Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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SONNETS

UPON THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH

IN SERIES, 1839

III

          THE Roman Consul doomed his sons to die
          Who had betrayed their country. The stern word
          Afforded (may it through all time afford)
          A theme for praise and admiration high.
          Upon the surface of humanity
          He rested not; its depths his mind explored;
          He felt; but his parental bosom's lord
          Was Duty,--Duty calmed his agony.
          And some, we know, when they by wilful act
          A single human life have wrongly taken,                     10
          Pass sentence on themselves, confess the fact,
          And, to atone for it, with soul unshaken
          Kneel at the feet of Justice, and, for faith
          Broken with all mankind, solicit death.


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