My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 16

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My Ten Years' Imprisonment by Silvio Pellico, translated by Thomas Roscoe
Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI.

For a period of some days I continued in the same state of mind; a sort of calm sorrow, full of peace, affection, and religious thoughts. I seemed to have overcome every weakness, and as if I were no longer capable of suffering new anxiety. Fond delusion! it is man's duty to aim at reaching as near to perfection as possible, though he can never attain it here. What now disturbed me was the sight of an unhappy friend, my good Piero, who passed along the gallery within a few yards of me, while I stood at my window. They were removing him from his cell into the prison destined for criminals. He was hurried by so swiftly that I had barely time to recognise him, and to receive and return his salutation.

Poor young man! in the flower of his age, with a genius of high promise, of frank, upright, and most affectionate disposition, born with a keen zest of the pleasures of existence, to be at once precipitated into a dungeon, without the remotest hope of escaping the severest penalty of the laws. So great was my compassion for him, and my regret at being unable to afford him the slightest consolation, that it was long before I could recover my composure of mind. I knew how tenderly he was attached to every member of his numerous family, how deeply interested in promoting their happiness, and how devotedly his affection was returned. I was sensible what must be the affliction of each and all under so heavy a calamity. Strange, that though I had just reconciled myself to the idea in my own case, a sort of phrensy seized my mind when I depicted the scene; and it continued so long that I began to despair of mastering it.

Dreadful as this was, it was still but an illusion. Ye afflicted ones, who believe yourselves victims of some irresistible, heart- rending, and increasing grief, suffer a little while with patience, and you will be undeceived. Neither perfect peace, nor utter wretchedness can be of long continuance here below. Recollect this truth, that you may not become unduly elevated in prosperity, and despicable under the trials which assuredly await you. A sense of weariness and apathy succeeded the terrible excitement I had undergone. But indifference itself is transitory, and I had some fear lest I should continue to suffer without relief under these wretched extremes of feeling. Terrified at the prospect of such a future, I had recourse once more to the only Being from whom I could hope to receive strength to bear it, and devoutly bent down in prayer. I beseeched the Father of mercies to befriend my poor deserted Piero, even as myself, and to support his family no less than my own. By constant repetition of prayers like these, I became perfectly calm and resigned.