Lyrical Ballads Vol I 1800

14. The Dungeon

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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 changed to poison,
They break out on him, like a loathsome plague spot.
The we call in our pamper'd mountebanks -
And this is their best cure! uncomforted.

And friendless solitude, groaning tears,
And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeaon,
By the lamp's disman twilight! So he lies
Circled with evil, till his very soul
Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
By sights of ever more deformity!

With other ministrations thou, O nature!
Healest thy wandering and distempered child:
Thou pourest on him thy soft influences.
Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sheets,
Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
Till he relent, and can no more endure
To be a jarring and dissonant thing,
Amid this general dance and minstrelsy:
But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,
His angry spirit healed and harmonized
By the benignant touch of love and beauty.