The Maniac

Stay, jailor, stay, and hear my woe!
She is not mad who kneels to thee!
For what I’m now too well I know,
And what I was, and what should be.
I’ll rave no more in proud despair;
My language shall be mild, though sad;
But yet I firmly, truly swear,
I am not mad, I am not mad!

My tyrant husband forged the tale
Which chains me in this dismal cell;
My fate unknown my friends bewail—
O jailor, haste that fate to tell!
O, haste my father’s heart to cheer!
His heart at once ‘twill grieve and glad
To know, though kept a captive here,
I am not mad, I am not mad!

He smiles in scorn, and turns the key;
He quits the grate, I knelt in vain;
His glimmering lamp still, still I see —
‘Tis gone! and all is gloom again.
Cold, bitter cold! no warmth! no light!
Life, all thy comforts once I had;
Yet here I’m chained, this freezing night,
Although not mad; no, no, not mad!

‘Tis sure some dream, some vision vain;
What! I, the child of rank and wealth—
Am I the wretch who clanks this chain,
Bereft of freedom, friends and health?
Ah! while I dwell on blessings fled,
Which nevermore my heart must glad,
How aches my heart, how burns my head;
But ‘tis not mad; no, ‘tis not mad!

Hast thou, my child, forgot, ere this,
A mother’s face, a mother’s tongue?
She’ll ne’er forget your parting kiss,
Nor round her neck how fast you clung;
Nor how with her you sued to stay;
Nor how that suit your sire forbade;
Nor how—I’ll drive such thoughts away!
They’ll make me mad, they’ll make me mad!

His rosy lips, how sweet they smiled!
His mild blue eyes, how bright they shone!
None ever bore a lovelier child,
And art thou now forever gone?
And must I never see thee more,
My pretty, pretty, pretty lad?
I will be free! unbar the door!
I am not mad! I am not mad!

O hark, what mean those yells and cries?
His chain some furious madman breaks;
He comes—I see his glaring eyes;
Now, now, my dungeon grate he shakes,
Help! Help! — he’s gone!—O fearful woe,
Such screams to hear, such sights to see!
My brain, my brain—I know, I know
I am not mad, but soon shall be.

Yes soon; for lo, yon! while I speak—
Mark how yon demon’s eyeballs glare!
He sees me; now, with dreadful shriek,
He whirls a serpent high in air.
Horror!—the reptile strikes his tooth
Deep in my heart, so crushed and sad;
Aye, laugh, ye fiends; I feel the truth;
Your task is done—I’M MAD! I’M MAD!

Matthew Gregory Lewis, author of The Monk, a classic of Gothic literature.

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