Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Christus: A Mystery
Part I. The Divine Tragedy.
The Second Passover.
II. Herod’s Banquet-Hall
 
MANAHEM.
THOU hast sent for me, O King, and I am here.
 
HEROD.
Who art thou?

MANAHEM.
                Manahem, the Essenian.
 
HEROD.
I recognize thy features, but what mean
These torn and faded garments? On thy road
Have demons crowded thee, and rubbed against thee,        5
And given thee weary knees? A cup of wine!
 
MANAHEM.
The Essenians drink no wine.

HEROD.
                    What wilt thou, then?
 
MANAHEM.
Nothing.

HEROD.
                Not even a cup of water?

MANAHEM.
                            Nothing.
Why hast thou sent for me?

HEROD.
                    Dost thou remember
One day when I, a schoolboy in the streets        10
Of the great city, met thee on my way
To school, and thou didst say to me: Hereafter
Thou shalt be king?

MANAHEM.
                    Yea, I remember it.
 
HEROD.
Thinking thou didst not know me, I replied:
I am of humble birth; whereat thou, smiling,        15
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.
 
MANAHEM.
What more?

HEROD.
                No more.

MANAHEM.
                    Yea, for I said to thee:
        20
It shall be well with thee if thou love justice
And clemency towards thy fellow-men.
Hast thou done this, O King?

HEROD.
                        Go, ask my people.
 
MANAHEM.
And then, foreseeing all thy life, I added:
But these thou wilt forget; and at the end        25
Of life the Lord will punish thee.

HEROD.
                            The end!
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?

MANAHEM.
                Thou shalt reign twenty,
Nay, thirty years. I cannot name the end.        30
 
HEROD.
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.
 
MANAHEM, aside.
’T is said that devils sometimes take the shape
        35
Of ministering angels, clothed with air,
That they may be inhabitants of earth,
And lead man to destruction. Such are these.
 
HEROD.
Knowest thou John the Baptist?

MANAHEM.
                    Yea, I know him;
Who knows him not?

HEROD.
        Know, then, this John the Baptist
        40
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        45
Above the Temple Gate,—a slighter crime
That 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?        50
 
MANAHEM.
The Essenians do not marry.

HEROD.
                        Thou hast given
My words a meaning foreign to my thought.
 
MANAHEM.
Let me go hence, O King!

HEROD.
                        Stay yet awhile,
And see the daughter of Herodias dance.
Cleopatra of Jerusalem, my mother,        55
In her best days, was not more beautiful.
Music. THE DAUGHTER OF HERODIAS dances.
 
HEROD.
Oh, what was Miriam dancing with her timbrel,
Compared to this one?

MANAHEM, aside.
                    O thou Angel of Death,
Dancing at funerals among the women,
When men bear out the dead! The air is hot        60
And stifles me! Oh for a breath of air!
Bid me depart, O King!

HEROD.
                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,        65
As the Lord liveth!

DAUGHTER OF HERODIAS, kneeling.
                Give me here the head
Of John the Baptist on this silver charger!
 
HEROD.
Not that, dear child! I dare not; for the people
Regard John as a prophet.

DAUGHTER OF HERODIAS.
                    Thou hast sworn it.
 
HEROD.
For mine oath’s sake, then. Send unto the prison;
        70
Let him die quickly. Oh, accursed oath!
 
MANAHEM.
Bid me depart, O King!

HEROD.
                            Good Manahem,
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.        75
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!
 
 
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