HUNG

Nine o'clock, and the sun shines as yellow and warm
As though 'twere a fete day. I wish it would storm:
    Wish the thunder would crash,
    And the red lightning flash,
And lap the black clouds, with its serpentine tongue.
The day is too calm for a man to be hung.
    Hung!  Ugh, what a word!
The most heartless and horrible ear ever heard.

He has murdered, and plundered, and robbed, so "they say";
Been the scourge of the country for many a day.
    He was lawless and wild;
    Man, woman or child
Met no mercy, no pity, if found in his path;
He was worse than a beast of the woods, in his wrath.
    And yet--to be hung,
    Oh, my God! to be swung
By the neck to and fro for the rabble to see--
    The thought sickens me.

Thirty minutes past nine. How the time hurries by,
But the half hour remains--at ten he will die.
    Die?  No!  He'll be killed!
    For God never willed
Men should die in this way.
"Vengeance is mine," He saith. "I will repay."
    Yet what could be done
    With this wild, lawless one!
No prison could hold him, and so--he must swing.
    It's a horrible thing!

Outcast, desperado, fiend, knave; all of these
And more. But call him whatever you please,
    I cannot forget
    He's a mortal man yet:
That he once was a babe and was hushed into rest,
And fondled and pressed to a woman's warm breast.
    Was sung to, and rocked,
    And when he first walked
With his weak little feet, he was petted and told
He was "mamma's own pet, worth his whole weight in gold."
    And this is the end
Of a God-given life.  Just think of it, friend!

Hark! hear you that chime?  'Tis the clock striking ten.
The dread weight falls down, with a sound like "Amen."
Does murder pay murder? Do two wrongs make a right?
    Oh, that horrible sight!
I am shut in my room and have covered my face,
But the dread scene has followed me into this place.
    I see that strange thing,
    Like a clock pendulum, swing
To and fro, in the air, back and forth, to and fro.
    One moment ago
'Twas a man in God's image.  Now hide it, kind grave.
Oh, God what an end to the life that you gave!

Poems of reflection. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Chicago, M.A. Donohue & company [c1905].


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