Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CONVICTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES: FREDERIC, by ROBERT SOUTHEY

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THE CONVICTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES: FREDERIC, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where shall I turn me? Whither shall I bend
Last Line: Shall heal my soul, and my last days be peace.
Subject(s): Fear; New South Wales, Australia; Pain; Prayer; Prisons & Prisoners; Salvation; Suffering; Misery

WHERE shall I turn me? whither shall I bend
My weary way? thus worn with toil and faint,
How through the thorny mazes of this wood
Attain my distant dwelling? That deep cry
That rings along the forest, seems to sound
My parting knell: it is the midnight howl
Of hungry monsters prowling for their prey!
Again! O save me—save me, gracious Heaven!
I am not fit to die.
Thou coward wretch,
Why heaves thy trembling heart? why shake thy limbs
Beneath their palsied burden? Is there aught
So lovely in existence? Wouldst thou drain
Even to its dregs the bitter draught of life?
Stamped with the brand of vice and infamy,
Why should the villain Frederic shrink from death?

Death! Where the magic in that empty name
That chills my inmost heart? Why at the thought
Starts the cold dew of fear on every limb?
There are no terrors to surround the grave,
When the calm mind, collected in itself,
Surveys that narrow house: the ghastly train
That haunt the midnight of delirious guilt
Then vanish. In that home of endless rest
All sorrows cease.—Would I might slumber there!

Why, then, this panting of the fearful heart?
This miser love of life, that dreads to lose
Its cherish'd torment? Shall the diseased man
Yield up his members to the surgeon's knife,
Doubtful of succour, but to ease his frame
Of fleshly anguish; and the coward wretch,
Whose ulcerated soul can know no help,
Shrink from the best Physician's certain aid?
Oh, it were better far to lay me down
Here on this cold damp earth, till some wild beast
Seize on his willing victim!
If to die
Were all, it were most sweet to rest my head
On the cold clod, and sleep the sleep of death.
But if the archangel's trump at the last hour
Startle the ear of death, and wake the soul
To phrensy!—dreams of infancy: fit tales
For garrulous beldames to affrighten babes!
What if I warred upon the world? the world
Had wronged me first: I had endured the ills
Of hard injustice: all this goodly earth
Was but to me one wild waste wilderness;
I had no share in nature's patrimony,
Blasted were all my morning hopes of youth,
Dark disappointment followed on my ways,
Care was my bosom inmate, and keen want
Gnawed at my heart. Eternal one, thou knowest
How that poor heart, even in the bitter hour
Of lewdest revelry, has inly yearned
For peace.
My Father! I will call on thee,
Pour to thy mercy-seat my earnest prayer,
And wait thy righteous will, resigned of soul.
Oh, thoughts of comfort! how the afflicted heart,
Tired with the tempest of its passions, rests
On you with holy hope! The hollow howl
Of yonder harmless tenant of the woods
Bursts not with terror on the sobered sense.
If I have sinned against mankind, on them
Be that past sin—they made me what I was.
In these extremest climes can want no more
Urge to the deeds of darkness, and at length
Here shall I rest. What though my hut be poor—
The rains descend not through its humble roof:
Would I were there again! The night is cold;
And what if in my wanderings I should rouse
The savage from his thicket!
Hark! the gun!
And lo, the fire of safety! I shall reach
My little hut again! again by toil
Force from the stubborn earth my sustenance,
And quick-eared guilt will never start alarmed
Amid the well-earned meal. This felon's garb—
Will it not shield me from the winds of heaven?
And what could purple more? Oh, strengthen me,
Eternal One, in this serener state!
Cleanse thou mine heart, so penitence and faith
Shall heal my soul, and my last days be peace.

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