Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SHADOWS OF CRIME, by LEVI BISHOP

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SHADOWS OF CRIME, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: His early youth was formed in virtue's way
Last Line: The mantle of the tomb is on him cast.
Subject(s): Crime & Criminals; Evil; Temptation; Virtue; Youth

His early youth was formed in virtue's way,
Nor tempting vice e'er led his feet astray;
Swiftly his years in happy quiet flew,
Nor spot of leprous crime e'er felt or knew.
And songs of praise are his, and pious thought,
And offerings to the sacred altar brought;
And, fixed in firm resolve, his earnest soul
Can sin withstand, though floods around him roll.
As free from guile as saint or angel blest,
He thinks of crime but only to detest.
Of earthly goods he has enough, and more,
He covets not his neighbor's gold or store.
Perhaps his portion is the humble cot,
Yet sweet contentment is his happy lot;
Or, if in princely affluence he leads
A life of ease, 'tis marked by worthy deeds.

In evil, fatal hour the tempter came --
To touch, to taint, to load with endless shame;
To blacken innocence with crime and lies,
To blast the hopes that reach beyond the skies.
The purest fountain of the mountain top,
Is quickly curdled by the poison drop;
And once impregnate with the fatal grain,
The dark solution wanders to the plain;
From thence around with foul, malarious breath,
'T will spread and widen to the gates of death.

The tempter comes: the first dim thought of crime,
Disturbs the quiet of that soul sublime.
He feels an agitation -- tremor -- dread,
As if already to the prison led.
The deepening shades collect around his soul;
The darkening, turbid waters round him roll.
He fears himself; he fancies others read
His troubled thoughts, and watch the coming deed.
His early virtues oft revive, but feel
The tempter grasping with his hooks of steel.
He struggles oft in tears and deepest grief,
And dreads the never dying brand -- A Thief.
He reasons, doubts, resolves, but to the goal
He steady moves, with loosened self control.

His neighbor's store secure before him lies,
He furtive looks about him, takes, and flies.
A chill, a shudder darts through all his frame;
He hates the light, he hates his very name.
In every breeze he hears the hue and cry,
He flies, and from himself he fain would fly
His eye is often o'er his shoulder cast,
With horror stricken face and look aghast.
His shadow keeps his steps in measured time,
The ever present witness of his crime.
His consciousness of guilt will quickly trace
Suspicion of his crime in every face.
Each unexpected touch -- electric shock;
"I'm not the man," he cries, to striking clock.
The evening stars are but a hateful light,
That drag his guilt to dreaded human sight.
The smiling moon a mocking demon seems;
His sweetest slumbers are but fitful dreams.
Handcuffs and bolts and bars and shackles loom,
From every quarter of his haunted room;
And specters, hydras, march before his eyes,
As panting, stifled, on his couch he lies.
"Avaunt!" he mutters with affrighted tone;
He springs, he wakes -- to find himself alone.
He wakes as from suspended animation;
He wipes the heavy drops of perspiration.
"O, never dying worm, I pray depart,
Or strike at once and sting me to the heart."

Now darker shadows flit across the room,
And fill his troubled soul with frightful gloom.
The tuneful cricket, innocent and kind,
Shouts black perdition to his tortured mind.
If silence reigns, its terrors but display
The awful thunders of the judgment day.

"A knock! I'm tracked and found! It is the knell,
That breaks the terrors of this midnight spell!
To prison -- dungeon -- horrible relief!
The fear is past -- I know the worst: A thief!
These solid walls and rays of light so pale,
Are real now; they tell the heavy tale.
Oh, that this narrow cell, so full of gloom,
Were but the rest and quiet of the tomb!
Oh come, thou grim destroyer, end the strife!
Stretch forth thy bony fingers -- clutch my life!
To mortal, sunk in crime, no tyrant thou!
I gladly would embrace thee, here and now!"
In vain; exposure -- witness -- proof of guilt --
The verdict -- sentence -- all must yet be felt;
No burning tears of sorrow aught avail,
As prying eye and curling lip assail.

Perhaps the crime was murder -- first degree;
"Hold, hold my reeling brain! Behold that sea
Of human gore that floats and curdles round me!
Its sickening, damning odors well confound me!
See through its reeking mists -- the beam -- the halter!
Toward the fatal drop I walk -- I falter!
A broken law with thunders rends the air;
Around me gather clouds of black despair.
Beneath my feet a yawning pit -- the brink
Invites my step -- the step I take -- I sink!!
As being fails, as night invades mine eyes,
One ray alone I see from angry skies;
The ray that shone to thief upon the tree;
Oh, Star of Bethlehem, remember me!"
* * * * * * * *
Now motion, sense, vitality are past;
The mantle of the tomb is on him cast.

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