Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part I. The Divine Tragedy. First Interlude: The Abbot Joachim

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part I. The Divine Tragedy. First Interlude: The Abbot Joachim

A Room in the Convent of Flora in Calabria. Night.

THE WIND is rising; it seizes and shakes

The doors and window-blinds and makes

Mysterious moanings in the halls;

The convent-chimneys seem almost

The trumpets of some heavenly host,

Setting its watch upon our walls!

Where it listeth, there it bloweth;

We hear the sound, but no man knoweth

Whence it cometh or whither it goeth,

And thus it is with the Holy Ghost.

O breath of God! O my delight

In many a vigil of the night,

Like the great voice in Patmos heard

By John, the Evangelist of the Word,

I hear thee behind me saying: Write

In a book the things that thou hast seen,

The things that are, and that have been,

And the things that shall hereafter be!

This convent, on the rocky crest

Of the Calabrian hills, to me

A Patmos is wherein I rest;

While round about me like a sea

The white mists roll, and overflow

The world that lies unseen below

In darkness and in mystery.

Here in the Spirit, in the vast

Embrace of God’s encircling arm,

Am I uplifted from all harm;

The world seems something far away,

Something belonging to the Past,

A hostelry, a peasant’s farm,

That lodged me for a night or day,

In which I care not to remain,

Nor having left, to see again.

Thus, in the hollow of God’s hand

I dwelt on sacred Tabor’s height,

When as a simple acolyte

I journeyed to the Holy Land,

A pilgrim for my master’s sake,

And saw the Galilean Lake,

And walked through many a village street

That once had echoed to his feet.

There first I heard the great command,

The voice behind me saying: Write!

And suddenly my soul became

Illumined by a flash of flame,

That left imprinted on my thought

The image I in vain had sought,

And which forever shall remain;

As sometimes from these windows high,

Gazing at midnight on the sky

Black with a storm of wind and rain,

I have beheld a sudden glare

Of lightning lay the landscape bare,

With tower and town and hill and plain

Distinct, and burnt into my brain,

Never to be effaced again!

And I have written. These volumes three,

The Apocalypse, the Harmony

Of the Sacred Scriptures, new and old,

And the Psalter with Ten Strings, enfold

Within their pages, all and each,

The Eternal Gospel that I teach.

Well I remember the Kingdom of Heaven

Hath been likened to a little leaven

Hidden in two measures of meal,

Until it leavened the whole mass;

So likewise will it come to pass

With the doctrines that I here conceal.

Open and manifest to me

The truth appears, and must be told;

All sacred mysteries are threefold;

Three Persons in the Trinity,

Three ages of Humanity,

And Holy Scriptures likewise three,

Of Fear, of Wisdom, and of Love;

For Wisdom that begins in Fear

Endeth in Love; the atmosphere

In which the soul delights to be,

And finds that perfect liberty

Which cometh only from above.

In the first Age, the early prime

And dawn of all historic time,

The Father reigned; and face to face

He spake with the primeval race.

Bright Angels, on his errands sent,

Sat with the patriarch in his tent;

His prophets thundered in the street;

His lightnings flashed, his hailstorms beat;

In earthquake and in flood and flame,

In tempest and in cloud He came!

The fear of God is in his Book;

The pages of the Pentateuch

Are full of the terror of his name.

Then reigned the Son; his Covenant

Was peace on earth, good-will to man;

With Him the reign of Law began.

He was the Wisdom and the Word,

And sent his Angels Ministrant,

Unterrified and undeterred,

To rescue souls forlorn and lost,

The troubled, tempted, tempest-tost

To heal, to comfort, and to teach.

The fiery tongues of Pentecost

His symbols were, that they should preach

In every from of human speech,

From continent to continent.

He is the Light Divine, whose rays

Across the thousand years unspent

Shine through the darkness of our days,

And touch with their celestial fires

Our churches and our convent spires.

His Book is the New Testament.

These Ages now are of the Past;

And the Third Age begins at last.

The coming of the Holy Ghost,

The reign of Grace, the reign of Love

Brightens the mountain-tops above,

And the dark outline of the coast.

Already the whole land is white

With convent walls, as if by night

A snow had fallen on hill and height!

Already from the streets and marts

Of town and traffic, and low cares,

Men climb the consecrated stairs

With weary feet, and bleeding hearts;

And leave the world, and its delights,

Its passions, struggles, and despairs,

For contemplation and for prayers

In cloister-cells of cœnobites.

Eternal benedictions rest

Upon thy name, Saint Benedict!

Founder of convents in the West,

Who built on Mount Cassino’s crest

In the Land of Labor, thine eagle’s nest!

May I be found not derelict

In aught of faith or godly fear,

If I have written, in many a page,

The Gospel of the coming age,

The Eternal Gospel men shall hear.

Oh may I live resembling thee,

And die at last as thou hast died;

So that hereafter men may see,

Within the choir, a form of air,

Standing with arms outstretched in prayer,

As one that hath been crucified!

My work is finished; I am strong

In faith and hope and charity;

For I have written the things I see,

The things that have been and shall be,

Conscious of right, nor fearing wrong;

Because I am in love with Love,

And the sole thing I hate is Hate;

For Hate is death; and Love is life,

A peace, a splendor from above;

And Hate, a never-ending strife,

A smoke, a blackness from the abyss

Where unclean serpents coil and hiss!

Love is the Holy Ghost within;

Hate the unpardonable sin!

Who preaches otherwise than this,

Betrays his Master with a kiss!