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“With breathless speed, like a soul in chase,
I took him up

and

ran;
There was no time to dig a grave

Before the day began:
In a lonesome wood, with heaps of leaves,

I hid the murdered man.

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“And all that day I read in school,

But my thought was otherwhere;
As soon as the mid-day task was done,

In secret I was there;
And a mighty wind had swept the leaves,

And still the corse was bare!

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“So wills the fierce avenging Sprite,

Till blood for blood atones!
Aye, though he's buried in a cave,

And trodden down with stones,
And
years

have rotted off his flesh,-
The world shall see his bones!

d

“Oh, God! that hórrid, horrid dream

Besets me now awake!
Again-again, with dizzy brain,

The human life I take;
And my red right hand grows raging hot,

Like Cranmer's at the stake.

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“And still no peace for the restless clay

Will wave or mold allow;
The horrid thing pursues my soul, -

It stands before me now!”
The fearful Boy looked up, and saw

Huge drops upon his brow.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

2687

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That very night, while gentle sleep

The urchin eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,

Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.

Thomas Hood (1799–1845]

THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL

I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,

For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands

When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,

And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men

In a suit of shabby gray;
A cricket cap was on his head,

And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked

So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went

With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,

Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done

A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,

"That fellow's got to swing."

a

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I only knew what hunted thought

Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day

With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,

And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,

By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look,

Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss,

The brave man with a sword!

a

Some kill their love when they are young,

And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,

Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because

The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,

Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,

And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,

Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame

On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,

Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor

Into an empty space.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

2689

He does not sit with silent men

Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,

And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob

The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see

Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,

The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,

With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste

To put on convict-clothes, While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes

Each new and nerve-twitched pose, Fingering a watch whose little ticks

Are like horrible hammer-blows.

a

He does not know that sickening thirst

That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves

Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,

That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear

The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul

Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves

Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air

Through a little roof of glass:
He does not pray with lips of clay

For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek

That kiss of Caiaphas.

II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,

In the suit of shabby gray: His cricket cap was on his head,

And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked

So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed

Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do

Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope

In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,

And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,

Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held

Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun

As though it had been wine!

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