Part 19 out of 32
Who art thou, O man of prayer!
In raiment of camel's hair,
Begirt with leathern thong,
That here in the wilderness,
With a cry as of one in distress,
Preachest unto this throng?
Art thou the Christ?
Priest of Jerusalem,
In meekness and humbleness,
I deny not, I confess
I am not the Christ!
What shall we say unto them
That sent us here? Reveal
Thy name, and naught conceal!
Art thou Elias?
Art thou that Prophet, then,
Of lamentation and woe,
Who, as a symbol and sign
Of impending wrath divine
Upon unbelieving men,
Shattered the vessel of clay
In the Valley of Slaughter?
I am not he thou namest!
Who art thou, and what is the word
That here thou proclaimest?
I am the voice of one
Crying in the wilderness alone:
Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
Make his paths straight
In the land that is desolate!
If thou be not the Christ,
Nor yet Elias, nor he
That, in sign of the things to be,
Shattered the vessel of clay
In the Valley of Slaughter,
Then declare unto us, and say
By what authority now
I indeed baptize you with water
Unto repentance; but He,
That cometh after me,
Is mightier than I and higher;
The latchet of whose shoes
I an not worthy to unloose;
He shall baptize you with fire,
And with the Holy Ghost!
Whose fan is in his hand;
He will purge to the uttermost
His floor, and garner his wheat,
But will burn the chaff in the brand
And fire of unquenchable heat!
Repent! repent! repent!
Not in the lightning's flash, nor in the thunder,
Not in the tempest, nor the cloudy storm,
Will I array my form;
But part invisible these boughs asunder,
And move and murmur as the wind upheaves
And whispers in the leaves.
Not as a terror and a desolation,
Not in my natural shape, inspiring fear
And dread, will I appear;
But in soft tones of sweetness and persuasion,
A sound as of the fall of mountain streams,
Or voices heard in dreams.
He sitteth there in silence, worn and wasted
With famine, and uplifts his hollow eyes
To the unpitying skies;
For forty days and nights he hath not tasted
Of food or drink, his parted lips are pale,
Surely his strength must fail.
Wherefore dost thou in penitential fasting
Waste and consume the beauty of thy youth.
Ah, if thou be in truth
The Son of the Unnamed, the Everlasting,
Command these stones beneath thy feet to be
Changed into bread for thee!
'T is written! Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by each word that from God's mouth proceedeth!
Too weak, alas! too weak is the temptation
For one whose soul to nobler things aspires
Than sensual desires!
Ah, could I, by some sudden aberration,
Lend and delude to suicidal death
This Christ of Nazareth!
Unto the holy Temple on Moriah,
With its resplendent domes, and manifold
Bright pinnacles of gold,
Where they await thy coming, O Messiah!
Lo, I have brought thee! Let thy glory here
Be manifest and clear.
Reveal thyself by royal act and gesture
Descending with the bright triumphant host
Of all the hithermost
Archangels, and about thee as a vesture
The shining clouds, and all thy splendors show
Unto the world below!
Cast thyself down, it is the hour appointed;
And God hath given his angels charge and care
To keep thee and upbear
Upon their hands his only Son, the Anointed,
Lest he should dash his foot against a stone
And die, and be unknown.
'T is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!
I cannot thus delude him to perdition!
But one temptation still remains untried,
The trial of his pride,
The thirst of power, the fever of ambition!
Surely by these a humble peasant's son
At last may be undone!
Above the yawning chasms and deep abysses,
Across the headlong torrents, I have brought
Thy footsteps, swift as thought;
And from the highest of these precipices,
The Kingdoms of the world thine eyes behold.
Like a great map unrolled.
From far-off Lebanon, with cedars crested,
To where the waters of the Asphalt Lake
On its white pebbles break,
And the vast desert, silent, sand-invested,
These kingdoms all are mine, and thine shall be,
If thou wilt worship me!
Get thee behind me, Satan! thou shalt worship
The Lord thy God; Him only shalt thou serve!
The sun goes down; the evening shadows lengthen,
The fever and the struggle of the day
Abate and pass away;
Thine Angels Miniatrant, we come to strengthen
And comfort thee, and crown thee with the palm,
The silence and the calm.
THE MARRIAGE IN CANA
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
Rise up, and come away,
For lo! the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
Sweetly the minstrels sing the Song of Songs!
My heart runs forward with it, and I say:
Oh set me as a seal upon thine heart,
And set me as a seal upon thine arm;
For love is strong as life, and strong as death,
And cruel as the grave is jealousy!
I sleep, but my heart awaketh;
'T is the voice of my beloved
Who knocketh, saying: Open to me,
My sister, my love, my dove,
For my head is filled with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night!
Ah yes, I sleep, and yet my heart awaketh.
It is the voice of my beloved who knocks.
O beautiful as Rebecca at the fountain,
O beautiful as Ruth among the sheaves!
O fairest among women! O undefiled!
Thou art all fair, my love, there's no spot in thee!
My beloved is white and ruddy,
The chiefest among ten thousand
His locks are black as a raven,
His eyes are the eyes of doves,
Of doves by the rivers of water,
His lips are like unto lilies,
Dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.
Who is that youth with the dark azure eyes,
And hair, in color like unto the wine,
Parted upon his forehead, and behind
Falling in flowing locks?
Who preacheth to the poor in field and village
The coming of God's Kingdom.
His aspect is! manly yet womanly.
Most beautiful among the sons of men!
Oft known to weep, but never known to laugh.
And tell me, she with eyes of olive tint,
And skin as fair as wheat, and pale brown hair,
The woman at his side?
His mother, Mary.
And the tall figure standing close behind them,
Clad all in white, with lace and beard like ashes,
As if he were Elias, the White Witness,
Come from his cave on Carmel to foretell
The end of all things?
That is Manahem
The Essenian, he who dwells among the palms
Near the Dead Sea.
He who foretold to Herod
He should one day be King?
Doth he come here to sadden with his presence
Our marriage feast, belonging to a sect
Haters of women, and that taste not wine?
My undefiled is but one,
The only one of her mother,
The choice of her that bare her;
The daughters saw her and blessed her;
The queens and the concubines praised her;
Saying, Lo! who is this
That looketh forth as the morning?
The Ruler of the Feast is gazing at me,
As if he asked, why is that old man here
Among the revellers? And thou, the Anointed!
Why art thou here? I see as in a vision
A figure clothed in purple, crowned with thorns;
I see a cross uplifted in the darkness,
And hear a cry of agony, that shall echo
Forever and forever through the world!
Give us more wine. These goblets are all empty.
MARY to CHRISTUS.
They have no wine!
O woman, what have I
To do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.
MARY to the servants.
Whatever he shall say to you, that do.
Fill up these pots with water.
Come, my beloved,
Let us go forth into the field,
Let us lodge in the villages;
Let us get up early to the vineyards,
Let us see if the vine flourish,
Whether the tender grape appear,
And the pomegranates bud forth.
Draw out now
And bear unto the Ruler of the Feast.
O thou, brought up among the Essenians,
Nurtured in abstinence, taste not the wine!
It is the poison of dragons from the vineyards
Of Sodom, and the taste of death is in it!
ARCHITRICLINUS to the BRIDEGROOM.
All men set forth good wine at the beginning,
And when men have well drunk, that which is worse;
But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The things that have been and shall be no more,
The things that are, and that hereafter shall he,
The things that might have been, and yet were not,
The fading twilight of great joys departed,
The daybreak of great truths as yet unrisen,
The intuition and the expectation
Of something, which, when come, is not the same,
But only like its forecast in men's dreams,
The longing, the delay, and the delight,
Sweeter for the delay; youth, hope, love, death,
And disappointment which is also death,
All these make up the sum of human life;
A dream within a dream, a wind at night
Howling across the desert in despair,
Seeking for something lost it cannot find.
Fate or foreseeing, or whatever name
Men call it, matters not; what is to be
Hath been fore-written in the thought divine
From the beginning. None can hide from it,
But it will find him out; nor run from it,
But it o'ertaketh him! The Lord hath said it.
THE BRIDEGROOM to the BRIDE, on the balcony.
When Abraham went with Sarah into Egypt,
The land was all illumined with her beauty;
But thou dost make the very night itself
Brighter than day! Behold, in glad procession,
Crowding the threshold of the sky above us,
The stars come forth to meet thee with their lamps;
And the soft winds, the ambassadors of flowers,
From neighboring gardens and from fields unseen,
Come laden with odors unto thee, my Queen!
Awake, O north-wind,
And come, thou wind of the South.
Blow, blow upon my garden,
That the spices thereof may flow out.
IN THE CORNFIELDS
Onward through leagues of sun-illumined corn,
As if through parted seas, the pathway runs,
And crowned with sunshine as the Prince of Peace
Walks the beloved Master, leading us,
As Moses led our fathers in old times
Out of the land of bondage! We have found
Him of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote,
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.
Can any good come out of Nazareth?
Can this be the Messiah?
Come and see.
The summer sun grows hot: I am anhungered.
How cheerily the Sabbath-breaking quail
Pipes in the corn, and bids us to his Feast
Of Wheat Sheaves! How the bearded, ripening ears
Toss in the roofless temple of the air;
As if the unseen hand of some High-Priest
Waved them before Mount Tabor as an altar!
It were no harm, if we should pluck and eat.
How wonderful it is to walk abroad
With the Good Master! Since the miracle
He wrought at Cana, at the marriage feast,
His fame hath gone abroad through all the land,
And when we come to Nazareth, thou shalt see
How his own people will receive their Prophet,
And hail him as Messiah! See, he turns
And looks at thee.
Behold an Israelite
In whom there is no guile.
Whence knowest thou me?
Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast
Under the fig-tree, I beheld thee.
Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King
Because I said I saw thee
Under the fig-tree, before Philip called thee,
Believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things.
Hereafter thou shalt see the heavens unclosed,
The angels of God ascending and descending
Upon the Son of Man!
Behold how thy disciples do a thing
Which is not lawful on the Sabbath-day,
And thou forbiddest them not!
Have ye not read
What David did when he anhungered was,
And all they that were with him? How he entered
Into the house of God, and ate the shew-bread,
Which was not lawful, saving for the priests?
Have ye not read, how on the Sabbath-days
The priests profane the Sabbath in the Temple,
And yet are blameless? But I say to you,
One in this place is greater than the Temple!
And had ye known the meaning of the words,
I will have mercy and not sacrifice,
The guiltless ye would not condemn. The Sabbath
Was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
Passes on with the disciples.
This is, alas! some poor demoniac
Wandering about the fields, and uttering
His unintelligible blasphemies
Among the common people, who receive
As prophecies the words they comprehend not!
Deluded folk! The incomprehensible
Alone excites their wonder. There is none
So visionary, or so void of sense,
But he will find a crowd to follow him!
CHRISTUS, reading in the Synagogue.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.
He hath anointed me to preach good tidings
Unto the poor; to heal the broken-hearted;
To comfort those that mourn, and to throw open
The prison doors of captives, and proclaim
The Year Acceptable of the Lord, our God!
He closes the book and sits down.
Who is this youth? He hath taken the Teacher's seat!
Will he instruct the Elders?
Have I been Priest here in the Synagogue,
And never have I seen so young a man
Sit in the Teacher's seat!
This scripture is fulfilled. One is appointed
And hath been sent to them that mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes, and the oil
Of joy for mourning! They shall build again
The old waste-places; and again raise up
The former desolations, and repair
The cities that are wasted! As a bridegroom
Decketh himself with ornaments; as a bride
Adorneth herself with jewels, so the Lord
Hath clothed me with the robe of righteousness!
He speaks the Prophet's words; but with an air
As if himself had been foreshadowed in them!
For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace,
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest
Until its righteousness be as a brightness,
And its salvation as a lamp that burneth!
Thou shalt be called no longer the Forsaken,
Nor any more thy land the Desolate.
The Lord hath sworn, by his right hand hath sworn,
And by his arm of strength: I will no more
Give to thine enemies thy corn as meat;
The sons of strangers shall not drink thy wine.
Go through, go through the gates! Prepare a way
Unto the people! Gather out the stones!
Lift up a standard for the people!
These are seditious words!
And they shall call them
The holy people; the redeemed of God!
And thou, Jerusalem, shalt be called Sought out,
A city not forsaken!
Is not this
The carpenter Joseph's son? Is not his mother
Called Mary? and his brethren and his sisters
Are they not with us? Doth he make himself
To be a Prophet?
No man is a Prophet
In his own country, and among his kin.
In his own house no Prophet is accepted.
I say to you, in the land of Israel
Were many widows in Elijah's day,
When for three years and more the heavens were shut,
And a great famine was throughout the land;
But unto no one was Elijah sent
Save to Sarepta, to a city of Sidon,
And to a woman there that was a widow.
And many lepers were then in the land
Of Israel, in the time of Eliseus
The Prophet, and yet none of them was cleansed,
Save Naaman the Syrian!
Say no more!
Thou comest here into our Synagogue
And speakest to the Elders and the Priests,
As if the very mantle of Elijah
Had fallen upon thee! Are thou not ashamed?
We want no Prophets here! Let him be driven
From Synagogue and city! Let him go
And prophesy to the Samaritans!
The world is changed. We Elders are as nothing!
We are but yesterdays, that have no part
Or portion in to-day! Dry leaves that rustle,
That make a little sound, and then are dust!
A carpenter's apprentice! a mechanic,
Whom we have seen at work here in the town
Day after day; a stripling without learning,
Shall he pretend to unfold the Word of God
To men grown old in study of the Law?
CHRISTUS is thrust out.
THE SEA OF GALILEE.
PETER and ANDREW mending their nets.
Never was such a marvellous draught of fishes
Heard of in Galilee! The market-places
Both of Bethsaida and Capernaum
Are full of them! Yet we had toiled all night
And taken nothing, when the Master said:
Launch out into the deep, and cast your nets;
And doing this, we caught such multitudes,
Our nets like spiders' webs were snapped asunder,
And with the draught we filled two ships so full
That they began to sink. Then I knelt down
Amazed, and said: O Lord, depart from me,
I am a sinful man. And he made answer:
Simon, fear not; henceforth thou shalt catch men!
What was the meaning of those words?
I know not.
But here is Philip, come from Nazareth.
He hath been with the Master. Tell us, Philip,
What tidings dost thou bring?
As we drew near to Nain, out of the gate
Upon a bier was carried the dead body
Of a young man, his mother's only son,
And she a widow, who with lamentation
Bewailed her loss, and the much people with her;
And when the Master saw her he was filled
With pity; and he said to her: Weep not
And came and touched the bier, and they that bare it
Stood still; and then he said: Young man, arise!
And he that had been dead sat up, and soon
Began to speak; and he delivered him
Unto his mother. And there came a fear
On all the people, and they glorified
The Lord, and said, rejoicing: A great Prophet
Is risen up among us! and the Lord
Hath visited his people!
A great Prophet?
Ay, greater than a Prophet: greater even
Than John the Baptist!
Yet the Nazarenes
The Nazarenes are dogs!
As natural brute beasts, they growl at things
They do not understand; and they shall perish,
Utterly perish in their own corruption.
The Nazarenes are dogs!
They drave him forth
Out of their Synagogue, out of their city,
And would have cast him down a precipice,
But, passing through the midst of them, he vanished
Out of their hands.
Wells are they without water,
Clouds carried with a tempest, unto whom
The mist of darkness is reserved forever.
Behold, he cometh. There is one man with him
I am amazed to see!
What man is that?
Judas Iscariot; he that cometh last,
Girt with a leathern apron. No one knoweth
His history; but the rumor of him is
He had an unclean spirit in his youth.
It hath not left him yet.
Come unto me,
All ye that labor and are heavy laden,
And I will give you rest! Come unto me,
And take my yoke upon you and learn of me,
For I am meek, and I am lowly in heart,
And ye shall all find rest unto your souls!
Oh, there is something in that voice that reaches
The innermost recesses of my spirit!
I feel that it might say unto the blind:
Receive your sight! and straightway they would see!
I feel that it might say unto the dead,
Arise! and they would hear it and obey!
Behold, he beckons to us!
CHRISTUS to PETER and ANDREW.
Master, I will leave all and follow thee.
THE DEMONIAC OF GADARA
He hath escaped, hath plucked his chains asunder,
And broken his fetters; always night and day
Is in the mountains here, and in the tombs,
Crying aloud, and cutting himself with stones,
Exceeding fierce, so that no man can tame him!
THE DEMONIAC from above, unseen.
O Aschmedai! O Aschmedai, have pity!
Listen! It is his voice! Go warn the people
Just landing from the lake!
Thou angel of the bottomless pit, have pity!
It was enough to hurl King Solomon,
On whom be peace! two hundred leagues away
Into the country, and to make him scullion
In the kitchen of the King of Maschkemen!
Why dost thou hurl me here among these rocks,
And cut me with these stones?
He raves and mutters
He knows not what.
THE DEMONIAC, appearing from a tomb among the rocks.
The wild cock Tarnegal
Singeth to me, and bids me to the banquet,
Where all the Jews shall come; for they have slain
Behemoth the great ox, who daily cropped
A thousand hills for food, and at a draught
Drank up the river Jordan, and have slain
The huge Leviathan, and stretched his skin
Upon the high walls of Jerusalem,
And made them shine from one end of the world
Unto the other; and the fowl Barjuchne,
Whose outspread wings eclipse the sun, and make
Midnight at noon o'er all the continents!
And we shall drink the wine of Paradise
From Adam's cellars.
O thou unclean spirit!
THE DEMONIAC, hurling down a stone.
This is the wonderful Barjuchne's egg,
That fell out of her nest, and broke to pieces
And swept away three hundred cedar-trees,
And threescore villages!--Rabbi Eliezer,
How thou didst sin there in that seaport town
When thou hadst carried safe thy chest of silver
Over the seven rivers for her sake!
I too have sinned beyond the reach of pardon.
Ye hills and mountains, pray for mercy on me!
Ye stars and planets, pray for mercy on me!
Ye sun and moon, oh pray for mercy on me!
CHRISTUS and his disciples pass.
There is a man here of Decapolis,
Who hath an unclean spirit; so that none
Can pass this way. He lives among the tombs
Up there upon the cliffs, and hurls down stones
On those who pass beneath.
Come out of him,
Thou unclean spirit!
What have I to do
With thee, thou Son of God? Do not torment us.
What is thy name?
Legion; for we are many.
Cain, the first murderer; and the King Belshazzar,
And Evil Merodach of Babylon,
And Admatha, the death-cloud, prince of Persia
And Aschmedai the angel of the pit,
And many other devils. We are Legion.
Send us not forth beyond Decapolis;
Command us not to go into the deep!
There is a herd of swine here in the pastures,
Let us go into them.
Come out of him,
Thou unclean spirit!
See how stupefied,
How motionless he stands! He cries no more;
He seems bewildered and in silence stares
As one who, walking in his sleep, awakes
And knows not where he is, and looks about him,
And at his nakedness, and is ashamed.
Why am I here alone among the tombs?
What have they done to me, that I am naked?
Ah, woe is me!
Go home unto thy friends
And tell them how great things the Lord hath done
For thee, and how He had compassion on thee!
A SWINEHERD, running.
The herds! the herd! O most unlucky day!
They were all feeding quiet in the sun,
When suddenly they started, and grew savage
As the wild boars of Tabor, and together
Rushed down a precipice into the sea!
They are all drowned!
Thus righteously are punished
The apostate Jews, that eat the flesh of swine,
And broth of such abominable things!
GREEKS OF GADARA.
We sacrifice a sow unto Demeter
At the beginning of harvest and another
To Dionysus at the vintage-time.
Therefore we prize our herds of swine, and count them
Not as unclean, but as things consecrate
To the immortal gods. O great magician,
Depart out of our coasts; let us alone,
We are afraid of thee.
Let us depart;
For they that sanctify and purify
Themselves in gardens, eating flesh of swine.
And the abomination, and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together, saith the Lord!
JAIRUS at the feet of CHRISTUS.
O Master! I entreat thee! I implore thee!
My daughter lieth at the point of death;
I pray thee come and lay thy hands upon her,
And she shall live!
Who was it touched my garments?
Thou seest the multitude that throng and press thee,
And sayest thou: Who touched me? 'T was not I.
Some one hath touched my garments; I perceive
That virtue is gone out of me.
Forgive me! For I said within myself,
If I so much as touch his garment's hem,
I shall be whole.
Be of good comfort, daughter!
Thy faith hath made thee whole. Depart in peace.
A MESSENGER from the house.
Why troublest thou the Master? Hearest thou not
The flute players, and the voices of the women
Singing their lamentation? She is dead!
THE MINSTRELS AND MOURNERS.
We have girded ourselves with sackcloth!
We have covered our heads with ashes!
For our young men die, and our maidens
Swoon in the streets of the city;
And into their mother's bosom
They pour out their souls like water!
CHRISTUS, going in.
Give place. Why make ye this ado, and weep?
She is not dead, but sleepeth.
THE MOTHER, from within.
To take away front me this tender blossom!
To take away my dove, my lamb, my darling!
THE MINSTRELS AND MOURNERS.
He hath led me and brought into darkness,
Like the dead of old in dark places!
He hath bent his bow, and hath set me
Apart as a mark for his arrow!
He hath covered himself with a cloud,
That our prayer should not pass through and reach him!
He stands beside her bed! He takes her hand!
Listen, he speaks to her!
See, she obeys his voice! She stirs! She lives!
Her mother holds her folded in her arms!
O miracle of miracles! O marvel!
THE TOWER OF MAGDALA
Companionless, unsatisfied, forlorn,
I sit here in this lonely tower, and look
Upon the lake below me, and the hills
That swoon with heat, and see as in a vision
All my past life unroll itself before me.
The princes and the merchants come to me,
Merchants of Tyre and Princes of Damascus.
And pass, and disappear, and are no more;
But leave behind their merchandise and jewels,
Their perfumes, and their gold, and their disgust.
I loathe them, and the very memory of them
Is unto me as thought of food to one
Cloyed with the luscious figs of Dalmanutha!
What if hereafter, in the long hereafter
Of endless joy or pain, or joy in pain,
It were my punishment to be with them
Grown hideous and decrepit in their sins,
And hear them say: Thou that hast brought us here,
Be unto us as thou hast been of old!
I look upon this raiment that I wear,
These silks, and these embroideries, and they seem
Only as cerements wrapped about my limbs!
I look upon these rings thick set with pearls,
And emerald and amethyst and jasper,
And they are burning coals upon my flesh!
This serpent on my wrist becomes alive!
Away, thou viper! and away, ye garlands,
Whose odors bring the swift remembrance back
Of the unhallowed revels in these chambers!
But yesterday,--and yet it seems to me
Something remote, like a pathetic song
Sung long ago by minstrels in the street,--
But yesterday, as from this tower I gazed,
Over the olive and the walnut trees
Upon the lake and the white ships, and wondered
Whither and whence they steered, and who was in them,
A fisher's boat drew near the landing-place
Under the oleanders, and the people
Came up from it, and passed beneath the tower,
Close under me. In front of them, as leader,
Walked one of royal aspect, clothed in white,
Who lifted up his eyes, and looked at me,
And all at once the air seemed filled and living
With a mysterious power, that streamed from him,
And overflowed me with an atmosphere
Of light and love. As one entranced I stood,
And when I woke again, lo! he was gone;
So that I said: Perhaps it is a dream.
But from that very hour the seven demons
That had their habitation in this body
Which men call beautiful, departed from me!
This morning, when the first gleam of the dawn
Made Lebanon a glory in the air,
And all below was darkness, I beheld
An angel, or a spirit glorified,
With wind-tossed garments walking on the lake.
The face I could not see, but I distinguished
The attitude and gesture, and I knew
'T was he that healed me. And the gusty wind
Brought to mine ears a voice, which seemed to say:
Be of good cheer! 'T is I! Be not afraid!
And from the darkness, scarcely heard, the answer:
If it be thou, bid me come unto thee
Upon the water! And the voice said: Come!
And then I heard a cry of fear: Lord, save me!
As of a drowning man. And then the voice:
Why didst thou doubt, O thou of little faith!
At this all vanished, and the wind was hushed,
And the great sun came up above the hills,
And the swift-flying vapors hid themselves
In caverns among the rocks! Oh, I must find him
And follow him, and be with him forever!
Thou box of alabaster, in whose walls
The souls of flowers lie pent, the precious balm
And spikenard of Arabian farms, the spirits
Of aromatic herbs, ethereal natures
Nursed by the sun and dew, not all unworthy
To bathe his consecrated feet, whose step
Makes every threshold holy that he crosses;
Let us go forth upon our pilgrimage,
Thou and I only! Let us search for him
Until we find him, and pour out our souls
Before his feet, till all that's left of us
Shall be the broken caskets that once held us!
THE HOUSE OF SIMON THE PHARISEE
A GUEST at table.
Are ye deceived? Have any of the Rulers
Believed on him? or do they know indeed
This man to be the very Christ? Howbeit
We know whence this man is, but when the Christ
Shall come, none knoweth whence he is.
Whereunto shall I liken, then, the men
Of this generation? and what are they like?
They are like children sitting in the markets,
And calling unto one another, saying:
We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced
We have mourned unto you, and ye have not wept!
This say I unto you, for John the Baptist
Came neither eating bread nor drinking wine
Ye say he hath a devil. The Son of Man
Eating and drinking cometh, and ye say:
Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber;
Behold a friend of publicans and sinners!
A GUEST aside to SIMON.
Who is that woman yonder, gliding in
So silently behind him?
It is Mary,
Who dwelleth in the Tower of Magdala.
See, how she kneels there weeping, and her tears
Fall on his feet; and her long, golden hair
Waves to and fro and wipes them dry again.
And now she kisses them, and from a box
Of alabaster is anointing them
With precious ointment, filling all the house
With its sweet odor!
Oh, this man, forsooth,
Were he indeed a Prophet, would have known
Who and what manner of woman this may be
That toucheth him! would know she is a sinner!
Simon, somewhat have I to say to thee.
Master, say on.
A certain creditor
Had once two debtors; and the one of them
Owed him five hundred pence; the other, fifty.
They having naught to pay withal, he frankly
Forgave them both. Now tell me which of them
Will love him most?
He, I suppose to whom
He most forgave.
Yea, thou hast rightly judged.
Seest thou this woman? When thine house I entered,
Thou gavest me no water for my feet,
But she hath washed them with her tears, and wiped them
With her own hair. Thou gavest me no kiss;
This woman hath not ceased, since I came in,
To kiss my feet. My head with oil didst thou
Anoint not; but this woman hath anointed
My feet with ointment. Hence I say to thee,
Her sins, which have been many, are forgiven,
For she loved much.
Oh, who, then, is this man
That pardoneth also sins without atonement?
Woman, thy faith hath saved thee! Go in peace!
THE SECOND PASSOVER.
BEFORE THE GATES OF MACHAERUS
Welcome, O wilderness, and welcome, night
And solitude, and ye swift-flying stars
That drift with golden sands the barren heavens,
Welcome once more! The Angels of the Wind
Hasten across the desert to receive me;
And sweeter than men's voices are to me
The voices of these solitudes; the sound
Of unseen rivulets, and the far-off cry
Of bitterns in the reeds of water-pools.
And lo! above me, like the Prophet's arrow
Shot from the eastern window, high in air
The clamorous cranes go singing through the night.
O ye mysterious pilgrims of the air,
Would I had wings that I might follow you!
I look forth from these mountains, and behold
The omnipotent and omnipresent night,
Mysterious as the future and the fate
That hangs o'er all men's lives! I see beneath me
The desert stretching to the Dead Sea shore,
And westward, faint and far away, the glimmer
Of torches on Mount Olivet, announcing
The rising of the Moon of Passover.
Like a great cross it seems, on which suspended,
With head bowed down in agony, I see
A human figure! Hide, O merciful heaven,
The awful apparition from my sight!
And thou, Machaerus, lifting high and black
Thy dreadful walls against the rising moon,
Haunted by demons and by apparitions,
Lilith, and Jezerhara, and Bedargon,
How grim thou showest in the uncertain light,
A palace and a prison, where King Herod
Feasts with Herodias, while the Baptist John
Fasts, and consumes his unavailing life!
And in thy court-yard grows the untithed rue,
Huge as the olives of Gethsemane,
And ancient as the terebinth of Hebron,
Coeval with the world. Would that its leaves
Medicinal could purge thee of the demons
That now possess thee, and the cunning fox
That burrows in thy walls, contriving mischief!
Music is heard from within.
Angels of God! Sandalphon, thou that weavest
The prayers of men into immortal garlands,
And thou, Metatron, who dost gather up
Their songs, and bear them to the gates of heaven,
Now gather up together in your hands
The prayers that fill this prison, and the songs
That echo from the ceiling of this palace,
And lay them side by side before God's feet!
He enters the castle.
Thou hast sent for me, O King, and I am here.
Who art thou?
Manahem, the Essenian.
I recognize thy features, but what mean
These torn and faded garments? On thy road
Have demons crowded thee, and rubbed against thee,
And given thee weary knees? A cup of wine!
The Essenians drink no wine.
What wilt thou, then?
Not even a cup of water?
Why hast thou sent for me?
Dost thou remember
One day when I, a schoolboy in the streets
Of the great city, met thee on my way
To school, and thou didst say to me: Hereafter
Thou shalt be king?
Yea, I remember it.
Thinking thou didst not know me, I replied:
I am of humble birth; whereat thou, smiling,
Didst smite me with thy hand, and saidst again:
Thou shalt be king; and let the friendly blows
That Manahem hath given thee on this day
Remind thee of the fickleness of fortune.
Yea, for I said to thee:
It shall be well with thee if thou love justice
And clemency towards thy fellow-men.
Hast thou done this, O King?
Go, ask my people.
And then, foreseeing all thy life, I added:
But these thou wilt forget; and at the end
Of life the Lord will punish thee.
When will that come? For this I sent to thee.
How long shall I still reign? Thou dost not answer!
Speak! shall I reign ten years?
Thou shalt reign twenty,
Nay, thirty years. I cannot name the end.
Thirty? I thank thee, good Essenian!
This is my birthday, and a happier one
Was never mine. We hold a banquet here.
See, yonder are Herodias and her daughter.
'T is said that devils sometimes take the shape
Of ministering angels, clothed with air.
That they may be inhabitants of earth,
And lead man to destruction. Such are these.
Knowest thou John the Baptist?
Yea, I know him;
Who knows him not?
Know, then, this John the Baptist
Said that it was not lawful I should marry
My brother Philip's wife, and John the Baptist
Is here in prison. In my father's time
Matthias Margaloth was put to death
For tearing the golden eagle from its station
Above the Temple Gate,--a slighter crime
Than John is guilty of. These things are warnings
To intermeddlers not to play with eagles,
Living or dead. I think the Essenians
Are wiser, or more wary, are they not?
The Essenians do not marry.
Thou hast given
My words a meaning foreign to my thought.
Let me go hence, O King!
Stay yet awhile,
And see the daughter of Herodias dance.
Cleopatra of Jerusalem, my mother,
In her best days, was not more beautiful.
Music. THE DAUGHTER OP HERODIAS dances.
Oh, what was Miriam dancing with her timbrel,
Compared to this one?
O thou Angel of Death,
Dancing at funerals among the women,
When men bear out the dead! The air is hot
And stifles me! Oh for a breath of air!
Bid me depart, O King!
Not yet. Come hither,
Salome, thou enchantress! Ask of me
Whate'er thou wilt; and even unto the half
Of all my kingdom, I will give it thee,
As the Lord liveth!
DAUGHTER OF HERODIAS, kneeling.
Give me here the head
Of John the Baptist on this silver charger!
Not that, dear child! I dare not; for the people
Regard John as a prophet.
DAUGHTER OF HERODIAS.
Thou hast sworn it.
For mine oath's sake, then. Send unto the prison;
Let him die quickly. Oh, accursed oath!
Bid me depart, O King!
Give me thy hand. I love the Essenians.
He's gone and hears me not! The guests are dumb,
Awaiting the pale face, the silent witness.
The lamps flare; and the curtains of the doorways
Wave to and fro as if a ghost were passing!
Strengthen my heart, red wine of Ascalon!
UNDER THE WALLS OF MACHAERUS
MANAHEM, rushing out.
Away from this Palace of sin!
The demons, the terrible powers
Of the air, that haunt its towers
And hide in its water-spouts,
Deafen me with the din
Of their laughter and their shouts
For the crimes that are done within!
Sink back into the earth,
Or vanish into the air,
Thou castle of despair!
Let it all be but a dream
Of the things of monstrous birth,
Of the things that only seem!
White Angel of the Moon,
Onafiel! be my guide
Out of this hateful place
Of sin and death, nor hide
In you black cloud too soon
Thy pale and tranquil face!
A trumpet is blown from the walls.
Hark! hark! It is the breath
Of the trump of doom and death,
From the battlements overhead
Like a burden of sorrow cast
On the midnight and the blast,
A wailing for the dead,
That the gusts drop and uplift!
O Herod, thy vengeance is swift!
O Herodias, thou hast been
The demon, the evil thing,
That in place of Esther the Queen,
In place of the lawful bride,
Hast lain at night by the side
Of Ahasuerus the king!
The trumpet again.
The Prophet of God is dead!
At a drunken monarch's call,
At a dancing-woman's beck,
They have severed that stubborn neck
And into the banquet-hall
Are bearing the ghastly head!
A body is thrown from the tower.
A torch of red
Lights the window with its glow;
And a white mass as of snow
Is hurled into the abyss
Of the black precipice,
That yawns for it below!
O hand of the Most High,
O hand of Adonai!
Bury it, hide it away
From the birds and beasts of prey,
And the eyes of the homicide,
More pitiless than they,
As thou didst bury of yore
The body of him that died
On the mountain of Peor!
Even now I behold a sign,
A threatening of wrath divine,
A watery, wandering star,
Through whose streaming hair, and the white
Unfolding garments of light,
That trail behind it afar,
The constellations shine!
And the whiteness and brightness appear
Like the Angel bearing the Seer
By the hair of his head, in the might
And rush of his vehement flight.
And I listen until I hear
From fathomless depths of the sky
The voice of his prophecy
Sounding louder and more near!
May the lightnings of heaven fall
On palace and prison wall,
And their desolation be
As the day of fear and affliction,
As the day of anguish and ire,
With the burning and fuel of fire,
In the Valley of the Sea!
NICODEMUS AT NIGHT
The streets are silent. The dark houses seem
Like sepulchres, in which the sleepers lie
Wrapped in their shrouds, and for the moment dead.
The lamps are all extinguished; only one
Burns steadily, and from the door its light
Lies like a shining gate across the street.
He waits for me. Ah, should this be at last
The long-expected Christ! I see him there
Sitting alone, deep-buried in his thought,
As if the weight of all the world were resting
Upon him, and thus bowed him down. O Rabbi,
We know thou art a Teacher come from God,
For no man can perform the miracles
Thou dost perform, except the Lord be with him.
Thou art a Prophet, sent here to proclaim
The Kingdom of the Lord. Behold in me
A Ruler of the Jews, who long have waited
The coming of that kingdom. Tell me of it.
Verily, verily I say unto thee,
Except a man be born again, he cannot
Behold the Kingdom of God!
Be born again?
How can a man be born when he is old?
Say, can he enter for a second time
Into his mother's womb, and so be born?
Verily I say unto thee, except
A man be born of water and the spirit,
He cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
For that which of the flesh is born, is flesh;
And that which of the spirit is born, is spirit.
We Israelites from the Primeval Man
Adam Ahelion derive our bodies;
Our souls are breathings of the Holy Ghost.
No more than this we know, or need to know.
Then marvel not, that I said unto thee
Ye must be born again.
Of birth and death we cannot comprehend.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear
The sound thereof, but know not whence it cometh,
Nor whither it goeth. So is every one
Born of the spirit!
How can these things be?
He seems to speak of some vague realm of shadows,
Some unsubstantial kingdom of the air!
It is not this the Jews are waiting for,
Nor can this be the Christ, the Son of David,
Who shall deliver us!
Art thou a master
Of Israel, and knowest not these things?
We speak that we do know, and testify
That we have seen, and ye will not receive
Our witness. If I tell you earthly things,
And ye believe not, how shall ye believe,
If I should tell you of things heavenly?
And no man hath ascended up to heaven,
But he alone that first came down from heaven,
Even the Son of Man which is in heaven!
This is a dreamer of dreams; a visionary,
Whose brain is overtasked, until he deems
The unseen world to be a thing substantial,
And this we live in, an unreal vision!
And yet his presence fascinates and fills me
With wonder, and I feel myself exalted
Into a higher region, and become
Myself in part a dreamer of his dreams,
A seer of his visions!
And as Moses
Uplifted the serpent in the wilderness,
So must the Son of Man be lifted up;
That whosoever shall believe in Him
Shall perish not, but have eternal life.
He that believes in Him is not condemned;
He that believes not, is condemned already.
He speaketh like a Prophet of the Lord!
This is the condemnation; that the light
Is come into the world, and men loved darkness
Rather than light, because their deeds are evil!
Of me he speaketh! He reproveth me,
Because I come by night to question him!
For every one that doeth evil deeds
Hateth the light, nor cometh to the light
Lest he should be reproved.
Alas, how truly
He readeth what is passing in my heart!
But he that doeth truth comes to the light,
So that his deeds may be made manifest,
That they are wrought in God.
Be not impatient, Chilion; it is pleasant
To sit here in the shadow of the walls
Under the palms, and hear the hum of bees,
And rumor of voices passing to and fro,
And drowsy bells of caravans on their way
To Sidon or Damascus. This is still
The City of Palms, and yet the walls thou seest
Are not the old walls, not the walls where Rahab
Hid the two spies, and let them down by cords
Out of the window, when the gates were shut,
And it was dark. Those walls were overthrown
When Joshua's army shouted, and the priests
Blew with their seven trumpets.
When was that?
O my sweet rose of Jericho, I know not
Hundreds of years ago. And over there
Beyond the river, the great prophet Elijah
Was taken by a whirlwind up to heaven
In chariot of fire, with fiery horses.
That is the plain of Moab; and beyond it
Rise the blue summits of Mount Abarim,
Nebo and Pisgah and Peor, where Moses
Died, whom the Lord knew face to face? and whom
He buried in a valley, and no man
Knows of his sepulchre unto this day.
Would thou couldst see these places, as I see them.
I have not seen a glimmer of the light
Since thou wast born. I never saw thy face,
And yet I seem to see it; and one day
Perhaps shall see it; for there is a Prophet
In Galilee, the Messiah, the Son of David,
Who heals the blind, if I could only find him.
I hear the sound of many feet approaching,
And voices, like the murmur of a crowd!
What seest thou?
A young man clad in white
Is coming through the gateway, and a crowd
Of people follow.
Can it be the Prophet!
O neighbors, tell me who it is that passes?
ONE OF THE CROWD.
Jesus of Nazareth.
O Son of David!
Have mercy on me!
MANY OP THE CROWD.
Peace. Blind Bartimeus!
Do not disturb the Master.
BARTIMEUS, crying more vehemently.
Son of David,
Have mercy on me!
ONE OF THE CROWD.
See, the Master stops.
Be of good comfort; rise, He calleth thee!
BARTIMEUS, casting away his cloak.
Chilion! good neighbors! lead me on.
What wilt thou
That I should do to thee?
Good Lord! my sight--
That I receive my sight!
Receive thy sight!
Thy faith hath made thee whole!
He sees again!
CHRISTUS passes on, The crowd gathers round BARTIMEUS.
I see again; but sight bewilders me!
Like a remembered dream, familiar things
Come back to me. I see the tender sky
Above me, see the trees, the city walls,
And the old gateway, through whose echoing arch
I groped so many years; and you, my neighbors;
But know you by your friendly voices only.
How beautiful the world is! and how wide!
Oh, I am miles away, if I but look!
Where art thou, Chilion?
Father, I am here.
Oh let me gaze upon thy face, dear child!
For I have only seen thee with my hands!
How beautiful thou art! I should have known thee;
Thou hast her eyes whom we shall see hereafter!
O God of Abraham! Elion! Adonai!
Who art thyself a Father, pardon me
If for a moment I have thee postponed
To the affections and the thoughts of earth,
Thee, and the adoration that I owe thee,
When by thy power alone these darkened eyes
Have been unsealed again to see thy light!
A SAMARITAN WOMAN.
The sun is hot; and the dry east-wind blowing
Fills all the air with dust. The birds are silent;
Even the little fieldfares in the corn
No longer twitter; only the grasshoppers
Sing their incessant song of sun and summer.
I wonder who those strangers were I met
Going into the city? Galileans
They seemed to me in speaking, when they asked
The short way to the market-place. Perhaps
They are fishermen from the lake; or travellers,
Looking to find the inn. And here is some one
Sitting beside the well; another stranger;
A Galilean also by his looks.
What can so many Jews be doing here
Together in Samaria? Are they going
Up to Jerusalem to the Passover?
Our Passover is better here at Sychem,
For here is Ebal; here is Gerizim,
The mountain where our father Abraham
Went up to offer Isaac; here the tomb
Of Joseph,--for they brought his bones Egypt
And buried them in this land, and it is holy.
Give me to drink.
How can it be that thou,
Being a Jew, askest to drink of me
Which am a woman of Samaria?
You Jews despise us; have no dealings with us;
Make us a byword; call us in derision
The silly folk of Sychar. Sir, how is it
Thou askest drink of me?
If thou hadst known
The gift of God, and who it is that sayeth
Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him;
He would have given thee the living water.
Sir, thou hast naught to draw with, and the well
Is deep ! Whence hast thou living water?
Say, art thou greater than our father Jacob,
Which gave this well to us, and drank thereof
Himself, and all his children and his cattle?
Ah, whosoever drinketh of this water
Shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh
The water I shall give him shall not thirst
Forevermore, for it shall be within him
A well of living water, springing up
Into life everlasting.
I must go to and fro, in heat and cold,
And I am weary. Give me of this water,
That I may thirst not, nor come here to draw.
Go call thy husband, woman, and come hither.
I have no husband, Sir.
Thou hast well said
I have no husband. Thou hast had five husbands;
And he whom now thou hast is not thy husband.
Surely thou art a Prophet, for thou readest
The hidden things of life! Our fathers worshipped
Upon this mountain Gerizim; and ye say
The only place in which men ought to worship
Is at Jerusalem.
Believe me, woman,
The hour is coming, when ye neither shall
Upon this mount, nor at Jerusalem,
Worship the Father; for the hour is coming,
And is now come, when the true worshippers
Shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth!
The Father seeketh such to worship Him.
God is a spirit; and they that worship Him
Must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Master, I know that the Messiah cometh,
Which is called Christ; and he will tell us all things.
I that speak unto thee am He!
THE DISCIPLES, returning.
The Master sitting by the well, and talking
With a Samaritan woman! With a woman
Of Sychar, the silly people, always boasting
Of their Mount Ebal, and Mount Gerizim,
Their Everlasting Mountain, which they think
Higher and holier than our Mount Moriah!
Why, once upon the Feast of the New Moon,
When our great Sanhedrim of Jerusalem
Had all its watch-fires kindled on the hills
To warn the distant villages, these people
Lighted up others to mislead the Jews,
And make a mockery of their festival!
See, she has left the Master; and is running
Back to the city!
Oh, come see a man
Who hath told me all things that I ever did!
Say, is not this the Christ?
Lo, Master, here
Is food, that we have brought thee from the city.
We pray thee eat it.
I have food to eat
Ye know not of.
THE DISCIPLES, to each other.
Hath any man been here,
And brought Him aught to eat, while we were gone?
The food I speak of is to do the will
Of Him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Do ye not say, Lo! there are yet four months
And cometh, harvest? I say unto you,
Lift up your eyes, and look upon the fields,
For they are white already unto harvest!
THE COASTS OF CAESAREA PHILIPPI
CHRISTUS, going up the mountain.
Who do the people say I am?
That thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias;
And others Jeremiah.
Or that one
Of the old Prophets is risen again.
But who say ye I am?
Thou art the Christ?
Thou art the Son of God!
Blessed art thou,
Simon Barjona! Flesh and blood hath not
Revealed it unto thee, but even my Father,
Which is in Heaven. And I say unto thee
That thou art Peter; and upon this rock
I build my Church, and all the gates of Hell
Shall not prevail against it. But take heed
Ye tell no man that I am the Christ.
For I must go up to Jerusalem,
And suffer many things, and be rejected
Of the Chief Priests, and of the Scribes and Elders,
And must be crucified, and the third day
Shall rise again!
Be it far from thee, Lord!
This shall not be!
Get thee behind me, Satan!
Thou savorest not the things that be of God,
But those that be of men! If any will
Come after me, let him deny himself,
And daily take his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it,
And whosoever will lose his life shall find it.
For wherein shall a man be profited
If he shall gain the whole world, and shall lose
Himself or be a castaway?
JAMES, after a long pause.
The Master lead us up into this mountain?
He goeth up to pray.
See where He standeth
Above us on the summit of the hill!
His face shines as the sun! and all his raiment
Exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller
On earth can white them! He is not alone;
There are two with him there; two men of eld,
Their white beards blowing on the mountain air,
Are talking with him.
I am sore afraid!
Who and whence are they?
Moses and Elias!
O Master! it is good for us to be here!
If thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles;
For thee one, and for Moses and Elias!
Behold a bright cloud sailing in the sun!
It overshadows us. A golden mist
Now hides them from us, and envelops us
And all the mountains in a luminous shadow!
I see no more. The nearest rocks are hidden.
VOICE from the cloud.
Lo! this is my beloved Son! Hear Him!
It is the voice of God. He speaketh to us,
As from the burning bush He spake to Moses!
The cloud-wreaths roll away. The veil is lifted;
We see again. Behold! He is alone.
It was a vision that our eyes beheld,
And it hath vanished into the unseen.
CHRISTUS, coming down from the mountain.
I charge ye, tell the vision unto no one,
Till the Son of Man is risen from the dead!
Again He speaks of it! What can it mean,
This rising from the dead?
Why say the Scribe!
Elias must first come?
He cometh first,
Restoring all things. But I say to you,
That this Elias is already come.
They knew him not, but have done unto him
Whate'er they listed, as is written of him.
It is of John the Baptist He is speaking.
As we descend, see, at the mountain's foot,