I heard as I lay, a wailing sound,
"He is dead--he is dead," the rumor flew;
And I raised my chain and turned me round,
And askt, thro' the dungeon-window, "Who?"
I saw my livid tormentors pass;
Their grief 'twas bliss to hear and see!
For never came joy to them alas!
That didn't bring deadly bane to me.
Eager I lookt thro' the mist of night,
And askt, "What foe of my race hath died?
"Is it he--that Doubter of law and right,
"Whom nothing but wrong could e'er decide--
"Who, long as he sees but wealth to win,
"Hath never yet felt a qualm or doubt
"What suitors for justice he'd keep in,
"Or what suitors for freedom he'd shut out--
"Who, a clog for ever on Truth's advance,
"Hangs round her (like the Old Man of the Sea
"Round Sinbad's neck), nor leaves a chance
"Of shaking him off--is't he? is't he?"
Ghastly my grim tormentors smiled,
And thrusting me back to my den of woe,
With a laughter even more fierce and wild
Than their funeral howling, answered "No."
But the cry still pierced my prison-gate,
And again I askt, "What scourge is gone?
"Is it he--that Chief, so coldly great,
"Whom Fame unwillingly shines upon--
"Whose name is one of the ill-omened words
"They link with hate on his native plains;
"And why?--they lent him hearts and swords,
"And he in return gave scoffs and chains!
"Is it he? is it he?" I loud inquired,
When, hark!--there sounded a Royal knell;
And I knew what spirit had just expired,
And slave as I was my triumph fell.
He had pledged a hate unto me and mine,
He had left to the future nor hope nor choice,
But sealed that hate with a Name Divine,
And he now was dead and--I couldn't rejoice!
He had fanned afresh the burning brands
Of a bigotry waxing cold and dim;
He had armed anew my torturers' hands,
And them did I curse--but sighed for him.
For, his was the error of head not heart;
And--oh! how beyond the ambushed foe,
Who to enmity adds the traitor's part,
And carries a smile with a curse below!
If ever a heart made bright amends
For the fatal fault of an erring head--
Go, learn his fame from the lips of friends,
In the orphan's tear be his glory read.
A Prince without pride, a man without guile,
To the last unchanging, warm, sincere,
For Worth he had ever a hand and smile,
And for Misery ever his purse and tear.
Touched to the heart by that solemn toll,
I calmly sunk in my chains again;
While, still as I said, "Heaven rest his soul!"
My mates of the dungeon sighed "Amen!"