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Would it were possible that I could wing,
Fleeter than light or thought, immensity;
Then to creation's utmost confines, where
Eternal solitude and chaos reign,
Would I repair and hide my hated form:
An outcast, an abortion noxious,
Unfit to mingle with the works of God!
Or that that sovereign, omnific Being
Who spoke me from the dust would pity take,
And now reverse His pleasure, and dissolve me,'
That from the earth my very name and memory,
Yea, all remembrance of me, hence might perish!
Wretch that I am! would even I were swept
Both soul and body to annihilation,
And thus eternally become forgotten
By God, by devil—all in heaven and hell.
But, ah! vain wish—absurd, impossible;
Beason and nature, leagued with revelation,
In solemn conclave ever it abjure,
And prove an immortality to all—
A dread tribunal—an almighty Judge,
Omniscient, just and holy, and unerring,
Whom I must face before assembled worlds,
But how—O by His sacred name!—I know not.
Naked and trembling, horror-struck, undone,
With all my black, flagitious crimes before me,
Even now, alas! I feel of condemnation
The dread, irrevocable sentence passed;
In me that fire eternal now is kindled;
The never-dying, gnawing worm I feel
Upon the very vitals of the heart.
Talk not to me of pleasure and enjoyment:
How vain indeed is all the world can give!
What are its urgents and pretended charms
Now to my wounded, agonising conscience,
Writhing beneath an overwhelming load 1
Of guilt uncancelled and for vengeance crying,
Than Abel's blood a thousand times more loud?
Heaven, could I only but the past retrieve,
Those halcyon years of innocence and sunshine
Which lighted up my steps when life I started,
How opposite a course should I pursue,
And ever curse through life the cursed bottle!
O heaven! O mercy! O eternity!
How terrible the night the last I passed;
The horrid thoughts of such a dismal dream
My very reason stun, yea, paralyse,
And petrify each spring of moral action,
So full of awful sights and hideous forms—
Of incidents terrific and appalling,
Whose spirit-crushing, overpowering weight
Memory but vainly struggles to forego.
Methought on some stupendous height I stood,
So elevated seemed it that the world,
With all its varied scenes of endless change,
As one vast map beneath me spreading lay—
Seas, rivers, islands, continents, and kingdoms,
Mountains and valleys, precipices, plains;
Ten thousand swarming cities, towns, and villas,
With countless landscapes stretching everywhere, Which with a glance unerring I beheld
From those strange powers of vision then vouchsafed;
Methought a universal Summer smiled,
And Nature's vernal loveliness o'erspread
The hill and dale, the forest and the field;
While bright in cloudless glory beamed the sun,
And poured athwart the liquid waste of ocean,
In dazzling profusion, streaming gold:
All seemed with gladness, and with joy inspired.
But gradually a melancholy change,
And noiseless as the chariot-wheels of Time
The vast stupendous panorama palled;
Heaven's azure vault, in horrible array,
Black sombre clouds of threatening aspect filled;
Day's monarch, as if wearied with his travel,
Mantled his blood-like countenance in gloom,
And seemed retiring to eternal rest.
A death-like stillness, awfully portentous
Of some commotion dire, and unexampled
In earth's chronology, the vast arena
With terror striking increase brooded o'er.
The very constitution of the air,
That balance of its elements essential
To life and comfort, seemed for ever lost;
Stagnant and putrid, loathsome and sulphureous,
And as a furnace scorching everywhere.
Well I remember, and will ne'er forget,
The oppressive, suffocating, dread sensation
Felt at each breath: and O the pain
Which writhed relentlessly this shattered body,
The terror, and alarm, and black forebodings
Each heart possessed and countenance betrayed,
As from the fissures of the arid earth,
Boiled in infernal, dread, and dense confusion
Throughout the scene, huge globes of burning fire—
Of red and blue, of azure, green, and gold—
Like bombs exploding with tremendous roar,
Thus dealing death and devastation round;
Whose dire reflection, mingling with the glare
Of scouting meteors, through the lowering heavens,
Produced such strange phenomena, that words
In vain must ever labour to unfold.
To aggravate the universal gloom,
Nature resigned her verdure, and assumed
The sickly and the aureate hues of Autumn.
And as if lashed by Winter's rudest storm,
Denuded stood the trees, branch after branch,
Inspiring melancholy, hoary fell
In rotten shivered fragments to the ground.
The rivers, too, evaporated seemed;
And where their limpid volumes proudly flowed,
Blue tides of molten and infernal fire,
In desolating vengeance, hideous rolled,
Diverging into streams, thus intersecting
In nameless horror the stupendous scene.
While o'er the vast of the eternal deep,
In sable pomp and awful majesty,
Sat Death implacable, in triumph throned;
By dire Destruction, Terror, and Dismay,
His fell and sullen satellites, environed.
Becalmed and motionless, on the expanse,
The ships of every nation scattered lay,
And frittered down by piecemeal, mast by mast,
With hoarse, tremendous, and prophetic crash,
A gloomy mass of lumber headlong fell;
While from the shattered shrouds and rotten cordage—
How agonizing still to recollection !—
Dropped the poor trembling mariners, and slept
Amid the sad and ruinous confusion,
That long, profound, and dreamless sleep of death.