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- The Borough - 40/45 -


In their pale faces, when they glared at me: Still they did force me on the oar to rest, And when they saw me fainting and oppress'd, He with his hand, the old man, scoop'd the flood, And there came flame about him mix'd with blood; He bade me stoop and look upon the place, Then flung the hot-red liquor in my face; Burning it blazed, and then I roar'd for pain, I thought the demons would have turn'd my brain. "Still there they stood, and forced me to behold A place of horrors--they can not be told - Where the flood open'd, there I heard the shriek Of tortured guilt--no earthly tongue can speak: 'All days alike! for ever!' did they say, 'And unremitted torments every day' - Yes, so they said"--But here he ceased and gazed On all around, affrighten'd and amazed; And still he tried to speak, and look'd in dread Of frighten'd females gathering round his bed; Then dropp'd exhausted, and appear'd at rest, Till the strong foe the vital powers possess'd; Then with an inward, broken voice he cried, "Again they come!" and mutter'd as he died. {13}

LETTER XXIII.

Poena autem vehemens ac multo saevior illis, Quas et Caeditius gravis invenit aut Rhadamanthus, Nocte dieque suum gestare in pectore testem. JUVENAL, Satire xiii.

. . . . Think my former state a happy dream, From which awaked, the truth of what we are Shows us but this,--I am sworn brother now To grim Necessity, and he and I Will keep a league till death. SHAKESPEARE, Richard II.

--------------------------

PRISONS. {14}

The Mind of Man accommodates itself to all Situations; Prisons otherwise would be intolerable--Debtors: their different kinds: three particularly described; others more briefly--An arrested Prisoner: his Account of his Feelings and his Situation--The Alleviations of a Prison--Prisoners for Crimes--Two Condemned: a vindictive Female: a Highwayman--The Interval between Condemnation and Execution--His Feelings as the Time approaches--His Dream.

'TIS well--that Man to all the varying states Of good and ill his mind accommodates; He not alone progressive grief sustains, But soon submits to unexperienced pains: Change after change, all climes his body bears; His mind repeated shocks of changing cares: Faith and fair Virtue arm the nobler breast; Hope and mere want of feeling aid the rest. Or who could bear to lose the balmy air Of summer's breath, from all things fresh and fair, With all that man admires or loves below; All earth and water, wood and vale bestow, Where rosy pleasures smile, whence real blessings flow; With sight and sound of every kind that lives, And crowning all with joy that freedom gives? Who could from these, in some unhappy day, Bear to be drawn by ruthless arms away, To the vile nuisance of a noisome room, Where only insolence and misery come? (Save that the curious will by chance appear, Or some in pity drop a fruitless tear); To a damp Prison, where the very sight Of the warm sun is favour and not right; Where all we hear or see the feelings shock, The oath and groan, the fetter and the lock? Who could bear this and live?--Oh! many a year All this is borne, and miseries more severe; And some there are, familiar with the scene, Who live in mirth, though few become serene. Far as I might the inward man perceive, There was a constant effort--not to grieve: Not to despair, for better days would come, And the freed debtor smile again at home: Subdued his habits, he may peace regain, And bless the woes that were not sent in vain. Thus might we class the Debtors here confined, The more deceived, the more deceitful kind; Here are the guilty race, who mean to live On credit, that credulity will give; Who purchase, conscious they can never pay; Who know their fate, and traffic to betray; On whom no pity, fear, remorse, prevail. Their aim a statute, their resource a jail; - These are the public spoilers we regard, No dun so harsh, no creditor so hard. A second kind are they, who truly strive To keep their sinking credit long alive; Success, nay prudence, they may want, but yet They would be solvent, and deplore a debt; All means they use, to all expedients run, And are by slow, sad steps, at last undone: Justly, perhaps, you blame their want of skill, But mourn their feelings and absolve their will. There is a Debtor, who his trifling all Spreads in a shop; it would not fill a stall: There at one window his temptation lays, And in new modes disposes and displays: Above the door you shall his name behold, And what he vends in ample letters told, The words 'Repository,' 'Warehouse,' all He uses to enlarge concerns so small: He to his goods assigns some beauty's name, Then in her reign, and hopes they'll share her fame, And talks of credit, commerce, traffic, trade, As one important by their profit made; But who can paint the vacancy, the gloom, And spare dimensions of one backward room? Wherein he dines, if so 'tis fit to speak Of one day's herring and the morrow's steak: An anchorite in diet, all his care Is to display his stock and vend his ware. Long waiting hopeless, then he tries to meet A kinder fortune in a distant street; There he again displays, increasing yet Corroding sorrow and consuming debt: Alas! he wants the requisites to rise - The true connections, the availing ties: They who proceed on certainties advance, These are not times when men prevail by chance; But still he tries, till, after years of pain, He finds, with anguish, he has tried in vain. Debtors are these on whom 'tis hard to press, 'Tis base, impolitic, and merciless. To these we add a miscellaneous kind, By pleasure, pride, and indolence confined; Those whom no calls, no warnings could divert, The unexperienced, and the inexpert; The builder, idler, schemer, gamester, sot, - The follies different, but the same their lot; Victims of horses, lasses, drinking, dice, Of every passion, humour, whim, and vice. See! that sad Merchant, who but yesterday Had a vast household in command and pay; He now entreats permission to employ A boy he needs, and then entreats the boy. And there sits one improvident but kind, Bound for a friend, whom honour could not bind; Sighing, he speaks to any who appear, "A treach'rous friend--'twas that which sent me here: I was too kind,--I thought I could depend On his bare word--he was a treach'rous friend." A Female too!--it is to her a home, She came before--and she again will come: Her friends have pity; when their anger drops, They take her home;--she's tried her schools and shops - Plan after plan;--but fortune would not mend, She to herself was still the treach'rous friend; And wheresoe'er began, all here was sure to end: And there she sits, as thoughtless and as gay As if she'd means, or not a debt to pay - Or knew to-morrow she'd be call'd away - Or felt a shilling and could dine to-day. While thus observing, I began to trace The sober'd features of a well-known face - Looks once familiar, manners form'd to please, And all illumined by a heart at ease: But fraud and flattery ever claim'd a part (Still unresisted) of that easy heart; But he at length beholds me--"Ah! my friend! "And have thy pleasures this unlucky end?" "Too sure," he said, and smiling as he sigh'd; "I went astray, though Prudence seem'd my guide; All she proposed I in my heart approved, And she was honour'd, but my pleasure loved - Pleasure, the mistress to whose arms I fled, From wife-like lectures angry Prudence read. "Why speak the madness of a life like mine, The powers of beauty, novelty, and wine? Why paint the wanton smile, the venal vow, Or friends whose worth I can appreciate now; Oft I perceived my fate, and then could say, I'll think to-morrow, I must live to-day: So am I here--I own the laws are just - And here, where thought is painful, think I must: But speech is pleasant; this discourse with thee Brings to my mind the sweets of liberty, Breaks on the sameness of the place, and gives The doubtful heart conviction that it lives. "Let me describe my anguish in the hour When law detain'd me and I felt its power. "When, in that shipwreck, this I found my shore, And join'd the wretched, who were wreck'd before; When I perceived each feature in the face, Pinch'd through neglect or turbid by disgrace; When in these wasting forms affliction stood In my afiiicted view, it chill'd my blood; -


The Borough - 40/45

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