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

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 V.

SCENE I.—COREY’S farm as in Act II., Scene I. Enter RICHARD GARDNER, looking round him.

HERE stands the house as I remember it,

The four tall poplar-trees before the door;

The house, the barn, the orchard, and the well,

With its moss-covered bucket and its trough;

The garden, with its hedge of currant-bushes;

The woods, the harvest-fields; and, far beyond,

The pleasant landscape stretching to the sea.

But everything is silent and deserted!

No bleat of flocks, no bellowing of herds,

No sound of flails, that should be beating now;

Nor man nor beast astir. What can this mean?

Knocks at the door.

What ho! Giles Corey! Hillo-ho! Giles Corey!—

No answer but the echo from the barn,

And the ill-omened cawing of the crow,

That yonder wings his flight across the fields,

As if he scented carrion in the air.

Enter TITUBA with a basket.

What woman ’s this, that, like an apparition,

Haunts this deserted homestead in broad day?

Woman, who are you?

I ’m Tituba.

I am John Indian’s wife. I am a Witch.

What are you doing here?

I am gathering herbs,—

Cinquefoil, and saxifrage, and pennyroyal.

GARDNER(looking at the herbs).
This is not cinquefoil, it is deadly night-shade!

This is not saxifrage, but hellebore!

This is not pennyroyal, it is henbane!

Do you come here to poison these good people?

I get these for the Doctor in the Village.

Beware of Tituba. I pinch the children;

Make little poppets and stick pins in them,

And then the children cry out they are pricked.

The Black Dog came to me, and said, “Serve me!”

I was afraid. He made me hurt the children.

Poor soul! She ’s crazed, with all these Devil’s doings.

Will you, sir, sign the Book?

No, I ’ll not sign it.

Where is Giles Corey? Do you know Giles Corey?

He ’s safe enough. He ’s down there in the prison.

Corey in prison? What is he accused of?

Giles Corey and Martha Corey are in prison

Down there in Salem Village. Both are Witches.

She came to me and whispered, “Kill the children!”

Both signed the Book!

Begone, you imp of darkness!

You Devil’s dam!

Beware of Tituba![Exit.

How often out at sea on stormy nights,

When the waves thundered round me, and the wind

Bellowed, and beat the canvas, and my ship

Clove through the solid darkness, like a wedge,

I ’ve thought of him, upon his pleasant farm,

Living in quiet with his thrifty housewife,

And envied him, and wished his fate were mine!

And now I find him shipwrecked utterly,

Drifting upon this sea of sorceries,

And lost, perhaps, beyond all aid of man![Exit.

SCENE II.—The prison. GILES COREY at a table on which are some papers.

Now I have done with earth and all its cares;

I give my worldly goods to my dear children;

My body I bequeath to my tormentors,

And my immortal soul to Him who made it.

O God! who in thy wisdom dost afflict me

With an affliction greater than most men

Have ever yet endured or shall endure,

Suffer me not in this last bitter hour

For any pains of death to fall from thee!

MARTHA is heard singing.
Arise, O righteous Lord!

And disappoint my foes;

They are but thine avenging sword,

Whose wounds are swift to close.

Hark, hark! it is her voice! She is not dead!

She lives! I am not utterly forsaken!

MARTHA, singing.
By thine abounding grace,

And mercies multiplied,

I shall awake, and see thy face;

I shall be satisfied.

COREY hides his face in his hands. Enter the JAILER, followed by RICHARD GARDNER.

Here ’s a seafaring man, one Richard Gardner,

A friend of yours, who asks to speak with you.

COREY rises. They embrace.

I ’m glad to see you, ay, right glad to see you.

And I am most sorely grieved to see you thus.

Of all the friends I had in happier days,

You are the first, ay, and the only one,

That comes to seek me out in my disgrace!

And you but come in time to say farewell.

They ’ve dug my grave already in the field.

I thank you. There is something in your presence,

I know not what it is, that gives me strength.

Perhaps it is the bearing of a man

Familiar with all dangers of the deep,

Familiar with the cries of drowning men,

With fire, and wreck, and foundering ships at sea!

Ah, I have never known a wreck like yours!

Would I could save you!

Do not speak of that.

It is too late. I am resolved to die.

Why would you die who have so much to live for?—

Your daughters, and—

You cannot say the word.

My daughters have gone from me. They are married;

They have their homes, their thoughts, apart from me;

I will not say their hearts,—that were too cruel.

What would you have me do?

Confess and live.

That ’s what they said who came here yesterday

To lay a heavy weight upon my conscience

By telling me that I was driven forth

As an unworthy member of their church.

It is an awful death.

’T is but to drown,

And have the weight of all the seas upon you.

Say something; say enough to fend off death

Till this tornado of fanaticism

Blows itself out. Let me come in between you

And your severer self, with my plain sense;

Do not be obstinate.

I will not plead.

If I deny, I am condemned already,

In courts where ghosts appear as witnesses,

And swear men’s lives away. If I confess,

Then I confess a lie, to buy a life

Which is not life, but only death in life.

I will not bear false witness against any,

Not even against myself, whom I count least.

Ah, what a noble character is this!

I pray you, do not urge me to do that

You would not do yourself. I have already

The bitter taste of death upon my lips;

I feel the pressure of the heavy weight

That will crush out my life within this hour;

But if a word could save me, and that word

Were not the Truth; nay, if it did but swerve

A hair’s-breadth from the Truth, I would not say it!

How mean I seem beside a man like this!

As for my wife, my Martha and my Martyr,—

Whose virtues, like the stars, unseen by day,

Though numberless, do but await the dark

To manifest themselves unto all eyes,—

She who first won me from my evil ways,

And taught me how to live by her example,

By her example teaches me to die,

And leads me onward to the better life!

Giles Corey! Come! The hour has struck!

I come!

Here is my body; ye may torture it,

But the immortal soul ye cannot crush![Exeunt.

SCENE III.—A street in the Village. Enter GLOYD and others.

Quick, or we shall be late!

That ’s not the way.

Come here; come up this lane.

I wonder now

If the old man will die, and will not speak?

He ’s obstinate enough and tough enough

For anything on earth.

A bell tolls.
Hark! What is that?

The passing bell. He ’s dead!

We are too late.[Exeunt in haste.

SCENE IV.—A field near the graveyard. GILES COREY lying dead, with a great stone on his breast. The Sheriff at his head, RICHARD GARDNER at his feet. A crowd behind. The bell tolling. Enter HATHORNE and MATHER.

This is the Potter’s Field. Behold the fate

Of those who deal in Witchcrafts, and, when questioned,

Refuse to plead their guilt or innocence,

And stubbornly drag death upon themselves.

O sight most horrible! In a land like this,

Spangled with Churches Evangelical,

Inwrapped in our salvations, must we seek

In mouldering statute-books of English Courts

Some old forgotten Law, to do such deeds?

Those who lie buried in the Potter’s Field

Will rise again, as surely as ourselves

That sleep in honored graves with epitaphs;

And this poor man, whom we have made a victim,

Hereafter will be counted as a martyr!