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

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 II

SCENE I.—GILES COREY’S farm. Morning. Enter COREY, with a horseshoe and a hammer.

THE LORD hath prospered me. The rising sun

Shines on my Hundred Acres and my woods

As if he loved them. On a morn like this

I can forgive mine enemies, and thank God

For all his goodness unto me and mine.

My orchard groans with russets and pearmains;

My ripening corn shines golden in the sun;

My barns are crammed with hay, my cattle thrive;

The birds sing blithely on the trees around me!

And blither than the birds my heart within me.

But Satan still goes up and down the earth;

And to protect this house from his assaults,

And keep the powers of darkness from my door,

This horseshoe will I nail upon the threshold.

Nails down the horseshoe.

There, ye night-hags and witches that torment

The neighborhood, ye shall not enter here!—

What is the matter in the field?—John Gloyd!

The cattle are all running to the woods!—

John Gloyd! Where is the man?

Look there!

What ails the cattle? Are they all bewitched?

They run like mad.

They have been overlooked.

The Evil Eye is on them sure enough.

Call all the men. Be quick. Go after them!

Exit GLOYD and enter MARTHA.

What is amiss?

The cattle are bewitched.

They are broken loose and making for the woods.

Why will you harbor such delusions, Giles?

Bewitched? Well, then it was John Gloyd bewitched them;

I saw him even now take down the bars

And turn them loose! They ’re only frolic-some.

The rascal!

I was standing in the road,

Talking with Goodwife Proctor, and I saw him.

With Proctor’s wife? And what says Goodwife Proctor?

Sad things indeed; the saddest you can hear

Of Bridget Bishop. She ’s cried out upon!

Poor soul! I ’ve known her forty year or more.

She was the widow Wasselby; and then

She married Oliver, and Bishop next.

She ’s had three husbands. I remember well

My games of shovel-board at Bishop’s tavern

In the old merry days, and she so gay

With her red paragon bodice and her ribbons!

Ah, Bridget Bishop always was a Witch!

They ’ll little help her now,—her caps and ribbons,

And her red paragon bodice, and her plumes,

With which she flaunted in the Meeting-house!

When next she goes there, it will be for trial.

When will that be?

This very day at ten.

Then get you ready. We will go and see it.

Come; you shall ride behind me on the pillion.

Not I. You know I do not like such things.

I wonder you should. I do not believe

In Witches nor in Witchcraft.

Well, I do.

There ’s a strange fascination in it all,

That draws me on and on, I know not why.

What do we know of spirits good or ill,

Or of their power to help us or to harm us?

Surely what ’s in the Bible must be true.

Did not an Evil Spirit come on Saul?

Did not the Witch of Endor bring the ghost

Of Samuel from his grave? The Bible says so.

That happened very long ago.

With God

There is no long ago.

There is with us.

And Mary Magdalene had seven devils,

And he who dwelt among the tombs a legion!

God’s power is infinite. I do not doubt it.

If in His providence He once permitted

Such things to be among the Israelites,

It does not follow He permits them now,

And among us who are not Israelites.

But we will not dispute about it, Giles.

Go to the village, if you think it best,

And leave me here; I ’ll go about my work.

[Exit into the house.

And I will go and saddle the gray mare.

The last word always. That is woman’s nature.

If an old man will marry a young wife,

He must make up his mind to many things.

It ’s putting new cloth into an old garment,

When the strain comes, it is the old gives way.

Goes to the door.

Oh Martha! I forgot to tell you something.

I ’ve had a letter from a friend of mine,

A certain Richard Gardner of Nantucket,

Master and owner of a whaling-vessel;

He writes that he is coming down to see us.

I hope you ’ll like him.

I will do my best.

That ’s a good woman. Now I will be gone.

I ’ve not seen Gardner for this twenty year;

But there is something of the sea about him,—

Something so open, generous, large, and strong,

It makes me love him better than a brother.[Exit.

MARTHA comes to the door.

Oh these old friends and cronies of my husband,

These captains from Nantucket and the Cape,

That come and turn my house into a tavern

With their carousing! Still, there ’s something frank

In these seafaring men that makes me like them.

Why, here ’s a horseshoe nailed upon the doorstep!

Giles has done this to keep away the Witches.

I hope this Richard Gardner will bring with him

A gale of good sound common-sense to blow

The fog of these delusions from his brain!

Ho! Martha! Martha!
Enter COREY.
Have you seen my saddle?

I saw it yesterday.

Where did you see it?

On a gray mare, that somebody was riding

Along the village road.

Who was it? Tell me.

Some one who should have stayed at home.

COREY(restraining himself).
I see!

Don’t vex me, Martha. Tell me where it is.

I ’ve hidden it away.

Go fetch it me.

Go find it.

No. I ’ll ride down to the village

Bare-back; and when the people stare and say,

“Giles Corey, where ’s your saddle?” I will answer,

“A Witch has stolen it.” How shall you like that?

I shall not like it.

Then go fetch the saddle.

If an old man will marry a young wife,

Why then—why then—why then—he must spell Baker!

Enter MARTHA with the saddle, which she throws down.

There! There ’s the saddle.

Take it up.

I won’t!

Then let it lie there. I ’ll ride to the village,

And say you are a Witch.

MARTHA.No, not that, Giles.
She takes up the saddle.

Now come with me, and saddle the gray mare

With your own hands; and you shall see me ride

Along the village road as is becoming

Giles Corey of the Salem Farms, your husband![Exeunt.

SCENE II.—The Green in front of the Meeting-house in Salem Village. People coming and going. Enter GILES COREY.

A melancholy end! Who would have thought

That Bridget Bishop e’er would come to this?

Accused, convicted, and condemned to death

For Witchcraft! And so good a woman too!

Good morrow, neighbor Corey.

COREY(not hearing him).
Who is safe?

How do I know but under my own roof

I too may harbor Witches, and some Devil

Be plotting and contriving against me?

He does not hear. Good morrow, neighbor Corey!

Good morrow.

Have you seen John Proctor lately?

No, I have not.

Then do not see him, Corey.

Why should I not?

Because he ’s angry with you.

So keep out of his way. Avoid a quarrel.

Why does he seek to fix a quarrel on me?

He says you burned his house.

I burn his house?

If he says that, John Proctor is a liar!

The night his house was burned I was in bed,

And I can prove it! Why, we are old friends!

He could not say that of me.

He did say it.

I heard him say it.

Then he shall unsay it.

He said you did it out of spite to him

For taking part against you in the quarrel

You had with your John Gloyd about his wages.

He says you murdered Goodell; that you trampled

Upon his body till he breathed no more.

And so beware of him; that ’s my advice![Exit.

By Heaven! this is too much! I ’ll seek him out,

And make him eat his words, or strangle him.

I ’ll not be slandered at a time like this,

When every word is made an accusation,

When every whisper kills, and every man

Walks with a halter round his neck!

Enter GLOYD in haste.
What now?

I came to look for you. The cattle—


What of them? Have you found them?

They are dead.

I followed them through the woods, across the meadows;

Then they all leaped into the Ipswich River,

And swam across, but could not climb the bank,

And so were drowned.

You are to blame for this;

For you took down the bars, and let them loose.

That I deny. They broke the fences down.

You know they were bewitched.

Ah, my poor cattle!

The Evil Eye was on them; that is true.

Day of disaster! Most unlucky day!

Why did I leave my ploughing and my reaping

To plough and reap this Sodom and Gomorrah?

Oh, I could drown myself for sheer vexation![Exit.

He ’s going for his cattle. He won’t find them.

By this time they have drifted out to sea.

They will not break his fences any more,

Though they may break his heart. And what care I?[Exit.

SCENE III.—COREY’S kitchen. A table with supper. MARTHA knitting.

He ’s come at last. I hear him in the passage.

Something has gone amiss with him to-day;

I know it by his step, and by the sound

The door made as he shut it. He is angry.

Enter COREY with his riding-whip. As he speaks he takes off his hat and gloves, and throws them down violently.

I say if Satan ever entered man

He ’s in John Proctor!

Giles, what is the matter?

You frighten me.

I say if any man

Can have a Devil in him, then that man

Is Proctor,—is John Proctor, and no other!

Why, what has he been doing?


What do you think I heard there in the village?

I ’m sure I cannot guess. What did you hear?

He says I burned his house!

Does he say that?

He says I burned his house. I was in bed

And fast asleep that night; and I can prove it.

If he says that, I think the Father of Lies

Is surely in the man.

He does say that,

And that I did it to wreak vengeance on him

For taking sides against me in the quarrel

I had with that John Gloyd about his wages.

And God knows that I never bore him malice

For that, as I have told him twenty times!

It is John Gloyd has stirred him up to this.

I do not like that Gloyd. I think him crafty,

Not to be trusted, sullen, and untruthful.

Come, have your supper. You are tired and hungry.

I ’m angry, and not hungry.

Do eat something.

You ’ll be the better for it.

COREY(sitting down).
I ’m not hungry.

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

It has gone down upon it, and will rise

To-morrow, and go down again upon it.

They have trumped up against me the old story

Of causing Goodell’s death by trampling on him.

Oh, that is false. I know it to be false.

He has been dead these fourteen years or more.

Why can’t they let him rest? Why must they drag him

Out of his grave to give me a bad name?

I did not kill him. In his bed he died.

As most men die, because his hour had come.

I have wronged no man. Why should Proctor say

Such things about me? I will not forgive him

Till he confesses he has slandered me.

Then, I ’ve more trouble. All my cattle gone.

They will come back again.

Not in this world.

Did I not tell you they were overlooked?

They ran down through the woods, into the meadows,

And tried to swim the river, and were drowned.

It is a heavy loss.

I ’m sorry for it.

All my dear oxen dead. I loved them, Martha,

Next to yourself. I liked to look at them,

And watch the breath come out of their wide nostrils,

And see their patient eyes. Somehow I thought

It gave me strength only to look at them.

And how they strained their necks against the yoke

If I but spoke, or touched them with the goad!

They were my friends; and when Gloyd came and told me

They were all drowned, I could have drowned myself

From sheer vexation; and I said as much

To Gloyd and others.

Do not trust John Gloyd

With anything you would not have repeated.

As I came through the woods this afternoon,

Impatient at my loss, and much perplexed

With all that I had heard there in the village,

The yellow leaves lit up the trees about me

Like an enchanted palace, and I wished

I knew enough of magic or of Witchcraft

To change them into gold. Then suddenly

A tree shook down some crimson leaves upon me,

Like drops of blood, and in the path before me

Stood Tituba the Indian, the old crone.

Were you not frightened?

No, I do not think

I know the meaning of that word. Why frightened?

I am not one of those who think the Lord

Is waiting till He catches them some day

In the back yard alone! What should I fear?

She started from the bushes by the path,

And had a basket full of herbs and roots

For some witch-broth or other,—the old hag!

She has been here to-day.

With hand outstretched

She said: “Giles Corey, will you sign the Book?”

“Avaunt!” I cried: “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

At which she laughed and left me. But a voice

Was whispering in my ear continually:

“Self-murder is no crime. The life of man

Is his, to keep it or to throw away!”

’T was a temptation of the Evil One!

Giles, Giles! why will you harbor these dark thoughts?

I am too tired to talk. I ’ll go to bed.

First tell me something about Bridget Bishop.

How did she look? You saw her? You were there?

I ’ll tell you that to-morrow, not to-night.

I ’ll go to bed.

First let us pray together.

I cannot pray to-night.

Say the Lord’s Prayer,

And that will comfort you.

I cannot say,

“As we forgive those that have sinned against us,”

When I do not forgive them.

MARTHA(kneeling on the hearth).
God forgive you!

I will not make believe! I say, to-night

There ’s something thwarts me when I wish to pray,

And thrusts into my mind, instead of prayers,

Hate and revenge, and things that are not prayers.

Something of my old self,—my old, bad life,—

And the old Adam in me, rises up,

And will not let me pray. I am afraid

The Devil hinders me. You know I say

Just what I think, and nothing more nor less,

And, when I pray, my heart is in my prayer.

I cannot say one thing and mean another.

If I can’t pray, I will not make believe!

[Exit COREY. MARTHA continues kneeling.