A prisoner in a dungeon deep Sat musing silently; His head was rested on his hand, His elbow on his knee. Turned he his thoughts to future times Or are they backward cast? For freedom is he pining now Or mourning for the past?
No, he has lived so long enthralled Alone in dungeon gloom That he has lost regret and hope, Has ceased to mourn his doom.
He pines not for the light of day Nor sighs for freedom now; Such weary thoughts have ceased at length To rack his burning brow.
Lost in a maze of wandering thoughts He sits unmoving there; That posture and that look proclaim The stupor of despair.
Yet not for ever did that mood Of sullen calm prevail; There was a something in his eye That told another tale.
It did not speak of reason gone, It was not madness quite; It was a fitful flickering fire, A strange uncertain light.
And sooth to say, these latter years Strange fancies now and then Had filled his cell with scenes of life And forms of living men.
A mind that cannot cease to think Why needs he cherish there? Torpor may bring relief to pain And madness to despair.
Such wildering scenes, such flitting shapes As feverish dreams display: What if those fancies still increase And reason quite decay?
But hark, what sounds have struck his ear; Voices of men they seem; And two have entered now his cell; Can this too be a dream?
'Orlando, hear our joyful news: Revenge and liberty! Your foes are dead, and we are come At last to set you free.'
So spoke the elder of the two, And in the captive's eyes He looked for gleaming ecstasy But only found surprise.
'My foes are dead! It must be then That all mankind are gone. For they were all my deadly foes And friends I had not one.'