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HOME > Short Stories > The Ballad of Reading Gaol > CHAPTER IV.
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               There is no on the day
                 On which they hang a man:
               The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
                 Or his face is far to ,
               Or there is that written in his eyes
                 Which none should look upon.
               So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
                 And then they rang the bell,
               And the Warders with their keys
                 Opened each listening cell,
               And down the iron stair we tramped,
                 Each from his separate Hell.
               Out into God's sweet air we went,
                 But not in wonted way,
               For this man's face was white with fear,
                 And that man's face was grey,
               And I never saw sad men who looked
                 So wistfully at the day.
               I never saw sad men who looked
                 With such a wistful eye
               Upon that little tent of blue
                 We prisoners called the sky,
               And at every careless cloud that passed
                 In happy freedom by.
               But there were those amongst us all
                 Who walked with downcast head,
               And knew that, had each got his due,
                 They should have died instead:
               He had but killed a thing that lived
                 Whilst they had killed the dead.
               For he who sins a second time
                 Wakes a dead soul to pain,
               And draws it from its ,
                 And makes it bleed again,
               And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
                 And makes it bleed in vain!
               Like ape or clown, in
                 With arrows starred,
               Silently we went round and round
                 The slippery asphalte yard;
               Silently we went round and round,
                 And no man a word.
               Silently we went round and round,
                 And through each hollow mind
               The memory of dreadful things
                 Rushed like a dreadful wind,
               An Horror stalked before each man,
                 And terror crept behind.
               The Warders up and down,
                 And kept their of ,
               Their uniforms were spick and span,
                 And they wore their Sunday suits,
               But we knew the work they had been at
                 By the quicklime on their boots.
               For where a grave had opened wide,
                 There was no grave at all:
               Only a stretch of mud and sand
                 By the prison-wall,
               And a little heap of burning lime,
                 That the man should have his .
               For he has a pall, this wretched man,
                 Such as few men can claim:
               Deep down below a prison-yard,
                 Naked for greater shame,
               He lies, with on each foot,
                 Wrapt in a sheet of flame!
               And all the while the burning lime
                 Eats flesh and bone away,
               It eats the bone by night,
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