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UPON THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH.
SUGGESTED BY THE VIEW OF LANCASTER CASTLE (ON THE ROAD FROM THE SOUTH).
THIS Spot-at once unfolding sight so fair
Of sea and land, with yon grey towers that still
Rise up as if to lord it over air—
Might soothe in human breasts the sense of ill,
Or charm it out of memory; yea, might fill 5
The heart with joy and gratitude to God
For all his bounties upon man bestowed:
Why bears it then the name of "Weeping
Thousands, as toward yon old Lancastrian Towers,
A prison's crown, along this way they past 10 For lingering durance or quick death with shame,
From this bare eminence thereon have cast Their first look-blinded as tears fell in
Shed on their chains; and hence that doleful
TENDERLY do we feel by Nature's law
For worst offenders: though the heart will heave
With indignation, deeply moved we grieve,
In after thought, for Him who stood in awe
Neither of God nor man, and only saw,
Lost wretch, a horrible device enthroned
On proud temptations, till the victim groaned
Under the steel his hand had dared to draw.
But O, restrain compassion, if its course,
As oft befalls, prevent or turn aside
Judgments and aims and acts whose higher
Is sympathy with the unforewarned, who died Blameless-with them that shuddered o'er his
And all who from the law firm safety crave.
THE Roman Consul doomed his sons to die Who had betrayed their country. The stern
Afforded (may it through all time afford)
A theme for praise and admiration high.
Upon the surface of humanity
He rested not; its depths his mind explored;
He felt; but his parental bosom's lord
Was Duty,-Duty calmed his agony.
And some, we know, when they by wilful act
A single human life have wrongly taken,
Pass sentence on themselves, confess the fact,
And, to atone for it, with soul unshaken
Kneel at the feet of Justice, and, for faith
Broken with all mankind, solicit death.
Is Death, when evil against good has fought
With such fell mastery that a man may dare
By deeds the blackest purpose to lay bare?
Is Death, for one to that condition brought,
For him, or any one, the thing that ought
To be most dreaded? Lawgivers, beware,
Lest, capital pains remitting till ye spare
The murderer, ye, by sanction to that thought,
Seemingly given, debase the general mind
Tempt the vague will tried standards to
Nor only palpable restraints unbind,
But upon Honour's head disturb the crown, Whose absolute rule permits not to withstand In the weak love of life his least command.
Nor to the object specially designed,
Howe'er momentous in itself it be,
Good to promote or curb depravity,
Is the wise Legislator's view confined.
His Spirit, when most severe, is oft most kind; 5
As all Authority in earth depends
On Love and Fear, their several powers he blends,
Copying with awe the one Paternal mind.
Uncaught by processes in show humane,
He feels how far the act would derogate
From even the humblest functions of the
If she, self-shorn of Majesty, ordain
That never more shall hang upon her breath
The last alternative of Life or Death.