[Vera Figner, Russian Revolutionary; a woman of great charm and radiant beauty. She was condemned to imprisonment for life, and for twenty years was immured in the living rave of the Schlusselburg Fortress. When these lines were composed the writer thought that Vera Figner was still in prison. By a strange chance, on three days after the lines were written, he read that Vera Figner had been released.]
Vera Figner, when the breezes blow,
Do you awaken to the hostile morn?
Or do you live so numbed you do not know,
Like a toad in a granite tempest-worn?
Vera Figner, are the eyes bedewed
That men had died for in the far-away?
Is your face like a wounded soul—subdued
To grief that never heals for any day?
Does the clock in the turret tell you now
The morn is vanishing, the day declines?
Or is all thought beneath the drooping brow
Vacant and gloomy as the winter pines?
Have men betrampled through the many years
Your soul submitting till its very deep
Has oozed away to dust: till you lack tears,
Denied the unhappy ones who cannot weep?
Oh marvel of misfortune that a soul
So full of liberty and love should be
Tired, ever tired, to creep like any mole
From wall to wall in darkling vacancy.
To wrap the rich thought of the brain in death,
For never any sound may let it forth.
Oh God, that givest consecrated breath
To holy truth, why tarryeth Thy wrath?
Beloved of all spirits that achieve
Through agony—Oh, miserable, thou,
Who hast all suffering, but cannot leave
Thy burden ever! What is breathing now
But a poor disinheritance of days?
And even that poor remnant is defiled;
For thee that shouldst have trod delicious ways
No morn, no eve, no love, no roof, no child.
Thou canst not be endungeoned evermore:
Thy soul is where the breezes blow with pain
Past Ladoga: there is not any shore
That hath not felt thy yearning. If again
Thou hast all agony, thou hast the crown,
The heaven within the spirit that shall save,
Though earth be cruel. Death hath his renown,
But cannot pass our conquerable grave.
Hubert Church, “Vera Figner,” Egmont (Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1908): 52-53.