Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Frederick George Scott b. 1861


PLUNGED in night, I sit alone

Eyeless on this dungeon stone,

Naked, shaggy and unkempt,

Dreaming dreams no soul hath dreamt.

Rats and vermin round my feet

Play unharmed, companions sweet,

Spiders weave me overhead

Silken curtains for my bed.

Day by day the mould I smell

Of this fungus-blistered cell;

Nightly in my haunted sleep

O’er my face the lizards creep.

Gyves of iron scrape and burn

Wrists and ankles when I turn,

And my collared neck is raw

With the teeth of brass that gnaw.

God of Israel, canst Thou see

All my fierce captivity?

Do thy sinews feel my pains?

Hearest Thou the clanking chains?

Thou who madest me so fair,

Strong and buoyant as the air,

Tall and noble as a tree,

With the passions of the sea,

Swift as horse upon my feet,

Fierce as lion in my heat,

Rending, like a wisp of hay,

All that dared withstand my way,

Canst Thou see me through the gloom

Of this subterranean tomb,—

Blinded tiger in his den,

Once the lord and prince of men?

Clay was I; the potter Thou

With Thy thumb-nail smooth’dst my brow,

Roll’dst the spital-moistened sands

Into limbs between Thy hands.

Thou didst pour into my blood

Fury of the fire and flood,

And upon the boundless skies

Thou didst first unclose my eyes.

And my breath of life was flame;

God-like from the source it came,

Whirling round like furious wind

Thoughts upgathered in the mind.

Strong Thou mad’st me, till at length

All my weakness was my strength;

Tortured am I, blind and wrecked,

For a faulty architect.

From the woman at my side,

Was I woman-like to hide

What she asked me, as if fear

Could my iron heart come near?

Nay, I scorned and scorn again

Cowards who their tongues restrain;

Cared I no more for Thy laws

Than a wind of scattered straws.

When the earth quaked at my name

And my blood was all aflame,

Who was I to lie, and cheat

Her who clung about my feet?

From Thy open nostrils blow

Wind and tempest, rain and snow;

Dost Thou curse them on their course,

For the fury of their force?

Tortured am I, wracked and bowed,

But the soul within is proud;

Dungeon fetters cannot still

Forces of the tameless will.

Israel’s God, come down and see

All my fierce captivity;

Let Thy sinews feel my pains,

With Thy fingers lift my chains.

Then, with thunder loud and wild,

Comfort Thou Thy rebel child,

And with lightning split in twain

Loveless heart and sightless brain.

Give me splendor in my death—

Not this sickening dungeon breath,

Creeping down my blood like slime,

Till it wastes me in my prime.

Give me back, for one blind hour,

Half my former rage and power,

And some giant crisis send

Meet to prove a hero’s end.

Then, O God, Thy mercy show—

Crush him in the overthrow

At whose life they scorn and point,

By its greatness out of joint.