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Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

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PILATE'S WIFE'S DREAM. I've quench'd my lamp, I struck it in that startWhich every limb convulsed, I heard it fall—The crash blent with my sleep, I saw departIts light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;Over against my bed, there shone a gleamStrange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.It sank, and I am wrapt in utter gloom;How far is night advanced, and when will dayRetinge the dusk and livid air with bloom,And fill this void with warm, creative ray?Would I could sleep again till, clear and red,Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!I'd call my women, but to break their sleep,Because my own is broken, were unjust;They've wrought all day, and well-earn'd slumbers steepTheir labours in forgetfulness, I trust;Let me my feverish watch with patience bear,Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.Yet, oh, for light! one ray would tranquillizeMy nerves, my pulses, more than effort can;I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies:These trembling stars at dead of night look wan,Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drearThan this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.All black—one great cloud, drawn from east to west,Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below;Torches burn in Jerusalem, and castOn yonder stony mount a lurid glow.I see men station'd there, and gleaming spears;A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.Dull, measured strokes of axe and hammer ringFrom street to street, not loud, but through the nightDistinctly heard—and some strange spectral thingIs now uprear'd—and, fix'd against the lightOf the pale lamps, defined upon that sky,It stands up like a column, straight and high.I see it all—I know the dusky sign—A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprearWhile Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shinePilate, to judge the victim, will appear—Pass sentence-yield Him up to crucify;And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.Dreams, then, are true—for thus my vision ran;Surely some oracle has been with me,The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan,To warn an unjust judge of destiny:I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know,Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.I do not weep for Pilate—who could proveRegret for him whose cold and crushing swayNo prayer can soften, no appeal can move:Who tramples hearts as others trample clay,Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread,That might stir up reprisal in the dead.Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds;Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour,In whose gaunt lines the abhorrent gazer readsA triple lust of gold, and blood, and power;A soul whom motives fierce, yet abject, urge—Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.How can I love, or mourn, or pity him?I, who so long my fetter'd hands have wrung;I, who for grief have wept my eyesight dim;Because, while life for me was bright and young,He robb'd my youth—he quench'd my life's fair ray—He crush'd my mind, and did my freedom slay.And at this hour-although I be his wife—He has no more of tenderness from meThan any other wretch of guilty life;Less, for I know his household privacy—I see him as he is—without a screen;And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien...!