The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler/Soliloquy of a Duellist
Soliloquy of a DuellistEdit
They all at length have left me—long I wish'd
While round me with officious care they stood,
To dress this paltry wound, to be alone;
And now I find that solitude is dreadful—
Dreadful to one, upon whose burning soul,
The weight of murder rests! Oh, would to heaven
This day were blotted from the scroll of time:
Or, as indeed it seems, that some wild dream
Had wrapp'd me in its horrid tangled maze.
It is a dream,—it must be,—o'er my brain
Such strange bewildering seenes in memory crowd,
As are not, cannot be reality;
And yet this agony is too intense,
'T would rive the chains of sleep. This stiffen'd arm,
These bandages, and the sharp pain which shoots
Across my burning temples—these are real—
Oh, no—'t is not the phantasy of sleep—
He does lie bleeding, yonder, pale and dead;
I, too, am slightly wounded.—Would to heaven
The erring ball, that pierced this guilty arm,
Had found a goal within my guiltier breast,
Ere I had lived to be a murderer—
A hateful murderer, still living on
Beneath the weight, the torment of a curse,
Heavy as that of Cain, the stain of blood
Forever on my conscience, crying out
To heaven for vengeance. Yet my wounded honour
Claim'd, sure, some reparation for the blot
His language on it cast. Could I have lived
Beneath the brand of cowardice, and borne
The sneer and the expression of contempt,
That would have follow'd me from every lip?
He gave the challenge, and could I refuse?
I could not—yet I might—I could—I could—
The offence was mine, and mine is all the guilt.
Why o'er my heated passions could I not
One instant hold the reins of self-control?
One single moment of deliberate thought
And cloudless reason, would have spared me all
This guilt, this agony. The approving smiles
Of peaceful conscience, and mine own respect,
Had balanced well the idle laugh of fools—
And now, what am I now? I dare not think!
The stain of life-blood is upon my soul—
The life-blood of my friend—he was my friend,
And I have kill'd him! Oh, that this dark hour
Of deep remorseful anguish might recall
The moments that have pass'd. My wife!—my wife!
I cannot meet thee thus. I hate myself—
All whom I have loved, and e'en thou wilt hate me.
Oh! would that I were dead—I will not live
To meet thy tearful eye in sorrow bent
O'er one who once could wake its proudest smile.
I cannot pray—I dare not call on Heaven,
To pardon my offence—before the throne,
Even at the mercy-seat, his bleeding form
Would mock my agony, and drive me thence.
How can I look on those whose hearts my hand
Has made so desolate? His mother's eye
Has often smiled in kindness on my boyhood,
And such has been my gratitude, to wring
The last bright drops of comfort from her heart,
And cloud the evening of her life with woe.
His sisters, in their tears, demand of me
Their loved, their murder'd one—and there he lies,
Cut off in all the bloom of health and youth.
There lies the fatal instrument, and there
Its fellow lies to tempt me—loaded still;
I dare not think—the future and the past
Are fraught alike with images of horror.
Blood calls for blood, and mine own hand shall pay
The debt of justice. Crime shall wash out crime—
I dare not look into eternity—
Oh, God! Oh, God! forgive me for this deed!