'TIS Woman's voice!—woman in wailful grief,
Joined by her babe's scarce conscious sympathy.
Thy wife hath come to take her farewell brief,
Gaunt felon!—brief and bitter must it be
For thy babe's mother, since the wide salt sea
Must roll, for life, its deep, dark gulph between
Thee, convict, and that form of agony!
Poor wretched thing! well may she wail, I ween,
And wring her hands, and wish that she had never been.
'Let me have one last kiss of my poor babe!'
He saith, and clingeth to the grate. Oh! how
The turnkey's answer will his bosom stab!
'Away!—we open not the bars!'—and, lo!
They push him rudely back!—he may not know
What baleful bliss it gives to clasp a child
Or wife, ere one must yield them to life's woe.
Ah! little had that kiss his grief beguiled;
But, rather, filled his soul with after-throes more wild.
She fainteth!—yet awakes to moan and weep!
How little didst thou think that smiling morn
Thou didst, so early and so eager, peep
Into thy mirror, and thy breast adorn
With virgin-rose, so soon the sorrow-thorn
Would there have pierced!—that thou, in two short years,
Wouldst see thy husband in that dress of scorn :
And turn, a widowed bride—a thing of tears—
From that stern grate, forlorn, to meet the world's rude
Poor sufferer! how wilt thou the future brook!
To drudge from morn to eve, for beggar's bread;
To hear thy ragged child receive rebuke
For his sire's sins, that on the exile's head
Already fall full sore; to see him shed,
Tears when he asks for food, and thou hast none
To stop his hunger; then, to make thy bed
With him upon the heath or moorland lone,—
Unless, for infamy, thou takest the rich man's boon!
What misery, hadst thou never been a bride,
Thy heart had shunned! Yet, thou wilt fondly
Unto the memory of thy love, nor chide,
Even by a thought, in deepest suffering,
His error, who did thy young joy-bloom bring
To desolation! Ill-requited love
Was thine, even from the bridal-revelling;
Yet, thou forgavest all, nor didst reprove
The wild excess which oft thee nigh to madness
O Woman! how thy truest worth is slighted;
Thy tenderness how often met with hate;
Thy fondest, purest hopes, how often blighted;
How Man, the tyrant, lords it o'er thy fate,
Yet feigns for thy benign behests to wait;
How jealously he guards thy faithfulness,
And frowns a censure on thy every state:
Thy chastity terms coldness; thy caress
Weak fooling, stratagem, or grosser love's excess!
O Woman! fairest, frailest, sweetest flower
Of Nature's garden, what rude storms thee bend!
Thy heart, thou priceless, peerless, matchless dower
Of Nature's treasury, what keen sufferings rend!
How meanly men, through selfishness, contend
To pamper thee!—how silkenly their lays
Of love they lisp to gain their guilty end;
How sensually Man lauds thy beauty's blaze;
How heartlessly deserts thee in its dimmer days!
O Woman! what anxieties destroy
The bliss thou dreamest none can take away
When hushing thy soft care—thy cradled joy!
How Time the blessings thy fond hopes pourtray.
Oft turns to curses, and thy heart a prey
To keenest woe condemns: maternal woe,
That like maternal love, the human clay
Moves more intensely than severest throe
Or most ecstatic thrill that mortal bosoms know.
Mysterious bonds of Nature! can ye be
Without a wise Deviser? Hath a blind
Necessity, indeed, implanted ye?
Are ye not proofs of All-pervasive Mind?
Hath Goodness, then, these spirit-throes designed,
Still mingled with the mother's cup of bliss?
Wherefore, oh wherefore, still must mortals find
Mystery ne'er lessen, but, for aye, increase
Beneath their feeble search, or frail analysis?—
Ay, Woman!—for thy mother heart remain
The keenest agonies: to see revealed
Passions that do defy thee to restrain
Their baneful germs, and which, thou knowst must
A deadly fruit; to see thy young flower felled
In its sweet promise; or to be bereft
Of it by ruthless power that tyrants wield,
O'er Poverty; and, though thy heart be cleft
With sorrowing, no sight of it to be vouchsafed!
'Thou pampered tyrant who dost crush the Poor!
'Alien of Nature from thy mother's womb!
'Who never sucked the breast of her that bore
'Thy most unnatural self! Thou humoursome
'Wealth-wanton, who dost send thy child from home,
'Or callst a hireling, Life's sweet stream to give
'Unto thy babe! What wonder that ye doom
'The Poor to pain?—since in ye doth not live
'A natural heart, how can ye Nature's pain perceive?
'Ye artificial things in blood and breath,
'What human creatures feel how can ye tell?'—
Tush! raving mother,—the rich wanton saith
Thy pangs are feigned, and whipping should dispel
Thy discontent! Oh! ye will wake the yell
Of reckless vengefulness around ye yet,
Tyrants! unless ye, timely, bid the knell
Be tolled of dćmon-legislation!—
Me strive that theme of rending heart-ache to forget!
O Woman! what illustrious children thine
Oft prove even when thy fate and theirs seems dark.
Slave-mother of old Smyrna, who didst pine
In grief, and in lorn hope thy babe embark
On Meles' stream, cradled in that frail ark,
How little didst thou dream thy infant's glory
Would beam through Time; and he, the patriarch
Of song become, all bards and sages hoary
Transcend in honour, through the world, to latest story!
Or, if thy Homer, and the child on Nile,
The 'babe' that 'wept,' but soon proud Pharaoh's might
Defied, and led those thousands on their toil
Through the drear wilderness, the Canaanite
To dispossess,—if these, to read aright,
Their story, Reason must as Myths regard—
Fertile in moral, albeit overdight
With marvel—Mothers in late times have reared
Their sons in want, yet seen them win Fame's high
How thy best children, Woman, testify
A mother's worth,—attributing their zest
For enterprize, or love of good, to thy
Exalting nurture! O let him attest
A mother's worth—that Titan of the West—
Unequalled Washington! And if such men,
That dwarf all kings, vigour from thy meek breast
Now draw, Woman! what will thy sons be when
Man looks on thee no longer with the tyrant's ken?
When chivalry's false homage is forgot;
When eastern jealousy no more immures
And renders thee a vernal idiot;
When thy young purity no villain-lures
Are spread to blemish; when thy mind matures
In freedom, and thy soul can make its choice,
Untrammelled, unconstrained, where heart assures
The heart it is beloved; shall not thy voice
And look restore to Earth its long-lost Paradise?
That Mind is of no sex, when thou art freed,
Thy thought-deeds shall proclaim: our Edgeworth's
Our Baillie's truthful skill; Felicia's meed
Of grace with perfectest mellifluence
Of music joined; or thy magnificence
Of heart and reason, Necker's glorious child!
Problems shall be no more: Woman's intense
Inherent claim to mind-rank, when befoiled
No more by Man, she will display with glow unsoiled.
And when her children see her move in joy,
And yet in truest dignity; no more
A slave, no more a drudge, no more a toy!
When from her lips of love her spirit's store
Of high ennobling wisdom she doth pour
Into her offspring's ears—into their eyes,
Ere speech be learnt, looks Nature's purest lore
Of truth and virtue,—shall not Man arise
From error, nurtured thus, and loftiest good devise?—
These day-dreams past of Woman's destiny,
To Man's auxiliar in beatitude,
The brain in sleep, instinct with phantasy,
But credent of its day-dreams, still pursued
The theme. A verdant pasture-plain, I viewed,
Unbounded, in that mystic spirit-land
Where mortals who have ventured to denude
The soul of clay without His high command—
The great Life-Giver—feel His stern corrective hand.
But now, the end of punishment seemed near,
And spirits talked of blest participance
In life set free from pain and woe, and fear,—
While I beheld them in thronged groupes advance,
On journey bent to hear the utterance
Of their high manumission. Prankt the plain
Appeared with flowers of wild luxuriance
Of growth and deep intensity of stain;
But unto them no gloss nor perfume did pertain.
Their dyes seemed of such depth as dyes of flowers
At summer's even, when the garish sun
Hath set, and either human eyes new powers
Receive, bedazed no longer,—the air hath won
Strength to assist the optic nerve, or on
The flowers themselves sheds chemic particles
That deepen colours: thus they glowed, not shone:
A rich array of blossoms, buds, and bells,
So fragrant to the eye, Fancy supplied their smells.
And ever and anon some feminine form,—
For souls of men appeared not in my dream,—
Stooped to select some favourite from the swarm
Of floral beauties, and then wound the stem
Within her hair: others an anadem
Of varied blossoms wove, and, garlanded,
Discoursing rapturously of their high theme,
Smiling, across the pleasant pasture sped:—
Blythe sight it was to see, in soul-land of the Dead.
Nor unfamiliar seemed their faces fair,
Their names and deeds, unto the dream-rapt soul:
Though many a suicide of Eld was there:
Full many a virgin whom old bards extol
For spotless chastity, and of whose dole
They make sweet plaint: full many a loving wife
Of high heroic virtue that with cool
Resolve chose death by poison-cup or knife,
Or in the wave,—disdaining a dishonoured life.
And groupes passed by who fled from widowhood
Through love excessive for their bosoms' lords;
And throngs appeared that nobly shed their blood
In patriotic struggle, when the swords
Of tyrants slew their sons and sires, or hordes
Of foreign foes sought to pollute their homes;
And forms were there whom History records
For questionable deeds, or whom Truth dooms
To infamy,—though Fraud writ praises on their tombs.
From out a Roman groupe, methought, there passed
Into a daisied bye-path, matrons twain
Whose sable locks with hyacinths were graced.
To their dark eyes a fervour did pertain
That found its reflex in that sapphire stain:
Intensely truthful was their spirits' glow;
And, as mine joined them, on the green champaign,
I pondered deeply on their mortal throe,
And cause for which they did that death-pang undergo.
The twain were—Cato's daughter, Brutus' spouse—
Illustrious suicidal lineage!—
Whose death, so horridly courageous,
Old legends tell; and she who to assuage
Fear in her husband—by the tyrant's rage
Death-doomed—plunged to her heart the steel, and cried
'It is not painful!'—smiling, while the pledge
So dread she gave of love. These, side by side,—
Porcia and Arria, —o'er the plain, conversing hied.
"Say, sister spirit!" Cato's daughter spake,—
"Seems it not, now, to thee, but yesterday
We did great Rome, our glorious home, forsake,
To rush on death? Now they are passed away,
The ages of our pain, in mind's survey,
Seem nought; and yet, how drear in passing!
Produceth self-same thought and feeling: they
Who sorrow reckon ages from the birth
Of woe; but say 'twas short, when tears are changed for
Arria replied: "Such are my thoughts of weal
"And woe on earth, my sister, and of joy
That doth the sorrows of our essence heal
In this strange afterstate, and mind upbuoy
With cheering faith that, henceforth, no alloy
Shall mingle with our bliss. Yet oft, our thought
Shall wander back, and memory shall employ
Her power to call up many an image fraught
With tenderness—earth-forms on which the soul will
"Oh! never can the hours of youthful love
Cease to be precious, nor from memory fade,
Amid the highest rapture we may prove
Of that beatitude which shall pervade
Hades for ever!"—
"Nor shall aught upbraid
The heart,"—Porcia rejoined,—" for this its truth
"To what it chastely loved; but, rather, aid,
From sweet revisitings of joys of youth,
The spirit shall derive for its eternal growth.
"Ay, to the purest thoughts of Life's young spring
Oft shall the ever-growing soul return,
Drawn by the good each visit thence shall bring
To the advancing spirit—which shall yearn
For loftier good the further it is borne
From evil: thus our minds, boon sustenance
Deriving from the Past, and what we learn
Of noblest kindred's high inheritance
Of virtue, shall enlarge into a blest expanse."—
"And dost thou think it shall be thus, indeed?"
Said Arria: "shall our essence still expand
"In bliss the more on virtue it doth feed,
On soft beneficence, and breathings bland
To bless,—much more than to be blest?
How glorious, then, is human nature!—frail
And puny though they termed it who had scanned,
Or thought they scanned, its strength. Oh, that Mind's
Some Power had rent while in its house terrestrial!"
"Not wholly secret, sister, was the true
Sublimity of Man,"—said Porcia;—"some
"There were in every age and clime, though few,
Who taught that goodness, and not awe and gloom,
Must nurture the soul's bud until its bloom
Should be unfolded into noblest bliss:
The distant East, fair Greece, and our own Rome,
Possessed such sages,—though the Priest's device
Thwarted them evermore—with force, or artifice.
"Even in Earth's infancy a sage arose
In Orient far, who taught how purely blest
The spirit grew that could forgive its foes;
How happiness was won by scorn of rest
And ease, and choice of toil—to the distrest,
In body or in mind, to bring relief:
And after-sages did these truths attest:
Alas! too oft by violent death their brief
Love-toil was stayed: for Falsehood still held Man's
"But who is this the wider way that leaves
To cross our path, as if she sought to speak
Of some glad birth her joyous soul conceives?—
Hail, Carthaginian sister!"—to the meek,
But fervid form,—Porcia spake on,—"thy cheek
"Intensely glows, the gentle fire o' th' heart
Revealing: say, what blissfulness dost seek
To tell, that thrills thee, now our penal smart
Is past? Haste, blythesome one, thy joy-thought to
"By sympathy, I knew that your discourse
Was of the power of Goodness, and I yearned
To hear ye its blest eulogy rehearse,"—
Answer the wife of Asdrubal returned:—
For she it was:—the same who nobly scorned
To join her craven lord in traitorous flight
To Scipio, and with her two children burned
Within the sacred pyre herself did light,
'Mid the beleaguered city, in the Roman's sight. —
"Oh! well mayst thou the theme of gentleness
Desire to list,"—said Arria,—"for thy clime
"Bruised by our sires' ambition 'neath excess
Of humbled suffering sank; and though sublime
Was thy death-deed, it was fell
War's great crime
That drove thee to that act."—
"But, now 'tis past,"
Rejoined the Carthaginian,—"to o'erbrim
"Joy's cup it seems that, though your sires laid waste
My own loved fatherland, my heart hath ye embraced."—
"And, sister, in our hearts we thee embrace,"
Said Porcia,—"and partake thy bosom's thrill:
"So blest is goodness that it can efface
All baneful hatreds,—yea doth sweetly fill
The soul with rapture, that no more the will
Is anger's slave,—and spite can tribulate
The mind no more—that self-tormenting ill!
For we of misery, in our earthly state,
Knew no more vulturous torture than relentless
"Sad and blythe truths thy soul hath mingled," said
The virtuous African; "and 'tis most strange
"In man's strange chronicle, that, though he bled,
He coaxed this vulture of the heart:—'Revenge
'Is sweet'—he madly cried! O blissful change,
That, now, he feels 'tis sweeter to forgive!
Still happier—that no ill shall disarrange
The harmony in which all life shall live
Henceforth—but bliss of higher bliss be nutritive.
"How oft the soul revolted, while on earth,
Against the ill that did her powers enslave!
How oft she fled from gloom to think on mirth,
Feeling it was her birthright, though some knave,
In sanctimonious guise, upon the grave
Would teach her still to ponder, and abjure
All joy! How oft, in spite of wrongs, she clave
Unto the nobleness of love—the pure
Delight of showing that though wronged we can
"The wrong, and still forgive, and still endure!
How oft, in spite of all misteachings, Mind,
Irked by revenge, turned to the cynosure
Of Gentleness, and for its pleasure pined!
'Twas Nature's truthful impulse!—so thy blind
But cheerful face she teacheth fealty
Unto the sun, on earth!"—
She stooped, and twined
A glowing marigold, full tastefully,
Within her hair; then onward went, with modest
And still the descant was pursued, till two.
More sister-spirits crossed the pasture-plain,
And sought with these the descant to pursue:
The chaste Sophronia, who dishonour's stain
To escape, fled, by her husband's will, self-slain,
The lust-blight of Maxentius;  and with her
That famous Jewess whom old Rabbins vain
For wisdom praise,—Baruna, wife of Meir,—
Of deep Talmudic lore the fair interpreter. 
"Our Teacher taught us to forgive,"—the chaste
Sophronia said;—"but, sister fair, the Law
"Of old thy fathers reverenced nurtured haste
For vengeance: our new joys for thee must flow
With tenfold sweetness."—
"Christian, though I know
"Thou speakest sooth," Baruna said,—"too well
"I also know, that few forgave a foe
Who owned thy Teacher, and were loud to tell
How far he did in wisdom all the Wise excel.
"I own that much was noble in thy faith;
But, like all other faiths,—alas! 'twas made
Subservient unto tyrant Power and Wrath,
And grew, with lapse of time, a cunning trade
Whereby the priest could pompously parade
In gold and grandeur, while his lessons told
Of meekest lowliness; and he could wade
In human blood, ungainsayed, uncontrolled,
Preaching of mercy and of goodness manifold!
"What horrors have my race endured throughout
All lands called Christian, from the men called meek
And merciful! Who did the Jew belowt
And scorn and spit upon, and on the cheek
Smite fierceliest, was deemed, by all, to seek
Salvation zealously, and was upheld
Worthiest of imitation. So to sneak
Into dim dens my race were driven: filth-celled
They lived: vile things from human fellowship expelled.
"Nor in their squalidness was refuge found
From Christian mercy: 'Witchcraft!—Gold!' outcried
The plundering knave whose spotless robe around
Him did proclaim his office was to chide
And not to cheer Man's thirst for homicide:
Then was the shrunk Jew rackt, and to the flame
Condemned, or, like thy Teacher, crucified,
If he refused the secret hoard to name
He never had possessed! Such was their Christian game!
"I need not tell of Spain's black 'Brotherhood'
Of murder, yclept 'Holy,'—nor recal
To mind the wolvish bands whose thirst for blood
Jew-slaughter could not slake,—who fed on all
That bore the name of Man, if one their thrall
Resisted, or but murmured at their sway:—
'Tis past! No more their horrors shall appal
The feeble, nor afflict the strong: away
Their shapes are faded: who would wake them from
"Be ours the theme more welcome, sisters mine,
To picture the blest future and prepare
Our spirits for the rest—the rest divine
The persecuted, hence, shall ever share
Even with their persecutors: for the slayer
Shall with his victims join—to slay no more!
The lion with the lamb shall make his lair!
Rude, they were termed—yet, my sires' faith, of yore,
The curtain of man's future bliss asunder tore:
"Amid their sterile mountains, Judah's bards
Saw holier visions of Earth's coming glory
Than all the minstrels who the world's awards
Of honour won, chaunting of warriors gory
And lauding as sublime Fame's transitory
Triumphs. List, sisters, to that choral strain!
How like the raptures of prophetic story
Heart's-ease she plucked, and did retain;
But, to the Christian gave a lily without stain.
And then the happy sister sprites joined hands,
And sped, a silent yet ecstatic throng,
Their flower-bespangled way; while distant bands
Of cheery travellers did this strain prolong
Till gladsome thousands swelled the choral song:—
Farewell for ever to the reign of gloom,
'Of human suffering, agony, and wrong!
'Welcome, for Earth, her new and happy doom!
'Welcome, for franchised spirits, Hades' blissful home!
'Farewell for ever to the darksome reign
'Of Fear and Hate. Revenge and Tyranny
'How blest, that Hades shall be free from pain!
'How blest that children upon earth shall be
'No more taught malice on their mother's knee;
But love for foes—till foes are no more found!
'Farewell to Earth's old evil revelry
'Of war and bloodshed! Every brother's wound
'Shall now be healed; and peace, and love and joy
Beneath the mound, into the sculptured aisle,
Trooping, with glee, I saw the thousands wend,
Still pealing hymns of joy that their exile
Was changed from woe to bliss, and that the end
Of all Life's evils blest signs did portend
On earth, and thorough Hades' ghostly clime!—
But I surceased the theme to apprehend:
The prison-bell, with its harsh grating chime,
Rewoke me in the dreary den of crime-made crime.
1.—Page 239, Stanza 26.
These, side by side,—
Porcia and Arria,—o'er the plain, conversing hied.
The suicides of Porcia,—by swallowing hot coals, when other
means of self-destruction were placed beyond her reach; and of Arria, the
wife of Pśtus, who was condemned to
death, are familiar to almost every reader: the first is the subject of
eloquent eulogy by Cicero, and the last is termed "the sublime" by
2.—Page 241, Stanza 35.
'Mid the beleaguered city, in the Roman's sight.—
The story of the wife of Asdrubal, who cursed the treason of
her husband, and then threw herself, with her children, into the flames of
the temple of Ćsculapius, which she had
set on fire, is well known to all readers of Roman history.
3.—Page 243, Stanza 41.
who dishonour's stain
To 'scape, fled, by her husband's will, self-slain,
The lust-blight of Maxentius;
"The virtuous matron, who stabbed herself to escape the
violence of Maxentius, was a Christian, wife to the prćfect
of the city, and her name was Sophronia. It still remains a question
among the Casuists, whether on such occasions suicide is justifiable."—GIBBON
note to chap, xiv.
4.—Page 243, Stanza 41.
Baruna, wife of Meir,—
Of deep Talmudic lore the fair interpreter.
Basnage, "Histoire des Juifs," or the Appendix to Jahn's
"Hebrew Commonwealth," (collected from the voluminous work of Basnage),
may be referred to for a brief narrative of this suicide.