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Thoughts in Prison, Edited by Charles J. Rzepka
TEI

THOUGHTS in PRISON:
March 18, 1777.

WEEK THE THIRD.
Public Punishment.


Vain are thy generous efforts, worthy Bull,  [1] 
1
Thy kind compassion's vain! The hour is come:
2
Stern Fate demands compliance: I must pass
3
Thro' various deaths, keen torturing, to arrive
4
At That my heart so fervently implores;
5
Yet fruitless. Ah! why hides He his fell Front
6
From woe, from wretchedness, that with glad smiles
7
Would welcome his approach; and Tyrant-like,
8
Delights to dash the jocund roseate cup
9
From the full hand of gaudy Luxury,
10
And unsuspecting Ease!--Far worse than Death
11
That Prison's Entrance, whose Idea chills
12
With freezing horror all my curdling blood;
13
Whose very Name, stamping with infamy,
14
Makes my Soul frighted start, in frenzy whirl'd,
15
And verging near to Madness! See, they ope
16
Their iron Jaws! See, the vast Gates expand,
17
Gate after Gate--and in an instant twang,
18
Clos'd by their growling Keepers:--When again,
19
Mysterious Powers!--oh when to open on me?
20
Mercy, sweet Heaven! Support my faltering steps,
21
Support my sickening heart! My full eyes swim;
22
O'er all my frame distils a cold damp sweat.
23
Hark--what a rattling din! On every side
24
The congregated chains clank frightful:--Throngs
25
Tumultuous press around, to view, to gaze
26
Upon the wretched stranger; scarce believ'd
27
Other than a Visitor within such walls,
28
With Mercy, and with Freedom in his hands.
29
Alas, how chang'd!--Sons of Confinement, see
30
No pitying Deliverer; but a Wretch
31
O'erwelm'd with Misery; more hapless far
32
Than the most hapless 'mongst ye; loaded hard
33
With Guilt's oppressive Irons! His are chains
34
No time can loosen, and no hand unbind:
35
Fetters, which gore the Soul. Oh Horror, Horror!
36
Ye massive bolts, give way! Ye sullen doors,
37
Ah, open quick! and from this clamorous rout,
38
Close in my dismal, lone, allotted room
39
Shrowd me;--for ever shrowd from human sight,
40
And make it, if 'tis possible, my Grave!
41
How truly welcome, then! Then would I greet
42
With hallow'd joy the drear, but blest abode;
43
And deem it far the happiest I have known,
44
The best I e'er inhabited. But, alas!
45
There's no such mercy for me. I must run
46
Misery's extremest round; and this must be
47
Awhile my living grave! the doleful tomb,
48
Sad sounding with my unremitted groans,
49
And moisten'd with the bitterness of tears!
50
Ah, mournful dwelling! destin'd ne'er to see
51
The human face divine in placid smiles,
52
And innocent gladness cloth'd: destin'd to hear
53
No sounds of genial, heart-reviving Joy!
54
The Sons of Sorrows only are thy guests,
55
And thine the only music of their sighs,
56
Thick sobbing from the tempest of their breasts!
57
Ah, mournful dwelling! never hast thou seen,
58
Amidst the numerous wretched-ones immur'd
59
Within thy stone-girt compass, wretch so sunk,
60
So lost, so ruin'd, as the man who falls
61
Thus, in deep anguish, on thy ruthless floor,
62
And bathes it with the torrent of his tears!
63
And can it be? or is it all a dream?
64
A vapour of the mind?--I scarce believe
65
Myself awake or acting. Sudden thus
66
Am I--so compass'd round with comforts late,
67
Health, Freedom, Peace! torn, torn from all, and lost!
68
A Prisoner in------Impossible! I sleep:
69
'Tis Fancy's coinage; 'tis a dream's delusion.
70
Vain dream! vain Fancy! Quickly am I rous'd
71
To all the dire reality's distress:
72
I tremble, start, and feel myself awake,
73
Dreadfully awake to all my woes; and roll
74
From wave to wave on Sorrow's ocean tost!
75
Oh for a moment's pause,--a moment's rest,
76
To calm my hurried spirits! to recall
77
Reflection's staggering pilot to the helm,
78
And still the maddening whirlwind in my soul!
79
--It cannot be! The din increases round:
80
Rough voices rage discordant; dreadful shrieks!
81
Hoarse imprecations dare the Thunderer's ire,
82
And call down swift damnation! Thousand chains
83
In dismal notes clink, mirthful! Roaring bursts
84
Of loud obstreperous laughter, and strange choirs
85
Of gutturals, dissonant and rueful, vex
86
E'en the dull ear of Midnight! Neither rest,
87
Nor peaceful calm, nor silence of the mind,
88
Refreshment sweet! nor interval or pause
89
From morn to eve, from eve to morn is found
90
Amidst the surges of this troubled sea!  [2] 
91
So, from the Leman Lake th' impetuous Rhone
92
His blue waves pushes rapid; and bears down
93
(Furiate to meet Saone's pellucid stream,
94
With roar tremendous, thro' the craggy streights
95
Of Alpine rocks) his freight of waters wild!
96
Still rushing in perturbed eddies on;
97
And still, from hour to hour, from age to age,
98
In conflux vast and unremitting, pours
99
His boisterous flood to old Lugdunum's walls!
100
Oh my rack'd brain--oh my distracted heart!
101
The tumult thickens: wild disorder grows
102
More painfully confus'd!----And can it be?
103
Is this the mansion--this the House ordain'd
104
For Recollection's solemn purpose?--This
105
The place from whence full many a flitting soul
106
(The work of deep Repentence--mighty work,
107
Still, still to be perform'd) must mount to God,
108
And give its dread account! Is this the place
109
Ordain'd by Justice, to confine awhile
110
The foe to civil order, and return
111
Reform'd and moraliz'd to social life!
112
This Den of drear confusion, wild uproar,
113
Of mingled Riot, and unblushing Vice!
114
This School of Infamy! from whence, improv'd
115
In every hardy villainy, returns
116
More harden'd, more a foe to God and Man,
117
The miscreant, nurs'd in its infectious lap;
118
All cover'd with its pestilential spots,
119
And breathing death and poison wheresoe'er
120
He stalks contagious! from the lion's den
121
A lion more ferocious, as confin'd!
122
Britons, while sailing in the golden barge
123
Of giddy Dissipation, on the stream,
124
Smooth silver stream of gorgeous Luxury,
125
Boast gaily--and for Ages may they boast,
126
And truly! for through Ages we may trust
127
'Twill interpose between our crimes and God,
128
And turn away his just avenging scourge--
129
"The National Humanity!" Hither then,
130
Ye Sons of Pity, and ye Sons of Thought!--
131
Whether by public zeal, and patriot love,
132
Or by Compassion's gentle stirrings wrought,
133
Oh hither come, and find sufficient scope
134
For all the Patriot's, all the Christian's search!
135
Some great, some salutary plan to frame,
136
Turning confinement's curses into good;
137
And, like the God who but rebukes to save,
138
Extracting comfort from Correction's stroke!
139
Why do we punish? Why do penal laws
140
Coercive, by tremendous sanctions bind
141
Offending Mortals?--Justice on her throne
142
Rigid on this hand to Example points;
143
More mild to Reformation upon that:
144
--She balances, and finds no ends but these.
145
Crowd then, along with yonder revel-rout,
146
To Exemplary Punishment! and mark
147
The language of the multitude, obscene,
148
Wild, blasphemous, and cruel! Tent their Looks
149
Of madding, drunken, thoughtless, ruthless gaze,
150
Or giddy curiosity and vain!
151
Their Deeds still more emphatic, note; and see,
152
By the sad spectacle unimpress'd, they dare
153
Even in the eye of death, what to their doom
154
Brought their expiring Fellows! Learn we hence,
155
How to Example's salutary end
156
Our Justice sagely ministers! But one,--
157
Should there be one--thrice hapless,--of a mind
158
By guilt unharden'd, and above the throng
159
Of desperate miscreants, thro' repeated crimes
160
In stupor lull'd, and lost to every sense;--
161
Ah me, the sad reverse!--should there be one
162
Of generous feelings; whom remorseless Fate,
163
Pallid Necessity, or chill Distress,
164
The Family's urgent call, or just demand
165
Of honest Creditor,--(solicitudes
166
To reckless, pamper'd worldlings all unknown)
167
Should there be one, whose trembling, frighted hand
168
Causes like these in temporary guilt,
169
Abhorrent to his inmost soul, have plung'd,
170
And made obnoxious to the rigid Law!
171
Sentenc'd to pay,--and, wearied with its weight,
172
Well-pleas'd to pay with life that Law's demand!
173
Awful Dispensers of strict Justice, say,
174
Would you have more than life? or, in an Age,
175
A Country, where Humanity reverts
176
At Torture's bare idea, would you tear
177
Worse than on racking wheels a Soul like This;
178
And make him to the stupid Crowd a gaze
179
For lingering hours?--drag him along to death
180
An useless spectacle; and more than flay
181
Your living victim?--Death is your demand:
182
Death your Law's sentence: then this Life is yours,
183
Take the just forfeit; you can claim no more!
184
Foe to thy Infidelity,--and griev'd
185
That He avows not, from the Christian source,
186
The first great Christian Duty, which so well,
187
So forcible He paints!--Yet let me greet
188
With heart-felt gratulations thy warm zeal,
189
Successful in that sacred duty's cause,
190
The cause of our Humanity, Voltaire!
191
Torture's vile Agents trembling at thy pen:
192
Intolerance and Persecution gnash
193
Their teeth, despairing, at the lucid rays
194
Of Truth all-prevalent, beaming from thy page.
195
The Rack, the Wheel, the Dungeon, and the Flame,
196
In happier Europe useless and unknown,
197
Shall soon,--oh speed the hour, Compassion's God!
198
Be seen no more; or seen as prodigies,
199
Scarce credited, of Gothic barbarous times.
200
Ah, gallant France! for milder manners fam'd;
201
How wrung it my sad Soul, to view expos'd
202
On instruments of torture mangled limbs,
203
And bleeding carcases, beside thy roads,
204
Thy beauteous woods and avenues! Fam'd works,
205
And worthy well the grandeur of old Rome!
206
We too, who boast of gentler Laws, reform'd
207
And civiliz'd by Liberty's kind hand;
208
Of Mercy boast, and mildest punishments:
209
Yet punishments of Torture exquisite,
210
And idle;--painful, ruinous parade!
211
We too, with Europe humaniz'ed, shall drop
212
The barbarous severity of Death,
213
Example's Bane, not Profit;--shall abridge
214
The savage, base Ovation; shall assign
215
The Wretch, whose Life is forfeit to the Laws,
216
With all the silent dignity of woe,
217
With all the mournful Majesty of Death,
218
Retir'd and solemn, to his awful fate!
219
Shall to the dreadful moment, moment still
220
To Souls best fitted, give distinction due;
221
Teach the well-order'd Sufferer to depart
222
With each impression serious; nor insult
223
With clamorous Crowds, and exultations base,
224
A Soul, a Fellow-Soul; which stands prepar'd
225
On Time's dread verge to take its wondrous flight
226
To Realms of Immortality! Yes, the day
227
--I joy in the idea,--will arrive,
228
When Britons philanthropic shall reject
229
The cruel custom, to the Sufferer cruel,
230
Useless and baneful to the gaping Crowd!
231
The day will come, when Life, the dearest Price
232
Man can pay down, sufficient forfeit deem'd
233
For guilty Man's transgression of the Law,
234
Shall be paid down, as meet for such a Price,
235
Respectful, sad; with reverence to a Soul's
236
Departure hence; with reverence to the Soul's
237
And Body's separation, much-lov'd Friends!
238
Without a torture to augment its loss,
239
Without an insult to molest its calm;
240
To the demanded debt no fell account
241
Of curious, hissing ignominy annex'd:
242
Anguish, beyond the bitterest torture keen;
243
Unparallel'd in Realms where Bigotry
244
Gives to the furious Sons of Dominic
245
Her sable flag, and marks their way with Blood.
246
Hail, milder Sons of Athens! civiliz'd
247
By Arts ingenuous, by the 'suasive power
248
Of humanizing Science! Well ye thought,
249
Like you may Britons think! that 'twas enough,
250
The sentence pass'd, a Socrates should die!
251
The Sage, obedient to the Law's decree,
252
Took from the weeping Executioner
253
The draught, resign'd: Amidst his sorrowing friends,
254
Full of immortal hopes convers'd sublime;
255
And, half in Heaven--compos'ed himself, and died!
256
Oh envied fate! oh happiness supreme!
257
So let me die; so, 'midst my weeping friends,
258
Resign my Life! I ask not the delay
259
Ev'n of a moment. Law, thou'dst have thy due!
260
Nor Thou, nor Justice, can have more to claim.
261
But equal Laws, on Truth and Reason built,
262
Look to Humanity with lenient eye,
263
And temper rigid Justice with the claims
264
Of heaven-descended Mercy! to condemn
265
Sorrowing and slow; while studious to correct,
266
Like Man's all-gracious Parent, with the view
267
Benign and laudable, of moral good,
268
And Reformation perfect. Hither then,
269
Ye Sons of Sympathy, of Wisdom; Friends
270
To Order, to Compassion, to the State,
271
And to your Fellow Beings; hither come,
272
To this wild Realm of Uproar! hither haste,
273
And see the Reformation, see the good
274
Wrought by Confinement in a Den like this!
275
View, with unblushing front, undaunted heart,
276
The callous Harlot in the open day
277
Administer her poisons 'midst a rout
278
Scarcely less bold or poison'd than herself!
279
View, and with eyes that will not hold the tear
280
In gentle pity gushing for such griefs,--
281
View, the young Wretch, as yet unfledg'd in vice,
282
Just shackled here, and by the veteran Throng,
283
In every infamy and every crime
284
Grey and insulting, quickly taught to dare,
285
Harden'd like them in Guilt's opprobrious school!
286
Each bashful sentiment, incipient grace,
287
Each yet remorseful thought of Right and Wrong
288
Murder'd and buried in his darken'd heart!--
289
Hear how those Veterans clank,--ev'n jovial clank
290
--Such is obduracy in vice,--their chains!  [3] 
291
Hear, how with Curses hoarse, and Vauntings bold,
292
Each spirits up, encourages and dares
293
His desperate Fellow to more desperate Proofs
294
Of future hardy enterprize; to plans
295
Of Death and Ruin! Not exulting more
296
Heroes or Chiefs for noble Acts renown'd,
297
Holding high converse, mutually relate
298
Gallant Achievements worthy; than the Sons
299
Of Plunder and of Rapine here recount
300
On peaceful life their devastations wild;
301
Their dangers, hair-breadth 'scapes, atrocious Feats,
302
Confederate, and confederating still
303
In schemes of deathful horror! Who, surpris'd,
304
Can such effects contemplate, upon minds
305
Estrang'd to good; fermenting on the lees
306
Of pregnant ill; associate and combin'd
307
In intercourse infernal, restless, dire;
308
And goading constant each to other's thoughts
309
To Deeds of Desperation from the Tale
310
Of vaunted Infamy oft told; sad fruit
311
Of the Mind's vacancy!----And to that Mind
312
Employment none is offer'd: Not an hour
313
To secret recollection is assign'd;
314
No seasonable sound instruction brought,
315
Food for their thoughts, self-gnawing. Not the Day
316
To Rest and Duty dedicate, finds here
317
Or Rest or Duty; revel'd off, unmark'd;
318
Or like the others undistinguish'd, save
319
By Riot's roar, and self-consuming sloth!
320
For useful occupation none is found,
321
Benevolent t' employ their listless hands,
322
With indolence fatigued! Thus every day
323
Anew they gather Guilt's corrosive rust;
324
Each wretched day accumulates fresh ills;
325
And, horribly advanc'd, flagitious grown
326
From faulty, they go forth, tenfold of Hell
327
More the devoted Children: to the State
328
Tenfold more dangerous and envenom'd Foes
329
Than first they enter'd this improving School!
330
So, cag'd and scanty fed, or taught to rage
331
By taunting insults, more ferocious burst
332
On Man the tiger or hyena race
333
From fell confinement, and with hunger ur'gd,
334
Gnash their dire fangs, and drench themselves in blood.
335
But should the Felon fierce, th' abandon'd Train
336
Whose inroads on the human peace forbid,
337
Almost forbid Compassion's mild regard;
338
(Yet, ah! what man with fellow-men can fall
339
So low, as not to claim soft Pity's care?)
340
Should these aught justify the rigid voice,
341
Which to severe confinement's durance dooms
342
Infallible the body and the soul
343
To bitterest, surest ruin: Shall we not
344
With generous indignation execrate
345
The cruel, indiscriminating Law,
346
Which turns Misfortune into guilt and curse;
347
And with the Felon hardn'd in his crimes
348
Ranks the poor hapless Debtor?--Debt's not guilt:
349
Alas! the worthiest may incur the stroke
350
Of worldly infelicity! What man,
351
How high soe'er he builds his earthly nest,
352
Can claim security from Fortune's change,
353
Or boast him of to-morrow? Of the East
354
Greatest and chief, lo! humbled in the dust,
355
Sits Job--the sport of Misery! Wealthiest late
356
Of all blest Araby's most wealthy sons,
357
He wants a potsherd now to scrape his wounds;
358
He wants a bed to shrowd his tortur'd limbs,
359
And only finds a dunghill! Creditor
360
Would'st thou add sorrows to this sorrowing man?
361
Tear him from ev'n his dunghill, and confine
362
'Midst recreant felons in a British Jail?--
363
Oh British inhumanity! Ye climes,
364
Ye foreign climes--Be not the truth proclaim'd
365
Within your streets, nor be it heard or told;
366
Lest ye retort the cruelty we urge,
367
And scorn the boasted mildness of our Laws!
368
Blest be the hour,--amidst my depth of woe,
369
Amidst this perturbation of my soul,
370
God of my life, I can, I will exult!--
371
Blest be the hour, that to my humble thought
372
Thy Spirit, sacred source of every good,
373
Brought the sublime idea, to expand
374
By Charity, the Angel's grace divine,
375
The rude, relentless, iron prison-gates,
376
And give the pining Debtor to the world,
377
His weeping family, and humble home!
378
Blest be the hour, when, heedful to my voice
379
Bearing the Prisoners' sad sighs to their ears,
380
Thousands, with soft commiseration touch'd,
381
Delighted to go forth, and visit glad
382
Those Prisoners in their woe, and set them free!
383
God of the Merciful! Thou hast announc'd
384
On Mercy, thy first, dearest attribute,
385
Chosen beatitude! Oh pour the dew,
386
The fostering dew of Mercy on their gifts,
387
Their rich donations grateful! May the prayers
388
Of those enfranchis'd by their bounteous zeal
389
Arise propitious for them! and, when hears'd
390
In Death's cold arms this hapless frame shall lie,
391
--The generous tear, perchance, not quite withheld;--
392
When friendly Memory to reflection brings
393
My humble efforts, and my mournful fate;
394
On stable basis founded, may the work
395
Diffuse its good through Ages! nor with-hold
396
Its rescuing influence, till the hour arrives,
397
When Wants, and Debts, and Sickness are no more;
398
And universal Freedom blesseth all!
399
But, till that hour, on Reformation's plan,
400
Ye generous Sons of Sympathy, intent,
401
Boldly stand forth! The cause may well demand,
402
And justify full well your noblest zeal.
403
Religion, Policy, your Country's good,
404
And Christian Pity for the souls of men,
405
To Prisons call you; call to cleanse away
406
The filth of these foul dens; to purge from guilt,
407
And turn them to Morality's fair school.
408
Nor deem impossible the great attempt,
409
Augean tho' it seem: yet not beyond
410
The strength of those, that, like Alcides, aim
411
High to be rank'd amidst the godlike Few,
412
Who shine eternal on Fame's amplest roll:
413
Honour'd with Titles, far beyond the first
414
Which proudest Monarchs of the Globe can give:
415
"Saviours and Benefactors of Mankind!"
416
Hail generous Hanway! To thy noble plan,
417
Sage sympathetic,  [4]  let the Muse subscribe
418
Rejoicing! In the kind pursuit, good luck
419
She wisheth thee, and honour! Could her strain
420
Embellish aught, or aught assist thy toils
421
Benevolent, 'twould cheer her lonely hours,
422
And ma[k]e the dungeon smile. But toils like thine
423
Need no embellishment; need not the aid
424
Of Muse or feeble Verse. Reason-approv'd
425
And Charity-sustain'd, firm will they stand,
426
Under His sanction, who on Mercy's works
427
E'er looks complacent; and his sons on earth,
428
His chosen sons, with angel-zeal inspires
429
To plan, and to support. And thine, well-planned,
430
Shall be supported. Pity for thy brow,
431
With Policy the sage, shall shortly twine
432
The garland, worthier far than that of oak,
433
So fam'd in ancient Rome--the meed of him
434
Who sav'd a single citizen. More bless'd
435
Religion mild, with gentle Mercy join'd,
436
Shall hail thee--for the Citizens, the Souls
437
Innumerous restor'd to God, the State,
438
Themselves, and social life, by Solitude;
439
Devotion's parent, Recollection's nurse,
440
Source of Repentance true; of the Mind's wounds
441
The deepest prober, but the fastest cure!  [5] 
442
Hail, sacred Solitude! These are thy works,
443
True source of good supreme! Thy blest effects
444
Already on my Mind's delighted eye
445
Open beneficent. Ev'n now I view
446
The revel-rout dispers'd; each to his cell
447
Admitted, silent! The obstreperous cries,
448
Worse than infernal yells; the clank of chains--
449
Opprobrious chains, to Man severe disgrace,
450
Hush'd in calm order, vex the ears no more!
451
While, in their stead, Reflection's deep-drawn sighs,
452
And prayers of humble penitence are heard,
453
To Heaven well-pleasing, in soft whispers round!
454
No more, 'midst wanton idleness, the hours
455
Drag wearisome and slow: Kind Industry
456
Gives wings and weight to every moment's speed;
457
Each minute marking with a golden thread
458
Of moral profit. Harden'd Vice no more
459
Communicates its poison to the souls
460
Of young associates, nor diffuses wide
461
A pestilential taint. Still Thought pervades
462
The inmost heart: Instruction aids the Thought;
463
And blest Religion with life-giving ray
464
Shines on the mind sequester'd in its gloom;
465
Disclosing glad the golden gates, thro' which
466
Repentance, led by Faith, may tread the courts
467
Of Peace and Reformation! Cheer'd and chang'd,
468
--His happy days of quarantine perform'd--
469
Lo! from his solitude the Captive comes
470
New-born, and opes once more his grateful eyes
471
On day, on life, on man! a fellow man!
472
Hail, sacred Solitude! From thee alone
473
Flow these high blessings. Nor be't deem'd severe,--
474
Such sequestration; destin'd to retrieve
475
The mental lapse; and to its powers restore
476
The Heaven-born Soul, encrusted with foul guilt:
477
'Tis tenderest Mercy, 'tis Humanity
478
Yearning with kindliest softness: while her arm
479
From ruin plucks, effectuates the release,
480
And gives a ranson'd Man to Earth--to Heaven!
481
To the sick Patient, struggling in the jaws
482
Of obstinate Disease, e'er knew we yet
483
Grateful and pleasing from Physician's hand
484
The rough, but salutary Draught?--For That
485
Do we withhold the Draught? and, falsely kind,
486
Hang sighing o'er our Friend,--allow'd to toss
487
On the hot Fever's bed, rave on, and die,
488
Unmedicined, unreliev'd? But, Sages, say,
489
Where is the Medicine! Who will prescribe a cure,
490
Or adequate to this corroding ill,
491
Or in its operation milder found?
492
See, on old Thame's waves indignant ride,
493
In sullen terror, yonder sable Bark,
494
By State-Physicians lately launch'd, and hight
495
Justitia!  [6]  Dove-eyed Pity, if thou canst,
496
That Bark ascend with me; and let us learn
497
How, temper'd with her Sister Mercy, there
498
Reigns Justice; and, effective to the ill
499
Inveterate grown, her lenient aid supplies.
500
And rolls this Bark on Thames's generous Flood--
501
Flood that wafts Freedom, wafts the high-born Sons
502
Of gallant Liberty to every Land?
503
See the chain'd Britons, fetter'd Man by Man!
504
See, in the stifled Hold--excluded whence
505
Man's common blessing, Air, ne'er freely breathes--
506
They mingle, crowded!--To our pamper'd steeds
507
Inferior how in Lodging! Tainted food
508
And poison'd fumes their life-springs stagnate rank;
509
They reel aloft for breath: Their tottering limbs
510
Bend weak beneath the burden of a frame
511
Corrupted, burning; with blue feverous spots
512
Contagious; and, unequal to the toil,
513
Urg'd by Task-masters vehement, severe,
514
On the chill Sand-bank!--by despair and pain
515
Worn down and wearied, Some their Being curse,
516
And die, devoting to destruction's rage
517
Society's whole race detested! Some,
518
More mild, gasp out in agonies of soul
519
Their loath'd existence; which nor Physick's aid,
520
Nor sweet Religion's interposing smile,
521
Soothes with one ray of Comfort! Gracious God!
522
And this is Mercy!--Thus, from sentenc'd death
523
Britons in pity respite, to restore
524
And moralize Mankind! Correction this,
525
Just Heaven! design'd for Reformation's end!
526
Ye Slaves, that bred in Tyranny's Domains
527
Toil at the Gallies, how supremely blest,
528
How exquisite your Lot (so much deplor'd
529
By haughty Sons of Freedom) to the fate
530
Experienc'd hourly by her free-born Sons,
531
In our Britannia's vaunted residence;  [7] 
532
Sole, chosen Residence of Faith refin'd,
533
And genuine Liberty! Ye Senators,
534
Ye venerable Sages of the Law,
535
In just resentment for your Country's fame,
536
Wipe off this contradictory reproach
537
To manners, and to policy like yours!
538
Correct, but to amend: 'Tis God's own plan.
539
Correct, but to reform; then give to Men
540
The means of Reformation! Then, restor'd
541
To Recollection, to Himself, to God,
542
The Criminal will bless your saving hand;
543
And, brought to Reason, to Religion brought,
544
Will own that Solitude, as solely apt
545
For work so solemn, has that work achiev'd,
546
Miraculous, and perfect of his cure.
547
Ah me!--to sentiments like these estrang'd,
548
Estrang'd, as ignorant,--and never pent
549
Till this sad chance within a Prison's wall;
550
With what deep force, experienc'd, can I urge
551
The truths momentous! How their power I feel
552
In this My Solitude, in this lone hour,
553
This melancholy midnight hour of thought,
554
Encircled with th' unhappy! firmly clos'd
555
Each barricaded door; and left, just God!
556
Oh Blessing--left to pensiveness and Thee!
557
To Me how high a Blessing! Nor contains
558
Seclusion aught of punishment: To mix
559
With Wretches here were punishment indeed!
560
How dread a punishment!--In Life's best days,
561
Of all most chosen, valued and belov'd,
562
Was soft Retirement's season! From Youth's dawn
563
To solitude inur'd, "Ne'er less alone
564
"Than when alone," with Him so truly fam'd
565
In Wisdom's School, my Heart could ever beat
566
Glad unison. To Meditation's charms,
567
Pleas'd Votary, how have pass'd my sweetest Hours
568
In her secrete and calm society!
569
Still Meditation! Solitude's fair Child,
570
Man's dearest Friend!--O happy be the time
571
That introduc'd me to the hallow'd Train;
572
That taught me, thro' thy genial Lessons sage,
573
My best, my truest Dignity to place
574
In Thought, Reflection deep, and studious Search,
575
Divinest Recreations of the Mind!
576
Oh, happy be the Day, which gave that Mind
577
Learning's first tincture! Blest thy fostering care,
578
Thou most belov'd of Parents, worthiest Sire!
579
Which, taste-inspiring, made the letter'd Page
580
My favourite companion: most esteem'd,
581
And most improving! Almost from the Day
582
Of earliest Childhood to the present Hour
583
Of gloomy, black misfortune, Books, dear Books,
584
Have been, and are, my comforts. Morn and Night,
585
Adversity, Prosperity, at Home,
586
Abroad, Health, Sickness,--good or ill Report,
587
The same firm Friends; the same refreshment rich,
588
And source of consolation! Nay, ev'n here
589
Their magic power they lose not: Still the same,
590
Of matchless influence in this Prison-house,
591
Unutterably horrid; in an Hour
592
Of Woe, beyond all Fancy's fictions drear!
593
Drear Hour!--What is it?--Lost in poignant thought,
594
Lost in the Retrospection manifold
595
Of thee, lov'd Study!--and of thee, my Sire,
596
Who, to the fountain fair of Science led
597
My infant feet,--I lose all count of Time,
598
I lose myself. List! 'Tis dread Midnight's hour!
599
When waking Fancy (with invention wild
600
By Ages hallow'd) hath to Spirits assign'd
601
--Spirits of dear departed Friends--to walk
602
The silent gloom; and bring us from the Dead
603
Tales harrowing up the Soul aghast!--And, hark!
604
Solemn and slow the iron tongue of Night
605
Resounds alarming!--My o'er-harass'd Soul,
606
Confus'd, is lost in sorrows: Down mine Eyes
607
Stream the full Tears,! Distress is all alive,
608
And quick Imagination's pulse beats high!
609
"Dear Father! is it thou?" Methought his ghost
610
Glided in silence by me! Not a word,--
611
While mournfully he shakes his dear pale face!
612
O stay, thou much lov'd parent! stay, and give
613
One word of consolation; if allow'd
614
To Son, like whom so Son hath ever lov'd,
615
None ever suffer'd! See, it comes again:
616
August it flits across th' astonish'd room!
617
I know thee well, thy beauteous image know:
618
Dear Spirit! stay; and take me to the world
619
Where thou art! And where thou art, oh my Father!
620
I must, I must be happy.--Every day
621
Thou know'st, remembrance hath embalm'd thy love,
622
And wish'd thy presence. Melancholy thought!
623
At last to meet thee in a place like this:
624
Oh stay, and waft me instant--But, 'tis gone,
625
The dear delusion! He nor hears my words,
626
My filial anxiety, nor regards
627
My pleading tears. 'Twas but a coinage vain
628
Of the distemper'd fancy! Gone, 'tis gone!
629
And here I'm left a trembling wretch, to weep
630
Unheard, unpitied left, to weep alone!
631
Nor thou, Maria, with me! Oh, my Wife!
632
And is this bitter with the bitterest mix'd;
633
That I must lose thy heavenly company,
634
And consolation soothing! Yet, 'tis best:
635
Thy tenderness, thy presence, doth but wound
636
And stab to the keenest quick my bursting heart!
637
"I have undone thee!" Can I then sustain
638
Thy killing aspect, and that tender tear,
639
Which secret steals a-down thy lovely face,
640
Dissembling smiles, to cheer me!--Cheer me, Heavens!
641
Look on the mighty ruin I have pluck'd,
642
Pluck'd instant, unsuspected, in the hour
643
Of Peace and dear Security on her head!
644
And where--O where can Cheefulness be found?
645
Mine must be Mourning ever. Oh my Wife,
646
"I have undone thee!"--What th' infuriate hand
647
Of foes vindictive could not have achiev'd,
648
In mercy would not, I have wrought! Thy Husband!
649
Thy Husband, lov'd with such unshaken truth,
650
Thy Husband, lov'd with such a steady flame,
651
From Youth's first hour!--Ev'n He hath on thee pluck'd,
652
On thee, his Soul's Companion, Life's best Friend,
653
Such desolation, as to view would draw
654
From the wild Savage Pity's deepest groan!
655
Yes, yes, thou coward Mimic! pamper'd Vice!
656
High praise be sure is thine! Thou hast obtain'd
657
A worthy triumph!  [8]  Thou hast pierc'd to the quick
658
A weak, an amiable female heart,
659
A conjugal heart most faithful, most attach'd:
660
--Yet can I pardon thee: for, poor Buffoon!
661
Thy vices must be fed; and thou must live,
662
Luxurious live, a foe to God and Man;
663
Commission'd live, thy poison to diffuse,
664
And taint the Public Virtue with thy Crimes.
665
Yes, I can pardon thee--low as thou art,
666
And far too mean an object ev'n of scorn:
667
For thou her merits knew'st not. Hadst thou known,
668
Thou,--callous as thou art to every sense
669
Of human feeling, every nobler touch
670
Of generous sensibility:--even thou
671
Could'st not have wanton pierc'd her gentle breast;
672
But at a distance awful wouldst have stood,
673
And, like thy Prototype of oldest time,
674
View'd her just virtues pass in triumph by,
675
And own'd, howe'er reluctant-----
676

1.         March 30, 1777


2.        END of the THIRD WEEK

Notes

(see also Works Cited)

[1] Frederick Bull, Esq. Alderman of London; to whose kindness and humanity the Author has expressed the highest obligations. BACK

[2] It is but a just tribute to Mr. Akerman, the Keeper of this dismal place, to observe, that all the evils here enumerated are the immediate consequences of promiscuous confinement, and no way chargeable to Mr. A's account. It is from the strictest observation, I am persuaded, that no man could do more in the present circumstances. His attention is great, and his kindness and humanity to those in sickness or affliction peculiarly pleasing. I can bear testimony to many signal instances, which I have remarked since my sad confinement. BACK

[3] This circumstance is slightly mentioned Page [31]; and alludes to a fact equally singular and disgustful. The rattling of their fetters is frequently, and in a wanton manner, practised amongst some of the worst offenders; as if an amusement, or to shew their insensibility to shame. How shocking to see Human Nature thus in Ruins! Here it is emphatically so, worse than in Bedlam, as Madness with Reason is more dreadful than without it! BACK

[4] See Mr. Hanway's pamphlet, entitled, "Solitude in Imprisonment." BACK

[5] Vide Taylor's Holy Living and Dying, Part ii, p. 42. BACK

[6] The Author seems chiefly to have formed his ideas of the mode of treating Convicts on the Thames from a late Pamphlet published by Dr. Smith: But we are informed that the evils here complained of have been already, in a great measure, and we trust will soon be wholly, removed. BACK

[7] There is a thought in Lucan to the same purpose elegantly expressed:

"Felices Arabes, Medique, Eoaque Tellus,
"Quam sub perpetuis tenuerunt Fata tyrannis.
"Ex populis, qui Regna ferunt, Sors ultima nostra est,
"Quos servire pudet."
Pharsal. Lib. 7. BACK

[8] Alluding to the character of Mrs. Simony, introduced by Mr. Foote in his play of The Cozeners. BACK

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