Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Christus: A Mystery
Part III. The New England Tragedies.
John Endicott.
Act I
  SCENE I.—Sunday afternoon. The interior of the Meeting-house. On the pulpit, an hour-glass; below, a box for contributions. JOHN NORTON in the pulpit. GOVERNOR ENDICOTT in a canopied seat, attended by four halberdiers. The congregation singing.

        THE LORD descended from above,
          And bowed the heavens high;
        And underneath his feet He cast
          The darkness of the sky.
        On Cherubim and Seraphim        5
          Right royally He rode,
        And on the wings of mighty winds
          Came flying all abroad.
NORTON  (rising and turning the hour-glass on the pulpit).
I heard a great voice from the temple saying
Unto the Seven Angels, Go your ways;        10
Pour out the vials of the wrath of God
Upon the earth. And the First Angel went
And poured his vial on the earth; and straight
There fell a noisome and a grievous sore
On them which had the birth-mark of the Beast,        15
And them which worshipped and adored his image.
On us hath fallen this grievous pestilence.
There is a sense of terror in the air;
And apparitions of things horrible
Are seen by many. From the sky above us        20
The stars fall; and beneath us the earth quakes!
The sound of drums at midnight from afar,
The sound of horsemen riding to and fro,
As if the gates of the invisible world
Were opened, and the dead came forth to warn us,—        25
All these are omens of some dire disaster
Impending over us, and soon to fall.
Moreover, in the language of the Prophet,
Death is again come up into our windows,
To cut off little children from without,        30
And young men from the streets. And in the midst
Of all these supernatural threats and warnings
Doth Heresy uplift its horrid head;
A vision of Sin more awful and appalling
Than any phantasm, ghost, or apparition,        35
As arguing and portending some enlargement
Of the mysterious Power of Darkness!
EDITH, barefooted, and clad in sackcloth, with her hair hanging loose upon her shoulders, walks slowly up the aisle, followed by WHARTON and other Quakers. The congregation starts up in confusion.

EDITH  (to NORTON, raising her hand).
Anathema maranatha! The Lord cometh!
Yea, verily He cometh, and shall judge
The shepherds of Israel who do feed themselves,        40
And leave their flocks to eat what they have trodden
Beneath their feet.

                Be silent, babbling woman!
St. Paul commands all women to keep silence
Within the churches.

                    Yet the women prayed
And prophesied at Corinth in his day;        45
And, among those on whom the fiery tongues
Of Pentecost descended, some were women!
The Elders of the Churches, by our law,
Alone have power to open the doors of speech
And silence in the Assembly. I command you!        50
The law of God is greater than your laws!
Ye build your church with blood, your town with crime;
The heads thereof give judgment for reward;
The priests thereof teach only for their hire;
Your laws condemn the innocent to death;        55
And against this I bear my testimony!
What testimony?

                That of the Holy Spirit,
Which, as your Calvin says, surpasseth reason.
The laborer is worthy of his hire.
Yet our great Master did not teach for hire,
And the Apostles without purse or scrip
Went forth to do his work. Behold this box
Beneath thy pulpit. Is it for the poor?
Thou canst not answer. It is for the Priest;
And against this I bear my testimony.        65
Away with all these Heretics and Quakers!
Quakers, forsooth! Because a quaking fell
On Daniel, at beholding of the Vision,
Must ye needs shake and quake? Because Isaiah
Went stripped and barefoot, must ye wail and howl?        70
Must ye go stripped and naked? must ye make
A wailing like the dragons, and a mourning
As of the owls? Ye verify the adage
That Satan is God’s ape! Away with them!
Tumult. The Quakers are driven out with violence, EDITH following slowly. The congregation retires in confusion.
Thus freely do the Reprobates commit        75
Such measure of iniquity as fits them
For the intended measure of God’s wrath,
And even in violating God’s commands
Are they fulfilling the divine decree!
The will of man is but an instrument        80
Disposed and predetermined to its action
According unto the decree of God,
Being as much subordinate thereto
As is the axe unto the hewer’s hand!
He descends from the pulpit, and joins GOVERNOR ENDICOTT, who comes forward to meet him.
The omens and the wonders of the time,        85
Famine, and fire, and shipwreck, and disease,
The blast of corn, the death of our young men,
Our sufferings in all precious, pleasant things,
Are manifestations of the wrath divine,
Signs of God’s controversy with New England.        90
These emissaries of the Evil One,
These servants and ambassadors of Satan,
Are but commissioned executioners
Of God’s vindictive and deserved displeasure.
We must receive them as the Roman Bishop        95
Once received Attila, saying, I rejoice
You have come safe, whom I esteem to be
The scourge of God, sent to chastise his people.
This very heresy, perchance, may serve
The purposes of God to some good end.        100
With you I leave it; but do not neglect
The holy tactics of the civil sword.
And what more can be done?

                        The hand that cut
The Red Cross from the colors of the king
Can cut the red heart from this heresy.        105
Fear not. All blasphemies immediate
And heresies turbulent must be suppressed
By civil power.

                But in what way suppressed?
The Book of Deuteronomy declares
That if thy son, thy daughter, or thy wife,        110
Ay, or the friend which is as thine own soul,
Entice thee secretly, and say to thee,
Let us serve other gods, then shall thine eye
Not pity him, but thou shalt surely kill him,
And thine own hand shall be the first upon him        115
To slay him.

                Four already have been slain;
And others banished upon pain of death.
But they come back again to meet their doom,
Bringing the linen for their winding-sheets.
We must not go too far. In truth, I shrink        120
From shedding of more blood. The people murmur
At our severity.

                    Then let them murmur!
Truth is relentless; justice never wavers;
The greatest firmness is the greatest mercy;
The noble order of the Magistracy        125
Cometh immediately from God, and yet
This noble order of the Magistracy
Is by these Heretics despised and outraged.
To-night they sleep in prison. If they die,
They cannot say that we have caused their death.        130
We do but guard the passage, with the sword
Pointed towards them; if they dash upon it,
Their blood will be on their own heads, not ours.
Enough. I ask no more. My predecessor
Coped only with the milder heresies        135
Of Antinomians and of Anabaptists.
He was not born to wrestle with these fiends.
Chrysostom in his pulpit; Augustine
In disputation; Timothy in his house!
The lantern of St. Botolph’s ceased to burn        140
When from the portals of that church he came
To be a burning and a shining light
Here in the wilderness. And, as he lay
On his death-bed, he saw me in a vision
Ride on a snow-white horse into this town.        145
His vision was prophetic; thus I came,
A terror to the impenitent, and Death
On the pale horse of the Apocalypse
To all the accursed race of Heretics!    [Exeunt.
SCENE II.—A street. On one side, NICHOLAS UPSALL’S house; on the other, WALTER MERRY’S, with a flock of pigeons on the roof. UPSALL seated in the porch of his house.

O day of rest! How beautiful, how fair,
How welcome to the weary and the old!
Day of the Lord! and truce to earthly cares!
Day of the Lord, as all our days should be!
Ah, why will man by his austerities
Shut out the blessed sunshine and the light,        155
And make of thee a dungeon of despair!
WALTER MERRY (entering and looking round him).
All silent as a graveyard! No one stirring;
No footfall in the street, no sound of voices!
By righteous punishment and perseverance
And perseverance in that punishment,        160
At last I have brought this contumacious town
To strict observance of the Sabbath day.
Those wanton gospellers, the pigeons yonder,
Are now the only Sabbath-breakers left.
I cannot put them down. As if to taunt me,        165
They gather every Sabbath afternoon
In noisy congregation on my roof,
Billing and cooing. Whir! take that, ye Quakers.
Throws a stone at the pigeons. Sees UPSALL.
Ah! Master Nicholas!

                            Good afternoon,
Dear neighbor Walter.

                        Master Nicholas,
You have to-day withdrawn yourself from meeting.        170
Yea, I have chosen rather to worship God
Sitting in silence here at my own door.
Worship the Devil! You this day have broken
Three of our strictest laws. First, by abstaining
From public worship. Secondly, by walking        175
Profanely on the Sabbath.

                        Not one step.
I have been sitting still here, seeing the pigeons
Feed in the street and fly about the roofs.
You have been in the street with other intent
Than going to and from the Meeting-house.        180
And, thirdly, you are harboring Quakers here.
I am amazed!

                Men sometimes, it is said,
Entertain angels unawares.

                        Nice angels!
Angels in broad-brimmed hats and russet cloaks,
The color of the Devil’s nutting-bag! They came        185
Into the Meeting-house this afternoon
More in the shape of devils than of angels.
The women screamed and fainted; and the boys
Made such an uproar in the gallery
I could not keep them quiet.

                        Neighbor Walter,
Your persecution is of no avail.
’T is prosecution, as the Governor says,
Not persecution.

                    Well, your prosecution;
Your hangings do no good.

                            The reason is,
We do not hang enough. But, mark my words,        195
We ’ll scour them; yea, I warrant ye, we ’ll scour them!
And now go in and entertain your angels,
And don’t be seen here in the street again
Till after sundown!—There they are again!
Exit UPSALL. MERRY throws another stone at the pigeons, and then goes into his house.
SCENE III.—A room in UPSALL’S house. Night. EDITH, WHARTON, and other Quakers seated at a table. UPSALL seated near them. Several books on the table.

William and Marmaduke, our martyred brothers,
Sleep in untimely graves, if aught untimely
Can find place in the providence of God,
Where nothing comes too early or too late.
I saw their noble death. They to the scaffold
Walked hand in hand. Two hundred armèd men        205
And many horsemen guarded them, for fear
Of rescue by the crowd, whose hearts were stirred.
O holy martyrs!

                When they tried to speak,
Their voices by the roll of drums were drowned.
When they were dead they still looked fresh and fair,        210
The terror of death was not upon their faces.
Our sister Mary, likewise, the meek woman,
Has passed through martyrdom to her reward;
Exclaiming, as they led her to her death,
“These many days I ’ve been in Paradise.”        215
And, when she died, Priest Wilson threw the hangman
His handkerchief, to cover the pale face
He dared not look upon.

                    As persecuted,
Yet not forsaken; as unknown, yet known;
As dying, and behold we are alive;        220
As sorrowful, and yet rejoicing always;
As having nothing, yet possessing all!
And Leddra, too, is dead. But from his prison,
The day before his death, he sent these words
Unto the little flock of Christ: “Whatever        225
May come upon the followers of the Light,—
Distress, affliction, famine, nakedness,
Or perils in the city or the sea,
Or persecution, or even death itself,—
I am persuaded that God’s armor of Light,        230
As it is loved and lived in, will preserve you.
Yea, death itself; through which you will find entrance
Into the pleasant pastures of the fold,
Where you shall feed forever as the herds
That roam at large in the low valleys of Achor.        235
And as the flowing of the ocean fills
Each creek and branch thereof, and then retires,
Leaving behind a sweet and wholesome savor;
So doth the virtue and the life of God
Flow evermore into the hearts of those        240
Whom he hath made partakers of his nature;
And, when it but withdraws itself a little,
Leaves a sweet savor after it, that many
Can say they are made clean by every word
That He hath spoken to them in their silence.”        245
EDITH (rising and breaking into a kind of chant).
Truly we do but grope here in the dark,
Near the partition-wall of Life and Death,
At every moment dreading or desiring
To lay our hands upon the unseen door!
Let us, then, labor for an inward stillness,—        250
An inward stillness and an inward healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait        255
In singleness of heart, that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only!
A long pause, interrupted by the sound of a drum approaching; then shouts in the street, and a loud knocking at the door.
Within there! Open the door!

                        Will no one answer?
In the King’s name! Within there!

                            Open the door!
UPSALL (from the window).
It is not barred. Come in. Nothing prevents you.
The poor man’s door is ever on the latch.
He needs no bolt nor bar to shut out thieves;
He fears no enemies, and has no friends
Importunate enough to need a key.        265
Enter JOHN ENDICOTT, the MARSHAL, MERRY, and a crowd. Seeing the Quakers silent and unmoved, they pause, awe-struck. ENDICOTT opposite EDITH.

In the King’s name do I arrest you all!
Away with them to prison. Master Upsall,
You are again discovered harboring here
These ranters and disturbers of the peace.
You know the law.

                I know it, and am ready
To suffer yet again its penalties.
Why dost thou persecute me, Saul of Tarsus?

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