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The Dream Of Eugene Aram
by [?]


“So wills the fierce avenging Sprite,
Till blood for blood atones!
Ay, though he’s buried in a cave,
And trodden down with stones,
And years have rotted off his flesh,–
The world shall see his bones!”


“Oh, God! that horrid, horrid dream
Besets me now awake!
Again again, with dizzy brain,
The human life I take;
And my red right hand grows raging hot,
Like Cranmer’s at the stake.”


“And still no peace for the restless clay
Will wave or mould allow;
The horrid thing pursues my soul,–
It stands before me now!”
The fearful Boy look’d up, and saw
Huge drops upon his brow.


That very night, while gentle sleep
The urchin eyelids kiss’d,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walk’d between.
With gyves upon his wrist.

[Note: Hood edited The Gem, one of the many annuals of that day, for the year 1829. The volume is memorable for having contained his fine poem.

“The remarkable name of Eugene Aram, belonging to a man of unusual talents and acquirements, is unhappily associated with a deed of blood as extraordinary in its details as any recorded in our calendar of crime. In the year 1745, being then an usher and deeply engaged in the study of Chaldee, Hebrew, Arabic, and the Celtic dialects, for the formation of a lexicon, he abruptly turned over a still darker page in human knowledge, and the brow that learning might have made illustrious was stamped ignominious forever with the brand of Cain. To obtain a trifling property he concerted with an accomplice, and with his own hand effected the violent death of one Daniel Clarke, a shoe-maker, of Knaresborough, in Yorkshire. For fourteen years nearly the secret slept with the victim in the earth of St. Robert’s Cave, and the manner of its discovery would appear a striking example of the divine justice even amongst those marvels narrated in that curious old volume alluded to in the
Fortunes of Nigel, under its quaint title of ‘God’s Revenge against Murther.’

“The accidental digging up of a skeleton, and the unwary and emphatic declaration of Aram’s accomplice that it could not be that of Clarke, betraying a guilty knowledge of the true bones, he was wrought to a confession of their deposit. The learned homicide was seized and arraigned, and a trial of uncommon interest was wound up by a defence as memorable as the tragedy itself for eloquence and ingenuity–too ingenious for innocence, and eloquent enough to do credit even to that long premeditation which the interval between the deed and its discovery had afforded. That this dreary period had not passed without paroxysms of remorse may be inferred from a fact of affecting interest. The late Admiral Burney was a scholar at the school at Lynn in Norfolk when Aram was an usher, subsequent to his crime. The Admiral stated that Aram was beloved by the boys, and that he used to discourse to them of murder, not occasionally, as I have written elsewhere, but constantly, and in somewhat of the spirit ascribed to him in the poem.

“For the more imaginative part of the version I must refer back to one of those unaccountable visions which come upon us like frightful monsters thrown up by storms from the great black deeps of slumber. A lifeless body, in love and relationship the nearest and dearest, was imposed upon my back, with an overwhelming sense of obligation–not of filial piety merely, but some awful responsibility, equally vague and intense, and involving, as it seemed, inexpiable sin, horrors unutterable, torments intolerable–to bury my dead, like Abraham, out of my sight. In vain I attempted, again and again, to obey the mysterious mandate–by some dreadful process the burthen was replaced with a more stupendous weight of injunction, and an apalling conviction of the impossibility of its fulfilment. My mental anguish was indescribable;–the mighty agonies of souls tortured on the supernatural racks of sleep are not to be penned–and if in sketching those that belong to blood-guiltiness I have been at all successful, I owe it mainly to the uninvoked inspiration of that terrible dream.”

The introduction of Admiral Burney’s name makes it likely that Hood may have owed his first interest in the story to Charles Lamb. The circumstance that the book over which the gentle boy was poring when questioned by the usher was called the Death of Abel, is by no means forced or unnatural. Salomon Gessner’s prose poem, Der Tod Abels, published in 1758, attained an astonishing popularity throughout Europe, and appeared in an English version somewhere about the time of the discovery of Aram’s crime.]