Chaunt Of The Cholera

By John Banim

From my proper clime and subjects,
In my hot and swarthy East,
North and Westward I am coming
For a conquest and a feast–
And I come not until challenged,
Through your chilly lands to roam!–
As a bride ye march’d to woo me,
And in triumph led me home!

Your mighty one of Russia,
He wanted slaves the more,
And in my East he sought them,
From his frozen Baltic shore–
He sought them! and he found them!–
And whom found with them too?
Ho, ho! my brother–tyrant,
Am I less a Czar than you?

He deems me an Avenger!
That in rage I sally forth,
Blow for blow to give him
In his distant howling North!
That for Persia first I smote him!
That for Poland now I smite!
That–hurra!–I kill for Freedom,
When Freedom wars with Might!

He is in his lazaretto,
With the triple guards around,
While his serfs, in tens of thousands,
Do blacken on the ground;
And he hopeth to escape me–
Yet he is quaking still,
For he knows no watch can bar me,
When I would work my will!

He knows that I can pass them,
As they whisper there of me,
And at midnight deep be with him
In his chamber, lonelily–
And, o’er his slumbers bending
My dark and spasmy face,
Breathe out the breath which maketh
A pest–house of the place–

And with my spume–lips kiss him–
And with my shaking hand
Press down his heart, and press it,
Till its throb is at a stand–
Low laughing, while an horror
His despot eye–ball dims–
My knarled arms twined round him,
And my cramp’d and knotty limbs!

Kings!–tell me my commission,
As from land to land I go,
And the time, and place, and season,
For me my strength to show?
Am I here and there, so near ye,
To watch ye, every one,
For justice, and for judgment,
And the changes drawing on!

With the shadow of my coming,
Why do I shadow o’er
The Spree’s thrice–regal waters,
The imperial Danube’s roar?
Crown’d rulers of the rivers!
In your hearts my question scan!
Ho, ho! I bide an answer!
For mercy if I can.

Not yet appear my foot–prints
On the ocean–kingdom’s strand–
Not yet my fiend–wing’s rustle
Is heard in Gallia’s land;–
All ye unshackled people!
Hold bravely what ye ‘ve won–
With Freedom exorcise me,
Until my race be run!

Ho! on a land more Western
Observing her I’ve stood–
Must I disarm the cravens
Who are kept to spill her blood–
And save that man a vengeance
Who is brooding o’er the doom
Of his unborn infant, butcher’d
E’en through its mother’s womb?

Earth! tell me my commission,
As from land to land I go,
And the time, and place, and season,
For me my strength to show!
Mankind! declare the limit
Of my stay and scope with you! Come–prophesy the ending
Of the work I have to do!

Ye cannot! ye are cringing,
All Earth, to measure Me!
As if ye were, already,
The worms ye soon may be–
Surface of meanest reptiles!
The only living things
Left on a world, in eclipse
By the spreading of my wings!

Ye cannot–and ye dare not!
From the monarch on his throne,
And the statesman in his closet,
To the wretch of skin and bone
Who begs the crumb which keepeth
A spark of life in him–
Each thinketh of the glaring
Of my pest–eyes, film’d and dim!

And the monarch, sideways glancing
Upon the costly thing
Which must give a pageant promise
That he surely is a King,
Thrills at the sickening notion
Of WHO may be a prey
To my caresses, loathsome,
Ere his coronation day!

And the statesman, calculating
The hosts he would send out,
Throws down his pen, and idly
Stares round him in cold doubt,
As the icy thought doth seize him
Of WHO their might may stem–
Yea, and who may be the wise–one
To make up the loss of them!

He hears them onward tramping
To the tramp of other feet–
He hears the hostile shouting
Of the armies ere they meet–
Hush!–at one side and the other,
They are silent–and they stop–
An unseen hand hath touch’d them!
Down their weapons drop!

And they reel about like drunkards,
Or infants in their play,
And they fall, convulsed and bloated,
And blind to the bright day–
And in heaps they stir and struggle,
Until at last all lie
Dead, by the noble river
Which lonesomely runs by!

Hurra! could I not do it,
What the coward shadows forth?
Earth’s puny hosts thus wither
To show them their own worth!
While brother calls to brother,
Agape for brother’s blood–
To confound them there, together–
Hurra! were it not good?

Who can tell me my commission,
As from land to land I go,
And the time, and place, and season,
For me my might to show?
Mankind! declare the limit
Of my stay and scope with you!
Come, prophesy the ending
Of the work I have to do!

A promise, vague and fearful,
Whose fulfiller I may be!
Ha! good and true believers,
Fix ye now your eyes on me?
Man’s heart, is it not harden’d,
And proud exceedingly?
And am I come to chasten
For boasts and blasphemy?

To chasten, by Destroying!
To spare not! till a few,
Alone, be left, in tremblings,
Earth’s people to renew,
And to cry–“There is a Godhead! “And man his anger braved!
“And to raise a race to fear Him
“We, lonely–ones, are saved!”

Her sages who believe not!
Unto yourselves ye say,
That in death, and in corruption,
From the world have pass’d away
Her live–things, strange and ancient–
And the rottings of that past
Gave ye your words and wisdom–
And ye are but her last–

Am I coming, am I coming,
To change it o’er again,
And shape her new possessors
From the loathsome wreck of men?
Philosophy console ye
For the fate herself proclaims!
Die! Rot! and leave behind ye
Nothing! not even names!

Earth’s insects all! her wise–ones,
Who scoff, or doubt, or fear,–
Ye have read her skies, and told her
A Destroyer draweth near!
Lo! the prophets of that ruin
Do prophesy the day
When the errant terror rusheth
To blaze her heart away!

How say ye? am I with ye,
As a friend, for such an hour!–
When agony, and madness,
And nought else shall have power!
To touch, for God, in season,
Your callousness and pride,
And fit ye, and submit ye
To what ye may abide!

The anguish–hour! the frantic!
Before the havoc–one!
When Earth with ye, ye with her,
Are shrivell’d, stricken, gone!
When lifeless, and lightless,
And colorless, and black,
A lump of cindered chaos,
She staggers in her track–

And falling, and falling,
Below the dive of thought,
From among the specks of heaven
Goes out, and is forgot
By her myriad, myriad sisters,
Who may still have leave to be,
Lifting up their myriad voices
Unto God’s eternity!

The fearful hour! the frantic!
Before the havoc–one!
The annihilator flaming,
And whirling, thundering on!
Your own faint sun effacing,
As he your night–stars doth–
Your day and night confounding,
To make dread day of both!

The hour of shrieks! the frantic!
He swells above your head!
Ye feel him! though he spareth
As yet to strike ye dead!
He tortures ye! he blisters!
The blood within your veins
Is boiling! and all verdure
Turns red upon your plains!

And from the lonesome places
Four–footed things come in,
And, unheeded, run amongst ye,
And help your coward din–
Your horses and your cattle
Break loose, and kick, and gore,
And your household dogs do bite ye,
Upon the household floor!

And in crowds ye go together–
All ye I may have spared–
The king, uncrown’d–the captain
Ungirded–not unsear’d–
The mean and ragged cripple–
The foolish and the wise–
The strong man, and the weak one
Who did never win a prize–
And Beauty–ah! proud Beauty–
How is it she appears
Abroad, without her gay robes,
And the jewels in her ears?
And moves she now so graceful
As when she used to greet
The tinkling, which was timing
The bound of her small feet?

Look up! the growing horror
Half covers o’er your sky!
And near is no soft azure
To refresh the scorching eye!
And look abroad! your mountains
Do move and work in spasms,
And your hoar seas are uplifted,
And their beds are yawning chasms!

With lolling tongues ye hoarsely
Cry out, and curse or pray–
Kneel down! kneel down! and wisely
Dream on of such a day!–
And what though I should smite ye
Before it come so near–
Ho! were it not in mercy,
To make ye love or fear!–

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