Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The First Passover. II. Mount Quarantania

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The First Passover. II. Mount Quarantania

NOT in the lightning’s flash, nor in the thunder,

Not in the tempest, nor the cloudy storm,

Will I array my form;

But part invisible these boughs asunder,

And move and murmur, as the wind upheaves

And whispers in the leaves.

Not as a terror and a desolation,

Not in my natural shape, inspiring fear

And dread, will I appear;

But in soft tones of sweetness and persuasion,

A sound as of the fall of mountain streams,

Or voices heard in dreams.

He sitteth there in silence, worn and wasted

With famine, and uplifts his hollow eyes

To the unpitying skies;

For forty days and nights he hath not tasted

Of food or drink, his parted lips are pale,

Surely his strength must fail.

Wherefore dost thou in penitential fasting

Waste and consume the beauty of thy youth?

Ah, if thou be in truth

The Son of the Unnamed, the Everlasting,

Command these stones beneath thy feet to be

Changed into bread for thee!

’T is written: Man shall not live by bread alone,

But by each word that from God’s mouth proceedeth!

Too weak, alas! too weak is the temptation

For one whose soul to nobler things aspires

Than sensual desires!

Ah, could I, by some sudden aberration,

Lead and delude to suicidal death

This Christ of Nazareth!

Unto the holy Temple on Moriah,

With its resplendent domes, and manifold

Bright pinnacles of gold,

Where they await thy coming, O Messiah!

Lo, I have brought thee! Let thy glory here

Be manifest and clear.

Reveal thyself by royal act and gesture

Descending with the bright triumphant host

Of all the highermost

Archangels, and about thee as a vesture

The shining clouds, and all thy splendors show

Unto the world below!

Cast thyself down, it is the hour appointed;

And God hath given his angels charge and care

To keep thee and upbear

Upon their hands his only Son, the Anointed,

Lest he should dash his foot against a stone

And die, and be unknown.

’T is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!

I cannot thus delude him to perdition!

But one temptation still remains untried,

The trial of his pride,

The thirst of power, the fever of ambition!

Surely by these a humble peasant’s son

At last may be undone!

Above the yawning chasms and deep abysses,

Across the headlong torrents, I have brought

Thy footsteps, swift as thought;

And from the highest of these precipices,

The Kingdoms of the world thine eyes behold,

Like a great map unrolled.

From far-off Lebanon, with cedars crested,

To where the waters of the Asphalt Lake

On its white pebbles break,

And the vast desert, silent, sand-invested,

These kingdoms all are mine, and thine shall be,

If thou wilt worship me!

Get thee behind me, Satan! thou shalt worship

The Lord thy God; Him only shalt thou serve!

The sun goes down; the evening shadows lengthen,

The fever and the struggle of the day

Abate and pass away;

Thine Angels Ministrant, we come to strengthen

And comfort thee, and crown thee with the palm,

The silence and the calm.