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 IV
SCENE I.—King Street, in front of the town-house. KEMPTHORN in the pillory. MERRY and a crowd of lookers-on.

KEMPTHORN  (sings).
    THE WORLD is full of care,
      Much like unto a bubble;
    Women and care, and care and women,
      And women and care and trouble.
Good Master Merry, may I say confound?        5
Ay, that you may.

        Well, then, with your permission,
Confound the Pillory!

                    That ’s the very thing
The joiner said who made the Shrewsbury stocks.
He said, Confound the stocks, because they put him
Into his own. He was the first man in them.        10
For swearing, was it?

                No, it was for charging;
He charged the town too much; and so the town,
To make things square, set him in his own stocks,
And fined him five pound sterling,—just enough
To settle his own bill.

                    And served him right;
But, Master Merry, is it not eight bells?
Not quite.

        For, do you see? I ’m getting tired
Of being perched aloft here in this cro’nest
Like the first mate of a whaler, or a Middy
Mast-headed, looking out for land! Sail ho!        20
Here comes a heavy-laden merchantman
With the lee clews eased off, and running free
Before the wind. A solid man of Boston.
A comfortable man, with dividends,
And the first salmon, and the first green peas.
A gentleman passes.
He does not even turn his head to look.
He ’s gone without a word. Here comes another,
A different kind of craft on a taut bowline,—
Deacon Giles Firmin the apothecary,
A pious and a ponderous citizen,        30
Looking as rubicund and round and splendid
As the great bottle in his own shop window!
And here ’s my host of the Three Mariners,
My creditor and trusty taverner,
My corporal in the Great Artillery!        35
He ’s not a man to pass me without speaking.
COLE looks away and passes.
Don’t yaw so; keep your luff, old hypocrite!
Respectable, ah yes, respectable,
You, with your seat in the new Meeting-house,
Your cow-right on the Common! But who ’s this?        40
I did not know the Mary Ann was in!
And yet this is my old friend, Captain Goldsmith,
As sure as I stand in the bilboes here.
Why, Ralph, my boy!

                    Why, Simon, is it you?
Set in the bilboes?

                    Chock-a-block, you see,
And without chafing-gear.

                        And what ’s it for?
Ask that starbowline with the boat-hook there,
That handsome man.

MERRY  (bowing).
                    For swearing.

                            In this town
They put sea-captains in the stocks for swearing,
And Quakers for not swearing. So look out.        50
I pray you set him free; he meant no harm;
’T is an old habit he picked up afloat.
Well, as your time is out, you may come down.
The law allows you now to go at large
Like Elder Oliver’s horse upon the Common.        55
Now, hearties, bear a hand! Let go and haul.
KEMPTHORN is set free, and comes forward, shaking GOLDSMITH’S hand.
Give me your hand, Ralph. Ah, how good it feels!
The hand of an old friend.

                    God bless you, Simon!
Now let us make a straight wake for the tavern
Of the Three Mariners, Samuel Cole commander;        60
Where we can take our ease, and see the shipping,
And talk about old times.

                        First I must pay
My duty to the Governor, and take him
His letters and dispatches. Come with me.
I ’d rather not. I saw him yesterday.
Then wait for me at the Three Nuns and Comb.
I thank you. That ’s too near to the town pump.
I will go with you to the Governor’s,
And wait outside there, sailing off and on;
If I am wanted, you can hoist a signal.        70
Shall I go with you and point out the way?
Oh no, I thank you. I am not a stranger
Here in your crooked little town.

                        How now, sir?
Do you abuse our town?    [Exit.

                        Oh, no offence.
Ralph, I am under bonds for a hundred pound.
Hard lines. What for?

                To take some Quakers back
I brought here from Barbadoes in the Swallow.
And how to do it I don’t clearly see,
For one of them is banished, and another
Is sentenced to be hanged! What shall I do?        80
Just slip your hawser on some cloudy night;
Sheer off, and pay it with the topsail, Simon!    [Exeunt.
SCENE II.—Street in front of the prison. In the background a gateway and several flights of steps leading up terraces to the Governor’s house. A pump on one side of the street. JOHN ENDICOTT, MERRY, UPSALL, and others. A drum beats.

Oh shame, shame, shame!

                    Yes, it would be a shame
But for the damnable sin of Heresy!
A woman scourged and dragged about our streets!
Well, Roxbury and Dorchester must take
Their share of shame. She will be whipped in each!
Three towns, and Forty Stripes save one; that makes
Thirteen in each.

            And are we Jews or Christians?
See where she comes, amid a gaping crowd!        90
And she a child. Oh, pitiful! pitiful!
There ’s blood upon her clothes, her hands, her feet!
Enter MARSHAL and a drummer, EDITH, stripped to the waist, followed by the hangman with a scourge, and a noisy crowd.
Here let me rest one moment. I am tired.
Will some one give me water?

                            At his peril.
Alas! that I should live to see this day!
Did I forsake my father and my mother
And come here to New England to see this?
I am athirst. Will no one give me water?
JOHN ENDICOTT  (making his way through the crowd with water).
In the Lord’s name!

EDITH  (drinking).
                    In his name I receive it!
Sweet as the water of Samaria’s well        100
This water tastes. I thank thee. Is it thou?
I was afraid thou hadst deserted me.
Never will I desert thee, nor deny thee.
Be comforted.
  O Master Endicott,
Be careful what you say.

                        Peace, idle babbler!
You ’ll rue these words!

                    Art thou not better now?
They ’ve struck me as with roses.

                        Ah, these wounds!
These bloody garments!

                    It is granted me
To seal my testimony with my blood.        110
O blood-red seal of man’s vindictive wrath!
O roses of the garden of the Lord!
I, of the household of Iscariot,
I have betrayed in thee my Lord and Master!
WENLOCK CHRISTISON appears above, at the window of the prison, stretching out his hands through the bars.
Be of good courage, O my child! my child!
Blessed art thou when men shall persecute thee!
Fear not their faces, saith the Lord, fear not,
For I am with thee to deliver thee.
Who is it crying from the prison yonder?
It is old Wenlock Christison.

Him who was scourged, and mocked, and crucified!
I see his messengers attending thee.
Be steadfast, oh, be steadfast to the end!
EDITH  (with exultation).
  I cannot reach thee with these arms, O father!
But closely in my soul do I embrace thee        125
And hold thee. In thy dungeon and thy death
I will be with thee, and will comfort thee!
Come, put an end to this. Let the drum beat.
The drum beats. Exeunt all but JOHN ENDICOTT, UPSALL, and MERRY.
Dear child, farewell! Never shall I behold
Thy face again with these bleared eyes of flesh;        130
And never wast thou fairer, lovelier, dearer
Than now, when scourged and bleeding, and insulted
For the truth’s sake. O pitiless, pitiless town!
The wrath of God hangs over thee; and the day
Is near at hand when thou shalt be abandoned        135
To desolation and the breeding of nettles.
The bittern and the cormorant shall lodge
Upon thine upper lintels, and their voice
Sing in thy windows. Yea, thus saith the Lord!
Awake! awake! ye sleepers, ere too late,
And wipe these bloody statutes from your books!    [Exit.
Take heed; the walls have ears!

                        At last, the heart
Of every honest man must speak or break!
Enter GOVERNOR ENDICOTT with his halberdiers.
What is this stir and tumult in the street?
Worshipful sir, the whipping of a girl,
And her old father howling from the prison.
ENDICOTT  (to his halberdiers).
Go on.

        Antiochus! Antiochus!
O thou that slayest the Maccabees! The Lord
Shall smite thee with incurable disease,
And no man shall endure to carry thee!        150
Peace, old blasphemer!

                        I both feel and see
The presence and the waft of death go forth
Against thee, and already thou dost look
Like one that ’s dead!

MERRY  (pointing).
                And there is your own son,
Worshipful sir, abetting the sedition.        155
Arrest him. Do not spare him.

MERRY  (aside).
                        His own child!
There is some special providence takes care
That none shall be too happy in this world!
His own first-born.

                    O Absalom, my son!
[Exeunt; the Governor with his halberdiers ascending the steps of his house.
SCENE III.—The Governor’s private room. Papers upon the table. ENDICOTT and BELLINGHAM.

There is a ship from England has come in,
Bringing dispatches and much news from home.
His Majesty was at the Abbey crowned;
And when the coronation was complete
There passed a mighty tempest o’er the city,
Portentous with great thunderings and lightnings.        165
After his father’s, if I well remember,
There was an earthquake, that foreboded evil.
Ten of the Regicides have been put to death!
The bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw
Have been dragged from their graves, and publicly        170
Hanged in their shrouds at Tyburn.

Thus the old tyranny revives again!
Its arm is long enough to reach us here,
As you will see. For, more insulting still
Than flaunting in our faces dead men’s shrouds,        175
Here is the King’s Mandamus, taking from us,
From this day forth, all power to punish Quakers.
That takes from us all power; we are but puppets,
And can no longer execute our laws.
His Majesty begins with pleasant words,
“Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well;”
Then with a ruthless hand he strips from me
All that which makes me what I am; as if
From some old general in the field, grown gray
In service, scarred with many wounds,        185
Just at the hour of victory, he should strip
His badge of office and his well-gained honors,
And thrust him back into the ranks again.
Opens the Mandamus and hands it to BELLINGHAM; and, while he is reading, ENDICOTT walks up and down the room.
Here, read it for yourself; you see his words
Are pleasant words—considerate—not reproachful—        190
Nothing could be more gentle—or more royal;
But then the meaning underneath the words,
Mark that. He says all people known as Quakers
Among us, now condemned to suffer death
Or any corporal punishment whatever,        195
Who are imprisoned, or may be obnoxious
To the like condemnation, shall be sent
Forthwith to England, to be dealt with there
In such wise as shall be agreeable
Unto the English law and their demerits.        200
Is it not so?

BELLINGHAM  (returning the paper).
                Ay, so the paper says.
It means we shall no longer rule the Province;
It means farewell to law and liberty,
Authority, respect for Magistrates,
The peace and welfare of the Commonwealth.        205
If all the knaves upon this continent
Can make appeal to England, and so thwart
The ends of truth and justice by delay,
Our power is gone forever. We are nothing
But ciphers, valueless save when we follow        210
Some unit; and our unit is the King!
’T is he that gives us value.

                        I confess
Such seems to be the meaning of this paper,
But being the King’s Mandamus, signed and sealed,
We must obey, or we are in rebellion.        215
I tell you, Richard Bellingham,—I tell you,
That this is the beginning of a struggle
Of which no mortal can foresee the end.
I shall not live to fight the battle for you,
I am a man disgraced in every way;        220
This order takes from me my self-respect
And the respect of others. ’T is my doom,
Yes, my death-warrant, but must be obeyed!
Take it, and see that it is executed
So far as this, that all be set at large;        225
But see that none of them be sent to England
To bear false witness, and to spread reports
That might be prejudicial to ourselves.
There ’s a dull pain keeps knocking at my heart,
Dolefully saying, “Set thy house in order,        230
For thou shalt surely die, and shalt not live!”
For me the shadow on the dial-plate
Goeth not back, but on into the dark!    [Exit.
SCENE IV.—The street. A crowd, reading a placard on the door of the Meeting-house. NICHOLAS UPSALL among them. Enter JOHN NORTON.

What is this gathering here?

                        One William Brand,
An old man like ourselves, and weak in body,        235
Has been so cruelly tortured in his prison,
The people are excited, and they threaten
To tear the prison down.

                    What has been done?
He has been put in irons, with his neck
And heels tied close together, and so left        240
From five in the morning until nine at night.
What more was done?

                He has been kept five days
In prison without food, and cruelly beaten,
So that his limbs were cold, his senses stopped.
What more?

            And is this not enough?

                            Now hear me.
This William Brand of yours has tried to beat
Our Gospel Ordinances black and blue;
And, if he has been beaten in like manner,
It is but justice, and I will appear
In his behalf that did so. I suppose        250
That he refused to work.

                        He was too weak.
How could an old man work, when he was starving?
And what is this placard?

                            The Magistrates,
To appease the people and prevent a tumult,
Have put up these placards throughout the town,        255
Declaring that the jailer shalt be dealt with
Impartially and sternly by the Court.
(tearing down the placard).
Down with this weak and cowardly concession,
This flag of truce with Satan and with Sin!
I fling it in his face! I trample it        260
Under my feet! It is his cunning craft,
The masterpiece of his diplomacy,
To cry and plead for boundless toleration.
But toleration is the first-born child
Of all abominations and deceits.        265
There is no room in Christ’s triumphant army
For tolerationists. And if an Angel
Preach any other gospel unto you
Than that ye have received, God’s malediction
Descend upon him! Let him be accursed!    [Exit.        270
Now, go thy ways, John Norton! go thy ways,
Thou Orthodox Evangelist, as men call thee!
But even now there cometh out of England,
Like an o’ertaking and accusing conscience,
An outraged man, to call thee to account        275
For the unrighteous murder of his son!    [Exit.
SCENE V.—The Wilderness. Enter EDITH.

How beautiful are these autumnal woods!
The wilderness doth blossom like the rose,
And change into a garden of the Lord!
How silent everywhere! Alone and lost        280
Here in the forest, there comes over me
An inward awfulness. I recall the words
Of the Apostle Paul: “In journeyings often,
Often in perils in the wilderness,
In weariness, in painfulness, in watchings,        285
In hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness;”
And I forget my weariness and pain,
My watchings, and my hunger and my thirst.
The Lord hath said that He will seek his flock
In cloudy and dark days, and they shall dwell        290
Securely in the wilderness, and sleep
Safe in the woods! Whichever way I turn,
I come back with my face towards the town.
Dimly I see it, and the sea beyond it.
O cruel town! I know what waits me there,        295
And yet I must go back; for ever louder
I hear the inward calling of the Spirit,
And must obey the voice. O woods, that wear
Your golden crown of martyrdom, bloodstained,
From you I learn a lesson of submission,        300
And am obedient even unto death,
If God so wills it.    [Exit.

JOHN ENDICOTT  (within).
                    Edith! Edith! Edith!
He enters.
It is in vain! I call, she answers not;
I follow, but I find no trace of her!
Blood! blood! The leaves above me and around me        305
Are red with blood! The pathways of the forest,
The clouds that canopy the setting sun
And even the little river in the meadows
Are stained with it! Where’er I look, I see it!
Away, thou horrible vision! Leave me! leave me!        310
Alas! yon winding stream, that gropes its way
Through mist and shadow, doubling on itself,
At length will find, by the unerring law
Of nature, what it seeks. O soul of man,
Groping through mist and shadow, and recoiling        315
Back on thyself, are, too, thy devious ways
Subject to law? and when thou seemest to wander
The farthest from thy goal, art thou still drawing
Nearer and nearer to it, till at length
Thou findest, like the river, what thou seekest?    [Exit.        320

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