Cruelty and Lust.
An Epistolary Essay. *
* This Piece was occasion'd by the Barbarity of Kirke, a Commander in the Western Rebellion, 1685. who Debauched a young Lady, with a promise to save her Husband's Life, but hang'd him the next Morning.
1 Where can the wretched'st of all Creatures fly
2 To tell the Story of her Misery?
3 Where, but to faithful Celia, in whose Mind
4 A manly Brav'ry's with soft pity join'd.
5 I fear these Lines will scarce be understood,
6 Blurr'd with incessant Tears, and writ in Blood:
7 But if you can the mournful Pages read,
8 The sad Relation shows you such a Deed,
9 As all the Annals of th' Infernal Reign
10 Shall strive to equal, or exceed, in vain. [Page 68]
11 Neronior's Fame, no doubt, has reach'd your Ears,
12 Whose Cruelty has caus'd a Sea of Tears:
13 Fill'd each lamenting Town with Fun'ral Sighs,
14 Deploring Widows Shrieks, and Orphans Cries.
15 At ev'ry Health the horrid Monster quaff'd,
16 Ten Wretches died, and as they died, he laugh'd:
17 Till, tir'd with acting Devil, he was led,
18 Drunk with excess of Blood, and Wine, to Bed,
19 Oh cursed Place! — I can no more command
20 My Pen, Shame and Confusion shake my Hand:
21 But I must on, and let my Celia know,
22 How barb'rous are my Wrongs, how vast my Woe.
23 Amongst those Crouds of Western Youth, who ran
24 To meet the brave, betray'd, unhappy Man,*
* The Duke of Monmouth.
25 My Husband, fatally uniting, went;
26 Unus'd to Arms, and thoughtless of th'Event.
27 But when the Battle was by Treach'ry won,
28 The Chief, and all, but his false Friend, undone:
29 Tho' in the Tumult of that desp'rate Night,
30 He 'scap'd the dreadful Slaughter of the Flight,
31 Yet the sagacious Blood-hounds, skill'd too well
32 In all the murd'ring Qualities of Hell,
33 Each secret Place so regularly beat,
34 They soon discover'd his unsafe Retreat.
35 As hungry Wolves, triumphing o'er their Prey,
36 To sure Destruction hurry them away. [Page 69]
37 So the Purveyors of fierce Moloc's Son,
38 With Charon to the common Butch'ry run;
39 Where proud Neronior by his Gibbet stood
40 To glut himself with fresh supplies of Blood.
41 Our Friends, by pow'rful Intercession, gaind
42 A short Reprieve, but for three Days obtain'd,
43 To try all ways might to Compassion move
44 The Savage General, but in vain they strove.
45 When I perceiv'd that all Addresses fail'd,
46 And nothing o'er his stubborn Soul prevail'd,
47 Distracted almost, to his Tent I flew,
48 To make the last Effort what Tears could do.
49 Low on my Knees I fell, then thus began:
50 Great Genius of Success, thou more than Man!
51 Whose Arms to ev'ry Clime have Terrour hurl'd,
52 And carried Conquest round the trembling World.
53 Stil may the brightest Glories Fame can lend,
54 Your Sword, your Conduct, and your Cause attend.
55 Here now, the Arbiter of Fate you sit,
56 While suppliant Slaves their Rebel Heads submit.
57 Oh pity the unfortunate, and give
58 But this one thing? Oh let but Charion Live.
59 And take the little all, that we possess:
60 I'll bear the meager anguish of Distress;
61 Content, nay pleas'd to beg, or earn my Bread,
62 Let Charion live, no matter how I'm fed.
63 The fall of such a Youth no lustre brings,
64 To him whose Sword performs such wond'rous things,
65 As saving Kingdoms, and supporting Kings. [Page 70]
66 That Triumph only with true Grandeur shines,
67 Where God-like Courage, God-like Pity joins.
68 Caesar, the eldest Favorite of War,
69 Took not more Pleasure to subdue, than spare:
70 And since in Battle you can greater be,
71 That over, be'nt less merciful than he.
72 Ignoble Spirits by Revenge, are known,
73 And cruel Actions spoil the Conqu'ror's Crown:
74 In future Hist'ries fill each mournful Page
75 With Tales of Blood, and Monuments of Rage:
76 And while his Annals are with Horror read,
77 Men curse him living, and detest him dead.
78 Oh, do not sully with a sanguine Dye,
79 The foulest Stain, so fair a Memory!
80 Then as you'll live the Glory of our Isle,
81 And Fate on all your Expeditions smile;
82 So when a noble Course, you've bravely ran,
83 Die the best Soldier, and the happiest Man.
84 None can the Turns of Providence foresee,
85 Or what their own Catastrophe may be;
86 Therefore to Persons lab'ring under Woe,
87 That Mercy they may want, should always show,
88 For in the Chance of War, the slightest thing
89 May lose the Battle, or the Vict'ry bring.
90 And how would you that General's Honour prize,
91 Should in cool Blood his Captive Sacrifice?
92 He that with Rebel Arms to fight is led,
93 To Justice forfeits his opprobrious Head:[Page 71]
94 But 'tis unhappy Charion's first Offence,
95 Seduc'd by some too plausible Pretence,
96 To take the inj'ring side by error brought;
97 He had no Malice, tho' he has the Fault.
98 Let the old Tempters find a shameful Grave,
99 But the half-innocent, the Tempted, save.
100 Vengeance Divine, tho' for the greatest Crime,
101 But rarely strikes the first or second time:
102 And he best follows the Almighty's Will,
103 Who spares the guilty, he has Pow'r to kill.
104 When proud Rebellions would unhinge a State,
105 And wild Disorders in a Land create,
106 'Tis requisite, the first Promoters shou'd
107 Put out the Flames, they kindled, with their Blood:
108 But sure 'tis a degree of Murder, all
109 That draw their Swords, should undistinguish'd fall:
110 And since a Mercy must to some be shown,
111 Let Charion 'mongst the happy few be One:
112 For as none guilty has less Guilt than he,
113 So none for Pardon has a fairer Plea.
114 When David's General had won the Field,
115 And Absalom, the lov'd ungrateful, kill'd,
116 The Trumpets sounding made all Slaughter cease,
117 And mis-led Israelites return'd in Peace.
118 The Action past, where so much Blood was spilt,
119 We hear of none arraign'd for that Day's Guilt:
120 But all concludes with the desir'd Event,
121 The Monarch Pardons, and the Jews Repent. [Page 72]
122 As great Examples your high Courage warms,
123 And to illustrious Deeds excites your Arms:
124 So when you Instances of Mercy view,
125 They should inspire you with Compassion too:
126 For he that emulates the truly Brave,
127 Would always conquer, and should always save.
128 Here interrupting, stern Neronior cry'd,
129 (Swell'd with Success, and blubber'd up with Pride)
130 Madam, his Life depends upon my Will,
131 For ev'ry Rebel, I can spare, or kill:
132 I'll think of what you've said, this Night return
133 At Ten, perhaps you'll have no cause to mourn.
134 Go see your Husband, bid him not despair;
135 His Crime is great, but you are wond'rous Fair.
136 When anxious Miseries the Soul amaze,
137 And dire Confusion in our Spirits raise;
138 Upon the least appearance of Relief
139 Our Hopes revive, and mitigate our Grief.
140 Impatience makes our Wishes earnest grow,
141 Which thro' false Opticks our Deliv'rance show.
142 For while we fancy Danger does appear
143 Most at a distance, it is oft too near:
144 And many times secure from obvious Foes,
145 We fall into an Ambuscade of Woes.
146 Pleas'd with the false Neronior's dark Reply,
147 I thought the end of all my Sorrows nigh;[Page 73]
148 And to the Main-guard hasten'd, where the prey
149 Of this Blood-thirsty Fiend in durance lay.
150 When Charion saw me, from his turffy Bed
151 With Eagerness he rais'd his drooping Head.
152 Oh, fly my Dear, this guilty place, he cry'd,
153 And in some distant Clime thy Virtue hide!
154 Here nothing but the foulest Dæmons dwell,
155 The Refuse of the Damn'd, and Mob of Hell:
156 The Air they breath, is ev'ry Atom curst,
157 There's no Degrees of Ill, for all are worst.
158 In Rapes and Murders, they alone delight,
159 And Villanies of less Importance slight:
160 Act 'em indeed, but scorn they should be nam'd,
161 For all their Glory's to be more than damn'd;
162 Neronior's Chief of this infernal Crew,
163 And seems to merit that high Station too.
164 Nothing but Rage, and Lust inspire his Breast,
165 By Asmodai, and Moloc both possest.
166 When told you went to intercede for me,
167 It threw my Soul into an Agony.
168 Not that I would not for my Freedom give
169 What's requisite, or do not wish to live:
170 But for my Safety I can ne'er be base,
171 Or buy a few short Years with long Disgrace
172 Nor would I have your yet unspotted Fame
173 For me expos'd to an eternal Shame.
174 With Ignominy to preserve my Breath,
175 Is worse, by infinite Degrees, than Death.
176 But if I can't my Life with Honour save,
177 With Honour I'll descend into the Grave,[Page 74]
178 For tho' Revenge and Malice both combine,
179 (As both to fix my Ruin seem to join)
180 Yet maugre all their Violence and Skill,
181 I can die just, and I'm resolv'd I will.
182 But what is Death, we so unwisely fear?
183 An end of all our busy Tumults here:
184 The equal Lot of Poverty and State,
185 Which all partake of by a certain Fate.
186 Who e'er the Prospect of Mankind surveys,
187 At divers Ages, and by divers Ways,
188 Will find 'em from this noisy Scene retire,
189 Some the first Minute that they breath, expire.
190 Others perhaps survive to talk, and go,
191 But die, before they Good or Evil know.
192 Here one to Puberty arrives, and then
193 Returns lamented to the Dust again:
194 Another there, maintains a longer Strife
195 With all the pow'rful Enemies of Life;
196 Till with Vexation tir'd, and threescore Years,
197 He drops into the dark, and disappears.
198 I'm young indeed, and might expect to see
199 Times future long, and late Posterity.
200 'Tis what with Reason I should wish to do,
201 If to be old, were to be happy too.
202 But since substantial Grief so soon destroys
203 The Gust of all imaginary Joys,
204 Who would be too importunate to live,
205 Or more for Life, than it can merit, give. [Page 75]
206 Beyond the Grave stupendous Regions lie,
207 The boundless Realms of vast Eternity;
208 Where Minds, remov'd from earthly Bodies dwell;
209 But who their Government, or Laws can tell?
210 What's their Employment till the final Doom,
211 And Time's eternal Period shall come?
212 Thus much the sacred Oracles declare,
213 That all are blest, or miserable there:
214 Tho' if there's such Variety of Fate,
215 None good expire too soon, none bad too late.
216 For my own part, with Resignation still
217 I can submit to my Creator's Will:
218 Let him recal the Breath, from him I drew,
219 When he thinks fit, and when he pleases too.
220 The way of dying is my least Concern,
221 That will give no Disturbance to my Urn:
222 If to the Seats of Happiness I go,
223 There end all possible Returns of Woe:
224 And when to those blest Mansions I arrive,
225 With pity I'll behold those that survive.
226 Once more I beg, you'd from these Tents retreat,
227 And leave me to my Innocence, and Fate.
228 Charion, said I, oh, do not urge my flight!
229 I'll see the Event of this important Night:
230 Some strange Presages in my Soul forebode
231 The worst of Mis'ries, or the greatest Good.
232 Few Hours will show the utmost of my Doom,
233 A joyful Safety, or a peaceful Tomb. [Page 76]
234 If you miscarry, I'm resolv'd to try,
235 If gracious Heaven will suffer me to die.
236 For when you are to endless Raptures gone,
237 If I survive, 'tis but to be undone.
238 Who will support an injur'd Widow's Right,
239 From sly Injustice, or oppressive Might?
240 Protect her Person, or her Cause defend?
241 She rarely wants a Foe, or finds a Friend,
242 I've no distrust of Providence, but still
243 Tis best to go beyond the reach of Ill:
244 And those can have no reason to repent,
245 Who tho' they die betimes, die innocent.
246 But to a World of everlasting Bliss
247 Why would you go, and leave me here in this?
248 'Tis a dark Passage, but our Foes shall view,
249 I'll die as calm, tho' not so brave as you:
250 That my Behaviour to the last may prove,
251 Your Courage is not greater than my Love.
252 The Hour approach'd, as to Neronior's Tent
253 With trembling, but impatient Steps I went,
254 A Thousand Horrors throng'd into my Breast,
255 By sad Ideas, and strong Fears possest.
256 Where-e'er I pass'd, the glaring Lights would show
257 Fresh Objects of Despair, and Scenes of Woe.
258 Here, in a Crowd of drunken Soldiers, stood
259 A wretched, poor old Man, besmear'd with Blood,
260 And at his Feet, just thro' the Body run,
261 Strugling for Life, was laid his only Son;[Page 77]
262 By whose hard Labour he was daily fed,
263 Dividing still with pious Care, his Bread.
264 And while he mourn'd with Floods of aged Tears,
265 The sole Support of his decripid Years,
266 The barb'rous Mob, whose Rage no limit knows,
267 With blasphemous Derision mock'd his Woes.
268 There, under a wide Oak, disconsolate,
269 And drown'd in Tears, a mournful Widow sat.
270 High in the Boughs the murder'd Father hung;
271 Beneath, the Children round their Mother clung;
272 They cry'd for Food, but 'twas without Relief;
273 For all they had to live upon, was Grief:
274 A Sorrow so intense, such deep Despair,
275 No Creature meerly Human, long cou'd bear.
276 First in her Arms her weeping Babes she took,
277 And with a Groan, did to her Husband look!
278 Then lean'd her Head on their's, and sighing cry'd,
279 Pity me Saviour of the World! and dy'd.
280 From this sad Spectacle my Eyes I turn'd;
281 Where Sons their Fathers, Maids their Lovers mourn'd;
282 Friends for their Friends, Sisters for Brothers wept;
283 Pris'ners of War in Chains, for Slaughter kept.
284 Each ev'ry Hour did the black Message dread,
285 Which should declare, the Person lov'd was dead.
286 Then I beheld, with brutal Shouts of Mirth,
287 A comely Youth, and of no common Birth,
288 To Execution led, who hardly bore
289 The Wounds in Battle, he receiv'd before;[Page 78]
290 And as he pass'd, I heard him bravely cry,
291 I neither wish to live, nor fear to die.
292 At the curst Tent arriv'd, without delay
293 They did me to the General convey;
294 Who thus began —
295 Madam! by fresh Intelligence I find,
296 That Charion's Treason's of the blackest kind;
297 And my Commission is express to spare
298 None that so deeply in Rebellion are.
299 New Measures therefore 'tis in vain to try,
300 No Pardon can be granted, he must Die.
301 Must, or I hazard all, which yet I'd do,
302 To be oblig'd in one Request by you,
303 And maugre all the Dangers I foresee:
304 Be Mine this Night, I'll set your Husband free
305 Soldiers are rough, and cannot hope success
306 By supple Flattery, and by soft Address;
307 The pert, gay Coxcomb by these little Arts,
308 Gains an Ascendant o'er the Ladies Hearts,
309 But I can no such whining methods use;
310 Consent, he Lives; he Dies, if you refuse.
311 Amaz'd at this demand, said I, the brave,
312 Upon ignoble Terms, disdain to save;
313 They let their Captives still with Honour live;
314 Nor more require, than what themselves would give:
315 For gen'rous Victors, as they scorn to do
316 Dishonest Things, scorn to propose 'em too. [Page 79]
317 Mercy, the brightest Virtue of the Mind,
318 Should with no devious Appetite be join'd:
319 For if when exercis'd, a Crime it cost,
320 Th' intrinsick Lustre of the Deed is lost.
321 Great Men their Actions of a piece should have,
322 Heroick all, and each intirely Brave:
323 From the nice Rules of Honour none should swerve;
324 Done because good, without a mean reserve.
325 The Crimes, new charg'd on the unhappy Youth
326 May have Revenge, and Malice, but no Truth.
327 Suppose the Accusation justly brought,
328 And clearly prov'd to the minutest fault,
329 Yet Mercy's next, to infinite abate,
330 Offences next, to infinitely Great:
331 And 'tis the Glory of a noble Mind,
332 In full Forgiveness not to be confin'd,
333 Your Prince's Frowns, if you have cause to fear,
334 This Act will more Illustrious appear;
335 Tho' his excuse can never be withstood,
336 Who disobeys, but only to be good.
337 Perhaps the hazard's more than you express;
338 The Glory would be, were the danger less.
339 For he, that to his prejudice will do
340 A noble Action, and a gen'rous too,
341 Deserves to wear a more resplendent Crown,
342 Than he, that has a thousand Battles won.
343 Do not invert Divine Compassion so,
344 As to be Cruel, or no Mercy show! [Page 80]
345 Of what Renown can such an Action be,
346 Which Saves my Husband's Life, but Ruins me?
347 Tho' if you finally resolve to stand
348 Upon so vile, inglorious a Demand,
349 He must submit; if 'tis my Fate to mourn
350 His Death, I'll bathe with virtuous Tears his Urn.
351 Well, Madam, haughtily, Neronior cry'd,
352 Your Courage and your Virtue shall be try'd:
353 But to prevent all prospect of a Flight,
354 Some of my Lambs*
* Kirke used to call the most Inhuman of his Soldiers, his Lambs. shall be your Guard to Night.
355 By them, no doubt, you'll tenderly be us'd,
356 They seldom ask a Favour that's refus'd:
357 Perhaps you'll find them so genteely bred,
358 They'll leave you but few virtuous Tears to shed.
359 Surrounded with so innocent a Throng,
360 The Night must pass delightfully along:
361 And in the Morning, since you will not give
362 What I require, to let your Husband live,
363 You shall behold him sigh his latest Breath,
364 And gently swing into the Arms of Death.
365 His Fate he merits, as to Rebels due,
366 And yours will be as much deserv'd by you.
367 Oh, Celia, think! so far as Thought can show,
368 What Pangs of Grief, what Agonies of Woe,[Page 81]
369 At this dire Resolution seiz'd my Breast!
370 By all things sad, and terrible possest.
371 In vain I wept, and 'twas in vain I pray'd,
372 For all my Pray'rs were to a Tyger made;
373 A Tyger! worse; for 'tis beyond dispute,
374 No Fiend's so cruel as a Reas'ning Brute,
375 Encompass'd thus, and hopeless of Relief,
376 With all the Squadrons of despair and Grief:
377 Ruin — it was not possible to shun,
378 What could I do, Oh! What would you have done?
379 The Hours that pass'd, till the black Morn return'd,
380 With Tears of Blood should be for ever mourn'd.
381 When to involve me with consummate Grief,
382 Beyond Expression, and above Belief,
383 Madam, the Monster cry'd, that you may find
384 I can be grateful to the Fair that's kind,
385 Step to the Door, I'll show you such a Sight,
386 Shall overwhelm your Spirits with Delight.
387 Does not that Wretch, who would Dethrone his King.
388 Become the Gibbet, and adorn the String?
389 You need not now an injur'd Husband dread,
390 Living he might, he'll not upbraid you Dead.
391 'Twas for your sake, I seiz'd upon his Life,
392 He would perhaps have scorn'd so Chast a Wife.
393 And, Madam, you'll excuse the Zeal I show,
394 To keep that Secret none alive should know.
395 Curst of all Creatures, for compar'd with thee,
396 The Devils, said I, are dull in Cruelty. [Page 82]
397 O may that Tongue eternal Vipers breed,
398 And, wasteless, their eternal Hunger feed,
399 In Fires too hot for Salamanders dwell,
400 The burning Earnest of a hotter Hell.
401 May that vile Lump of execrable Lust
402 Corrupt alive, and rot into the Dust.
403 May'st thou despairing at the Point of Death,
404 With Oaths and Blasphemies resign thy Breath;
405 And the worst Torments that the Damn'd should share,
406 In thine own Person all united bear.
407 O Celia, O my Friend! what Age can show
408 Sorrows like mine, so exquisite a Woe?
409 Indeed it does not infinite appear,
410 Because it can't be everlasting here;
411 But 'tis so vast, that it can ne'er increase,
412 And so confirm'd, it never can be less.