My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 6

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My Ten Years' Imprisonment by Silvio Pellico, translated by Thomas Roscoe
Chapter 6

CHAPTER VI.

When I ceased to be persecuted with examinations, and had no longer anything to fill up my time, I felt bitterly the increasing weight of solitude. I had permission to retain a bible, and my Dante; the governor also placed his library at my disposal, consisting of some romances of Scuderi, Piazzi, and worse books still; but my mind was too deeply agitated to apply to any kind of reading whatever. Every day, indeed, I committed a canto of Dante to memory, an exercise so merely mechanical, that I thought more of my own affairs than the lines during their acquisition. The same sort of abstraction attended my perusal of other things, except, occasionally, a few passages of scripture. I had always felt attached to this divine production, even when I had not believed myself one of its avowed followers. I now studied it with far greater respect than before; yet my mind was often almost involuntarily bent upon other matters; and I knew not what I read. By degrees I surmounted this difficulty, and was able to reflect upon its great truths with higher relish than I had ever before done. This, in me, did not give rise to the least tendency to moroseness or superstition, nothing being more apt than misdirected devotion to weaken and distort the mind. With the love of God and mankind, it inspired me also with a veneration for justice, and an abhorrence of wickedness, along with a desire of pardoning the wicked. Christianity, instead of militating against anything good, which I had derived from Philosophy, strengthened it by the aid of logical deductions, at once more powerful and profound.

Reading one day that it was necessary to pray without ceasing, and that prayer did not consist in many words uttered after the manner of the Pharisees, but in making every word and action accord with the will of God, I determined to commence with earnestness, to pray in the spirit with unceasing effort: in other words, to permit no one thought which should not be inspired by a wish to conform my whole life to the decrees of God.

The forms I adopted were simple and few; not from contempt of them (I think them very salutary, and calculated to excite attention), but from the circumstance of my being unable to go through them at length, without becoming so far abstracted as to make me forget the solemn duty in which I am engaged. This habitual observance of prayer, and the reflection that God is omnipresent as well as omnipotent in His power to save, began ere long to deprive solitude of its horrors, and I often repeated, "Have I not the best society man can have?" and from this period I grew more cheerful, I even sang and whistled in the new joy of my heart. And why lament my captivity? Might not a sudden fever have carried me off? and would my friends then have grieved less over my fate than now? and cannot God sustain them even as He could under a more trying dispensation? And often did I offer up my prayers and fervent hopes that my dear parents might feel, as I myself felt, resigned to my lot; but tears frequently mingled with sweet recollections of home. With all this, my faith in God remained undisturbed, and I was not disappointed.