('A Prisoner in a Dungeon Deep')

Written: Undated: pre-1839 to 1842.  First Published: 1926.

An undistinguished Gondal poem that may have only been retained due to the fact that the same sheet of paper contains a list of Gondal characters. The poem was fist published in 1926, and based on a transcript by Charlotte's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls. In the manuscript (or 'draft', to be more precise), there is a space in the third line of the penultimate verse, and here, Nicholls appears to have inserted the word 'gleaming'. He also appears to have attempted to resolve the last two lines in the twelfth verse, which are very confusing in the draft copy due to a number of alterations.

The list of Gondal characters are comparable to those on another sheet, and both are presented below. There are two columns: in the list combined with this poem, the left column is headed 'Busy' and contains the male characters, and the right one is headed 'pompous' and contains the female characters.

Gondal Characters Listed With This Poem

Busy pompous
John Mertleheath
Gerald Exina (erased)
Gerald Hybernia (erased) Exina
Eustace Sophona
Albert Vernon (erased)
Edward Hybernia
John Mertleheath (erased)
John Mertleheath (erased)
Alexander Hybernia
Isabella Abrantez
Isabella Senland
Una Campbell
Flora Alzerno

Emily Vernon (erased)

Lucia MacElgin (erased) Angora

Gondal Characters On a Separate List

Arthur Exina
Gerald Exina
Edward Hybernia
Gerald ------------

Alexander ---------------
Halbert Clifford
(Illegible erasure)
Archibald MacRay
(Erasure, possibly Gerald F)
Henry Sophona
Eustace Sophona

Adolphus St Albert
Albert Vernon
Alexander D

Alexandria Zenobia Hybernia
Isabella Senland
Xirilla Senland
Lucia Angora
Catherina T G Augusteena
Isabella Abrantez
Eliza Hybernia
Harriet Eagle
Isidora Montara

Helen Douglas
Cornelia Alzerno
Rosalind Fizher (end of word
    almost illegible)

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.126 & p.189)

A prisoner in a dungeon deep
              Sat musing silently;
His head was rested on his hand,
              His elbow on his knee.

Turned he his thoughts to future times
              Or are they backward cast?
For freedom is he pining now
              Or mourning for the past?

No, he has lived so long enthralled
              Alone in dungeon gloom
That he has lost regret and hope,
              Has ceased to mourn his doom.

He pines not for the light of day
              Nor sighs for freedom now;
Such weary thoughts have ceased at length
              To rack his burning brow.

Lost in a maze of wandering thoughts
              He sits unmoving there;
That posture and that look proclaim
              The stupor of despair.

Yet not for ever did that mood
              Of sullen calm prevail;
There was a something in his eye
              That told another tale.

It did not speak of reason gone,
              It was not madness quite;
It was a fitful flickering fire,
              A strange uncertain light.

And sooth to say, these latter years
              Strange fancies now and then
Had filled his cell with scenes of life
              And forms of living men.

A mind that cannot cease to think
              Why needs he cherish there?
Torpor may bring relief to pain
              And madness to despair.

Such wildering scenes, such flitting shapes
              As feverish dreams display:
What if those fancies still increase
              And reason quite decay?

But hark, what sounds have struck his ear;
              Voices of men they seem;
And two have entered now his cell;
              Can this too be a dream?

'Orlando, hear our joyful news:
              Revenge and liberty!
Your foes are dead, and we are come
              At last to set you free.'

So spoke the elder of the two,
              And in the captive's eyes
He looked for gleaming ecstasy
              But only found surprise.

'My foes are dead! It must be then
              That all mankind are gone.
For they were all my deadly foes
              And friends I had not one.'

Copyright © 2000 Michael Armitage

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