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SONNETS UPON THE PUNISHMENT OF
FIT retribution, by the moral code
Determined, lies beyond the State's embrace, Yet, as she may, for each peculiar case She plants well-measured terrors in the road Of wrongful acts. Downward it is and broad, And, the main fear once doomed to banishment, Far oftener then, bad ushering worse event, Blood would be spilt that in his dark abode Crime might lie better hid. And, should the change Take from the horror due to a foul deed, Pursuit and evidence so far must fail, And, guilt escaping, passion then might plead In angry spirits for her old free range, And the “wild justice of revenge" prevail.
Though to give timely warning and deter
Is one great aim of penalty, extend
Thy mental vision further and ascend
Far higher, else full surely shalt thou err.
What is a State ? The wise behold in her
A creature born of time, that keeps one eye
Fixed on the statutes of Eternity,
To which her judgments reverently defer.
Speaking through Law's dispassionate voice the State
Endues her conscience with external life
And being, to preclude or quell the strife
Of individual will, to elevate
The grovelling mind, the erring to recal,
And fortify the moral sense of all.
Our bodily life, some plead, that life the shrine
Of an immortal spirit, is a gift
So sacred, so informed with light divine,
That no tribunal, though most wise to sift
Deed and intent, should turn the Being adrift
Into that world where penitential tear
May not avail, nor prayer have for God's ear
A voice—that world whose veil no hand can lift
For earthly sight. “Eternity and Time,”
They urge, “ have interwoven claims and rights
Not to be jeopardized through foulest crime:
The sentence rule by mercy's heaven-born lights."
Even so; but measuring not by finite sense
Infinite Power, perfect Intelligence.
Ah, think how one compelled for life to abide
Locked in a dungeon needs must eat the heart
Out of his own humanity, and part
With every hope that mutual cares provide ;
And, should a less unnatural doom confide
In long-life exile on a savage coast,
Soon the relapsing penitent may boast
Of yet more heinous guilt, with fiercer pride.
Hence thoughtful Mercy, Mercy sage and pure,
Sanctions the forfeiture that Law demands,
Leaving the final issue in His hands
Whose goodness knows no change, whose love is
See the Condemned alone within his cell
And prostrate at some moment when remorse
Stings to the quick, and with resistless force,
Assaults the pride she strove in vain to quell.
Then mark bim, him who could so long rebel,
The crime confessed, a kneeling Penitent
Before the Altar, where the Sacrament
Softens his heart, till from his
outwell Tears of salvation. Welcome death! while Heaven Does in this change exceedingly rejoice; While yet the solemn heed the State hath given Helps him to meet the last Tribunal's Voice In faith, which fresh offences, were he cast On old temptations, might for ever blast.
Yes, though he well may tremble at the sound
Of his own voice, who from the judgment-seat
Sends the pale Convict to his last retreat
In death ; though listeners shudder all around,
They know the dread requital's source profound;
Nor is, they feel, its wisdom obsolete-
(Would that it were !) the sacrifice unmeet
For Christian Faith. But hopeful signs abound;
The social rights of man breathe purer
Religion deepens her preventive care ;
Then, moved by needless fear of past abuse,
Strike not from Law's firm hand that awful rod,
But leave it thence to drop for lack of use:
Oh! speed the blessed hour, Almighty God!
The formal world relaxes his cold chain
For One who speaks in numbers; ampler scope
His utterance finds; and, conscious of the gain,
Imagination works with bolder hope
The cause of grateful reason to sustain ;
And, serving Truth, the heart more strongly beats
Against all barriers which his labor meets
In lofty place, or humble Life's domain.
Enough ;-before us lay a painful road,
And guidance have I sought in duteous love
From Wisdom's heavenly Father. Hence hath
Patience, with trust that, whatsoe'er the way
Each takes in this high matter, all may move
Cheered with the prospect of a brighter day.
COMPOSED BY THE SEA SHORE.
WHAT mischief cleaves to unsubdued regret
How fancy sickens by vague hopes beset ;
How bafiled projects on the spirit prey,
And fruitless wishes eat the heart away,
The Sailor knows; he best, whose lot is cast
'On the relentless sea that holds him fast
On chance dependent, and the fickle star
Of power, through long and melancholy war.
O sad it is, in sight of foreign shores,
Daily to think on old familiar doors,
Hearths loved in childhood, and ancestral floors;
Or, tossed about along a waste of foam,
To ruminate on that delightful home
Which with the dear Betrothed was to come;
Or came and was and is, yet meets the eye
Never but in the world of memory;
Or in a dream recalled, whose smoothest range
Is crossed by knowledge, or by dread, of change,
And if not so, whose perfect joy makes sleep
A thing too bright for breathing man to keep.
Hail to the virtues which that perilous life
Extracts froin Nature's elemental strife ;
And welcome glory won in battles fought
As bravely as the foe was keenly sought.
But to each gallant captain and his crew
A less imperious sympathy is due,
Such as my verse now yields, while moonbeams play
On the mute sea in this unruffled bay;
Such as will promptly flow from every breast,
Where good men, disappointed in the quest
Of wealth, and power, and honors, long for rest ;
Or, having known the splendor of success,
Sigh for the obscurities of happiness.
The Crescent-moon, the Star of Love,
Glories of evening, as ye there are seen
With but a span of sky betweenSpeak one of you, my doubts remove, Which is the attendant Page and which the Queen ?