A Police Court Scene
Speaking of things of moral beauty, we were deeply impressed a few days since by reading in a paper the description of a recent occurrence in a police court in one of our largest cities. We scarcely ever read anything that affected us more profoundly. We give the paragraph entire as we saw it in the morning journal. Thirty men, red-eyed and disheveled, lined up before the judge of the court. It was the regular morning company of drunks and disorderlies.
Some were old and hardened, others hung their heads in shame. Just as the momentary disorder attending the bringing of the prisoners quieted down, a strange thing happened. A strong, clear voice from below began singing: Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair. Last night! It had been for them all a nightmare or a drunken stupor. The song was such a contrast to the horrible fact that no one could avoid the sudden shock at the thought the song suggested.
It went on: I stood in old Jerusalem Beside the Temple there I heard the children singing, And ever as they sang, Methought the voice of angels From heaven in answer rang. The judge had paused. He made a quiet inquiry. A former member of a famous opera company, known all over the country, was awaiting trial for forgery. It was he who was singing in his cell. Meantime the song went on. And once again the scene was changed, New earth there seemed to be; I saw the Holy City Beside the tideless sea. The light of God was on its streets, The gates were open wide, And all who would might enter, And no one was denied. Every man in the line showed emotion. One boy at the end of the row, after desperate effort at self-control, leaned against the wall, buried his face in his folded arms and sobbed, Oh, mother, mother!
The sobs cutting the weary hearts of the men who heard, and the song still welling its way through the court room, blended in the hush. At length one man protested. Judge, said he, have we got to submit to this? We are here to take our punishment, but this He, too, began to sob. It was impossible to proceed with the business of the Court, yet the judge gave no order to stop the song, The police sergeant, after a surprised effort to keep the men in line, stepped back and waited with the rest.
The song moved to its climax: Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Sing for the night is oer; Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore! In an ecstasy of melody the last words rang out, and then there was a silence. The judge looked into the faces of the men before him. There was not one who was not touched by the song; not one in whom some better impulse was not stirred. He did not call the cases singly a kind word of advice, and he dismissed them all. No man was fined or sentenced to the workhouse that morning. The song had done more good than punishment could ever have accomplished.
Living Illustrations By B. Carradine