He slept to dream of death, or worse than death;
For death were bliss, and the convulsive wrath
Of living torture peace, to the dread weight
That pressed upon sensation, while the light
Of reason gleamed but horror, and strange hosts
Of hideous phantasies, like threatening ghosts.
Grotesquely mingled, preyed upon his brain:
Then would he dream of yesterdays again,
Or view to-morrow’s terrors thick surround
His fancy with forebodings. While the sound
Of his own breath broke frightful on his ear,
He, bathed in icy sweat, would start in fear,
Trembling and pale; then did his glances seem
Sad as the sun’s last, conscious, farewell gleam
Upon the eve of judgment. Such appear
His days and nights whom hope has ceased to cheer
But grov’llers know it not. The supple slave
Whose worthiest record is a nameless grave,
Whose truckling spirit bends and bids him kneel,
And fawn and vilely kiss a patron’s heel—
Even he can cast the cursed suspicious eye,
Inquire the cause of this—the reason why?
And stab the sufferer. Then, the tenfold pain
To feel a gilded butterfly’s disdain!—
A kicking ass, without an ass’s sense,
Whose only virtue is, pounds, shillings, pence;
And now, while ills on ills beset him round,
The scorn of such the hopeless Edmund found.
But hope returned, and on the wanderer’s ear
Breathed its life-giving watchword, Persevere!
And torn by want, and struggling with despair,
These were his words, his fixed resolve and prayer,
“Hail perseverance, rectitude of heart,
Through life thy aid, thy conquering power impart;
Repulsed and broken, blasted, be thou ever
A portion of my spirit! Leave me never;
Firm, fixed in purpose, watchful, unsubdued,
Until my hand hath grasped the prize pursued.”
Now, list thee, love, again, and I will tell
Of other scenes, and changes which befell
The hero of our tale. A wanderer still,
Like a lost sheep upon a wintry hill—
Wild through his heart rush want and memory now,
Like whirlwinds meeting on a mountain’s brow;
Slow in his veins the thin blood coldly creeps;
He starts, he dreams, and as he walks, he sleeps!
He is a stranger—houseless, fainting, poor,
Without the shelter of one friendly door;
The cold wind whistles through his garments bare,
And shakes the night dew from his freezing hair.
You weep to hear his woes, and ask me why,
When sorrows gathered and no aid was nigh,
He sought not then the cottage of his birth,
The peace and comforts of his father’s hearth?
That also thou shalt hear. Scarce had he left