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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Wandering Jew
By Edgar Quinet (1803–1875)
From ‘Ahasvérus’: Translation of Jane Grosvenor Cooke

  Ahasuerus, come, enter the house. Latch the door. Are you not afraid of the wind which is blowing, and of the noise in the city?
  Go in, little brothers; go to sleep on your mats. I wish to stay on my bench, and watch the crowd pass.
The Brothers
  There it is! Let us escape!
The Crowd  [following Christ, who is carrying the cross]—
  Salutation to the king, to the fine king of Judea! Lead him to the summit of Calvary, that he may see farther—see all his empire. Has the king of Babylon, or Egypt, or Persia, ever mounted a throne so elevated? The precincts of the city are not good enough for him at present. When our high towers are fallen, when serpents are climbing our stairs instead of us, when the desert is at our table, then he shall return if he wishes, with his crown of thorns, with his torn robe, his bleeding feet, to be the king of our ruin.
  They are coming. I can hear their steps. My heart beats in my breast.
The Crowd
  Have they restored to Barabbas his sword, his cloak, his horse, and his quiver full of arrows? Give him in his purse ten demers of shining silver. Dress him in red as a messenger; he shall go through the town to tell the robbers, the weavers, the slaves who turn the mills, “Do you know the news? Your king is awaiting you on the platform of his tower of Golgotha.”
  The voices of these people intoxicate me like a leathern bottle of the wine of Carmel. Their wrath is surely just.
The Crowd
  Pilate, wise Pilate, hast thou taken thy golden ewer? Again, again, see that spot thou hast not removed. Rome washes her hands,—that innocent virgin, who has held only the spindle in her mother’s chamber, does not wish to wear a bloody ring on her finger; but we without delay will follow the steps of our King’s son. Truly, is he not greater than David? See, he weeps, and he has neither sword nor sling; his cup-bearers are two robbers. If he wishes to punish us, let him command: perhaps this time he will not send us as far as the willows of Babylon. Must we return, with hands tied behind our backs, to the desert, to Egypt? Let us start; for a long time we have known the way—and a short path to return.
  They come—they are there—they pass—they recede; their cries fill the street: if this man was indeed a soothsayer, the wind which blows from the desert would overturn the terraces with the towers. He is an impostor: death to him!
The Crowd
  If he is a Chaldean, magician, he has as servants—in the desert, under the remains of cities—marble unicorns, winged lions, whose manes have been trimmed by spirits with scissors of gold; he has as messengers, sphinxes which repose from their courses at the doors of temples in blocks of rock. Let him tell his griffins to come and escort him;—but the wings of his griffins are too heavy, the sleep of his sphinxes is too profound. Before his enchanted troop of unicorns and winged lions leap about him, before the stone hawks and ibises descend from their obelisks to defend him, behold the vultures of Judea who to-morrow shall take the crown from his head to carry it to their nest in the woods. Oh no, do not pause at thy nest, my vulture of Carmel! mount higher than the roc, higher than the cloud, higher than the star; mount to Jehovah! “Knowest thou what I bear in my beak? O Jehovah! in truth, it is not a bit of Joppa wool, it is not a twig of heather,—it is the crown of thorns of Judea, which I took at Calvary from the head of thy son of Nazareth.”
  As he advances, his halo shines more brightly than that of an elect prophet: that is one of his enchantments.
  It is thou, Ahasuerus?
  I do not know you.
  I am thirsty: give me a little water from thy spring.
  My well is empty.
  Take thy cup: thou shalt find it full.
  It is broken.
  Help me to carry my cross by this hard way.
  I am not your cross-bearer: call a griffin from the desert.
  Let me sit down on thy bench, at the door of thy house.
  My bench is full: there is no place for any one.
  And on thy sill?
  It is empty, and the door is bolted.
  Touch it with thy finger, and thou shalt enter to get a stool.
  Go your way.
  If thou desired, thy bench should become a golden stool at the door of my father’s house.
  Go, blaspheme where you will. Already you are making my vine and fig-tree to wither. Do not lean on the railing of my steps: it would crumble at hearing you speak. You wish to enchant me.
  I wished to save thee.
  Soothsayer, depart from my shadow. Your way is before you. Go, go!
  Why didst thou say it, Ahasuerus? It is thou who shalt continue to go until the last judgment, during more than a thousand years. Go take thy sandals, and thy garments for travel: everywhere thou passest, they shall call thee “The Wandering Jew.” Thou shalt not find a place to sit down, or a mountain spring to quench thy thirst. In my stead thou shalt bear the burden which I leave on the cross. For thy thirst, thou shalt drink what I leave in my chalice. Others shall take my tunic, thou shalt inherit my eternal sorrow. Hyssop shall sprout from thy traveler’s staff, absinth shall come in thy leather bottle, despair shall press thy loins in thy leather belt. Thou shalt be the man who never dies. Thy age shall be mine. To see thee pass, the eagles will perch on the edge of their eyries; the little birds will half hide themselves under the crests of the rocks; the star will stoop from its cloud to hear thy tears falling drop by drop in the abyss. I am going to Golgotha: thou shalt walk from ruin to ruin, from kingdom to kingdom, without ever reaching thy Calvary. Thou shalt break thy staircase under thy feet, and be no longer able to descend. The gate of the city shall say to thee, “Go farther, my bench is occupied;” and the stream where thou wishest to sit shall say, “Go farther, go farther, to the sea: my bank is full of brambles.” And the sea too—“Farther, farther: are you not the eternal traveler who goes from nation to nation, from century to century, drinking his tears from his cup, who never sleeps day or night either on silk or on stone, and who cannot return on the path by which he came?” The griffins will sit down, the sphinxes will sleep. Thou shalt have neither seat nor sleep. Thou shalt ask for me from temple to temple without ever meeting me. Thou shalt cry “Where is he?” until the dead show you the way to the last judgment. When thou beholdest me again, my eyes will be flaming, my finger will issue from under my robe to summon thee to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
A Roman Soldier
  Did you hear? While he spoke my sword groaned in its scabbard; my lance sweated blood; my horse wept. I have carried my sword and my lance long enough. As I listened, my heart was consumed in my bosom. Open the door, my wife and little ones, that I may hide in my Calabrian hut.
The Crowd
  Why climb farther to Calvary? What if he were perchance a God in an unknown country, or yet a Son whom the Eternal in his old age has forgotten? Let us go hide in our courts before he can recognize us. Put out the lamps on our tables. Did you see the hand of steel which wrote on the house of Ahasuerus,—The Wandering Jew? Let not this name remain on the stone! Let him who bears it be the scapegoat of Judea. When he passes, Babylon, Thebes, and the surrounding country shall gather a stone from their ruins to hurl at him. But for us, without ever quitting again our homes and our vines, we will fill our bottles for the Passover, with our wine of Carmel.

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