Botany Bay Eclogues 05 - Frederic by Robert Southey
(Time Night. Scene the woods.)
Where shall I turn me? whither shall I bend My weary way? thus worn with toil and faint How thro' the thorny mazes of this wood Attain my distant dwelling? that deep cry That rings along the forest seems to sound My parting knell: it is the midnight howl Of hungry monsters prowling for their prey! Again! oh save me--save me gracious Heaven! I am not fit to die! Thou coward wretch Why heaves thy trembling heart? why shake thy limbs Beneath their palsied burden? is there ought So lovely in existence? would'st thou drain Even to its dregs the bitter draught of life? Dash down the loathly bowl! poor outcast slave Stamp'd with the brand of Vice and Infamy Why should the villain Frederic shrink from Death?
Death! where the magic in that empty name That chills my inmost heart? why at the thought Starts the cold dew of fear on every limb? There are no terrors to surround the Grave, When the calm Mind collected in itself Surveys that narrow house: the ghastly train That haunt the midnight of delirious Guilt Then vanish; in that home of endless rest All sorrows cease.--Would I might slumber there!
Why then this panting of the fearful heart? This miser love of Life that dreads to lose Its cherish'd torment? shall the diseased man Yield up his members to the surgeon's knife, Doubtful of succour, but to ease his frame Of fleshly anguish, and the coward wretch, Whose ulcered soul can know no human help Shrink from the best Physician's certain aid? Oh it were better far to lay me down Here on this cold damp earth, till some wild beast Seize on his willing victim!
If to die Were all, it were most sweet to rest my head On the cold clod, and sleep the sleep of Death. But if the Archangel's trump at the last hour Startle the ear of Death and wake the soul To frenzy!--dreams of infancy! fit tales For garrulous beldames to affrighten babes! I have been guilty, yet my mind can bear The retrospect of guilt, yet in the hour Of deep contrition to THE ETERNAL look For mercy! for the child of Poverty, And "disinherited of happiness,"
What if I warr'd upon the world? the world Had wrong'd me first: I had endur'd the ills Of hard injustice; all this goodly earth Was but to me one wild waste wilderness; I had no share in Nature's patrimony, Blasted were all my morning hopes of Youth, Dark DISAPPOINTMENT follow'd on my ways, CARE was my bosom inmate, and keen WANT Gnaw'd at my heart. ETERNAL ONE thou know'st How that poor heart even in the bitter hour Of lewdest revelry has inly yearn'd For peace!
My FATHER! I will call on thee, Pour to thy mercy seat my earnest prayer, And wait thy peace in bowedness of soul. Oh thoughts of comfort! how the afflicted heart, Tired with the tempest of its passions, rests On you with holy hope! the hollow howl Of yonder harmless tenant of the woods Bursts not with terror on the sober'd sense. If I have sinn'd against mankind, on them Be that past sin; they made me what I was. In these extremest climes can Want no more Urge to the deeds of darkness, and at length Here shall I rest. What tho' my hut be poor-- The rains descend not thro' its humble roof: Would I were there again! the night is cold; And what if in my wanderings I should rouse The savage from his thicket!
Hark! the gun! And lo--the fire of safety! I shall reach My little hut again! again by toil Force from the stubborn earth my sustenance, And quick-ear'd guilt will never start alarm'd Amid the well-earn'd meal. This felon's garb-- Will it not shield me from the winds of Heaven? And what could purple more? Oh strengthen me Eternal One in this serener state! Cleanse thou mine heart, so PENITENCE and FAITH Shall heal my soul and my last days be peace.