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.
Giles Corey of the Salem Farms.
SCENE I.—GILES COREY’S kitchen. Morning. COREY and MARTHA sitting at the breakfast-table.

COREY  (rising).
WELL, now I ’ve told you all I saw and heard
Of Bridget Bishop; and I must be gone.
Don’t go into the village, Giles, to-day.
Last night you came back tired and out of humor.
Say, angry; say, right angry. I was never
In a more devilish temper in my life.
All things went wrong with me.

                    You were much vexed;
So don’t go to the village.

COREY  (going).
                            No, I won’t.
I won’t go near it. We are going to mow
The Ipswich meadows for the aftermath,        10
The crop of sedge and rowens.

                        Stay a moment.
I want to tell you what I dreamed last night.
Do you believe in dreams?

                        Why, yes and no.
When they come true, then I believe in them;
When they come false, I don’t believe in them.        15
But let me hear. What did you dream about?
I dreamed that you and I were both in prison;
That we had fetters on our hands and feet;
That we were taken before the Magistrates,
And tried for Witchcraft, and condemned to death!        20
I wished to pray; they would not let me pray;
You tried to comfort me, and they forbade it.
But the most dreadful thing in all my dream
Was that they made you testify against me!
And then there came a kind of mist between us;        25
I could not see you; and I woke in terror.
I never was more thankful in my life
Than when I found you sleeping at my side!
COREY  (with tenderness).
It was our talk last night that made you dream.
I ’m sorry for it. I ’ll control myself        30
Another time, and keep my temper down!
I do not like such dreams.—Remember, Martha,
I ’m going to mow the Ipswich River meadows;
If Gardner comes, you ’ll tell him where to find me.    [Exit.
So this delusion grows from bad to worse.
First, a forsaken and forlorn old woman,
Ragged and wretched, and without a friend;
Then something higher. Now it ’s Bridget Bishop;
God only knows whose turn it will be next!
The Magistrates are blind, the people mad!        40
If they would only seize the Afflicted Children,
And put them in the Workhouse, where they should be,
There ’d be an end of all this wickedness.    [Exit.
SCENE II.—A street in Salem Village. Enter MATHER and HATHORNE.

Yet one thing troubles me.

                        And what is that?
May not the Devil take the outward shape
Of innocent persons? Are we not in danger,
Perhaps, of punishing some who are not guilty?
As I have said, we do not trust alone
To spectral evidence.

                            And then again,
If any shall be put to death for Witchcraft,        50
We do but kill the body, not the soul.
The Unclean Spirits that possessed them once
Live still, to enter into other bodies.
What have we gained? Surely, there ’s nothing gained.
Doth not the Scripture say, “Thou shalt not suffer
A Witch to live?”

                    The Scripture sayeth it,
But speaketh to the Jews; and we are Christians.
What say the laws of England?

                    They make Witchcraft
Felony without the benefit of Clergy.
Witches are burned in England. You have read—        60
For you read all things, not a book escapes you—
The famous Demonology of King James?
A curious volume. I remember also
The plot of the Two Hundred, with one Fian,
The Registrar of the Devil, at their head,        65
To drown his Majesty on his return
From Denmark; how they sailed in sieves or riddles
Unto North Berwick Kirk in Lothian,
And, landing there, danced hand in hand, and sang,
“Goodwife, go ye before! goodwife, go ye!        70
If ye ’ll not go before, goodwife, let me!”
While Geilis Duncan played the Witches’ Reel
Upon a jews-harp.

                    Then you know full well
The English law, and that in England Witches,
When lawfully convicted and attainted,        75
Are put to death.

                    When lawfully convicted;
That is the point.

                    You heard the evidence
Produced before us yesterday at the trial
Of Bridget Bishop.

                        One of the Afflicted,
I know, bore witness to the apparition        80
Of ghosts unto the spectre of this Bishop,
Saying, “You murdered us!” of the truth whereof
There was in matter of fact too much suspicion.
And when she cast her eyes on the Afflicted,
They were struck down; and this in such a manner        85
There could be no collusion in the business.
And when the accused but laid her hand upon them,
As they lay in their swoons, they straight revived,
Although they stirred not when the others touched them.
What most convinced me of the woman’s guilt
Was finding hidden in her cellar wall
Those poppets made of rags, with headless pins
Stuck into them point outwards, and whereof
She could not give a reasonable account.
When you shall read the testimony given
Before the Court in all the other cases,
I am persuaded you will find the proof
No less conclusive than it was in this.
Come, then, with me, and I will tax your patience
With reading of the documents so far        100
As may convince you that these sorcerers
Are lawfully convicted and attainted.
Like doubting Thomas, you shall lay your hand
Upon these wounds, and you will doubt no more.    [Exeunt.
SCENE III.—A room in COREY’S house. MARTHA and two Deacons of the church.

Be seated. I am glad to see you here.
I know what you are come for. You are come
To question me, and learn from my own lips
If I have any dealings with the Devil;
In short, if I ’m a Witch.

DEACON  (sitting down).
                    Such is our purpose.
How could you know beforehand why we came?        110
’T was only a surmise.

                    We came to ask you,
You being with us in church covenant,
What part you have, if any, in these matters.
And I make answer, No part whatsoever.
I am a farmer’s wife, a working woman;        115
You see my spinning-wheel, you see my loom,
You know the duties of a farmer’s wife,
And are not ignorant that my life among you
Has been without reproach until this day.
Is it not true?

            So much we ’re bound to own;
And say it frankly, and without reserve.
I ’ve heard the idle tales that are abroad;
I ’ve heard it whispered that I am a Witch;
I cannot help it. I do not believe
In any Witchcraft. It is a delusion.        125
How can you say that it is a delusion,
When all our learned and good men believe it?—
Our Ministers and worshipful Magistrates?
Their eyes are blinded, and see not the truth.
Perhaps one day they will be open to it.        130
You answer boldly. The Afflicted Children
Say you appeared to them.

                        And did they say
What clothes I came in?

                No, they could not tell.
They said that you foresaw our visit here,
And blinded them, so that they could not see        135
The clothes you wore.

                The cunning, crafty girls!
I say to you, in all sincerity,
I never have appeared to any one
In my own person. If the Devil takes
My shape to hurt these children, or afflict them,        140
I am not guilty of it. And I say
It ’s all a mere delusion of the senses.
I greatly fear that you will find too late
It is not so.

MARTHA  (rising).
                They do accuse me falsely.
It is delusion, or it is deceit.        145
There is a story in the ancient Scriptures
Which much I wonder comes not to your minds.
Let me repeat it to you.

                        We will hear it.
It came to pass that Naboth had a vineyard
Hard by the palace of the King called Ahab.        150
And Ahab, King of Israel, spake to Naboth,
And said to him, Give unto me thy vineyard,
That I may have it for a garden of herbs,
And I will give a better vineyard for it,
Or, if it seemeth good to thee, its worth        155
In money. And then Naboth said to Ahab,
The Lord forbid it me that I should give
The inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
And Ahab came into his house displeased
And heavy at the words which Naboth spake,        160
And laid him down upon his bed, and turned
His face away; and he would eat no bread.
And Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, came
And said to him, Why is thy spirit sad?
And he said unto her, Because I spake        165
To Naboth, to the Jezreelite, and said,
Give me thy vineyard; and he answered, saying,
I will not give my vineyard unto thee.
And Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, said,
Dost thou not rule the realm of Israel?        170
Arise, eat bread, and let thy heart be merry;
I will give Naboth’s vineyard unto thee.
So she wrote letters in King Ahab’s name,
And sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters
Unto the elders that were in his city        175
Dwelling with Naboth, and unto the nobles;
And in the letters wrote, Proclaim a fast;
And set this Naboth high among the people,
And set two men, the sons of Belial,
Before him, to bear witness and to say,        180
Thou didst blaspheme against God and the King;
And carry him out and stone him, that he die!
And the elders and the nobles in the city
Did even as Jezebel, the wife of Ahab,
Had sent to them and written in the letters.        185
And then it came to pass, when Ahab heard
Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose to go
Down unto Naboth’s vineyard, and to take
Possession of it. And the word of God
Came to Elijah, saying to him, Arise,        190
Go down to meet the King of Israel
In Naboth’s vineyard, whither he hath gone
To take possession. Thou shalt speak to him,
Saying, Thus saith the Lord! What! hast thou killed
And also taken possession? In the place        195
Wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth
Shall the dogs lick thy blood,—ay, even thine!
Both of the Deacons start from their seats.
And Ahab then, the King of Israel,
Said, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?
Elijah the Prophet answered, I have found thee!        200
So will it be with those who have stirred up
The Sons of Belial here to bear false witness
And swear away the lives of innocent people;
Their enemy will find them out at last,
The Prophet’s voice will thunder, I have found thee!    [Exeunt.        205
SCENE IV.—Meadows on Ipswich River. COREY and his men mowing; COREY in advance.

Well done, my men. You see, I lead the field!
I ’m an old man, but I can swing a scythe
Better than most of you, though you be younger.
Hangs his scythe upon a tree.
GLOYD  (aside to the others).
  How strong he is! It ’s supernatural.
No man so old as he is has such strength.        210
The Devil helps him!

COREY  (wiping his forehead).
                    Now we ’ll rest awhile,
And take our nooning. What ’s the matter with you?
You are not angry with me,—are you, Gloyd?
Come, come, we will not quarrel. Let ’s be friends.
It ’s an old story, that the Raven said,        215
“Read the Third of Colossians and fifteenth.”
You ’re handier at the scythe, but I can beat you
At wrestling.

                Well, perhaps so. I don’t know.
I never wrestled with you. Why, you ’re vexed!
Come, come, don’t bear a grudge.

                        You are afraid.
What should I be afraid of? All bear witness
The challenge comes from him. Now, then, my man.
They wrestle, and GLOYD is thrown.
That ’s a fair fall.

                    ’T was nothing but a foil!
You ’ve hurt him!

COREY  (helping GLOYD rise).
                No; this meadow-land is soft.
You ’re not hurt,—are you, Gloyd?

GLOYD  (rising).
                        No, not much hurt.
Well, then, shake hands; and there ’s an end of it.
How do you like that Cornish hug, my lad?
And now we ’ll see what ’s in our basket here.
GLOYD  (aside).
The Devil and all his imps are in that man!
The clutch of his ten fingers burns like fire!        230
COREY  (reverentially taking off his hat).
God bless the food He hath provided for us,
And make us thankful for it, for Christ’s sake!
He lifts up a keg of cider, and drinks from it.
Do you see that? Don’t tell me it ’s not Witchcraft.
Two of us could not lift that cask as he does!
COREY puts down the keg, and opens a basket. A voice is heard calling.
Ho! Corey, Corey!

                    What is that? I surely
Heard some one calling me by name!

                            Giles Corey!
Enter a boy, running, and out of breath.
Is Master Corey here?

                    Yes, here I am.
O Master Corey!


                    Your wife—your wife—
What ’s happened to my wife?

                    She ’s sent to prison!
The dream! the dream! O God, be merciful!
She sent me here to tell you.

COREY  (putting on his jacket).
                        Where ’s my horse?
Don’t stand there staring, fellow. Where ’s my horse?    [Exit COREY.
Under the trees there. Run, old man, run, run!
You ’ve got some one to wrestle with you now
Who ’ll trip your heels up, with your Cornish hug.        245
If there ’s a Devil, he has got you now.
Ah, there he goes! His horse is snorting fire!
John Gloyd, don’t talk so! It ’s a shame to talk so!
He ’s a good master, though you quarrel with him.
If hard work and low wages make good masters,
Then he is one. But I think otherwise.
Come, let us have our dinner and be merry,
And talk about the old man and the Witches.
I know some stories that will make you laugh.
They sit down on the grass, and eat.
Now there are Goody Cloyse and Goody Good,        255
Who have not got a decent tooth between them,
And yet these children—the Afflicted Children—
Say that they bite them, and show marks of teeth
Upon their arms!

            That makes the wonder greater.
That ’s Witchcraft. Why, if they had teeth like yours,        260
’T would be no wonder if the girls were bitten!
And then those ghosts that come out of their graves
And cry, “You murdered us! you murdered us!”
And all those Apparitions that stick pins
Into the flesh of the Afflicted Children!        265
Oh those Afflicted Children! They know well
Where the pins come from. I can tell you that.
And there ’s old Corey, he has got a horseshoe
Nailed on his doorstep to keep off the Witches,
And all the same his wife has gone to prison.        270
Oh, she ’s no Witch. I ’ll swear that Good-wife Corey
Never did harm to any living creature.
She ’s a good woman, if there ever was one.
Well, we shall see. As for that Bridget Bishop,
She has been tried before; some years ago        275
A negro testified he saw her shape
Sitting upon the rafters in a barn,
And holding in its hand an egg; and while
He went to fetch his pitchfork, she had vanished.
And now be quiet, will you? I am tired,        280
And want to sleep here on the grass a little.
They stretch themselves on the grass.
There may be Witches riding through the air
Over our heads on broomsticks at this moment,
Bound for some Satan’s Sabbath in the woods
To be baptized.

            I wish they ’d take you with them,
And hold you under water, head and ears,
Till you were drowned; and that would stop your talking,
If nothing else will. Let me sleep, I say.

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