Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part III. The New England Tragedies. Giles Corey of the Salem Farms. Act I

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part III. The New England Tragedies. Giles Corey of the Salem Farms. Act I

SCENE I.—The woods near Salem Village. Enter TITUBA, with a basket of herbs.

HERE ’s monk’s-hood, that breeds fever in the blood;

And deadly nightshade, that makes men see ghosts;

And henbane, that will shake them with convulsions;

And meadow-saffron and black hellebore,

That rack the nerves, and puff the skin with dropsy;

And bitter-sweet, and briony, and eyebright,

That cause eruptions, nosebleed, rheumatisms;

I know them, and the places where they hide

In field and meadow; and I know their secrets,

And gather them because they give me power

Over all men and women. Armed with these,

I, Tituba, an Indian and a slave,

Am stronger than the captain with his sword,

Am richer than the merchant with his money,

Am wiser than the scholar with his books,

Mightier than Ministers and Magistrates,

With all the fear and reverence that attend them!

For I can fill their bones with aches and pains,

Can make them cough with asthma, shake with palsy,

Can make their daughters see and talk with ghosts,

Or fall into delirium and convulsions.

I have the Evil Eye, the Evil Hand;

A touch from me and they are weak with pain,

A look from me, and they consume and die.

The death of cattle and the blight of corn,

The shipwreck, the tornado, and the fire,—

These are my doings, and they know it not.

Thus I work vengeance on mine enemies,

Who, while they call me slave, are slaves to me!

Exit TITUBA. Enter MATHER, booted and spurred, with a riding-whip in his hand.

Methinks that I have come by paths unknown

Into the land and atmosphere of Witches;

For, meditating as I journeyed on,

Lo! I have lost my way! If I remember

Rightly, it is Scribonius the learned

That tells the story of a man who, praying

For one that was possessed by Evil Spirits,

Was struck by Evil Spirits in the face;

I, journeying to circumvent the Witches

Surely by Witches have been led astray.

I am persuaded there are few affairs

In which the Devil doth not interfere.

We cannot undertake a journey even,

But Satan will be there to meddle with it

By hindering or by furthering. He hath led me

Into this thicket, struck me in the face

With branches of the trees, and so entangled

The fetlocks of my horse with vines and brambles,

That I must needs dismount, and search on foot

For the lost pathway leading to the village.

Reënter TITUBA.

What shape is this? What monstrous apparition,

Exceeding fierce, that none may pass that way?

Tell me, good woman, if you are a woman—

I am a woman, but I am not good.

I am a Witch!

Then tell me, Witch and woman,

For you must know the pathways through this wood,

Where lieth Salem Village?

Reverend sir,

The village is near by. I ’m going there

With these few herbs. I ’ll lead you. Follow me.

First say, who are you? I am loath to follow

A stranger in this wilderness, for fear

Of being misled, and left in some morass.

Who are you?

I am Tituba the Witch,

Wife of John Indian.

You are Tituba?

I know you then. You have renounced the Devil,

And have become a penitent confessor.

The Lord be praised! Go on, I ’ll follow you.

Wait only till I fetch my horse, that stands

Tethered among the trees, not far from here.

Let me get up behind you, reverend sir.

The Lord forbid! What would the people think,

If they should see the Reverend Cotton Mather

Ride into Salem with a Witch behind him?

The Lord forbid!

I do not need a horse!

I can ride through the air upon a stick,

Above the tree-tops and above the houses,

And no one see me, no one overtake me![Exeunt.

SCENE II.—A room at JUSTICE HATHORNE’S. A clock in the corner. Enter HATHORNE and MATHER.

You are welcome, reverend sir, thrice welcome here

Beneath my humble roof.

I thank your Worship.

Pray you be seated. You must be fatigued

With your long ride through unfrequented woods.

They sit down.

You know the purport of my visit here,—

To be advised by you, and counsel with you,

And with the Reverend Clergy of the village,

Touching these witchcrafts that so much afflict you;

And see with mine own eyes the wonders told

Of spectres and the shadows of the dead,

That come back from their graves to speak with men.

Some men there are, I have known such, who think

That the two worlds—the seen and the unseen,

The world of matter and the world of spirit—

Are like the hemispheres upon our maps,

And touch each other only at a point.

But these two worlds are not divided thus,

Save for the purposes of common speech.

They form one globe, in which the parted seas

All flow together and are intermingled,

While the great continents remain distinct.

I doubt it not. The spiritual world

Lies all about us, and its avenues

Are open to the unseen feet of phantoms

That come and go, and we perceive them not,

Save by their influence, or when at times

A most mysterious Providence permits them

To manifest themselves to mortal eyes.

You, who are always welcome here among us,

Are doubly welcome now. We need your wisdom,

Your learning in these things, to be our guide.

The Devil hath come down in wrath upon us,

And ravages the land with all his hosts.

The Unclean Spirit said, “My name is Legion!”

Multitudes in the Valley of Destruction!

But when our fervent, well-directed prayers,

Which are the great artillery of Heaven,

Are brought into the field, I see them scattered

And driven like autumn leaves before the wind.

You, as a Minister of God, can meet them

With spiritual weapons; but, alas!

I, as a Magistrate, must combat them

With weapons from the armory of the flesh.

These wonders of the world invisible,—

These spectral shapes that haunt our habitations,—

The multiplied and manifold afflictions

With which the aged and the dying saints

Have their death prefaced and their age imbittered,—

Are but prophetic trumpets that proclaim

The Second Coming of our Lord on earth.

The evening wolves will be much more abroad,

When we are near the evening of the world.

When you shall see, as I have hourly seen,

The sorceries and the witchcrafts that torment us,

See children tortured by invisible spirits,

And wasted and consumed by powers unseen,

You will confess the half has not been told you.

It must be so. The death-pangs of the Devil

Will make him more a Devil than before;

And Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace will be heated

Seven times more hot before its putting out.

Advise me, reverend sir. I look to you

For counsel and for guidance in this matter.

What further shall we do?

Remember this,

That as a sparrow falls not to the ground

Without the will of God, so not a Devil

Can come down from the air without his leave.

We must inquire.

Dear sir, we have inquired;

Sifted the matter thoroughly through and through,

And then resifted it.

If God permits

These Evil Spirits from the unseen regions

To visit us with surprising informations,

We must inquire what cause there is for this,

But not receive the testimony borne

By spectres as conclusive proof of guilt

In the accused.

Upon such evidence

We do not rest our case. The ways are many

In which the guilty do betray themselves.

Be careful. Carry the knife with such exactness,

That on one side no innocent blood be shed

By too excessive zeal, and on the other

No shelter given to any work of darkness.

For one, I do not fear excess of zeal.

What do we gain by parleying with the Devil?

You reason, but you hesitate to act!

Ah, reverend sir! believe me, in such cases

The only safety is in acting promptly.

’T is not the part of wisdom to delay

In things where not to do is still to do

A deed more fatal than the deed we shrink from.

You are a man of books and meditation,

But I am one who acts.

God give us wisdom

In the directing of this thorny business,

And guide us, lest New England should become

Of an unsavory and sulphurous odor

In the opinion of the world abroad!

The clock strikes.

I never hear the striking of a clock

Without a warning and an admonition

That time is on the wing, and we must quicken

Our tardy pace in journeying Heavenward,

As Israel did in journeying Canaan-ward!

They rise.

Then let us make all haste; and I will show you

In what disguises and what fearful shapes

The Unclean Spirits haunt this neighborhood,

And you will pardon my excess of zeal.

Ah, poor New England! He who hurricanoed

The house of Job is making now on thee

One last assault, more deadly and more snarled

With unintelligible circumstances

Than any thou hast hitherto encountered![Exeunt.

SCENE III.—A room in WALCOT’S house. MARY WALCOT seated in an arm-chair. TITUBA with a mirror.

Tell me another story, Tituba.

A drowsiness is stealing over me

Which is not sleep; for, though I close mine eyes,

I am awake, and in another world.

Dim faces of the dead and of the absent

Come floating up before me,—floating, fading,

And disappearing.

Look into this glass.

What see you?

Nothing but a golden vapor.

Yes, something more. An island, with the sea

Breaking all round it, like a blooming hedge.

What land is this?

It is San Salvador,

Where Tituba was born. What see you now?

A man all black and fierce.

That is my father.

He was an Obi man, and taught me magic,—

Taught me the use of herbs and images.

What is he doing?

Holding in his hand

A waxen figure. He is melting it

Slowly before a fire.

And now what see you?

A woman lying on a bed of leaves,

Wasted and worn away. Ah, she is dying!

That is the way the Obi men destroy

The people they dislike! That is the way

Some one is wasting and consuming you.

You terrify me, Tituba! Oh, save me

From those who make me pine and waste away!

Who are they? Tell me.

That I do not know,

But you will see them. They will come to you.

No, do not let them come! I cannot bear it!

I am too weak to bear it! I am dying.

Falls into a trance.

Hark! there is some one coming!

There she lies,

Wasted and worn by devilish incantations!

O my poor sister!

Is she always thus?

Nay, she is sometimes tortured by convulsions.

Poor child! How thin she is! How man and wasted!

Observe her. She is troubled in her sleep.

Some fearful vision haunts her.

You now see

With your own eyes, and touch with your own hands,

The mysteries of this Witchcraft.

One would need

The hands of Briareus and the eyes of Argus

To see and touch them all.

You now have entered

The realm of ghosts and phantoms,—the vast realm

Of the unknown and the invisible,

Through whose wide-open gates there blows a wind

From the dark valley of the shadow of Death,

That freezes us with horror.

Take her hence!

Take her away from me. I see her there!

She ’s coming to torment me!

WALCOT (taking her hand).
O my sister!

What frightens you? She neither hears nor sees me.

She ’s in a trance.

Do you not see her there?

My child, who is it?

Ah, I do not know.

I cannot see her face.

How is she clad?

She wears a crimson bodice. In her hand

She holds an image, and is pinching it

Between her fingers. Ah, she tortures me!

I see her face now. It is Goodwife Bishop!

Why does she torture me? I never harmed her!

And now she strikes me with an iron rod!

Oh, I am beaten!

This is wonderful!

I can see nothing! Is this apparition

Visibly there, and yet we cannot see it?

It is. The spectre is invisible

Unto our grosser senses, but she sees it.

Look! look! there is another clad in gray!

She holds a spindle in her hand, and threatens

To stab me with it! It is Goodwife Corey!

Keep her away! Now she is coming at me!

O mercy! mercy!

WALCOT(thrusting with his sword).
There is nothing there!

Do you see anything?

The laws that govern

The spiritual world prevent our seeing

Things palpable and visible to her.

These spectres are to us as if they were not.

Mark her; she wakes.

TITUBA touches her, and she awakes.

Who are these gentlemen?

They are our friends. Dear Mary, are you better?

Weak, very weak.
Taking a spindle from her lap, and holding it up.
How came this spindle here?

You wrenched it from the hand of Goodwife Corey

When she rushed at you.

Mark that, reverend sir!

It is most marvellous, most inexplicable!

TITUBA(picking up a bit of gray cloth from the floor).
And here, too, is a bit of her gray dress,

That the sword cut away.

Beholding this,

It were indeed by far more credulous

To be incredulous than to believe.

None but a Sadducee, who doubts of all

Pertaining to the spiritual world,

Could doubt such manifest and damning proofs!

Are you convinced?

Dear child, be comforted!

Only by prayer and fasting can you drive

These Unclean Spirits from you. An old man

Gives you his blessing. God be with you, Mary!