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Each narrow cell in which we dwell
Is a foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust In humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.

* * * * *

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare, For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart, And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope, Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot, With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse and some men weep, And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper’s house With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy they whose hearts can break And peace of pardon win!
How else man may make straight his plan And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart May Lord Christ enter in?

* * * * *

And he of the swollen purple throat, And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal His soul of his soul’s strife, And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand, The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood, And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain Became Christ’s snow-white seal.

VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burning winding-sheet he lies, And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead, In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die.

And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

APPENDIX

_From “Percy’s Reliques”–Volume I._

THE FROLICKSOME DUKE

Printed from a black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection.

KING ESTMERE

This ballad is given from two versions, one in the Percy folio manuscript, and of considerable antiquity. The original version was probably written at the end of the fifteenth century.

ROBIN HOOD AND GUY OF GISBORNE

One of the earliest known ballads about Robin Hood–from the Percy folio manuscript.

KING COPHETUA AND THE BEGGAR MAID

This ballad is printed from Richard Johnson’s _Crown Garland of Goulden Roses,_ 1612.

THE FRIAR OF ORDERS GRAY

This ballad is composed of innumerable small fragments of ancient ballads found throughout the plays of Shakespeare, which Thomas Percy formed into one.

SIR ALDINGAR

Given from the Percy folio manuscript, with some additional stanzas added by Thomas Percy to complete the story.

EDOM O’GORDON

A Scottish ballad–this version was printed at Glasgow in 1755 by Robert and Andrew Foulis. It has been enlarged with several stanzas, recovered from a fragment of the same ballad, from the Percy folio manuscript.

THE BALLAD OF CHEVY CHACE

From the Percy folio manuscript, amended by two or three others printed in black-letter. Written about the time of Elizabeth.

SIR LANCELOT DU LAKE

Given from a printed copy, corrected in part by an extract from the Percy folio manuscript.

THE CHILD OF ELLE

Partly from the Percy folio manuscript, with several additional stanzas by Percy as the original copy was defective and mutilated.

KING EDWARD IV AND THE TANNER OF TAM WORTH

The text in this ballad is selected from two copies in black-letter. One in the Bodleian Library, printed at London by John Danter in 1596. The other copy, without date, is from the Pepys Collection.

SIR PATRICK SPENS

Printed from two manuscript copies transmitted from Scotland. It is possible that this ballad is founded on historical fact.

EDWARD, EDWARD

An old Scottish ballad–from a manuscript copy transmitted from Scotland.

KING LEIR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS

Version from an old copy in the _Golden Garland,_ black-letter, entitled _A lamentable Song of the Death of King Lear and his Three Daughters._

THE GABERLUNZIE MAN

This ballad is said to have been written by King James V of Scotland.

_From “Percy’s Reliques”–Volume II._

THE KNIGHT AND SHEPHERD’S DAUGHTER

Printed from an old black-letter copy, with some corrections.

KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY

This ballad was abridged and modernized in the time of James I from one much older, entitled _King John and the Bishop of Canterbury._ The version given here is from an ancient black-letter copy.

BARBARA ALLEN’S CRUELTY

Given, with some corrections, from an old black-letter copy, entitled _Barbara Alien’s Cruelty, or the Young Man’s Tragedy._

FAIR ROSAMOND

The version of this ballad given here is from four ancient copies in black-letter: two of them in the Pepys’ Library. It is by Thomas Delone. First printed in 1612.

THE BOY AND THE MANTLE

This is a revised and modernized version of a very old ballad.

THE HEIR OF LINNE

Given from the Percy folio manuscript, with several additional stanzas supplied by Thomas Percy.

SIR ANDREW BARTON

This ballad is from the Percy folio manuscript with additions and amendments from an ancient black-letter copy in the Pepys’ Collection. It was written probably at the end of the sixteenth century.

THE BEGGAR’S DAUGHTER OF BEDNALL GREEN

Given from the Percy folio manuscript, with a few additions and alterations from two ancient printed copies.

BRAVE LORD WILLOUGHBEY

Given from an old black-letter copy.

THE SPANISH LADY’S LOVE

The version of an ancient black-letter copy, edited in part from the Percy folio manuscript.

GIL MORRICE

The version of this ballad given here was printed at Glasgow in 1755. Since this date sixteen additional verses have been discovered and added to the original ballad.

CHILD WATERS

From the Percy folio manuscript, with corrections.

THE BAILIFF’S DAUGHTER OF ISLINGTON

From an ancient black-letter copy in the Pepys’ Collection.

THE LYE

By Sir Walter Raleigh. This poem is from a scarce miscellany entitled _Davison’s Poems, or a poeticall Rapsodie divided into sixe books … the 4th impression newly corrected and augmented and put into a forme more pleasing to the reader._ Lond. 1621.

_From “English and Scottish Ballads.”_

MAY COLLIN

From a manuscript at Abbotsford in the Sir Walter Scott Collection, _Scotch Ballads, Materials for Border Minstrelsy._

THOMAS THE RHYMER

_Scotch Ballads, Materials for Border Minstrelsy,_ No. 97, Abbotsford. From the Sir Walter Scott Collection. Communicated to Sir Walter by Mrs. Christiana Greenwood, London, May 27th, 1806.

YOUNG BEICHAN

Taken from the Jamieson-Brown manuscript, 1783.

CLERK COLVILL

From a transcript of No. 13 of William Tytler’s Brown manuscript.

THE EARL OF MAR’S DAUGHTER

From Buchan’s _Ballads of the North of Scotland,_ 1828.

HYND HORN

From Motherwell’s manuscript, 1825 and after.

THE THREE RAVENS

_Melismate. Musicall Phansies. Fitting the Court, Cittie and Country Humours._ London, 1611. (T. Ravenscroft.)

THE WIFE OF USHER’S WELL

Printed from _Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border_, 1802.

* * * * *

MANDALAY

By Rudyard Kipling.

JOHN BROWN’S BODY

IT’S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY

By Jack Judge and Harry Williams.

THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL

By Oscar Wilde.