Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. III. IV. The Nativity: A Miracle-Play. VIII. The Village School

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. III. IV. The Nativity: A Miracle-Play. VIII. The Village School

The RABBI BEN ISRAEL, sitting on a high stool, with a long beard, and a rod in his hand.

I AM the Rabbi Ben Israel,

Throughout this village known full well,

And, as my scholars all will tell,

Learned in things divine;

The Cabala and Talmud hoar

Than all the prophets prize I more,

For water is all Bible lore,

But Mishna is strong wine.

My fame extends from West to East,

And always, at the Purim feast,

I am as drunk as any beast

That wallows in his sty;

The wine it so elateth me,

That I no difference can see

Between “Accursed Haman be!”

And “Blessed be Mordecai!”

Come hither, Judas Iscariot;

Say, if thy lesson thou hast got

From the Rabbinical Book or not.

Why howl the dogs at night?

In the Rabbinical Book, it saith

The dogs howl, when with icy breath

Great Sammael, the Angel of Death,

Takes through the town his flight!

Well, boy! now say, if thou art wise,

When the Angel of Death, who is full of eyes,

Comes where a sick man dying lies,

What doth he to the wight?

He stands beside him, dark and tall,

Holding a sword, from which doth fall

Into his mouth a drop of gall,

And so he turneth white.

And now, my Judas, say to me

What the great Voices Four may be,

That quite across the world do flee,

And are not heard by men?

The Voice of the Sun in heaven’s dome,

The Voice of the Murmuring of Rome,

The Voice of a Soul that goeth home,

And the Angel of the Rain!

Right are thine answers every one!

Now little Jesus, the carpenter’s son,

Let us see how thy task is done;

Canst thou thy letters say?


What next? Do not stop yet!

Go on with all the alphabet.

Come, Aleph, Beth; dost thou forget?

Cock’s soul! thou’dst rather play!

What Aleph means I fain would know,

Before I any farther go!

Oh, by Saint Peter! wouldst thou so?

Come hither, boy, to me.

As surely as the letter Jod

Once cried aloud, and spake to God,

So surely shalt thou feel this rod,

And punished shalt thou be!

Here RABBI BEN ISRAEL shall lift up his rod to strike JESUS, and his right arm shall be paralyzed.