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Think'st thou the criminal in some dark retreat
To which from lowering justice he hath flown,
While die the echoes of pursuing feet,
Is left in peace, alone?
Think'st thou that undisturbed he stops to rest,
Forgetting the dark crime that lies behind?
Think'st thou that naught but triumph fills his breast,
That no iron bands his sense of freedom bind?
Not so; for though within a lone abode
His wicked heart of victory may boast,
The fears that crush his spirit like a load
Are far more frightful than a marialed host.
Stronger than the chains that bind the helpless slave
Are the iron fetters of the imprisoned soul,
More horrible the boughs that o'er him wave
Than funeral knells that for the just man toll;
Darkness more dense than that of starless _night_
Falls like a sable curtain o'er his mind,
And o'er that darkness, dawns no morning light;
Who would in such a frame a refuge find?
A silence, like the stillness of the grave
Hangs o'er the beauty of the forest shrine
And chills the trembling coward, where the brave
Would notice but a solitude sublime.
A crackling in the underbrush--he starts--
'Tis but a fawn that seeks the grassy glade--
A rustle--through the trees a grey squirrel darts;
He jumps, and rises to his feet dismayed.
Each simple sound breaks on his guilty ear
Like some dread omen of a coming doom,
What wonder, in each rustle he can hear
The outward echo of an inward gloom;
And in the guilty horror of despair
Fears that the day might bring his deeds to light
And thinks to hide the blackened robes they wear
Under the sable covering of the night.
And hopes in vain; for lo, before him stands,
A Judge, more awful than the one he fears;
The laws of justice written on his hands,
Laws that shall stand unchanged to endless years,
Not as a Saviour to the abandoned wretch
Who sinks in terror to the speaking sod,
Not with the angel Mercy's wings outstretched;
But as the just, unchanged, avenging God.
"Jehovah," trembles on the burdened air.
Memory awakes, can Memory every die?
Long she has slept, but now her life revives,
And terrified, afraid to reason: "Why?"
Vainly to hush her voice the villain strives.
Vainly? Ah! What a book of wasted years she holds,
What records to defile the peaceful sod,
What scenes, what deeds of darkness she unfolds!
O man! and thou, the noblest work of God!
Fallen, lost, ruined, by thine own consent,
A demon crowd, thy fit companions, they,
On thy destruction all their arts intent.
Well mayst thou flee by night and hide by day.
Alone! fain would the villain be alone,
His Maker, no more trouble his abode,
His memory, like the vanished moments flown,
His conscience, buried with its fearful load.
Ah! vain his wish, though ocean wastes be crossed,
Or lie concealed within the forest's gloom,
The crimes that marked the years, now worse than lost,
Will haunt him too, ah! far beyond the tomb.
Who would escape the presence of his God,
Flee to the desert? Lo, His throne is there
Whithersoever human feet have trod
The Lord Jehovah, reigneth everywhere.
How slow the dragging moments seem to glide
To the transgressor in his living grave.
Ah! words unutterable cannot describe
The dread companions of the culprit's cave!

* * *

Think'st thou, the Christian on the lonely isle,
Banished from every tie of heart or home
Far from a friendly word or loving smile,
Is hopeless and alone?
No; though he mourns that human love no more
May soothe the lonely pathway he must tread,
And when the weary journey shall be o'er
No loved one comes to soothe his dying bed;
Yet in his soul a calm and perfect peace,
Deep as the ocean, fathomless as thought
Commands the fury of the tempest cease
And bids the lonely wanderer murmur not.
'Tis evening, from the Eastern star there shines
A radiance, unnoticed there before;
While the blue wavelets, traced in beauteous lines,
In a new grandeur break upon the shore;
He listens to the breaker's ceaseless moan,
They wake to being, voices of the past,
Memory is there, with scenes of friends and home,
Like leaves upon the eddying current cast.
He fathoms the sublimity of time,
He views the emblem of life's troubled sea.
Breaker and crag in unity divine,
Sing to his soul a sweeter melody;
And as he keeps his vigil there alone
He feels the living presence of a friend,
Holier than friendship's voice that loving tone,
"Lo, I am with thee, even to the end."
He lifts his voice; hushed in the balmy air
A benediction rests on Nature's things,
Angelic beings breathe their notes of prayer,
And wait in silence while the Christian sings:
"Jesus, the sweetest name on mortal tongue."
Listen, ye lonely rocks, ye waves rejoice,
"Jesus," by countless hosts of angels sung,
Awake, lone ocean isle, and lend a voice!
Hark! from surrounding cliffs a chorus rises:
"Jesus, to thee be praise and glory given."
Angels repeat it through the vaulted skies
And bear the unfinished anthem on the heaven;
Weary, he lays him down in peace to sleep
And pleasant dreams his stony pillow calm,
Bright guardian angels, vigil o'er him keep
And breathe upon the air a solemn psalm.
Away on other shores for him they mourn
Friends, who are shrouded in funereal gloom
Dark are the robes of sorrow for him worn
As one who sleeps within a watery tomb;
But oh! the bright companions 'round him now
Are dearer than when other friends were there,
Brighter the crowns upon each pearly brow,
More glorified the saintly robes they wear.
Ah! not alone the Christian vigil kept
On the lone isle, and faced his fears unawed;
When guardian angels watched him while he slept
And One was with him like the Son of God.