Away! The sulphur-coloured stars are hurrying through the Western gate! Away! Or it may be too late to climb their silent silver cars!
See, the dawn shivers round the grey gilt-dialled towers, and the rain Streams down each diamonded pane and blurs with tears the wannish day.
What snake-tressed fury fresh from Hell, with uncouth gestures and unclean, Stole from the poppy-drowsy queen and led you to a student’s cell?
What songless tongueless ghost of sin crept through the curtains of the night, And saw my taper burning bright, and knocked, and bade you enter in?
Are there not others more accursed, whiter with leprosies than I? Are Abana and Pharphar dry that you come here to slake your thirst?
Get hence, you loathsome mystery! Hideous animal, get hence! You wake in me each bestial sense, you make me what I would not be.
You make my creed a barren sham, you wake foul dreams of sensual life, And Atys with his blood-stained knife were better than the thing I am.
False Sphinx! False Sphinx! By reedy Styx old Charon, leaning on his oar, Waits for my coin. Go thou before, and leave me to my crucifix,
Whose pallid burden, sick with pain, watches the world with wearied eyes, And weeps for every soul that dies, and weeps for every soul in vain.
Poem: The Ballad Of Reading Gaol
C. T. W.
Sometime trooper of the Royal Horse Guards
obiit H.M. prison, Reading, Berkshire
July 7, 1896)
He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.
He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
‘That fellow’s got to swing.’
Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.
I only knew what hunted thought
Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!