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

Christus: A Mystery

Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The First Passover. IX. The Tower of Magdala

COMPANIONLESS, unsatisfied, forlorn,

I sit here in this lonely tower, and look

Upon the lake below me, and the hills

That swoon with heat, and see as in a vision

All my past life unroll itself before me.

The princes and the merchants come to me,

Merchants of Tyre and Princes of Damascus,

And pass, and disappear, and are no more;

But leave behind their merchandise and jewels,

Their perfumes, and their gold, and their disgust.

I loathe them, and the very memory of them

Is unto me as thought of food to one

Cloyed with the luscious figs of Dalmanutha!

What if hereafter, in the long hereafter

Of endless joy or pain, or joy in pain,

It were my punishment to be with them

Grown hideous and decrepit in their sins,

And hear them say: Thou that hast brought us here,

Be unto us as thou hast been of old!

I look upon this raiment that I wear,

These silks, and these embroideries, and they seem

Only as cerements wrapped about my limbs!

I look upon these rings thick set with pearls,

And emerald and amethyst and jasper,

And they are burning coals upon my flesh!

This serpent on my wrist becomes alive!

Away, thou viper! and away, ye garlands,

Whose odors bring the swift remembrance back

Of the unhallowed revels in these chambers!

But yesterday,—and yet it seems to me

Something remote, like a pathetic song

Sung long ago by minstrels in the street,—

But yesterday, as from this tower I gazed,

Over the olive and the walnut trees

Upon the lake and the white ships, and wondered

Whither and whence they steered, and who was in them,

A fisher’s boat drew near the landing-place

Under the oleanders, and the people

Came up from it, and passed beneath the tower,

Close under me. In front of them, as leader,

Walked one of royal aspect, clothed in white,

Who lifted up his eyes, and looked at me,

And all at once the air seemed filled and living

With a mysterious power, that streamed from him,

And overflowed me with an atmosphere

Of light and love. As one entranced I stood,

And when I woke again, lo! he was gone;

So that I said: Perhaps it is a dream.

But from that very hour the seven demons

That had their habitation in this body

Which men call beautiful, departed from me!

This morning, when the first gleam of the dawn

Made Lebanon a glory in the air,

And all below was darkness, I beheld

An angel, or a spirit glorified,

With wind-tossed garments walking on the lake.

The face I could not see, but I distinguished

The attitude and gesture, and I knew

’T was he that healed me. And the gusty wind

Brought to mine ears a voice, which seemed to say:

Be of good cheer! ’T is I! Be not afraid!

And from the darkness, scarcely heard, the answer:

If it be thou, bid me come unto thee

Upon the water! And the voice said: Come!

And then I heard a cry of fear: Lord, save me!

As of a drowning man. And then the voice:

Why didst thou doubt, O thou of little faith!

At this all vanished, and the wind was hushed,

And the great sun came up above the hills,

And the swift-flying vapors hid themselves

In caverns among the rocks! Oh, I must find him

And follow him, and be with him forever!

Thou box of alabaster, in whose walls

The souls of flowers lie pent, the precious balm

And spikenard of Arabian farms, the spirits

Of aromatic herbs, ethereal natures

Nursed by the sun and dew, not all unworthy

To bathe his consecrated feet, whose step

Makes every threshold holy that he crosses;

Let us go forth upon our pilgrimage,

Thou and I only! Let us search for him

Until we find him, and pour out our souls

Before his feet, till all that ’s left of us

Shall be the broken caskets that once held us!