The Ballad of Reading Gaol Quotes


For, right within, the sword of Sin

Pierced to its poisoned hilt,

And as molten lead were the tears we shed

For the blood we had not spilt.

The poet

The narrator describes the feeling he and other inmates experience while being in prison. The prisoners are all tormented by the sin they have done, a sin compared with a poisonous sword. The poison inside their body slowly kills them and their guilty conscious produces more pain than any other punishment could.

And wondered why men knelt to pray

Who never prayed before.

The poet

The idea that men find peace in religion and prayer becomes a motif from the beginning of the poem. Inside the prison, a place where there was no hope and where those inside where reminded constantly of the possibility of being hanged, the idea of God and forgiveness becomes the only thing keeping those inside from becoming hopeless. The prison walls influences those who didn’t believe in God to start thinking about him and to start to pray to him.

The morning wind began to moan,

But still the night went on:

The poet

For those inside the prison, the morning brought no comfort. They remained stuck in an endless night where darkness became the only reality they knew and where light and hope didn’t exist. For them, time seems to drag on and stretches to infinity which only amplifies the hardship they have to face.

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