Alfred George Stephens
The Hanging Judge
I am the Judge, the flower of the law,
Bolstered in, privileged, all men’s awe;
When I am pleased to display my wit
The court is a-cackle with joy of it;
When my liver is slightly out of order
Woe to who crosses me—barrister, warder!
How do I rule the obsequious gang?
The secret is simple—I always hang!
One plant in my legal garden grows:
The mandrake’s shriek is the solace I chose;
And I water my treasure whenever I can
With the blood that drips from a gibbeted man.
Justice? Fiddlesticks! Mercy? Fudge!
I am the Judge!
I am the Judge. I like to dine
Before I charge: then, flushed with wine,
I bully the jury into submission
And rise to the height of judicial ambition.
O how I thrill deliciously
At the wretch in his anguish under me!
I gather my brows in a terrible frown,
The slow beads drop from his forehead down;
I lower my voice, and my eyes I roll:
“The Lord have mercy upon your soul!”
He lifts his hands; but—“Sheriff!” I shout,
And his knees give way as they drag him out.
Into eternity he shall trudge.
I am the Judge!
I am the Judge. A Judge should be
A pattern of humble piety.
A week well spent brings Sabbath content:
To church my steps are piously bent.
When the holy man reads the holy book
I grieve for the god, by gods forsook,
So clumsily crucified: pity rises
He was not a remanet to My assizes!
But when at the door they stand aside
To watch me pass, how I swell with pride
To hear them say, “That’s Him all right!
He hanged another one yesterday night!
The jury cried mercy, he wouldn’t budge,
He is the Judge!”
I am the Judge. When at Michael’s trump
The dead from their mouldering sepulchres jump,
And the Great Judge sits on his jewelled throne
To give each man the crop he has sown,
Up I’ll come with my little lot
Taut in the loop of a hangman’s knot!
I will bring them trooping, trooping in
With my quaint black halter-mark under each chin:
“Sweet Lord! the fruit of my gallows tree;
The images I have made of Thee!”…
Lo, he doffs his robes and his golden crown;
He kneels at my feet in obeisance down—
“Make me your servant, usher, drudge:
You are the Judge!”
I shall be Judge. And O, ’t will be merry
With Space one vast gaol cemetery!
For I’ll choke the choir at their morning hymn
And I’ll stifle the star-eyed seraphim:
I will hang the gods, I will hang the devils,
I’ll throttle the imps in the midst of their revels;
And when remains of all Creation,
But one alive from strangulation,
To my own soul’s throat a garrote I’ll fit
With a long drop into the bottomless Pit:
I’ll leap from the dais exultingly,
And while I smother in agony
Of the whole hushed Universe I will swear
I am the Executioner.
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