By Harry Rogoff.
THESE thoughts come to me at midnight, when wrapped in darkness and silence, I lie on my bed and muse. I then think of death, of the grave, of oblivion. I fancy myself mouldering and decaying in the cold earth: my flesh devoured by vermin, my bones rotting, my blood congealed, frozen into a lump of putrefying matter; my brain, a mass of disgusting substance. And upon this mangled corpse are heaped many feet of earth, with a heavy stone, recording my last memory, pressing heavily down upon it.
The darkness of my room grows denser. These ghastly fancies freeze the blood in my veins. I shiver. I fear the gloom, and yet I shut my eyes tighter and tighter..... A mighty, vague desire awakens in me—a desire to feel myself alive, to hold on to existence, to be a part of the feeling, thinking world. And yet I shrink more and more within myself. I contract my body into its smallest dimensions and glide under the bed coverings, clinging desperately to the grave and its horrors
But gradually I fancy the narrow grave getting wider and larger. The sepulchral odor and darkness spread and grow until they fill all space. All is enveloped by them. And all is floating in a limitless void of profound obscurity and chaos. And I, along with them, am sinking rapidly in this fathomless abyss of oblivion and destruction.
Dead and forgotten! I hear these words ringing out in a death-like dirge. The surrounding darkness is filled with their terror. Waves of blackness shaped in the form of these terrible words roll out upon the prevailing blackness as a background. And they sink and chase my soul as it plunges down, down into the gulf of endless nothingness.
These thoughts come to me at midnight, when I retire to my bed after a day of drudgery and worry. They come to me as a relief at this hour of rest. I conjure them up as my good spirits, my consolers. I summon them to me as comforters of my woes and afflictions.
I had a more cheerful imagination in the days of my youthful happiness. Then, with eyelids closed and the shadows of the night crowded around me, I would still behold the merry sunshine. I would ever be in my fancy amidst smiling, beaming faces of men, living men, dancing gleefully upon a life-giving soil rendered warm and bright by a radiant heaven.
But since then life has ceased to be a dream to me; it became a reality. And the materials out of which my imagination constructs its fancies have altered. Brightness and happiness have become associated in my mind with corruption and vice, darkness and misery have become coupled with honesty and purity. My old, dear human faces stamped with the seal of humanity, I find now in the dust and mud. In them the flame of happiness is long since extinguished; instead they are kindled with a different fire, the fire of hate and revolution. And those beautiful recesses of nature, I find occupied with the homes of wild beasts, the savages and the cannibals. There they roam, there they hunt their prey, there they commit their murders.
And after a day in these upper regions of life and corruption—after many hours among these beautiful sceneries of nature, replete with sin and vice, I dive down, down into the cold grave, to meet those truly human beings, to converse with a genuine human heart.
I flee there for relief, for consolation. The darkness of the grave is oppressive: but not as tormenting as the sunshine that brings into view the tiger mangling his prey. Its limits are narrow, but far wider than the dungeons that imprison your body and soul in the upper regions.
The thought of death makes life tolerable. It is the only hope that remains open to the slave, the suffering, tortured slave that is chained to the rock of life and is devoured piecemeal by the preying vultures of human society.
And what a consolation to see this whole universe a shapeless void! There is some gratification in fancying all life extinguished, all sighs hushed, all tears dried, all the noise and the whirl of brutish activity at an end! What a pleasure to fancy all such in the bottomless sea of darkness and forgetfulness! See! How those beasts crouch and shiver and tremble. They shrink before the approaching deluge of destruction and death. It comes like a mad whirlwind. In a moment it raises these brutes high in the air. Now, their bones crack, their flesh is crushed into dust . A wild frenzy takes possession of all. The storm of death rages stronger and fiercer. All is destroyed, all disappears before it. And then the storm abates; calmness and peace reign again. But there is nothing left in existence. All is annihilated. The "dead lives" are sinking lower and lower into the gaping hole of night and oblivion.
This is the only fancy that gives me consolation: the only scene that can banish the agony of life from my soul. And when tired and oppressed with the horrors of the day's scenes, I seek rest in the late hours of night. I conjure up these ghastly visions to bless me, and guard me, and make my sleep a source of refreshment and encouragement.
The angels that guard my bed are the terrors of the grave. Only they can still the mad waves of indignation and grief that roar and storm in my soul. Only they can prevent the poisonous arrows of discontent and revolution from piercing the core of my heart. Life to-day, without the consolation of death, is a hellish curse.