Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

INEFFICACY OF PUNISHMENTS.

WITH stronger force than fear temptations draw,
And cunning thinks to parry with the law.
"My brother swung, poor novice in his art,
He blindly stumbled on a hangman's cart;
But wiser I, assuming every shape,
As Proteus erst, am certain to escape."
The knave, thus jeering, on his skill relies,
For never villain deemed himself unwise.
When earth convulsive heaved, and, yawning wide,
Ingulfed in darkness Lisbon's spiry pride,
At that dread hour of ruin and dismay
'Tis famed the harden'd felon prowled for prey;
Nor trembling earth nor thunders could restrain
His daring feet, which trod the sinking fane;
Whence, while the fabric to its centre shook,
By impious stealth the hallowed vase he took.
What time the gaping, vulgar throng to see
The wretch expire on Tyburn's fatal tree,
Fast by the crowd the luckier villain clings,
And pilfers while the hapless culprit swings.