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SONNETS

UPON THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH.

IN SERIES.

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

Hill"?
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

showers Shed on their chains; and hence that doleful

name.

II.

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 Grod nor man, and only saw, 5

Lost wretch, a horrible device enthroned

On proud temptations, till the victim groaned

Under the steel his hand had dared to draw.

But 0, restrain conrpassion, if its course,

As oft befalls, prevent or turn aside 10

Judgments and aims and acts whose higher

source Is sympathy with the unforewarned, who died Blameless—with them that shuddered o'er his

grave, And all who from the law firm safety crave.

The Roman Consul doomed his sons to die Who had betrayed their country. The stern

word
Afforded (may it through all time afford)
A theme for praise and admiration high.
Upon the surface of humanity 5

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, 10
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 5
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
disown; 10

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.

Not to the object specially designed,

Howe'er momentous in itself it be,

G-ood 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 10 From even the humblest functions of the

State; If she, self-shorn of Majesty, ordain That never more shall hang upon her breath The last alternative of Life or Death.

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