agony!"



    "I know not that it was,"—the sire replied:
    "It is my nation's habit to avert
    Despondency of thought in the gay tide
    Of revelry; and when to share the sport
    Men cease, by age enfeebled, they resort
    Still to the scene of mirth, to dissipate
    Dull thoughts by seeing sprightly youth exert
    Its agile limbs or jocund wit: sires sate
Their minds beholding sons their spirits recreate."—



    "Thy answer seemeth strange,"—the Roman said:
    "To me, beholding what I could not share
    For ever multiplied the heart's dim dread
    Of the approaching tomb: joys of the fair
    And young ceased to be gladsome: for the glare
    O' the funeral torch gleamed on my mental sight.
    Death—Death—was present with me everywhere,
    Smirching the face of Nature with his blight,
Bereaving the warm heart of solace or delight."—



    "But why didst thou not mingle in the strife
    Of public act or counsel?"—asked the soul
    Of the gray Gallic sire;—"for thee Earth's life
    "Had countless remedies for this strange dole.
    Oh! had thy lot beneath the restless rule
    Of him who swayed my fatherland been cast,
    The fever of the times had warmed thy cool
    O'er-meditative brain, until Death's vast
Reality had quelled the Shade whose slave thou



    "Thou speakest, Spirit, as if strifeful Rome
    Were some Arcadian grove,"—replied the ghost
    Of Atticus;—"albeit, within her womb
    "Myriads with greed of fame or gold engrossed,
    Resembled some insatiate wolvish host—
    Ever in open cry for prey.   In fear
    Of its heart-tortures, public care I thrust
    Far from me; nor discern I, in this drear
Gloom-region, that its slaves than I aught happier



    "Pontalba! for man's soul no genuine good
    There is: no state enfranchiseth the mind
    From tyranny of Evil's monster brood.
    If in society men strive to find
    Relief from megrim dullness,—'mong their kind
    They soon engender hate, even without
    Design, and wish they never had repined
    At solitude, although with dread or doubt
They wrestled till compelled to shun their own
            lone thought.



    "And what sayst thou of thine own fitful race?
    Life's pulse beats not less healthfully in the veins
    Of the most feverous tenants of Earth's space
    Than it doth beat in theirs.   Pleasures to pains,
    By very eagerness, they turn: each drains
    The joy-cup of the hour as if the world
    Had not another for his draught.   Contains
    Not this woe-clime,—whom Pleasure's zest
Legions, from thy own land by mad self-murder



    "There is no human state exempt from woe.
    If the lone thinker with a dread profound
    Of death be haunted,—they who love the show
    And strife of crowds carry within some wound
    From rival or proud tyrant who hath frowned
    Upon their peace; and if dull solitude
    Be irksome,—Pleasure's gay and guilty round
    As surely leads to madness.   'Tis a crude
Abortion of a world; and Mind must be at feud



    "For ever with the Powers to whom it owes
    Existence—if volition they possess;
    And if Necessity all Essence bows
    Beneath its sceptre, at our wretchedness
    We cannot but repine."—
                                               "Whence this excess
    "Of perverse discontent?"—a voice began:—
    And lo! a crowded audience bodiless
    I saw,—while through the host this murmur
'Meek Menedemus hear—the sage Eretrian!' [14]



    "Whence this excess of perverse discontent?"—
    The sage repeated:—"dost thou, then, forget,
    "Illustrious Roman! thy so late assent
    To consolable thoughts, when thee I met
    Nursing, as now, this vain, unwise regret?
    Alas, we all are too much prone to cling
    To sorrow in this clime, and think our debt
    To justice never will be paid.   Yet spring
High hopes within me—thoughts of rescue



    "O Atticus, I grieve that we the call
    Fraternal of imperial spirits slighted,
    Nor joined their descant in the mystic hall:
    Yet, in their souls on whom hope hath alighted,
    For Sorrows' host in dreary realm benighted,
    Compassion may be felt, till they renew
    Their invitation.   Not for ever blighted,
    Brothers, is this our essence: hopes congrue
With deep discursive reason thus my mind to



    "It is not by unalterable law
    That Evil's tyranny Man's spirit quelleth:
    Brothers, in us, in all, a might to awe
    The moral curse o' the universe indwelleth.
    O when the sheen of Brotherhood unveileth
    Its glory, how our happy race will ponder
    And muse upon the Past, until it failed
    Their souls to tell—for ecstasy of wonder—
What first could rend Man's heart from brother-
           men asunder!



    "When selfishness, by Love and Truth dispelled
    From human spirits, ceaseth to mislead
    With falsest sense of interest,—and 'tis held
    A fiction foul that Nature hath decreed
    Man only can be moved to generous deed
    Of enterprise by personal reward;
    When Brotherhood returns, and hearts do feed
    On richest bliss, toiling in disregard
Of self, and viewing their toil's fruit by brethren



    "When Strength and Health their happiness derive
    From knowledge that the produce of their toil
    Is shared by Feebleness and Age; when live
    The men of Mind to kindle a heart-smile
    Where'er they move,—disdaining to defile
    Their names with titles, or their hands with gold,
    And yearning every moment to beguile
    Mankind to deeds of love and goodness bold,
Until the sun a world of mercy doth behold;



    "Think ye that then the curse of Evil's reign
    Mankind shall know?   Suffering will disappear;
    For love and sympathy shall vanquish pain,
    And gentlest pity shall the lorn heart cheer
    Till sorrow's stream for joy's abounding tear
    Is changed.   'Twill be a holy, gladsome scene—
    Too holy for mad Pleasure to be there!
    A world of Love and Truth and Peace serene—
A world of brother-hearts, whose joys are evergreen!



    "A world in which thy Death-fear, noble one!
    Can no more haunt the soul.   Who will fear Death
    When, with fraternal love Man's course begun,
    Hath been continued?   When to yield his breath
    The hour is come, with this exalted faith
    In gladness Man can die—'A world I leave
    'Of happy brothers!—love fraternal hath
    'Increased my bliss; and after-hearts shall cleave
'To me through time, and with their songs my memory



    "'And if our thought surviveth mortal clay
    'My loving spirit for a world of love
    'Is fitted: if I think no more,—decay
    'Itself is welcome; since around, above,
    'Bliss, still progressing, is with Essence wove;
    'And men, succeeding men, shall still proclaim
    'The bliss is but begun!'—Thus men shall prove
    Superior to death-dread, on earth: the flame
Of Brother-love, 'bove selfish fears exalting them!"—



    With visages of hope the mystic crowd
    Stood, in expressive silence, as the soul
    Of Menedemus ceased.   Then, one who glowed
    With nobler thought than when the venomed bowl,
    To 'scape from hated Rome's renewed control,
    He, fearing vengeance, in fair Capua took,—
    Rash Vibius Virius, [15] thus began to extol
    The good Eretrian's theme:――
                                                     "Forbear rebuke,
Meek sage!—but, henceforth, we this gloom shall
            hardly brook:



    "For who can list thee tell of blooming bliss,
    And brother-love for ever verdurous,
    Nor long to quit a dreary clime like this?
    'Tween Earth and Hades link mysterious
    We inly feel; and bliss analogous
    To Earth's shall surely be our heritage:―
    Yet, till kings cease their feuds calamitous,
    And nations wear no more the conqueror's badge,
Dost thou not dream―this reign of Mercy to presage?



    And, until monarch-spirits, in our clime,
    Disown their lofty claims, what can make known,
    By mystic sign, in penal land of crime,
    That Hades' crowds shall soon behold begun
    The reign of Brotherhood?   O that the boon
    Were near!"―
                            "Behold who cometh!" cried the host;
    The spirit of thy friend, illustrious one!―
    The friend o' the bards most noble and robust
Of thy great land, ―Varus, [16]―the thoughtful herald-



    "Hail, Atticus!"―the herald cried,―" and ye
    "Grief-brothers, who still nurse, in gloomiest land,
    Your sorrow!   Once again, high destiny
    Of human spirits to search out, the band
    Of heroes, sages, bards, and kings, divanned
    In emblematic grandeur, ye conjure
    To lend your aid!   Brothers, full soon the brand
    Of slavery shall, on earth, be known no more!
Brothers, full soon bliss shall pervade this climature!



    "Take hope―take heart!   Monarchs, themselves, display
    Zeal for equality and brotherhood!
    O haste to leave your gloom, and, swift, away
    Pursue with me your spirit-course, the Good
    And Great to join in converse! "―
                                                                 Like a flood
    Of rapture burst the choral song―'We come!'
    From myriads hope-inspired;―and ere I viewed
    From darkness their departure, out of gloom
I passed―woke by that thrilling song's exordium.



1.―Page 211, Stanza 1.

Winged by the thrill of organ minstrelsy
So suddenly renewed within a gaol,

    The opening of an organ, in the gaol-chapel (which adjoined the "day-room " apportioned to me and my fellow-offenders), gave occasion to this and some of the following stanzas.  In the scanty catalogue of prison-events, it was one, to me, too exciting to be passed by, either unfelt or uncommemorated.

2.―Page 212, Stanza 4.

That matchless marshalry of chords reveals,
Luther! thy free-born majesty:

    The evidence that the unequalled "Old Hundredth" is Martin Luther's composition may be questionable: I have yielded to the wish for having it regarded as his, in the stanza.

3.―Page 213, Stanza 8.

                                       Oh, that death-vaunt still gives
Us strength; and with it, brave one, thy great deed revives!

    "Play the man, Master Ridley: we shall this day light up a candle that will never be extinguished in England!"―Latimer's words to his fellow-martyr at the stake.

4.―Page 214, Stanza 12.

He quaintly termed 'rebellious needleman,'

    I quote from Mr. Carlyle's magnificent unrhymed, unmetred Epic:―"Nor is our England without her missionaries. She has her Paine: rebellious staymaker; unkempt; who feels that he, a single Needleman, did by his 'Common Sense' Pamphlet, free America:― at he can and will free all this world; perhaps even the other.―"The French Revolution: a History:" vol. 2, chap. iii.

5.―Page 215, Stanza 17.

                                           howling forest-haunts
And wilds 'peopled with wolves thy old inhabitants?'

    "Peopled with wolves thy old inhabitants."―Pt. ii. of Hen. 4.  The quotation was tempting―for a rhyme; but I almost feel as if I had committed a mortal sin in thus literalising, in its application, Shakspere's sublime and sinewy figure.

6.―Page 216, Stanza 20.

Music's full tongue
Telling to millions what Mozart in death
Enraptured heard, but could not the boon-sounds bequeath;

    Mozart's last words―"Now I begin to see what might be done in music!"

7.―Page 216, Stanza 22.

O how I miss the septuagenarian!

    My venerable fellow-"conspirator" and fellow-prisoner (for the first year) John Richards, whose seventy-first birthday occurred on the first Christmas-day we passed in the gaol.

8.―Page 219, Stanza 33.

Ne'er laughed but once, and then, in Cynic scorn,
To see the thistles by the ass for lettuce torn.

    Cicero, Pliny, and others commemorate the grandfather of Crassus, who never laughed but once,―namely,―when he saw an ass eat thistles, and then his exclamation was, "Similes habent labra lactucas,"―Like lips like lettuces.

9.―Page 219, Stanza 34.

                                    on each conferred
By the high deities, for wondrous skill
And filial piety.

    The stories of Agamedes and Trophonius, architects of the vestibule to the temple of Delphi,―and of Biton and Cleobis, sons of Cydippe, priestess of Juno at Argos,―are told by Plutarch, in his Morals.

10.―Page 220, Stanza 37.

Most like that theme which breathes her spirit's pain―
The 'Mater dolorosa'

    Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (I never heard Rossini's) is the "theme " to which I allude. I never heard it performed but once; yet its pathetic power left an indelible impression on my memory.

11.―Page 221, Stanza 42.

                    to shun the fiendish vengeance spread
For their rackt tribe, stalked by on Darkness' strand.―

The suicidal massacre of the Jews of York, to escape from the horrid persecution of the Christian citizens, on the 11th of March, 1189, is related at considerable length (from Roger Hoveden, Matthew Paris, and William Newburgh), by Drake, in his Hist. and Antiq. of York ; Book I, chap. iv.

12.―Page 222, Stanza 46.

While an my peace no feminine fiend did seize,
Dishonouring my children, and my own
Hoar age covering with shame,―

    The brief account of M. de Pontalba, and his suicide, in Winslow's "Anatomy of Suicide," is so absorbingly, horrifically interesting that I transcribe it:

    "M. de Pontalba was one of the great proprietors of France.  His son had been a page of Napoleon's and afterwards a distinguished officer, aide-de-camp to Marshal Ney, and a protégé of the Duke of Elchingen.  He married the daughter of Madame d'Almonaster, and for some time they lived happily; but on the death of her mother, Madame de Pontalba began to indulge in such extravagances that even the enormous fortune of the Pontalbas was unequal to it.  This led to some remonstrance on the part of her husband, on the morning after which she disappeared from the hotel, and neither he nor his children had any clue to her retreat.  At last, after an interval of some months, a letter arrived from her to her husband, dated New Orleans, in which she announced that she meant to apply for a divorce; but for eighteen months nothing more was heard of her, except by her drafts for money.  At last she returned, but only to afflict her family.  Her son was at the Military Academy of St. Cyr.  She induced him to elope, and the boy was plunged in every species of debauchery and expense.  This afflicted, in the deepest manner, his grandfather, who revoked a bequest he had made him of about Ł4,000 a year, and seemed to apprehend from him nothing but future ruin and disgrace.  The old man, eighty-two years of age, resided in his chateau of Mont Levéque, whither, in October, 1834, Madame de Pontalba went to attempt a reconciliation with the wealthy senior.  The day after her arrival she found she could make no impression on her father-in-law, and was about to return to Paris, when old M. de Pontalba, observing a moment when she was alone in her apartment, entered it with a brace of double-barrelled pistols, locked the door, and, approaching his astonished daughter-in-law, desired her to recommend herself to God, for that she had but few minutes to live; but he did not even allow her one minute―he fired immediately, and two balls entered her left breast.  She started up and fled to a closet, her blood streaming about, and exclaiming that she would submit to any terms, if he would spare her.―'No, no! You must die!' he exclaimed, and fired his second pistol.  She had instinctively covered her heart with her hand; the hand was miserably fractured by the balls, but it saved her heart.  She then escaped to another closet, where a third shot was fired at her without effect; and at last she rushed in despair to the door, and while M. de Pontalba was discharging his last barrel at her, she succeeded in opening it.  The family, alarmed by the firing, arrived, and she was saved.  The old man, on seeing that she was beyond his reach, returned to his apartment, and blew out his brains.  It seemed clear that he had resolved to make a sacrifice of the short remnant of his own life, in order to release his son and his grandson from their unfortunate connexion with Madame de Pontalba.  But he failed―none of her wounds were mortal; and within a month after, Madame de Pontalba, perfectly recovered, in high health and spirits, radiant, and crowned with flowers, was to be seen at all the fętes and concerts of the capital."―Pp. 292―294.

13.―Page 223, Stanza 49

                     retreat more terrible
Appeared than forward march;

    It is a well-known relation that when Pomponius Atticus (the friend of Cicero) had subdued a fever by fasting, or medicine, in his 77th year, he refused to take food, from an unwillingness to prolong life.

14.―Page 225, Stanza 58.

'Meek Menedemus hear―the sage Eretrian'

    Menedemus is another of the suicides of antiquity who are described as escaping from life by refusing food.  False accusation of treason is stated to have been the desperate provocative with this Socratic philosopher of Eretria.

15.―Page 227, Stanza 67.

Rash Vibius Virius, thus began to' extol

    Livy (lib. 26, caps. 13, 14) tells how Vibius Virius advised the Capuans to revolt to Hannibal, and, when the city was retaken by the Romans, took poison to escape the vengeance of the victors.

16.―Page 228, Stanza 69.

Of thy great land,―Varus,―the thoughtful herald-ghost!―

    Quintilius Varus: I have, for the sake of introducing another character, asserted what is merely probable,―rom Horace de Arte Poetic[a] (438) the 18th Ode of Book I, and also the 24th.  It is more generally believed that Q. Varus the poet, and Q. Varus the commander of the Roman armies in Gaul, who slew himself because overcome by the craft of Arminius, were different persons.


[Home] [Up] [Autobiography] [Thoughts at Fourscore] [Gulf of Time] [Old Fashioned Stories] [Self-help] [Prison Rhymes, etc.] [Baron's Yule Feast] [Paradise of Martyrs] [Poets of the Poor] [Reviews, etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk