THE HALL OF JUSTICE.
IN TWO PARTS.[Page 281]
Confiteor facere hoc annos; sed et altera causa est, Anxietas animi, continuusque dolor.
MAGISTRATE, VAGRANT, CONSTABLE, &c.
1 Take, take away thy barbarous hand,
2 And let me to thy Master speak;
3 Remit awhile the harsh command,
4 And hear me, or my heart will break.
5 Fond wretch! and what canst thou relate,
6 But deeds of sorrow, shame, and sin?
7 Thy crime is proved, thou know'st thy fate;
8 But come, thy tale! — begin, begin! —[Page 282]
9 My crime! — This sick'ning child to feed,
10 I seized the food, your witness saw;
11 I knew your laws forbade the deed,
12 But yielded to a stronger law.
13 Know'st thou, to Nature's great command
14 All human laws are frail and weak?
15 Nay! frown not — stay his eager hand,
16 And hear me, or my heart will break.
17 In this, th' adopted babe I hold
18 With anxious fondness to my breast,
19 My heart's sole comfort I behold,
20 More dear than life, when life was blest;
21 I saw her pining, fainting, cold,
22 I begg'd — but vain was my request.
23 I saw the tempting food, and seized —
24 My infant-sufferer found relief;
25 And, in the pilfer'd treasure pleased,
26 Smiled on my guilt, and hush'd my grief.
27 But I have griefs of other kind,
28 Troubles and sorrows more severe;
29 Give me to ease my tortured mind,
30 Lend to my woes a patient ear;
31 And let me — if I may not find
32 A friend to help — find one to hear.
33 Yet nameless let me plead — my name
34 Would only wake the cry of scorn;
35 A child of sin, conceived in shame,
36 Brought forth in woe, to misery born.
37 My mother dead, my father lost,
38 I wander'd with a vagrant crew;
39 A common care, a common cost,
40 Their sorrows and their sins I knew;
41 With them, by want on error forced,
42 Like them, I base and guilty grew.
43 Few are my years, not so my crimes;
44 The age, which these sad looks declare,
45 Is Sorrow's work, it is not Time's,
46 And I am old in shame and care.
47 Taught to believe the world a place
48 Where every stranger was a foe,
49 Train'd in the arts that mark our race,
50 To what new people could I go?
51 Could I a better life embrace,
52 Or live as virtue dictates? No! —
53 So through the land I wandering went,
54 And little found of grief or joy;
55 But lost my bosom's sweet content
56 When first I loved — the Gipsy-Boy.
57 A sturdy youth he was and tall,
58 His looks would all his soul declare;
59 His piercing eyes were deep and small,
60 And strongly curl'd his raven-hair.
61 Yes, Aaron had each manly charm,
62 All in the May of youthful pride,
63 He scarcely fear'd his father's arm,
64 And every other arm defied. —
65 Oft, when they grew in anger warm,
66 (Whom will not love and power divide?)
67 I rose, their wrathful souls to calm,
68 Not yet in sinful combat tried.
69 His father was our party's chief,
70 And dark and dreadful was his look;
71 His presence fill'd my heart with grief,
72 Although to me he kindly spoke.
73 With Aaron I delighted went,
74 His favour was my bliss and pride;
75 In growing hope our days we spent,
76 Love growing charms in either spied,
77 It saw them, all which Nature lent,
78 It lent them, all which she denied.
79 Could I the father's kindness prize,
80 Or grateful looks on him bestow,
81 Whom I beheld in wrath arise,
82 When Aaron sunk beneath his blow?
83 He drove him down with wicked hand,
84 It was a dreadful sight to see;
85 Then vex'd him, till he left the land,
86 And told his cruel love to me; —
87 The clan were all at his command,
88 Whatever his command might be.
89 The night was dark, the lanes were deep,
90 And one by one they took their way;
91 He bade me lay me down and sleep,
92 I only wept and wish'd for day.
93 Accursed be the love he bore,
94 Accursed was the force he used,
95 So let him of his God implore
96 For mercy, and be so refused!
97 You frown again, — to show my wrong
98 Can I in gentle language speak?
99 My woes are deep, my words are strong, —
100 And hear me, or my heart will break.
101 I hear thy words, I feel thy pain;
102 Forbear awhile to speak thy woes;
103 Receive our aid, and then again
104 The story of thy life disclose.
105 For, though seduced and led astray,
106 Thou'st travell'd far and wander'd long;
107 Thy God hath seen thee all the way,
108 And all the turns that led thee wrong.
Quondam ridentes oculi, nunc fonte perenni Deplorant poenas nocte dieque suas.
Corn. Galli Eleg.
1 Come, now again thy woes impart,
2 Tell all thy sorrows, all thy sin;
3 We cannot heal the throbbing heart
4 Till we discern the wounds within.
5 Compunction weeps our guilt away,
6 The sinner's safety is his pain;
7 Such pangs for our offences pay,
8 And these severer griefs are gain.
9 The son came back — he found us wed,
10 Then dreadful was the oath he swore; —
11 His way through Blackburn Forest led, —
12 His father we beheld no more.
13 Of all our daring clan not one
14 Would on the doubtful subject dwell;
15 For all esteem'd the injured son,
16 And fear'd the tale which he could tell. [Page 287]
17 But I had mightier cause for fear,
18 For slow and mournful round my bed
19 I saw a dreadful form appear, —
20 It came when I and Aaron wed.
21 Yes! we were wed, I know my crime, —
22 We slept beneath the elmin tree;
23 But I was grieving all the time,
24 And Aaron frown'd my tears to see.
25 For he not yet had felt the pain
26 That rankles in a wounded breast;
27 He waked to sin, then slept again,
28 Forsook his God, yet took his rest. —
29 But I was forced to feign delight,
30 And joy in mirth and music sought, —
31 And mem'ry now recalls the night,
32 With such surprise and horror fraught,
33 That reason felt a moment's flight,
34 And left a mind to madness wrought.
35 When waking, on my heaving breast
36 I felt a hand as cold as death:
37 A sudden fear my voice suppress'd,
38 A chilling terror stopp'd my breath. —
39 I seem'd — no words can utter how!
40 For there my father-husband stood, —[Page 288]
41 And thus he said: — "Will God allow,
42 " The great Avenger just and Good,
43 "A wife to break her marriage vow?
44 " A son to shed his father's blood? "
45 I trembled at the dismal sounds,
46 But vainly strove a word to say;
47 So, pointing to his bleeding wounds,
48 The threat'ning spectre stalk'd away.
49 I brought a lovely daughter forth,
50 His father's child, in Aaron's bed;
51 He took her from me in his wrath,
52 "Where is my child?" — "Thy child is dead."
53 'T was false — we wander'd far and wide,
54 Through town and country, field and fen,
55 Till Aaron, fighting, fell and died,
56 And I became a wife again.
57 I then was young: — my husband sold
58 My fancied charms for wicked price,
59 He gave me oft for sinful gold,
60 The slave, but not the friend of vice: —
61 Behold me, Heaven! my pains behold,
62 And let them for my sins suffice!
63 The wretch who lent me thus for gain,
64 Despised me when my youth was fled;
65 Then came disease; and brought me pain: —
66 Come, Death, and bear me to the dead!
67 For though I grieve, my grief is vain,
68 And fruitless all the tears I shed.
69 True, I was not to virtue train'd,
70 Yet well I knew my deeds were ill;
71 By each offence my heart was pain'd,
72 I wept, but I offended still;
73 My better thoughts my life disdain'd,
74 But yet the viler led my will.
75 My husband died, and now no more
76 My smile was sought, or ask'd my hand,
77 A widow'd vagrant, vile and poor,
78 Beneath a vagrant's vile command.
79 Ceaseless I roved the country round,
80 To win my bread by fraudful arts,
81 And long a poor subsistence found,
82 By spreading nets for simple hearts.
83 Though poor, and abject, and despised,
84 Their fortunes to the crowd I told;
85 I gave the young the love they prized,
86 And promised wealth to bless the old;
87 Schemes for the doubtful I devised,
88 And charms for the forsaken sold.
89 At length for arts like these confined
90 In prison with a lawless crew,
91 I soon perceived a kindred mind,
92 And there my long-lost daughter knew;
93 His father's child, whom Aaron gave
94 To wander with a distant clan,
95 The miseries of the world to brave,
96 And be the slave of vice and man.
97 She knew my name — we met in pain,
98 Our parting pangs can I express?
99 She sail'd a convict o'er the main,
100 And left an heir to her distress.
101 This is that heir to shame and pain,
102 For whom I only could descry
103 A world of trouble and disdain:
104 Yet, could I bear to see her die,
105 Or stretch her feeble hands in vain,
106 And, weeping, beg of me supply?
107 No! though the fate thy mother knew
108 Was shameful! shameful though thy race
109 Have wander'd all a lawless crew,
110 Outcasts despised in every place;
111 Yet as the dark and muddy tide,
112 When far from its polluted source,
113 Becomes more pure and purified,
114 Flows in a clear and happy course;[Page 291]
115 In thee, dear infant! so may end
116 Our shame, in thee our sorrows cease!
117 And thy pure course will then extend,
118 In floods of joy, o'er vales of peace.
119 Oh! by the God who loves to spare,
120 Deny me not the boon I crave;
121 Let this loved child your mercy share,
122 And let me find a peaceful grave;
123 Make her yet spotless soul your care,
124 And let my sins their portion have;
125 Her for a better fate prepare,
126 And punish whom 'twere sin to save!
127 Recall the word, renounce the thought,
128 Command thy heart and bend thy knee.
129 There is to all a pardon brought,
130 A ransom rich, assured and free;
131 'T is full when found, 't is found if sought,
132 Oh! seek it, till 'tis seal'd to thee.
133 But how my pardon shall I know?
134 By feeling dread that 't is not sent,
135 By tears for sin that freely flow,
136 By grief, that all thy tears are spent,
137 By thoughts on that great debt we owe,
138 With all the mercy God has lent,
139 By suffering what thou canst not show,
140 Yet showing how thine heart is rent,
141 Till thou canst feel thy bosom glow,
142 And say, "My Saviour, I repent!"