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

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 III

SCENE I.—GILES COREY’S kitchen. Morning. COREY and MARTHA sitting at the breakfast-table.

WELL, now I ’ve told you all I saw and heard

Of Bridget Bishop; and I must be gone.

Don’t go into the village, Giles, to-day.

Last night you came back tired and out of humor.

Say, angry; say, right angry. I was never

In a more devilish temper in my life.

All things went wrong with me.

You were much vexed;

So don’t go to the village.

No, I won’t.

I won’t go near it. We are going to mow

The Ipswich meadows for the aftermath,

The crop of sedge and rowens.

Stay a moment.

I want to tell you what I dreamed last night.

Do you believe in dreams?

Why, yes and no.

When they come true, then I believe in them;

When they come false, I don’t believe in them.

But let me hear. What did you dream about?

I dreamed that you and I were both in prison;

That we had fetters on our hands and feet;

That we were taken before the Magistrates,

And tried for Witchcraft, and condemned to death!

I wished to pray; they would not let me pray;

You tried to comfort me, and they forbade it.

But the most dreadful thing in all my dream

Was that they made you testify against me!

And then there came a kind of mist between us;

I could not see you; and I woke in terror.

I never was more thankful in my life

Than when I found you sleeping at my side!

COREY(with tenderness).
It was our talk last night that made you dream.

I ’m sorry for it. I ’ll control myself

Another time, and keep my temper down!

I do not like such dreams.—Remember, Martha,

I ’m going to mow the Ipswich River meadows;

If Gardner comes, you ’ll tell him where to find me.[Exit.

So this delusion grows from bad to worse.

First, a forsaken and forlorn old woman,

Ragged and wretched, and without a friend;

Then something higher. Now it ’s Bridget Bishop;

God only knows whose turn it will be next!

The Magistrates are blind, the people mad!

If they would only seize the Afflicted Children,

And put them in the Workhouse, where they should be,

There ’d be an end of all this wickedness.[Exit.

SCENE II.—A street in Salem Village. Enter MATHER and HATHORNE.

Yet one thing troubles me.

And what is that?

May not the Devil take the outward shape

Of innocent persons? Are we not in danger,

Perhaps, of punishing some who are not guilty?

As I have said, we do not trust alone

To spectral evidence.

And then again,

If any shall be put to death for Witchcraft,

We do but kill the body, not the soul.

The Unclean Spirits that possessed them once

Live still, to enter into other bodies.

What have we gained? Surely, there ’s nothing gained.

Doth not the Scripture say, “Thou shalt not suffer

A Witch to live?”

The Scripture sayeth it,

But speaketh to the Jews; and we are Christians.

What say the laws of England?

They make Witchcraft

Felony without the benefit of Clergy.

Witches are burned in England. You have read—

For you read all things, not a book escapes you—

The famous Demonology of King James?

A curious volume. I remember also

The plot of the Two Hundred, with one Fian,

The Registrar of the Devil, at their head,

To drown his Majesty on his return

From Denmark; how they sailed in sieves or riddles

Unto North Berwick Kirk in Lothian,

And, landing there, danced hand in hand, and sang,

“Goodwife, go ye before! goodwife, go ye!

If ye ’ll not go before, goodwife, let me!”

While Geilis Duncan played the Witches’ Reel

Upon a jews-harp.

Then you know full well

The English law, and that in England Witches,

When lawfully convicted and attainted,

Are put to death.

When lawfully convicted;

That is the point.

You heard the evidence

Produced before us yesterday at the trial

Of Bridget Bishop.

One of the Afflicted,

I know, bore witness to the apparition

Of ghosts unto the spectre of this Bishop,

Saying, “You murdered us!” of the truth whereof

There was in matter of fact too much suspicion.

And when she cast her eyes on the Afflicted,

They were struck down; and this in such a manner

There could be no collusion in the business.

And when the accused but laid her hand upon them,

As they lay in their swoons, they straight revived,

Although they stirred not when the others touched them.

What most convinced me of the woman’s guilt

Was finding hidden in her cellar wall

Those poppets made of rags, with headless pins

Stuck into them point outwards, and whereof

She could not give a reasonable account.

When you shall read the testimony given

Before the Court in all the other cases,

I am persuaded you will find the proof

No less conclusive than it was in this.

Come, then, with me, and I will tax your patience

With reading of the documents so far

As may convince you that these sorcerers

Are lawfully convicted and attainted.

Like doubting Thomas, you shall lay your hand

Upon these wounds, and you will doubt no more.[Exeunt.

SCENE III.—A room in COREY’S house. MARTHA and two Deacons of the church.

Be seated. I am glad to see you here.

I know what you are come for. You are come

To question me, and learn from my own lips

If I have any dealings with the Devil;

In short, if I ’m a Witch.

DEACON(sitting down).
Such is our purpose.

How could you know beforehand why we came?

’T was only a surmise.

We came to ask you,

You being with us in church covenant,

What part you have, if any, in these matters.

And I make answer, No part whatsoever.

I am a farmer’s wife, a working woman;

You see my spinning-wheel, you see my loom,

You know the duties of a farmer’s wife,

And are not ignorant that my life among you

Has been without reproach until this day.

Is it not true?

So much we ’re bound to own;

And say it frankly, and without reserve.

I ’ve heard the idle tales that are abroad;

I ’ve heard it whispered that I am a Witch;

I cannot help it. I do not believe

In any Witchcraft. It is a delusion.

How can you say that it is a delusion,

When all our learned and good men believe it?—

Our Ministers and worshipful Magistrates?

Their eyes are blinded, and see not the truth.

Perhaps one day they will be open to it.

You answer boldly. The Afflicted Children

Say you appeared to them.

And did they say

What clothes I came in?

No, they could not tell.

They said that you foresaw our visit here,

And blinded them, so that they could not see

The clothes you wore.

The cunning, crafty girls!

I say to you, in all sincerity,

I never have appeared to any one

In my own person. If the Devil takes

My shape to hurt these children, or afflict them,

I am not guilty of it. And I say

It ’s all a mere delusion of the senses.

I greatly fear that you will find too late

It is not so.

They do accuse me falsely.

It is delusion, or it is deceit.

There is a story in the ancient Scriptures

Which much I wonder comes not to your minds.

Let me repeat it to you.

We will hear it.

It came to pass that Naboth had a vineyard

Hard by the palace of the King called Ahab.

And Ahab, King of Israel, spake to Naboth,

And said to him, Give unto me thy vineyard,

That I may have it for a garden of herbs,

And I will give a better vineyard for it,

Or, if it seemeth good to thee, its worth

In money. And then Naboth said to Ahab,

The Lord forbid it me that I should give

The inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

And Ahab came into his house displeased

And heavy at the words which Naboth spake,

And laid him down upon his bed, and turned

His face away; and he would eat no bread.

And Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, came

And said to him, Why is thy spirit sad?

And he said unto her, Because I spake

To Naboth, to the Jezreelite, and said,

Give me thy vineyard; and he answered, saying,

I will not give my vineyard unto thee.

And Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, said,

Dost thou not rule the realm of Israel?

Arise, eat bread, and let thy heart be merry;

I will give Naboth’s vineyard unto thee.

So she wrote letters in King Ahab’s name,

And sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters

Unto the elders that were in his city

Dwelling with Naboth, and unto the nobles;

And in the letters wrote, Proclaim a fast;

And set this Naboth high among the people,

And set two men, the sons of Belial,

Before him, to bear witness and to say,

Thou didst blaspheme against God and the King;

And carry him out and stone him, that he die!

And the elders and the nobles in the city

Did even as Jezebel, the wife of Ahab,

Had sent to them and written in the letters.

And then it came to pass, when Ahab heard

Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose to go

Down unto Naboth’s vineyard, and to take

Possession of it. And the word of God

Came to Elijah, saying to him, Arise,

Go down to meet the King of Israel

In Naboth’s vineyard, whither he hath gone

To take possession. Thou shalt speak to him,

Saying, Thus saith the Lord! What! hast thou killed

And also taken possession? In the place

Wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth

Shall the dogs lick thy blood,—ay, even thine!

Both of the Deacons start from their seats.

And Ahab then, the King of Israel,

Said, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?

Elijah the Prophet answered, I have found thee!

So will it be with those who have stirred up

The Sons of Belial here to bear false witness

And swear away the lives of innocent people;

Their enemy will find them out at last,

The Prophet’s voice will thunder, I have found thee![Exeunt.

SCENE IV.—Meadows on Ipswich River. COREY and his men mowing; COREY in advance.

Well done, my men. You see, I lead the field!

I ’m an old man, but I can swing a scythe

Better than most of you, though you be younger.

Hangs his scythe upon a tree.

GLOYD(aside to the others).
How strong he is! It ’s supernatural.

No man so old as he is has such strength.

The Devil helps him!

COREY(wiping his forehead).
Now we ’ll rest awhile,

And take our nooning. What ’s the matter with you?

You are not angry with me,—are you, Gloyd?

Come, come, we will not quarrel. Let ’s be friends.

It ’s an old story, that the Raven said,

“Read the Third of Colossians and fifteenth.”

You ’re handier at the scythe, but I can beat you

At wrestling.

Well, perhaps so. I don’t know.

I never wrestled with you. Why, you ’re vexed!

Come, come, don’t bear a grudge.

You are afraid.

What should I be afraid of? All bear witness

The challenge comes from him. Now, then, my man.

They wrestle, and GLOYD is thrown.

That ’s a fair fall.

’T was nothing but a foil!

You ’ve hurt him!

COREY(helping GLOYD rise).
No; this meadow-land is soft.

You ’re not hurt,—are you, Gloyd?

No, not much hurt.

Well, then, shake hands; and there ’s an end of it.

How do you like that Cornish hug, my lad?

And now we ’ll see what ’s in our basket here.

The Devil and all his imps are in that man!

The clutch of his ten fingers burns like fire!

COREY(reverentially taking off his hat).
God bless the food He hath provided for us,

And make us thankful for it, for Christ’s sake!

He lifts up a keg of cider, and drinks from it.

Do you see that? Don’t tell me it ’s not Witchcraft.

Two of us could not lift that cask as he does!

COREY puts down the keg, and opens a basket. A voice is heard calling.

Ho! Corey, Corey!

What is that? I surely

Heard some one calling me by name!

Giles Corey!
Enter a boy, running, and out of breath.

Is Master Corey here?

Yes, here I am.

O Master Corey!


Your wife—your wife—

What ’s happened to my wife?

She ’s sent to prison!

The dream! the dream! O God, be merciful!

She sent me here to tell you.

COREY(putting on his jacket).
Where ’s my horse?

Don’t stand there staring, fellow. Where ’s my horse?[Exit COREY.

Under the trees there. Run, old man, run, run!

You ’ve got some one to wrestle with you now

Who ’ll trip your heels up, with your Cornish hug.

If there ’s a Devil, he has got you now.

Ah, there he goes! His horse is snorting fire!

John Gloyd, don’t talk so! It ’s a shame to talk so!

He ’s a good master, though you quarrel with him.

If hard work and low wages make good masters,

Then he is one. But I think otherwise.

Come, let us have our dinner and be merry,

And talk about the old man and the Witches.

I know some stories that will make you laugh.

They sit down on the grass, and eat.

Now there are Goody Cloyse and Goody Good,

Who have not got a decent tooth between them,

And yet these children—the Afflicted Children—

Say that they bite them, and show marks of teeth

Upon their arms!

That makes the wonder greater.

That ’s Witchcraft. Why, if they had teeth like yours,

’T would be no wonder if the girls were bitten!

And then those ghosts that come out of their graves

And cry, “You murdered us! you murdered us!”

And all those Apparitions that stick pins

Into the flesh of the Afflicted Children!

Oh those Afflicted Children! They know well

Where the pins come from. I can tell you that.

And there ’s old Corey, he has got a horseshoe

Nailed on his doorstep to keep off the Witches,

And all the same his wife has gone to prison.

Oh, she ’s no Witch. I ’ll swear that Good-wife Corey

Never did harm to any living creature.

She ’s a good woman, if there ever was one.

Well, we shall see. As for that Bridget Bishop,

She has been tried before; some years ago

A negro testified he saw her shape

Sitting upon the rafters in a barn,

And holding in its hand an egg; and while

He went to fetch his pitchfork, she had vanished.

And now be quiet, will you? I am tired,

And want to sleep here on the grass a little.

They stretch themselves on the grass.

There may be Witches riding through the air

Over our heads on broomsticks at this moment,

Bound for some Satan’s Sabbath in the woods

To be baptized.

I wish they ’d take you with them,

And hold you under water, head and ears,

Till you were drowned; and that would stop your talking,

If nothing else will. Let me sleep, I say.