Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The Third Passover. VII. Barabbas in Prison

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part I. The Divine Tragedy. The Third Passover. VII. Barabbas in Prison

BARABBAS, to his fellow-prisoners.
BARABBAS is my name,

Barabbas, the Son of Shame,

Is the meaning I suppose;

I ’m no better than the best,

And whether worse than the rest

Of my fellow-men, who knows?

I was once, to say it in brief,

A highwayman, a robber-chief,

In the open light of day.

So much I am free to confess;

But all men, more or less,

Are robbers in their way.

From my cavern in the crags,

From my lair of leaves and flags,

I could see, like ants, below,

The camels with their load

Of merchandise, on the road

That leadeth to Jericho.

And I struck them unaware,

As an eagle from the air

Drops down upon bird or beast;

And I had my heart’s desire

Of the merchants of Sidon and Tyre

And Damascus and the East.

But it is not for that I fear;

It is not for that I am here

In these iron fetters bound;

Sedition! that is the word

That Pontius Pilate heard,

And he liketh not the sound.

What think ye, would he care

For a Jew slain here or there,

Or a plundered caravan?

But Cæsar!—ah, that is a crime,

To the uttermost end of time

Shall not be forgiven to man.

Therefore was Herod wroth

With Matthias Margaloth,

And burned him for a show!

Therefore his wrath did smite

Judas the Gaulonite,

And his followers, as ye know.

For that cause and no more,

Am I here, as I said before;

For one unlucky night,

Jucundus, the captain of horse,

Was upon us with all his force,

And I was caught in the fight.

I might have fled with the rest,

But my dagger was in the breast

Of a Roman equerry;

As we rolled there in the street,

They bound me, hands and feet;

And this is the end of me.

Who cares for death? Not I!

A thousand times I would die,

Rather than suffer wrong!

Already those women of mine

Are mixing the myrrh and the wine

I shall not be with you long.