The Prisoner’s Hospital, Van Diemen’s Land [poem by Caroline Leakey, 1854]

[Editor: A poem by Caroline Leakey, set in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).]

The Prisoner’s Hospital, Van Diemen’s Land.

O prison-house of sighing !
Where the weary and the worn,
The long-pent and the dying,
Lie friendless and forlorn ;
Where sickness preys on weariness,
And prey they both on life ;
The mother weeps in dreariness,
And pines the lonely wife.

Where tender babe and wasted child
Look eagerly around,
And wonder why the face that smiled,
Can nowhere now be found.
Where on the sickly little one
Rests no kind eye of love ;
Its pleading moan there heark’neth none,
Save God, who dwells above.

Meet old and young together,
Each their numbered days to fill ;
One grudging still the other,
And all fretting at God’s will.
The widow mourns her widowhood,
All childless and alone ;
The old man dies in solitude,
None near to call his own.

The piercing shriek of madness,
And the hollow face of care,
Meet tears and sighs of sadness,
And the wailings of despair.
Where the captive exile hasteth,
And striveth to be free,
For the bitterness he tasteth
Of sin’s deep misery.
The restless cry for morning,
The weary pine for night,
But darkness nor the dawning
Cometh e’er to them aright.
Where Time, so heavy dragg’d with strife,
On wheels of grief moves slow ;
Bearing the wretched on through life,
Up paths of human woe.

O’er the dead there is no weeping,
By the dying none to pray,
That Death’s dark shade o’er creeping,
Be illumined by Love’s ray.
But cold, they watch each other die,
Still shuddering to see
Yon ruthless hand close up each eye,
As theirs must closèd be.

Oh! ere Death’s heavy bolt be drawn
Upon life’s gate for ever,
And deeps of black perdition yawn
Beneath their souls for ever,
Thou who sweet mercy lov’st to show,
Look down! forgive — relent !
Haste, Lord, ere sealèd this worst woe,
On earth’s long banishment.

Caroline W. Leakey. Lyra Australis; or, Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land, Bickers and Bush, London, 1854, page 121-124 [PDF from Google Books]

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