James Kenneth Stephen

(25 February 1859 – 3 February 1892 / England)

The Malefactor's Plea - Poem by James Kenneth Stephen

Of sentences that stir my bile,
Of phrases I detest,
There's one beyond all others vile;
"He did it for the best."

Of course he did: I don't suppose,
Nor can you think I should,
The man's among my deadliest foes,
Or is not fairly good.

Of course he did it for the best:
What should he do it for?
But did he do it? that's the test:
I ask to know no more.

Alas! he did: and here am I,
Quite ruined, half disgraced;
And you can really ask me why
My wrath is not effaced:

And there is he, good worthy man,
With self-esteem possessed,
Still saying, as of course he can,
"I did it for the best."

No evil deed was ever done,
Or honest man withstood,
Since first this weary world begun,
Except for someone's good.

And can it signify to me
Whose good he did it for?
Mine was it? thus 'twas wont to be,
And will be ever more.

When inoffensive people plant
A dagger in your breast,
Your good is what they really want:
They do it for the best.


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Read poems about / on: evil, people, world



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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