A Convict's Blessing

Blessings on England!—but why should I bless her?
  I that she tutor'd from bad into worse;—
I that could never, since Reason possess'd me,
 Balance my faults by the weight of my purse.
She's a very good land for the man who has money,
 But Misery gives her, as I do, a curse.

What else should I give her? One day, in my boyhood,
 I pluck'd from a branch a fair apple, that swung
Tempting and ripe o'er the wall of an orchard,
 But, ere the first morsel delighted my tongue,
Was hurried to gaol, where some older offenders
 Conceived it their duty to train up the young.

When I came out, is it likely that goodness
 Brighten'd my face or made warmth in my breast?
Blighted in name, with a mark set upon me,
 And vengeance within me to trouble my rest—
I practised their lessons for want of employment,
 And lived upon others, and fared on the best.
For three dreary months I was doom'd to the treadmill,
 For killing a pheasant one midsummer night;
For six I was shut from all sight of my fellows,
 For catching a hare when my pocket was light;
And now I am banish'd for shooting a keeper—
 A murder or manslaughter—done in a fight.

Blessings on England! Perhaps—when she alters,
 And ceases to worship a lord, as a lord;
When the soul of a man is worth more than a partridge,
 And labor may see healthy cheeks at its board;
When her laws are alike for her poor and her wealthy;
 And Justice is not quite so fond of her sword.

Meantime I can give her but that which is in me,
 That which will cling to my heart evermore;
That which so many, heart-broken, have given her,
 To rankle and fester, life-deep at her core;
The curse which she gave me instead of a blessing—
 The curse which she brands me with, leaving her shore.

Had she but taught me in days of my childhood,
 The folly of youth had not ripen'd to crime;
Had she but given me a chance of amendment,
 I might have been useful and happy in time;
Had she not treated the boy like a felon,
 The man might have been a good man ere his prime.

But this was denied me. So, blessings on England!
 Blessings—ay, give them that name if ye will;—
Such blessings as mine ever turn into curses—
 I cannot give good for a life-time of ill.
Blessings on England! the word may be pleasant;
 But the Curse and the Vengeance shall follow her still.
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