Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Christus: A Mystery
Part III. The New England Tragedies.
Giles Corey of the Salem Farms.
Act I
 
SCENE I.—The woods near Salem Village. Enter TITUBA, with a basket of herbs.

TITUBA.
HERE ’s monk’s-hood, that breeds fever in the blood;
And deadly nightshade, that makes men see ghosts;
And henbane, that will shake them with convulsions;
And meadow-saffron and black hellebore,
That rack the nerves, and puff the skin with dropsy;        5
And bitter-sweet, and briony, and eyebright,
That cause eruptions, nosebleed, rheumatisms;
I know them, and the places where they hide
In field and meadow; and I know their secrets,
And gather them because they give me power        10
Over all men and women. Armed with these,
I, Tituba, an Indian and a slave,
Am stronger than the captain with his sword,
Am richer than the merchant with his money,
Am wiser than the scholar with his books,        15
Mightier than Ministers and Magistrates,
With all the fear and reverence that attend them!
For I can fill their bones with aches and pains,
Can make them cough with asthma, shake with palsy,
Can make their daughters see and talk with ghosts,        20
Or fall into delirium and convulsions.
I have the Evil Eye, the Evil Hand;
A touch from me and they are weak with pain,
A look from me, and they consume and die.
The death of cattle and the blight of corn,        25
The shipwreck, the tornado, and the fire,—
These are my doings, and they know it not.
Thus I work vengeance on mine enemies,
Who, while they call me slave, are slaves to me!
Exit TITUBA. Enter MATHER, booted and spurred, with a riding-whip in his hand.
 
MATHER.
Methinks that I have come by paths unknown
        30
Into the land and atmosphere of Witches;
For, meditating as I journeyed on,
Lo! I have lost my way! If I remember
Rightly, it is Scribonius the learned
That tells the story of a man who, praying        35
For one that was possessed by Evil Spirits,
Was struck by Evil Spirits in the face;
I, journeying to circumvent the Witches
Surely by Witches have been led astray.
I am persuaded there are few affairs        40
In which the Devil doth not interfere.
We cannot undertake a journey even,
But Satan will be there to meddle with it
By hindering or by furthering. He hath led me
Into this thicket, struck me in the face        45
With branches of the trees, and so entangled
The fetlocks of my horse with vines and brambles,
That I must needs dismount, and search on foot
For the lost pathway leading to the village.
Reënter TITUBA.
What shape is this? What monstrous apparition,        50
Exceeding fierce, that none may pass that way?
Tell me, good woman, if you are a woman—
 
TITUBA.
I am a woman, but I am not good.
I am a Witch!

MATHER.
            Then tell me, Witch and woman,
For you must know the pathways through this wood,        55
Where lieth Salem Village?

TITUBA.
                            Reverend sir,
The village is near by. I ’m going there
With these few herbs. I ’ll lead you. Follow me.
 
MATHER.
First say, who are you? I am loath to follow
A stranger in this wilderness, for fear        60
Of being misled, and left in some morass.
Who are you?

TITUBA.
                I am Tituba the Witch,
Wife of John Indian.

MATHER.
                        You are Tituba?
I know you then. You have renounced the Devil,
And have become a penitent confessor.        65
The Lord be praised! Go on, I ’ll follow you.
Wait only till I fetch my horse, that stands
Tethered among the trees, not far from here.
 
TITUBA.
Let me get up behind you, reverend sir.
 
MATHER.
The Lord forbid! What would the people think,
        70
If they should see the Reverend Cotton Mather
Ride into Salem with a Witch behind him?
The Lord forbid!

TITUBA.
                I do not need a horse!
I can ride through the air upon a stick,
Above the tree-tops and above the houses,        75
And no one see me, no one overtake me!    [Exeunt.
 
SCENE II.—A room at JUSTICE HATHORNE’S. A clock in the corner. Enter HATHORNE and MATHER.

HATHORNE.
You are welcome, reverend sir, thrice welcome here
Beneath my humble roof.

MATHER.
                    I thank your Worship.
 
HATHORNE.
Pray you be seated. You must be fatigued
With your long ride through unfrequented woods.
They sit down.
        80
 
MATHER.
You know the purport of my visit here,—
To be advised by you, and counsel with you,
And with the Reverend Clergy of the village,
Touching these witchcrafts that so much afflict you;
And see with mine own eyes the wonders told        85
Of spectres and the shadows of the dead,
That come back from their graves to speak with men.
 
HATHORNE.
Some men there are, I have known such, who think
That the two worlds—the seen and the unseen,
The world of matter and the world of spirit—        90
Are like the hemispheres upon our maps,
And touch each other only at a point.
But these two worlds are not divided thus,
Save for the purposes of common speech.
They form one globe, in which the parted seas        95
All flow together and are intermingled,
While the great continents remain distinct.
 
MATHER.
I doubt it not. The spiritual world
Lies all about us, and its avenues
Are open to the unseen feet of phantoms        100
That come and go, and we perceive them not,
Save by their influence, or when at times
A most mysterious Providence permits them
To manifest themselves to mortal eyes.
 
HATHORNE.
You, who are always welcome here among us,
        105
Are doubly welcome now. We need your wisdom,
Your learning in these things, to be our guide.
The Devil hath come down in wrath upon us,
And ravages the land with all his hosts.
 
MATHER.
The Unclean Spirit said, “My name is Legion!”
        110
Multitudes in the Valley of Destruction!
But when our fervent, well-directed prayers,
Which are the great artillery of Heaven,
Are brought into the field, I see them scattered
And driven like autumn leaves before the wind.        115
 
HATHORNE.
You, as a Minister of God, can meet them
With spiritual weapons; but, alas!
I, as a Magistrate, must combat them
With weapons from the armory of the flesh.
 
MATHER.
These wonders of the world invisible,—
        120
These spectral shapes that haunt our habitations,—
The multiplied and manifold afflictions
With which the aged and the dying saints
Have their death prefaced and their age imbittered,—
Are but prophetic trumpets that proclaim        125
The Second Coming of our Lord on earth.
The evening wolves will be much more abroad,
When we are near the evening of the world.
 
HATHORNE.
When you shall see, as I have hourly seen,
The sorceries and the witchcrafts that torment us,        130
See children tortured by invisible spirits,
And wasted and consumed by powers unseen,
You will confess the half has not been told you.
 
MATHER.
It must be so. The death-pangs of the Devil
Will make him more a Devil than before;        135
And Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace will be heated
Seven times more hot before its putting out.
 
HATHORNE.
Advise me, reverend sir. I look to you
For counsel and for guidance in this matter.
What further shall we do?

MATHER.
                        Remember this,
        140
That as a sparrow falls not to the ground
Without the will of God, so not a Devil
Can come down from the air without his leave.
We must inquire.

HATHORNE.
                Dear sir, we have inquired;
Sifted the matter thoroughly through and through,        145
And then resifted it.

MATHER.
                    If God permits
These Evil Spirits from the unseen regions
To visit us with surprising informations,
We must inquire what cause there is for this,
But not receive the testimony borne        150
By spectres as conclusive proof of guilt
In the accused.

HATHORNE.
                    Upon such evidence
We do not rest our case. The ways are many
In which the guilty do betray themselves.
 
MATHER.
Be careful. Carry the knife with such exactness,
        155
That on one side no innocent blood be shed
By too excessive zeal, and on the other
No shelter given to any work of darkness.
 
HATHORNE.
For one, I do not fear excess of zeal.
What do we gain by parleying with the Devil?        160
You reason, but you hesitate to act!
Ah, reverend sir! believe me, in such cases
The only safety is in acting promptly.
’T is not the part of wisdom to delay
In things where not to do is still to do        165
A deed more fatal than the deed we shrink from.
You are a man of books and meditation,
But I am one who acts.

MATHER.
                    God give us wisdom
In the directing of this thorny business,
And guide us, lest New England should become        170
Of an unsavory and sulphurous odor
In the opinion of the world abroad!
The clock strikes.
I never hear the striking of a clock
Without a warning and an admonition
That time is on the wing, and we must quicken        175
Our tardy pace in journeying Heavenward,
As Israel did in journeying Canaan-ward!
They rise.
 
HATHORNE.
Then let us make all haste; and I will show you
In what disguises and what fearful shapes
The Unclean Spirits haunt this neighborhood,        180
And you will pardon my excess of zeal.
 
MATHER.
Ah, poor New England! He who hurricanoed
The house of Job is making now on thee
One last assault, more deadly and more snarled
With unintelligible circumstances        185
Than any thou hast hitherto encountered!    [Exeunt.
 
SCENE III.—A room in WALCOT’S house. MARY WALCOT seated in an arm-chair. TITUBA with a mirror.

MARY.
Tell me another story, Tituba.
A drowsiness is stealing over me
Which is not sleep; for, though I close mine eyes,
I am awake, and in another world.        190
Dim faces of the dead and of the absent
Come floating up before me,—floating, fading,
And disappearing.

TITUBA.
                    Look into this glass.
What see you?

MARY.
                Nothing but a golden vapor.
Yes, something more. An island, with the sea        195
Breaking all round it, like a blooming hedge.
What land is this?

TITUBA.
                    It is San Salvador,
Where Tituba was born. What see you now?
 
MARY.
A man all black and fierce.

TITUBA.
                    That is my father.
He was an Obi man, and taught me magic,—        200
Taught me the use of herbs and images.
What is he doing?

MARY.
                    Holding in his hand
A waxen figure. He is melting it
Slowly before a fire.

TITUBA.
                    And now what see you?
 
MARY.
A woman lying on a bed of leaves,
        205
Wasted and worn away. Ah, she is dying!
 
TITUBA.
That is the way the Obi men destroy
The people they dislike! That is the way
Some one is wasting and consuming you.
 
MARY.
You terrify me, Tituba! Oh, save me
        210
From those who make me pine and waste away!
Who are they? Tell me.

TITUBA.
                    That I do not know,
But you will see them. They will come to you.
 
MARY.
No, do not let them come! I cannot bear it!
I am too weak to bear it! I am dying.
Falls into a trance.
        215
 
TITUBA.
Hark! there is some one coming!
Enter HATHORNE, MATHER, and WALCOT.

WALCOT.
                            There she lies,
Wasted and worn by devilish incantations!
O my poor sister!

MATHER.
                    Is she always thus?
 
WALCOT.
Nay, she is sometimes tortured by convulsions.
 
MATHER.
Poor child! How thin she is! How man and wasted!
        220
 
HATHORNE.
Observe her. She is troubled in her sleep.
 
MATHER.
Some fearful vision haunts her.

HATHORNE.
                            You now see
With your own eyes, and touch with your own hands,
The mysteries of this Witchcraft.

MATHER.
                        One would need
The hands of Briareus and the eyes of Argus        225
To see and touch them all.

HATHORNE.
                    You now have entered
The realm of ghosts and phantoms,—the vast realm
Of the unknown and the invisible,
Through whose wide-open gates there blows a wind
From the dark valley of the shadow of Death,        230
That freezes us with horror.

MARY  (starting).
                        Take her hence!
Take her away from me. I see her there!
She ’s coming to torment me!

WALCOT (taking her hand).
                            O my sister!
What frightens you? She neither hears nor sees me.
She ’s in a trance.

MARY.
                Do you not see her there?
        235
 
TITUBA.
My child, who is it?

MARY.
                        Ah, I do not know.
I cannot see her face.

TITUBA.
                        How is she clad?
 
MARY.
She wears a crimson bodice. In her hand
She holds an image, and is pinching it
Between her fingers. Ah, she tortures me!        240
I see her face now. It is Goodwife Bishop!
Why does she torture me? I never harmed her!
And now she strikes me with an iron rod!
Oh, I am beaten!

MATHER.
                    This is wonderful!
I can see nothing! Is this apparition        245
Visibly there, and yet we cannot see it?
 
HATHORNE.
It is. The spectre is invisible
Unto our grosser senses, but she sees it.
 
MARY.
Look! look! there is another clad in gray!
She holds a spindle in her hand, and threatens        250
To stab me with it! It is Goodwife Corey!
Keep her away! Now she is coming at me!
O mercy! mercy!

WALCOT  (thrusting with his sword).
                    There is nothing there!
 
MATHER  (to HATHORNE).
Do you see anything?

HATHORNE.
                    The laws that govern
The spiritual world prevent our seeing        255
Things palpable and visible to her.
These spectres are to us as if they were not.
Mark her; she wakes.
TITUBA touches her, and she awakes.

MARY.
                    Who are these gentlemen?
 
WALCOT.
They are our friends. Dear Mary, are you better?
 
MARY.
Weak, very weak.
Taking a spindle from her lap, and holding it up.
            How came this spindle here?
        260
 
TITUBA.
You wrenched it from the hand of Goodwife Corey
When she rushed at you.

HATHORNE.
                    Mark that, reverend sir!
 
MATHER.
It is most marvellous, most inexplicable!
 
TITUBA  (picking up a bit of gray cloth from the floor).
And here, too, is a bit of her gray dress,
That the sword cut away.

MATHER.
                        Beholding this,
        265
It were indeed by far more credulous
To be incredulous than to believe.
None but a Sadducee, who doubts of all
Pertaining to the spiritual world,
Could doubt such manifest and damning proofs!        270
 
HATHORNE.
Are you convinced?

MATHER  (to MARY).
                Dear child, be comforted!
Only by prayer and fasting can you drive
These Unclean Spirits from you. An old man
Gives you his blessing. God be with you, Mary!
 
 
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