Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Fancy: III. Mythical: Mystical: Legendary
The Ballad of Judas Iscariot
Robert Buchanan (1841–1901)
 
’T WAS the body of Judas Iscariot
  Lay in the Field of Blood;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Beside the body stood.
 
Black was the earth by night,        5
  And black was the sky;
Black, black were the broken clouds,
  Tho’ the red Moon went by.
 
’T was the body of Judas Iscariot
  Strangled and dead lay there;        10
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Looked on it in despair.
 
The breath of the World came and went
  Like a sick man’s in rest;
Drop by drop on the World’s eyes        15
  The dews fell cool and blest.
 
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Did make a gentle moan—
“I will bury underneath the ground
  My flesh and blood and bone.        20
 
“I will bury deep beneath the soil,
  Lest mortals look thereon,
And when the wolf and raven come
  The body will be gone!
 
“The stones of the field are sharp as steel,        25
  And hard and bold, God wot;
And I must bear my body hence
  Until I find a spot!”
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  So grim, and gaunt, and gray,        30
Raised the body of Judas Iscariot,
  And carried it away.
 
And as he bare it from the field
  Its touch was cold as ice,
And the ivory teeth within the jaw        35
  Rattled aloud, like dice.
 
As the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Carried its load with pain,
The Eye of Heaven, like a lanthorn’s eye,
  Opened and shut again.        40
 
Half he walked, and half he seemed
  Lifted on the cold wind;
He did not turn, for chilly hands
  Were pushing from behind.
 
The first place that he came unto        45
  It was the open wold,
And underneath were prickly whins,
  And a wind that blew so cold.
 
The next place that he came unto
  It was a stagnant pool,        50
And when he threw the body in
  It floated light as wool.
 
He drew the body on his back,
  And it was dripping chill,
And the next place that he came unto        55
  Was a Cross upon a hill.
 
A Cross upon the windy hill,
  And a Cross on either side,
Three skeletons that swing thereon,
  Who had been crucified.        60
 
And on the middle cross-bar sat
  A white Dove slumbering;
Dim it sat in the dim light,
  With its head beneath its wing.
 
And underneath the middle Cross        65
  A grave yawned wide and vast,
But the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Shivered, and glided past.
 
The fourth place that he came unto
  It was the Brig of Dread,        70
And the great torrents rushing down
  Were deep, and swift, and red.
 
He dared not fling the body in
  For fear of faces dim,
And arms were waved in the wild water        75
  To thrust it back to him.
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Turned from the Brig of Dread,
And the dreadful foam of the wild water
  Had splashed the body red.        80
 
For days and nights he wandered on
  Upon an open plain,
And the days went by like blinding mist,
  And the nights like rushing rain.
 
For days and nights he wandered on,        85
  All thro’ the Wood of Woe;
And the nights went by like moaning wind,
  And the days like drifting snow.
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Came with a weary face—        90
Alone, alone, and all alone,
  Alone in a lonely place!
 
He wandered east, he wandered west
  And heard no human sound;
For months and years, in grief and tears,        95
  He wandered round and round.
 
For months and years, in grief and tears,
  He walked the silent night;
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Perceived a far-off light.        100
 
A far-off light across the waste,
  As dim as dim might be,
That came and went like a lighthouse gleam
  On a black night at sea.
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot        105
  Crawled to the distant gleam;
And the rain came down, and the rain was blown
  Against him with a scream.
 
For days and nights he wandered on,
  Pushed on by hands behind;        110
And the days went by like black, black rain,
  And the nights like rushing wind.
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot,
  Strange, and sad, and tall,
Stood all alone at dead of night        115
  Before a lighted hall.
 
And the wold was white with snow,
  And his foot-marks black and damp,
And the ghost of the silver Moon arose,
  Holding her yellow lamp.        120
 
And the icicles were on the eaves,
  And the walls were deep with white,
And the shadows of the guests within
  Passed on the window light.
 
The shadows of the wedding guests        125
  Did strangely come and go,
And the body of Judas Iscariot
  Lay stretched along the snow.
 
The body of Judas Iscariot
  Lay stretched along the snow;        130
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Ran swiftly to and fro.
 
To and fro, and up and down,
  He ran so swiftly there,
As round and round the frozen Pole        135
  Glideth the lean white bear.
 
’T was the Bridegroom sat at the table-head,
  And the lights burned bright and clear—
“Oh, who is that,” the Bridegroom said,
  “Whose weary feet I hear?”        140
 
’T was one looked from the lighted hall,
  And answered soft and slow,
“It is a wolf runs up and down
  With a black track in the snow.”
 
The Bridegroom in his robe of white        145
  Sat at the table-head—
“Oh, who is that who moans without?”
  The blessèd Bridegroom said.
 
’T was one looked from the lighted hall,
  And answered fierce and low,        150
“’T is the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Gliding to and fro.”
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Did hush itself and stand,
And saw the Bridegroom at the door        155
  With a light in his hand.
 
The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
  And he was clad in white,
And far within the Lord’s Supper
  Was spread so long and bright.        160
 
The Bridegroom shaded his eyes and looked,
  And his face was bright to see—
“What dost thou here at the Lord’s Supper
  With thy body’s sins?” said he.
 
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot        165
  Stood black, and sad, and bare—
“I have wandered many nights and days;
  There is no light elsewhere.”
 
’T was the wedding guests cried out within,
  And their eyes were fierce and bright—        170
“Scourge the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Away into the night!”
 
The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
  And he waved hands still and slow,
And the third time that he waved his hands        175
  The air was thick with snow.
 
And of every flake of falling snow,
  Before it touched the ground,
There came a dove, and a thousand doves
  Made sweet sound.        180
 
’T was the body of Judas Iscariot
  Floated away full fleet,
And the wings of the doves that bare it off
  Were like its winding-sheet.
 
’T was the Bridegroom stood at the open door,        185
  And beckoned, smiling sweet;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
  Stole in, and fell at his feet.
 
“The Holy Supper is spread within,
  And the many candles shine,        190
And I have waited long for thee
  Before I poured the wine!”
 
The supper wine is poured at last,
  The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom’s feet,        195
  And dries them with his hair.
 
 
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