I stood upon a desolate moor, and the pitiless rain lashed me, and the fierce wind buffeted me; and, out of the gloom where frowning earth and heaven met—there rose a long-drawn cry:
I started up in bed, broad awake, and listening; yet the tumult was all about me still—the hiss and beat of rain, and the sound of a rushing, mighty wind—a wind that seemed to fill the earth—a wind that screamed about me, that howled above me, and filled the woods, near and far, with a deep booming, pierced, now and then, by the splintering crash of snapping bough or falling tree. And yet, somewhere in this frightful pandemonium of sound, blended in with it, yet not of it, it seemed to me that the cry still faintly echoed:
So appalling was all this to my newly-awakened senses, that I remained, for a time, staring into the darkness as one dazed. Presently, however, I rose, and, donning some clothes, mended the fire which still smouldered upon the hearth, and, having filled and lighted my pipe, sat down to listen to the awful voices of the storm.
What brain could conceive—what pen describe that elemental chorus, like the mighty voice of persecuted Humanity, past and present, crying the woes and ills, the sorrows and torments, endured of all the ages? To-night, surely, the souls of the unnumbered dead rode within the storm, and this was the voice of their lamentation.
From the red mire of battlefields are they come, from the flame and ravishment of fair cities, from dim and reeking dungeons, from the rack, the stake, and the gibbet, to pierce the heavens once more with the voice of their agony.
Since the world was made, how many have lived and suffered, and died, unlettered and unsung—snatched by a tyrant’s whim from life to death, in the glory of the sun, in the gloom of night, in blood and flame, and torment? Indeed, their name is “Legion.”
But there is a great and awful Book, whose leaves are countless, yet every leaf of which is smirched with blood and fouled with nameless sins, a record, howsoever brief and inadequate, of human suffering, wherein as “through a glass, darkly,” we may behold horrors unimagined; where Murder stalks, and rampant Lust; where Treachery creeps with curving back, smiling mouth, and sudden, deadly hand; where Tyranny, fierce-eyed, and iron-lipped, grinds the nations beneath a bloody heel. Truly, man hath no enemy like man. And Christ is there, and Socrates, and Savonarola—and there, too, is a cross of agony, a bowl of hemlock, and a consuming fire.
Oh, noble martyrs! by whose blood and agony the world is become a purer and better place for us, and those who shall come after us —Oh glorious, innumerable host! thy poor, maimed bodies were dust ages since, but thy souls live on in paradise, and thy memory abides, and shall abide in the earth, forever.