Guilt, regret, remorse, the three darts that without fail pierce and agonize the human heart infallibly. All are at base self-inflicted, wounds carried internally, agonized over in private and isolation. Guilt may indeed be laid by exterior forces, a verdict levied by those given authority to judge, but the truth of culpability, blame, is truly assimilated subconsciously, sometimes overtly acknowledged but often disguised, hid, deleted.
Regret, the inward admittance of error, of unfortunate or inopportune activity, is an ever-present aching scar upon the psyche. Sometimes set aside for a period, but always reemerging when circumstances contrive to reaffirm the brand, the marker, newly sear the eternal memory. No amount of reason, of mitigation, can expunge regret totally, not even forgiveness, the salve for almost every human wrong.
Remorse is the shackle, the ever-weighty penitent instrument of shame, the reminder of action heinous, of contrition owed, sorry, shame, self-reproach, condemnation levied.
The reminder that these penalties exist, continue, are unavoidable is perhaps pertinent to address. That guilt is inescapable, regret universal, remorse disarming, ever worthy of affirmation.
The most horrendous of monsters suffer their consequence, shiver in the shadow of their darkness, travel unshriven and unforgiven to their doom. False bravado might disguise the hidden torture of the reproachable, but their pain, their regret, their culpability exists hauntingly, unforgetting, regarded, perhaps stored deep enough to avoid obvious expression, but not buried deep enough to mar consequence.
The Newgate Calendar, subtitled The Malefactors’ Bloody Register, was a popular London periodical in the 18th and early 19th century, and republished later as a series of works I was inclined to study in the nineteen fifties and early sixties. The editions took great delight in repeating the last words and testaments of many of the most terrible of criminals and traitors before they met their executioner. All without exception suffered and confessed to Guilt, regret, and remorse.