Lines Written During a Period of Insanity

This witty poem written by William Cowper sometime in the later decades of the 18th Century AD is one of my favourites. It is a disturbing tragedy with heavy Biblical references which makes it a difficult read for anyone with a less-than-par didactic knowledge of the Christian go-to book.

Judas was one of Jesus Christ’s disciples who sold out his ‘Master’ to the Jewish High Priests for a paltry thirty pieces of silver. It takes no great imagination to conceive that Judas was and still is disliked by Christians hence the line “Damned below Judas: more abhorred than he was.” This line is the pivot of the entire poem. In actual fact the entire poem sounds like a suicide note. The fact that Judas killed himself gives credence to my assertion.

The other character that needs unmasking is Abiram who is described in the book of Numbers as the leader of a group of dissidents who rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron. The poet laments that he deserves “to receive a sentence/ Worse than Abiram’s“. Self-pity is heightened when the narrator claims that even Hell will refuse to receive him after his death for his sins are so great than hell will actually feel like a sanctuary for a sinner of that stature – a sinner worse than a traitor and a rebel against the ‘Master’ himself.

When all these nuances are factored in it becomes somewhat more apparent that there is a tinge of madness in it all. We are left wondering, “how on earth can someone think they are that evil?”. The form of madness alluded to in this poem is not the psychotic Schizophrenia-type but the deep depression type. Depression was considered a form of madness in that era and the poet himself suffered from serious bouts of depression. It is believed that William Cowper wrote this poem around 1773 when he was in the middle of one of his dark days.

Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion,
Scarce can endure delay of execution,
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
		Soul in a moment.

Damned below Judas:more abhorred than he was,
Who for a few pence sold his holy Master.
Twice-betrayed Jesus me, the last delinquent,
		Deems the profanest.

Man disavows, and Deity disowns me;
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Therefore Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all
		Bolted against me.

Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers,
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors,
I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence
		Worse than Abiram's

Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong;
I, fed with judgement, in a fleshy tomb, am
		Buried above ground.


That slimy pulp of tissue between your ears cannot function without functioning. The mind was meant to be used; when it stops working you lose your humanity. Note my graciousness to Science by stipulating the non-functionality of the brain as the loss of one’s humanity and not the end of one’s life. Reference is made to the thousands of patients on ventilator machines whose brains have thrown in the towel.

It is such a pity that the majority of this species voluntarily shut down their super chip. They have chosen to be sparkling tube gazers (couch potatoes), assassins of anything with more than two full stops and religious zealots who worship Time. Ever since our ancestors invented learning words have become the most lethal weapons in human existence. The more words one knows the more power they possess (thus explaining the power women have).

An idle mind, a silent mind, creates a vacuum in which unfiltered thoughts, ideas, emotions, beliefs and such invade docile nerve cell circuits. A lot of Science has been published on the subject and almost every blog in existence has had a say on the value of reading. Even Spiritualists bow down to the power of words; The Bible, The Quran, and other sacred texts. If the evidence is so overwhelming why do people continue to choose to destroy themselves? Have their minds been taken over by “neuronal viruses” in the form of thought insertion and withdrawal as in a classical Schizophrenic patient? Psychotic perhaps? What if everyone is mad expect for those who read? Open a book, read and save your humanity.


The Scholars (William Butler Yeats – 1917)

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbor knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?


Those moments when you look over your shoulder and see those crossroads where you took the wrong turn. That sordid feeling of rue that rouses you from amity; pacific bliss that only sleep can bestow. Agony becomes your only friend. When the morning light pierces your very soul; a soul ravaged by despair. That perfect one you lost by losing grip of the reality that deluded your destiny. That one person you forgot to cherish. When the passage of the day tyrannizes that elusive emotional gem the demented call ‘happiness’. Only silence bears witness of your pangs. When rhetoric of ‘be positive’ evokes tinnitus; a shrill that only translates to a sweet melody to the elect – those annoying narcissists who had the good fortune of taking the right turn. Some zealot coined this refutable ‘truth’ – life is all about the choices that we make. What a repertoire of nonsense. Life is an attempt at rectifying the choices imposed on us by fate. What could have been can never be. Penitence. Penitence. Penitence.

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