The Terrors of Guilt

Dublin Core


The Terrors of Guilt


18th century poem on guilt.


A poem that describes the feelings of guilt from 1797.


Author: Matilda Betham


Elegies and Other Small Poems, by Matilda Betham. Ipswich: Printed by W. Burrell, and sold by Longman, Paternoster-Row, and Jermyn and Forster, Ipswich, 1797, pp. [60]-65


Betham, (Mary) Matilda. "THE TERRORS OF GUILT" Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive, 03 Sep 2019 (v1.1 (Summer 2019)). Web. 23 Jan 2020. <>




Carter Haidusek


Available on Eighteenth Century Poetry Archive for free download









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THE TERRORS OF GUILT YON coward , with the streaming hair , And visage , madden'd to despair , With step convuls'd , unsettled eye , And bosom lab'ring with a sigh , Is Guilt ! — Behold , he hears the name , And starts with horror , fear , and shame ! See ! slow Suspicion by his side , With winking , microscopic eye ! And Mystery , his muffled guide , With fearful speech , and head awry . See ! scowling Malice there attend , Bold Falsehood , an apparent friend ; Avarice , repining o'er his pelf , Mean Cunning , lover of himself ; Hatred , the son of conscious Fear , Impatient Envy , with a fiendlike sneer , And shades of blasted Hopes , which still are hovering near ! All other woes will find relief , And time alleviate every grief ; Memory , though slowly , will decay , And Sorrow's empire pass away . Awhile Misfortune may controul , And Pain oppress the virtuous soul , Yet Innocence can still beguile The patient sufferer of a smile , The beams of Hope may still dispense A grateful feeling to the sense ; Friendship may cast her arms around , And with fond tears embalm the wound , Or Piety's soft incense rise , And waft reflection to the skies ; But those fell pangs which he endures , Nor Time forgets , nor Kindness cures ; Like Ocean's waves , they still return , Like Etna's fires , forever burn . Round him no genial zephyrs fly , No fair horizon glads his eye , No joys to him does Nature yield , The solemn grove , or laughing field ; Though both with loud rejoicings ring , No pleasure does the echo bring . Not bubbling waters as they roll , Can tranquillize his bursting soul , For Conscience still , with tingling smart , Asserts his empire o'er his heart , And even when his eye-lids close , With clamourous scream affrights repose . Oppress'd with light , he seeks to shun The splendid glories of the sun ; The busy crowds that hover near , Torment his eye , distract his ear : He hastens to the secret shades , Where not a ray the gloom pervades ; Where Contemplation may retreat , And Silence take his mossy seat : Yet even there no peace he knows , His fev'rish blood , no calmer flows ; Some hid assassins' vengeful knife , Is rais'd to end his wretched life . He shudders , starts , and stares around , With breathless fright , to catch the fancied sound ; Seeks for the dagger in his breast , And gripes it 'neath his ruffled vest . Lo ! now he plunges in the flood , To cleanse his garments , stain'd with blood , His sanguine arm , in terror , laves ; But ah ! its hue defies the waves . Deprest , bewilder'd , thence he flies , And , to avoid Detection , tries , Who , frowning , still before him stands , The sword of Justice in her hands ; Abhorrent Scorn , unpitying Shame , And Punishments without a name , Still on her sounding steps attend , And every added horror lend . He turns away , with dread and fear , But the fell spectres still are near . Though Falsehood's mazes see him wind ! Yet Infamy is close behind , Lifting her horn , with horrors fraught , Whose hideous yell is frenzy to the thought . Now , maniac-like , he comes again , And mixes with the jocund train ; But still those eyes that wildly roll , Bespeak the tempest in his soul . In yon deep cave he strives to rest , But Mem'ry harrows up his breast ; He clasps the goblet , foe to Care , And lo ! Distraction hovers there . Ah , hapless wretch ! condemn'd to know , The sad varieties of woe ; Where'er thy footsteps turn , to meet , An earthquake yawning at thy feet , While o'er thy head pale meteors glare , And boding tempests fill the air , In throbbing anguish doom'd to roam , Yet never find a peaceful home . Haste ! to the shrine of Mercy hie , There lift the penitential eye , With breaking heart thy sins deplore , And wound Integrity no more ! Repentance then thy soul shall save , And snatch thee , ransom'd , from the grave .




Author: Matilda Betham, “The Terrors of Guilt,” Enlightenmens, accessed March 24, 2023,

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