Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  654. The Bridge of Sighs

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Thomas Hood. 1798–1845

654. The Bridge of Sighs

ONE more Unfortunate, 
  Weary of breath, 
Rashly importunate, 
  Gone to her death! 
Take her up tenderly,         5
  Lift her with care; 
Fashion’d so slenderly 
  Young, and so fair! 
Look at her garments 
Clinging like cerements;  10
Whilst the wave constantly 
  Drips from her clothing; 
Take her up instantly, 
  Loving, not loathing. 
Touch her not scornfully;  15
Think of her mournfully, 
  Gently and humanly; 
Not of the stains of her, 
All that remains of her 
  Now is pure womanly.  20
Make no deep scrutiny 
Into her mutiny 
  Rash and undutiful: 
Past all dishonour, 
Death has left on her  25
  Only the beautiful. 
Still, for all slips of hers, 
  One of Eve’s family— 
Wipe those poor lips of hers 
  Oozing so clammily.  30
Loop up her tresses 
  Escaped from the comb, 
Her fair auburn tresses; 
Whilst wonderment guesses 
  Where was her home?  35
Who was her father? 
  Who was her mother? 
Had she a sister? 
  Had she a brother? 
Or was there a dearer one  40
Still, and a nearer one 
  Yet, than all other? 
Alas! for the rarity 
Of Christian charity 
  Under the sun!  45
O, it was pitiful! 
Near a whole city full, 
  Home she had none. 
Sisterly, brotherly, 
Fatherly, motherly  50
  Feelings had changed: 
Love, by harsh evidence, 
Thrown from its eminence; 
Even God’s providence 
  Seeming estranged.  55
Where the lamps quiver 
So far in the river, 
  With many a light 
From window and casement, 
From garret to basement,  60
She stood, with amazement, 
  Houseless by night. 
The bleak wind of March 
  Made her tremble and shiver; 
But not the dark arch,  65
Or the black flowing river: 
Mad from life’s history, 
Glad to death’s mystery, 
  Swift to be hurl’d— 
Anywhere, anywhere  70
  Out of the world! 
In she plunged boldly— 
No matter how coldly 
  The rough river ran— 
Over the brink of it,  75
Picture it—think of it, 
  Dissolute Man! 
Lave in it, drink of it, 
  Then, if you can! 
Take her up tenderly,  80
  Lift her with care; 
Fashion’d so slenderly, 
  Young, and so fair! 
Ere her limbs frigidly 
Stiffen too rigidly,  85
  Decently, kindly, 
Smooth and compose them; 
And her eyes, close them, 
  Staring so blindly! 
Dreadfully staring  90
  Thro’ muddy impurity, 
As when with the daring 
Last look of despairing 
  Fix’d on futurity. 
Perishing gloomily,  95
Spurr’d by contumely, 
Cold inhumanity, 
Burning insanity, 
  Into her rest.— 
Cross her hands humbly 100
As if praying dumbly, 
  Over her breast! 
Owning her weakness, 
  Her evil behaviour, 
And leaving, with meekness, 105
  Her sins to her Saviour!