The Ballad of Reading Gaol

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H.S. Nichols, 1901 - 15 pages
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User Review  - duck2ducks - LibraryThing

This beautifully-written six-chapter poem movingly portrays the monstrous inhumanity of prison life, and the stark-white hypocrisy of capital punishment. It also reminded me of Coleridge's Rime of the ... Read full review

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User Review  - millsge - LibraryThing

The pain of the author is almost too much to bear - even more so given who is suffering and why he is suffering. The injustice defies belief. Read full review

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Page 10 - So they kept us close till nigh on noon, And then they rang the bell, And the Warders with their jingling keys Opened each listening cell, And down the iron stair we tramped, Each from his separate Hell. Out into God's sweet air we went, But not in wonted...
Page 12 - Yet all is well; he has but passed, To Life's appointed bourne: And alien tears will fill for him Pity's long-broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn.
Page 10 - And I never saw sad men who looked So wistfully at the day. I never saw sad men who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue We prisoners called the sky, And at every careless cloud that passed In happy freedom by.
Page 12 - With bars they blur the gracious moon, And blind the goodly sun: And they do well to hide their Hell, For in it things are done That Son of God nor son of Man Ever should look upon!
Page 8 - They mocked the moon in a rigadoon Of delicate turn and twist, And with formal pace and loathsome grace The phantoms kept their tryst. With mop and mow, we saw them go, Slim shadows hand in hand: About, about, in ghostly rout They trod a saraband: And the damned grotesques made arabesques, Like the wind upon the sand...
Page 8 - With the mincing step of a demirep Some sidled up the stairs: And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer, Each helped us at our prayers. The morning wind began to moan, But still the night went on: Through its giant loom the web of gloom Crept till each thread was spun: And, as we prayed, we grew afraid Of the Justice of the Sun.
Page 13 - And cleanse his soul from Sin? How else but through a broken heart May Lord Christ enter in? And he of the swollen purple throat, And the stark and staring eyes, Waits for the holy hands that took The Thief to Paradise;* And a broken and a contrite heart The Lord will not despise...
Page 9 - And from all the gaol rose up a wail Of impotent despair, Like the sound that frightened marshes hear From some leper in his lair. And as one sees most fearful things In the crystal of a dream, We saw the greasy hempen rope Hooked to the blackened beam, And heard the prayer the hangman's snare Strangled into a scream.
Page 5 - For oak and elm have pleasant leaves That in the spring-time shoot: But grim to see is the gallows-tree, With its adder-bitten root, And, green or dry, a man must die Before it bears its fruit.
Page 14 - 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...

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