First publ. B & P vii (DR & L), 6 Nov. 1845, with Laboratory (which preceded it), under the collective title France and Spain, it being called ‘II.—Spain—The Confessional’. Repr. 1849 (without the collective title, though still alongside Laboratory), 1863 (when it was placed in Lyrics: see Appendix A, p. 464), 18632, 1868, 1888. B. did not include it in any volume of selections chosen by himself (18632 was compiled by J. Forster and B. W. Procter). Our text is 1845. DeVane (Handbook 171), noting the inverse parallel in Italy 75–87, dates the poem to the summer of 1845. The fact that B. did not offer the poem to Hood’s may support this. It was among the poems shown to EBB.; all her comments recorded in the notes derive from Wellesley MS, unless otherwise stated. In contrast to other DR & L poems, e.g. How They Brought the Good News, Pictor, and the poem’s companion Laboratory, there is no indication of historical period, and DeVane suggests that the setting might be contemporary. B. had not visited Spain, but was presumably aware of the current struggle between conservative and reformist factions, and the generally reactionary role of the Church. Cp. Thomas Campbell’s Stanzas to the Memory of the Spanish Patriots, which inveighs against ‘Cowled demons in Inquisitorial cells’. The Catholic Church provided a standard image in Gothic fiction of torture, espionage, and repression. For anti-Catholic feeling in B.’s poetry during this period, see headnote to Tomb at St. Praxed’s, p. 260. B. had satirized another aspect of Spanish Catholicism in Soliloquy; and cp. A Forgiveness. The story resembles that of Samson and Delilah (Judges xvi 4–21); but B. makes the ‘temptress’ figure unaware of the use to which she is put by her lover’s enemies. In Milton’s Samson Agonistes, Delilah claims to have been influenced by religious motives: ‘The priest / Was not behind, but ever at my ear, / Preaching how meritorious with the gods / It would be to ensare an irreligious / Dishonourer of Dagon’ (11. 857–61). It is a lie—their Priests, their Pope, Their Saints, their… all they fear or hope Are lies, and lies—there! thro’ my door And ceiling, there! and walls and floor, 5 There, lies, they lie, shall still be hurled, Till spite of them I reach the world! You think Priests just and holy men! Before they put me in this den I was a human creature too, 10 With flesh and blood like one of you, A girl that laughed in beauty’s pride Like lilies in your world outside. I had a lover—shame avaunt! This poor wrenched body, grim and gaunt, 15 Was kissed all over till it burned, By lips the truest love e’er turned His heart’s own tint: one night they kissed My soul out in a burning mist. So next day when the accustomed train 20 Of things grew round my sense again, “That is a sin,” I said—and slow With downcast eyes to church I go, And pass to the confession-chair, And tell the old mild father there. 25 But when I faulter Beltran’s name, Ha? quoth the father; much I blame The sin; yet wherefore idly grieve? Despair not,—strenuously retrieve! Nay, I will turn this love of thine 30 To lawful love, almost divine. For he is young, and led astray, This Beltran, and he schemes, men say, To change the laws of church and state; So thine shall be an angel’s fate, 35 Who, ere the thunder breaks, should roll Its cloud away and save his soul. For when he lies upon thy breast Thou mayst demand and be possessed Of all his plans, and next day steal 40 To me and all those plans reveal, That I and every priest, to purge His soul, may fast and use the scourge. That father’s beard was long and white, With love and truth his brow seemed bright; 45 I went back, all on fire with joy, And, that same evening, bade the boy, Tell me, as lovers should, heart-free, Something to prove his love of me. He told me what he would not tell 50 For hope of Heaven or fear of Hell; And I lay listening in such pride, And, soon as he had left my side, Tripped to the church by morning-light To save his soul in his despite. 55 I told the father all his schemes, Who were his comrades, what their dreams; “And now make haste,” I said, “to pray “The one spot from his soul away; “To-night he comes, but not the same 60 “Will look!” At night he never came. Nor next night: on the after-morn I went forth with a strength new-born: The church was empty: something drew My steps into the street: I knew 65 It led me to the market-place— And, lo,—on high—the father’s face! That horrible black scaffold drest— The stapled block‥ God sink the rest! That head strapped back, that blinding vest, 70 Those knotted hands and naked breast— Till near one busy hangman pressed— And—on the neck these arms caressed…. No part in aught they hope or fear! No Heaven with them, no Hell,—and here 75 No Earth, not so much space as pens My body in their worst of dens But shall bear God and Man my cry— Lies—lies, again—and still, they lie!