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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Judas Maccabæus

Act V. The Mountains of Ecbatana


HERE let us rest awhile. Where are we, Philip?

What place is this?

Ecbatana, my Lord;

And yonder mountain range is the Orontes.

The Orontes is my river at Antioch.

Why did I leave it? Why have I been tempted

By coverings of gold and shields and breast-plates

To plunder Elymais, and be driven

From out its gates, as by a fiery blast

Out of a furnace?

These are fortune’s changes.

What a defeat it was! The Persian horse-men

Came like a mighty wind, the wind Khamáseen,

And melted us away, and scattered us

As if we were dead leaves, or desert sand.

Be comforted, my Lord; for thou hast lost

But what thou hadst not.

I, who made the Jews

Skip like the grasshoppers, am made myself

To skip among these stones.

Be not discouraged.

Thy realm of Syria remains to thee;

That is not lost nor marred.

Oh, where are now

The splendors of my court, my baths and banquets?

Where are my players and my dancing women?

Where are my sweet musicians with their pipes,

That made me merry in the olden time?

I am a laughing-stock to man and brute.

The very camels, with their ugly faces,

Mock me and laugh at me.

Alas! my Lord,

It is not so. If thou wouldst sleep awhile,

All would be well.

Sleep from mine eyes is gone,

And my heart faileth me for very care.

Dost thou remember, Philip, the old fable

Told us when we were boys, in which the bear

Going for honey overturns the hive,

And is stung blind by bees? I am that beast,

Stung by the Persian swarms of Elymais.

When thou art come again to Antioch,

These thoughts will be as covered and forgotten

As are the tracks of Pharaoh’s chariot-wheels

In the Egyptian sands.

Ah! when I come

Again to Antioch! When will that be?

Alas! alas!


May the King live forever!

Who art thou, and whence comest thou?

My Lord,

I am a messenger from Antioch,

Sent here by Lysias.

A strange foreboding

Of something evil overshadows me.

I am no reader of the Jewish Scriptures;

I know not Hebrew; but my High-Priest Jason,

As I remember, told me of a Prophet

Who saw a little cloud rise from the sea

Like a man’s hand, and soon the heaven was black

With clouds and rain. Here, Philip, read; I cannot;

I see that cloud. It makes the letters dim

Before mine eyes.

“To King Antiochus,

The God, Epiphanes.”

Oh mockery!

Even Lysias laughs at me!—Go on, go on!

“We pray thee hasten thy return. The realm

Is falling from thee. Since thou hast gone from us

The victories of Judas MaccabÆus

Form all our annals. First he overthrew

Thy forces at Beth-horon, and passed on,

And took Jerusalem, the Holy City.

And then Emmaus fell; and then Bethsura,

Ephrou and all the towns of Galaad,

And Maccabæus marched to Carnion.”

Enough, enough! Go call my chariotmen;

We will drive forward, forward, without ceasing,

Until we come to Antioch. My captains,

My Lysias, Gorgias, Seron, and Nicanor,

Are babes in battle, and this dreadful Jew

Will rob me of my kingdom and my crown.

My elephants shall trample him to dust;

I will wipe out his nation, and will make

Jerusalem a common burying-place,

And every home within its walls a tomb!

Throws up his hands, and sinks into the arms of attendants, who lay him upon a bank.

Antiochus! Antiochus! Alas,

The King is ill! What is it, O my Lord?

Nothing. A sudden and sharp spasm of pain,

As if the lightning struck me, or the knife

Of an assassin smote me to the heart.

’T is passed, even as it came. Let us set forward.

See that the chariots be in readiness;

We will depart forthwith.

A moment more.

I cannot stand. I am become at once

Weak as an infant. Ye will have to lead me.

Jove, or Jehovah, or whatever name

Thou wouldst be named,—it is alike to me,—

If I knew how to pray, I would entreat

To live a little longer.

O my Lord,

Thou shalt not die; we will not let thee die!

How canst thou help it, Philip? Oh the pain!

Stab after stab. Thou hast no shield against

This unseen weapon. God of Israel,

Since all the other gods abandon me,

Help me. I will release the Holy City,

Garnish with goodly gifts the Holy Temple.

Thy people, whom I judged to be unworthy

To be so much as buried, shall be equal

Unto the citizens of Antioch.

I will become a Jew, and will declare

Through all the world that is inhabited

The power of God!

He faints. It is like death.

Bring here the royal litter. We will bear him

Into the camp, while yet he lives.

O Philip,

Into what tribulation am I come!

Alas! I now remember all the evil

That I have done the Jews; and for this cause

These troubles are upon me, and behold

I perish through great grief in a strange land.

Antiochus! my King!

Nay, King no longer.

Take thou my royal robes, my signet ring,

My crown and sceptre, and deliver them

Unto my son, Antiochus Eupator;

And unto the good Jews, my citizens,

In all my towns, say that their dying monarch

Wisheth them joy, prosperity, and health.

I who, puffed up with pride and arrogance,

Thought all the kingdoms of the earth mine own,

If I would but outstretch my hand and take them,

Meet face to face a greater potentate,

King Death—Epiphanes—the Illustrious![Dies.