A prisoner speaks:
Majority of twenty-three,
I face the Judge with joy and glee;
For am I not a lucky chap –
No more hanging, no more cap;
A “lifer,” yes, but well I know
In fifteen years they’ll let me go;
For I’ll be pious in my prison,
Sing with gusto: Christ Is Risen;
Serve the hymn-books out on Sunday,
Sweep the chapel clean on Monday:
Such a model lag I’ll be
In fifteen years they’ll set me free.
Majority of twenty three,
You’ve helped me cheat the gallows tree.
I’m twenty now, at thirty-five
How I will laugh to be alive!
To leap into the world again
And bless the fools miscalled “humane,”
Who say the gibbet’s wrong and so
At thirty-five they let me go,
Tat I may sail the across the sea
A killer unsuspect and free,
To change my name, to darkly thrive
By hook or crook at thirty-five.
O silent dark and beastly wood
Where with my bloodied hands I stood!
O piteous child I raped and slew!
Had she been yours, would you and you
Have pardoned me and set me free,
Majority of twenty-three?
Yet by your solemn vote you willed
I shall not die though I have killed;
Although I did no mercy show,
In mercy you will let me go. . . .
That he who kills and does not pay
May live to kill another day.
*By a majority of twenty-three the House of Commons
voted the abolition of the death penalty.