The Confessional

] I.
It is a lie---their Priests, their Pope, Their Saints, their .
all they fear or hope Are lies, and lies---there! through my door And ceiling, there! and walls and floor, There, lies, they lie---shall still be hurled Till spite of them I reach the world! II.
You think Priests just and holy men! Before they put me in this den I was a human creature too, With flesh and blood like one of you, A girl that laughed in beauty's pride Like lilies in your world outside.
I had a lover---shame avaunt! This poor wrenched body, grim and gaunt, Was kissed all over till it burned, By lips the truest, love e'er turned His heart's own tint: one night they kissed My soul out in a burning mist.
So, next day when the accustomed train Of things grew round my sense again, ``That is a sin,'' I said: and slow With downcast eyes to church I go, And pass to the confession-chair, And tell the old mild father there.
But when I falter Beltran's name, ``Ha?'' quoth the father; ``much I blame ``The sin; yet wherefore idly grieve? ``Despair not---strenuously retrieve! ``Nay, I will turn this love of thine ``To lawful love, almost divine; VI.
``For he is young, and led astray, ``This Beltran, and he schemes, men say, ``To change the laws of church and state ``So, thine shall be an angel's fate, ``Who, ere the thunder breaks, should roll ``Its cloud away and save his soul.
``For, when he lies upon thy breast, ``Thou mayst demand and be possessed ``Of all his plans, and next day steal ``To me, and all those plans reveal, ``That I and every priest, to purge ``His soul, may fast and use the scourge.
'' VIII.
That father's beard was long and white, With love and truth his brow seemed bright; I went back, all on fire with joy, And, that same evening, bade the boy Tell me, as lovers should, heart-free, Something to prove his love of me.
He told me what he would not tell For hope of heaven or fear of hell; And I lay listening in such pride! And, soon as he had left my side, Tripped to the church by morning-light To save his soul in his despite.
I told the father all his schemes, Who were his comrades, what their dreams; ``And now make haste,'' I said, ``to pray ``The one spot from his soul away; ``To-night he comes, but not the same ``Will look!'' At night he never came.
Nor next night: on the after-morn, I went forth with a strength new-born.
The church was empty; something drew My steps into the street; I knew It led me to the market-place: Where, lo, on high, the father's face! XII.
That horrible black scaffold dressed, That stapled block .
God sink the rest! That head strapped back, that blinding vest, Those knotted hands and naked breast, Till near one busy hangman pressed, And, on the neck these arms caressed .
No part in aught they hope or fear! No heaven with them, no hell!---and here, No earth, not so much space as pens My body in their worst of dens But shall bear God and man my cry, Lies---lies, again---and still, they lie!

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