Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The Second Passover. XI. Simon Magus and Helen of Tyre

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The Second Passover. XI. Simon Magus and Helen of Tyre

On the house-top at Endor. Night. A lighted lantern on a table.

SWIFT are the blessed Immortals to the mortal

That perseveres! So doth it stand recorded

In the divine Chaldæan Oracles

Of Zoroaster, once Ezekiel’s slave,

Who in his native East betook himself

To lonely meditation, and the writing

On the dried skins of oxen the Twelve Books

Of the Avesta and the Oracles!

Therefore I persevere; and I have brought thee

From the great city of Tyre, where men deride

The things they comprehend not, to this plain

Of Esdraelon, in the Hebrew tongue

Called Armageddon, and this town of Endor,

Where men believe; where all the air is full

Of marvellous traditions, and the Enchantress

That summoned up the ghost of Samuel

Is still remembered. Thou hast seen the land;

Is it not fair to look on?

It is fair,

Yet not so fair as Tyre.

Is not Mount Tabor

As beautiful as Carmel by the Sea?

It is too silent and too solitary;

I miss the tumult of the streets; the sounds

Of traffic, and the going to and fro

Of people in gay attire, with cloaks of purple,

And gold and silver jewelry!


Of Ahriman, the spirit of the dark,

The Evil Spirit!

I regret the gossip

Of friends and neighbors at the open door

On summer nights.

An idle waste of time.

The singing and the dancing, the delight

Of music and of motion. Woe is me,

To give up all these pleasures, and to lead

The life we lead!

Thou canst not raise thyself

Up to the level of my higher thought,

And though possessing thee, I still remain

Apart from thee, and with thee, am alone

In my high dreams.

Happier was I in Tyre.

Oh, I remember how the gallant ships

Came sailing in, with ivory, gold, and silver,

And apes and peacocks; and the singing sailors,

And the gay captains with their silken dresses,

Smelling of aloes, myrrh, and cinnamon!

But the dishonor, Helen! Let the ships

Of Tarshish howl for that!

And what dishonor?

Remember Rahab, and how she became

The ancestress of the great Psalmist David;

And wherefore should not I, Helen of Tyre,

Attain like honor?

Thou art Helen of Tyre,

And hast been Helen of Troy, and hast been Rahab,

The Queen of Sheba, and Semiramis,

And Sara of seven husbands, and Jezebel,

And other women of the like allurements;

And now thou art Minerva, the first Æon,

The Mother of Angels!

And the concubine

Of Simon the Magician! Is it honor

For one who has been all these noble dames,

To tramp about the dirty villages

And cities of Samaria with a juggler?

A charmer of serpents?

He who knows himself

Knows all things in himself. I have charmed thee,

Thou beautiful asp: yet am I no magician.

I am the Power of God, and the Beauty of God!

I am the Paraclete, the Comforter!

Illusions! Thou deceiver, self-deceived!

Thou dost usurp the titles of another;

Thou art not what thou sayest.

Am I not?

Then feel my power.

Would I had ne’er left Tyre!
He looks at her, and she sinks into a deep sleep.

Go, see it in thy dreams, fair unbeliever!

And leave me unto mine, if they be dreams,

That take such shapes before me, that I see them;

These effable and ineffable impressions

Of the mysterious world, that come to me

From the elements of Fire and Earth and Water,

And the all-nourishing Ether! It is written,

Look not on Nature, for her name is fatal!

Yet there are Principles, that make apparent

The images of unapparent things,

And the impression of vague characters

And visions most divine appear in ether.

So speak the Oracles; then wherefore fatal?

I take this orange-bough, with its five leaves,

Each equidistant on the upright stem;

And I project them on a plane below,

In the circumference of a circle drawn

About a centre where the stem is planted,

And each still equidistant from the other;

As if a thread of gossamer were drawn

Down from each leaf, and fastened with a pin.

Now if from these five points a line be traced

To each alternate point, we shall obtain

The Pentagram, or Solomon’s Pentangle,

A charm against all witchcraft, and a sign,

Which on the banner of Antiochus

Drove back the fierce barbarians of the North,

Demons esteemed, and gave the Syrian King

The sacred name of Soter, or of Savior.

Thus Nature works mysteriously with man;

And from the Eternal One, as from a centre,

All things proceed, in fire, air, earth, and water,

And all are subject to one law, which broken

Even in a single point, is broken in all;

Demons rush in, and chaos comes again.

By this will I compel the stubborn spirits,

That guard the treasures, hid in caverns deep

On Gerizim, by Uzzi the High-Priest,

The ark and holy vessels, to reveal

Their secret unto me, and to restore

These precious things to the Samaritans.

A mist is rising from the plain below me,

And as I look, the vapors shape themselves

Into strange figures, as if unawares

My lips had breathed the Tetragrammaton,

And from their graves, o’er all the battlefields

Of Armageddon, the long-buried captains

Had started, with their thousands, and ten thousands,

And rushed together to renew their wars,

Powerless, and weaponless, and without a sound!

Wake, Helen, from thy sleep! The air grows cold;

Let us go down.

HELEN, awaking.
Oh, would I were at home!

Thou sayest that I usurp another’s titles.

In youth I saw the Wise Men of the East,

Magalath and Pangalath and Saracen,

Who followed the bright star, but home returned

For fear of Herod by another way.

Oh shining worlds above me! in what deep

Recesses of your realms of mystery

Lies hidden now that star? and where are they

That brought the gifts of frankincense and myrrh?

The Nazarene still liveth.

We have heard

His name in many towns, but have not seen Him.

He flits before us; tarries not; is gone

When we approach, like something unsubstantial,

Made of the air, and fading into air.

He is at Nazareth, He is at Nain,

Or at the Lovely Village on the Lake,

Or sailing on its waters.

So say those

Who do not wish to find Him.

Can this be

The King of Israel, whom the Wise Men worshipped?

Or does He fear to meet me? It would seem so.

We should soon learn which of us twain usurps

The titles of the other, as thou sayest.

They go down.