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The Dungeon

[from his play Osorio, later called Remorse]
Song

(Act V, scene i)

And this place our forefathers made for man!
This is the process of our Love and Wisdom,
To each poor brother who offends against us
Most innocent, perhaps and what if guilty?
Is this the only cure? Merciful God!
Each pore and natural outlet shrivell’d up
By Ignorance and parching Poverty,
His energies roll back upon his heart,
And stagnate and corrupt ; till chang’d to poison,
They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot ;
Then we call in our pamper’d mountebanks
And this is their best cure! uncomforted
And friendless Solitude, Groaning and Tears,
And savage Faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,
By the lamp’s dismal twilight! So he lies
Circled with evil, till his very soul
Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deform’d
By sights of ever more deformity!

With other ministrations thou, O Nature!
Healest thy wandering and distemper’d child :
Thou pourest on him thy soft influences,
Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets,
Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
Till he relent, and can no more endure
To be a jarring and a dissonant thing,
Amid this general dance and minstrelsy ;
But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,
His angry spirit heal’d and harmoniz’d
By the benignant touch of Love and Beauty.


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Poem The Dungeon - Samuel Coleridge