BETA

Despair.

A Dramatic Monologue.

A man and his wife having lost faith in God, and hope of a life to come, and
being utterly miserable in this, resolve to end themselves by drowning. The woman is drowned, but the man is rescued by a minister of the sect he had
abandoned.

I.

Is it you, that preach’d in the chapel there looking
over the sand ?
1
Follow’d us too that night, and dogg’d us, and drew
me to land ?
2

II.

What did I feel that night ?  You are curious. How
should I tell ?
3
Does it matter so much what I felt ?  You rescued
me—yet—was it well
4
That you came unwish’d for, uncall’d, between me
and the deep and my doom
5
Three days since, three more dark days of the Godless
gloom
6
Of a life ithout sun, without health, withough hope,
without any delight
7
In anything here upon earth ? but ah God, that night,
that night
8
When the rolling eyes of the light-house there on
the fatal neck
9
Of land running out into rock—they had saved many
hundreds from wreck
10
Glared on our way toward death, I remember I
thought as we past
11
Does it matter how many they saved ? we are all of
us wreck’d at last
12
Do you fear,’ and there came thro’ the roar of the
breaker a whisper, a breath
13
Fear ? am I not with you ?  I am frighted at life
not death.’
14

III.

And the suns of the limitless Universe sparked and
shone in he sky,
15
Flashing with fires as of God, but we knew hat their
light was a lie
16
Bright as with deathless hope—but, however they
sparkled and shone,
17
The dark little worlds running round them were
worlds of woe like our own
18
No soul in the heaven above, no soul on the earth
below,
19
A fiery scroll written over with lamentation and
woe.
20

IV.

See, we were nursed in the dark night-fold of your
fatalist creed,
21
And we turn’d to the growing dawn, we had hoped
for a dawn indeed,
22
When the light of a Sun that was coming would
scatter the ghosts of the Past,
23
And the cramping creeds that had madden’d the
peoples would vanish at last.
24
And we broke away from the Christ, our human
brother and friend,
25
For He spoke, or it seem’d that He spoke, of a Hell
without help, without end.
26

V.

Hoped for a dawn and it came, but the promise had
faded away ;
27
We had past from a cheerless night to the glare of a
drearier day ;
28
He is only a cloud and a smoke who was once a pillar
of fire,
29
The guess of a worm in the dust and the shadow of
its desire
30
Of a worm as it writhes in a world of the weak
trodden down by the strong,
31
Of a dying worm in a world, all massacre, murder,
and wrong.
32

VI.

O we poor orphans of nothing—alone on that lonely
shore
33
Born of the brainless Nature who knew not that
which she bore !
34
Trusting no longer that earthly flower would be
heavenly fruit
35
Come from the brute, poor souls—no souls—and to
die with the brute——
36

VII.

Nay, but I am not claiming your piy : I know you
of old
37
Small pity for those that have ranged from the
narrow warmth of your fold
38
Where you bawl’d the dark side of your faith and a
God of eternal age,
39
Till you flung us back on ourselves, and the human
heart, and the Age.
40

VIII.

But pity—the Pagan held it a vice—was in her and
in me,
41
Helpless, taking the place of the pitying God that
should be !
42
Pity for all that aches in the grasp of an idiot
power,
43
And pity for our own selves on an earth that bore
not a flower ;
44
Pity for all that suffers on land or in air or the deep,45
And pity for our own selves till we long’d for eternal
sleep.
46

IX.

Lightly step over the sands ! the waters—you hear
them call !
47
Life wih its anguish, and horrors, and errors—away
with it all !’
48
And she laid her hand in my own—she was always
loyal and sweet
49
Till the points of the foam in the dusk came playing
about our feet.
50
There was a strong sea-current would sweep us out
to the main.
51
Ah God ’ and tho’ I fel as I spoke I was taking the
name in vain
52
Ah God ’ and we turn’d to each other, we kiss’d, we
embraced, she and I,
53
Knowing the Love we were used to believe ever-
lasting would die :
54
We had read their know-nothing books and we lean’d
to the darker side
55
Ah God, should we find Him, perhaps, perhaps, if we
died, if we died ;
56
We never had found Him on earth, this earth is a
fatherless Hell
57
Dear Love, for ever and ever, for ever and ever
farewell,’
58
Never a cry so desolate, not since the world
began !
59
Never a kiss so sad, no, not since the coming
of man.
60

X.

But the blind wave cast me ashore, and you saved
me, a valueless life.
61
Not a grain of gratitude mine !  You have parted the
man from the wife.
62
I am left alone on the land, she is all alone in the
sea,
63
If a curse meant ought, I would curse you for not
having let me be.
64

XI.

Visions of youth—for my brain was drunk with the
water, it seems ;
65
I had past into perfect quiet at length out of pleasant
dreams,
66
And the transient trouble of drowning—what was it
when match’d with the pains
67
Of the hellish heat of a wretched life rushing back
thro’ the veins ?
68

XII.

Why should I live ? one son had forged on his father
and fled,
69
And if I believed in a God, I would thank him, the
other is dead,
70
And there was a baby-girl, that had never look’d on
the light :
71
Happiest she of us all, for she past from the night to
the night.
72

XIII.

But the crime, if a crime, of her eldest-born, her
glory, her boast,
73
Struck hard at the tender heart of the mother, and
broke it almost ;
74
Tho’, name and fame dying out for ever in endless time,75
Does it matter so much whether crown’d for a virtue,
or hang’d for a crime ?
76

XIV.

And ruin’d by him, by him, I stood there, naked, amazed77
In a world of arrogant opulence, fear’d myself turn-
ing crazed,
78
And I would not be mock’d in a madhouse ! and she,
the delicate wife
79
With a grief that could only be cured, if cured, by the
surgeon’s knife,—
80

XV.

Why should we bear with an hour of torture, a
moment of pain
81
If every man die for ever, if all his griefs are in
vain,
82
And the homeless planet at length will be wheel’d
thro’ the silence of space,
83
Motherless evermore of an ever-vanishing race,84
When the worm shall have writhed its last, and its
last brother-worm will have fled
85
From the dead fossil skull that is left in the rocks of
an earth that is dead ?
86

XVI.

Have I crazed myself over their horrible infidel writ-
ings ?  O yes,
87
For these are the new dark ages, you see, of the
popular press,
88
When the bat comes out of his cave, and the owls
are whooping at noon,
89
And Doubt is the lord of this dunghill and crows to
the sun and the moon,
90
Till the Sun and the Moon of our science are both of
them turn’d into blood,
91
And Hope will have broken her heart, running after
a shadow of good ;
92
For their knowing and know-nothing books are
scatter’d from hand to hand
93
We have knelt in your know-all chapel too looking
over the sand.
94

XVII.

What ! I should call on that Infinate Love that has
served us so well ?
95
Infinite wickedness rather that made everlasting
Hell,
96
Made us, forknew us, foredoom’d us, and does what
he will with his own ;
97
Better our dead brute mother who never has heard us
groan !
98

XVIII.

Hell ? if the souls of men were immortal, as men have
been told,
99
The lecher would cleave to his lusts, and the miser
would yearn for his gold,
100
And so there were Hell for ever ! but were there a
God as you say,
101
His Love would have power over Hell till it utterly
vanish’d away.
102

XIX.

Ah yet—I have had some glimmer, at times, in my
gloomiest woe,
103
Of a God behind all—after all—the great God for
aught that I know ;
104
But the God of Love and of Hell together—they
cannot be thought,
105
If there be such a God, may the Great God curse him
and bring him to nought !
106

XX.

Blasphemy ! whose is the fault ? is it mine ? for why
would you save
107
A madman to vex you with wretched words, who is
best in his grave ?
108
Blasphemy ! ay, why not, being damn’d beyond hope
of grace ?
109
O would I were yonder with her, and away from your
faith and your face !
110
Blasphemy ! true ! I have sacred you pale with my
scandalous talk,
111
But the blasphemy to my mind lies all in the way
that you walk.
112

XXI.

Hence ! she is gone ! can I stay ? can I breathe
divorced from the Past ?
113
You needs must have good lynx-eyes if I do not
escape you at last.
114
Our orthodox coroner doubtless will find it a felo-
de-se,
115
And the stake and the cross-road, fool, if you will,
does it matter to me ?
116