Pardoned Out

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I’m pardoned out. Again the stars
   Shine on me with their myriad eyes.
So long I’ve peered ’twixt iron bars,
   I’m awed by this expanse of skies.
The world is wider than I thought,
   And yet ’tis not so wide, I know,
But into its remotest spot
   My tale of shame can go.

I’m pardoned out. Old Father Time
   Who seemed to halt in horror, when
I stained my manhood by a crime,
   With steady step moves on again,
And through the black appalling night,
   That walled me in a gloom accurst,
The wonder of the morning light
   In sudden glory burst.

I’m pardoned out. I shall be known
   No more by number, but by name.
And yet each whispering wind has blown
   Abroad the story of my shame.
I dread to see men shrink away
   With startled looks of scorn or fear,
When in life’s crowded marts some day,
   That name falls on their ear.

I’m pardoned out, ah God! to roam
   Like some whipped dog among my kind.
I have no friends, I have no home,
   Save these bleak walls I leave behind.
How can I face the world of men,
   My comrades in the days of yore?
Oh! hide me in my cell again,
   And, warden, lock the door.

from Poems of Experience by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1917)

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