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For blood has left upon their souls

Its everlasting stain !

“ And well,” quoth he, “I know, for truth,

Their pangs must be extreme, Woe, woe, unutterable woe,

Who spill life's sacred stream ! For why ? Methought, last night I wrought

A murder, in a dream !

“One that had never done me wrong,

A feeble man and old ;
I led him to a lonely field, —

The moon shone clear and cold :
Now here, said I, this man shall die,

And I will have his gold !

“Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,

And one with a heavy stone,
One hurried gash with a hasty knife, —

And then the deed was done :
There was nothing lying at my foot.

But lifeless flesh and bone !

“ Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,

That could not do me ill ;

And yet I feared him all the more,

For lying there so still :
There was a manhood in his look,

That murder could not kill !

“ And, lo! the universal air

Seemed lit with ghastly flame, Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes

Were looking down in blame :
I took the dead man by his hand,

And called upon his name!

“ O God ! it made me quake to see

Such sense within the slain ; But when I touched the lifeless clay,

The blood gushed out amain ! For every clot, a burning spot .

Was scorching in my brain I.

“My head was like an ardent coal,

My heart as solid ice ;
My wretched, wretched soul, I knew

Was at the Devil's price.
A dozen times I groaned ; the dead

Had never groaned but twice.

“And now, from forth the frowning sky,

From the heaven's topmost height, I heard a voice — the awful voice

Of the blood-avenging sprite :“Thou guilty man! take up thy dead

And hide it from my sight!!

“I took the dreary body up,

And cast it in a stream,
A sluggish water, black as ink,

The depth was so extreme : -
My gentle boy, remember, this

Is nothing but a dream !

“ Down went the corse with a hollow plunge.

And vanished in the pool ;
Anon I cleansed my bloody hands,

And washed my forehead cool,
And sat among the urchins young,

That evening, in the school.

“ O Heaven ! to think of their white souls,

And mine so black and grim!
I could not share in childish prayer,

Nor join in evening hymn :

Like a devil of the pit I seemed,

Mid holy cherubim !

“And Peace went with them, one and all,

And each calm pillow spread ;
But Guilt was my grim chamberlain,

That lighted me to bed,
And drew my midnight curtains round,

With fingers bloody red !

“ All night I lay in agony,

In anguish dark and deep ;
My fevered eyes I dared not close,

But stared aghast at sleep :
For Sin had rendered unto her

The keys of hell to keep!

“ All night I lay in agony,

From weary chime to chime, With one besetting horrid hint,

That racked me all the time ; A mighty yearning, like the first

Fierce impulse unto crime, —

“One stern tyrannic thought, that made

All other thoughts its slave;

Stronger and stronger every pulse

Did that temptation crave, — Still urging me to go and see

The dead man in his grave !

“Heavily I rose up, as soon

As light was in the sky,
And sought the black accurséd pool

With a wild misgiving eye;
And I saw the dead in the river-bed,

For the faithless stream was dry.

“ Merrily rose the lark, and shook

The dew-drop from its wing ;
But I never marked its morning flight,

I never heard it sing,
For I was stooping once again

Under the horrid thing.

“With breathless speed, like a soul in chase,

I took him up and ran ;
There was no time to dig a grave

Before the day began:
In a lonesome wood, with heaps of leaves,

I hid the murdered man!

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