The Terrors Of Guilt
By Matilda Betham
Yon coward, with the streaming hair,
And visage, madden’d to despair,
With step convuls’d, unsettled eye,
And bosom lab’ring with a sigh,
Is Guilt!-Behold, he hears the name,
And starts with horror, fear, and shame!
See! slow Suspicion by his side,
With winking, microscopic eye!
And Mystery, his muffled guide,
With fearful speech, and head awry.
See! scowling Malice there attend,
Bold Falsehood, an apparent friend;
Avarice, repining o’er his pelf,
Mean Cunning, lover of himself;
Hatred, the son of conscious Fear,
Impatient Envy, with a fiend-like sneer,
And shades of blasted Hopes, which still are hovering near!
All other woes will find relief,
And time alleviate every grief;
Memory, though slowly, will decay,
And Sorrow’s empire pass away.
Awhile Misfortune may controul,
And Fain oppress the virtuous soul,
Yet Innocence can still beguile
The patient sufferer of a smile,
The beams of Hope may still dispense
A grateful feeling to the sense;
Friendship may cast her arms around,
And with fond tears embalm the wound,
Or Piety’s soft incense rise,
And waft reflection to the skies;
But those fell pangs which he endures,
Nor Time forgets, nor Kindness cures;
Like Ocean’s waves, they still return,
Like Etna’s fires, forever burn.
Hound him no genial zephyrs fly,
No fair horizon glads his eye,
No joys to him does Nature yield,
The solemn grove, or laughing field;
Though both with loud rejoicings ring,
No pleasure does the echo bring,
Not bubbling waters as they roll,
Can tranquillize his bursting soul,
For Conscience still, with tingling smart,
Asserts his empire o’er his heart,
And even when his eye-lids close,
With clamourous scream affrights repose.
Oppress’d with light, he seeks to shun
The splendid glories of the sun;
The busy crowds that hover near,
Torment his eye, distract his ear;
He hastens to the secret shades,
Where not a ray the gloom pervades;
Where Contemplation may retreat,
And Silence take his mossy seat;
Yet even there no peace he knows,
His fev’rish blood, no calmer flows;
Some hid assassins ‘vengeful knife,
Is rais’d to end his wretched life.
He shudders, starts, and stares around,
With breathless fright, to catch the fancied sound;
Seeks for the dagger in his breast,
And gripes it ‘neath his ruffled vest.
Lo! now he plunges in the flood,
To cleanse his garments, stain’d with blood,
His sanguine arm, in terror, laves;
But ah! its hue defies the waves.
Deprest, bewildered, thence he flies,
And, to avoid Detection, tries,
Who, frowning, still before him stands,
The sword of Justice in her hands;
Abhorrent Scorn, unpitying Shame,
And Punishments without a name,
Still on her sounding steps attend,
And every added horror lend.
He turns away, with dread and fear,
But the fell spectres still are near.
Though Falsehood’s mazes see him wind!
Yet Infamy is close behind,
Lifting her horn, with horrors fraught,
Whose hideous yell is frenzy to the thought.
Now, maniac-like, he comes again,
And mixes with the jocund train;
But still those eyes that wildly roll,
Bespeak the tempest in his soul.
In yon deep cave he strives to rest,
But Mem’ry harrows up his breast;
He clasps the goblet, foe to Care,
And lo! Distraction hovers there.
Ah, hapless wretch! condemn’d to know,
The sad varieties of woe;
Where’er thy footsteps turn, to meet,
An earthquake yawning at thy feet,
While o’er thy head pale meteors glare,
And boding tempests fill the air,
In throbbing anguish doom’d to roam,
Yet never find a peaceful home.
Haste! to the shrine of Mercy hie,
There lift the penitential eye,
With breaking heart thy sins deplore,
And wound Integrity no more!
Repentance then thy soul shall save,
And snatch thee, ransom’d, from the grave.