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

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

Christus: A Mystery

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

  • GILES COREY, Farmer.
  • JOHN HATHORNE, Magistrate.
  • COTTON MATHER, Minister of the Gospel.
  • RICHARD GARDNER, Sea-Captain.
  • JOHN GLOYD, Corey’s hired man.
  • MARTHA, Wife of Giles Corey.
  • TITUBA, An Indian woman.
  • MARY WALCOT, One of the Afflicted.

  • The Scene is in Salem in the year 1692.

    DELUSIONS of the days that once have been,

    Witchcraft and wonders of the world unseen,

    Phantoms of air, and necromantic arts

    That crushed the weak and awed the stoutest hearts,—

    These are our theme to-night; and vaguely here,

    Through the dim mists that crowd the atmosphere,

    We draw the outlines of weird figures cast

    In shadow on the background of the Past.

    Who would believe that in the quiet town

    Of Salem, and amid the woods that crown

    The neighboring hillsides, and the sunny farms

    That fold it safe in their paternal arms,—

    Who would believe that in those peaceful streets,

    Where the great elms shut out the summer heats,

    Where quiet reigns, and breathes through brain and breast

    The benediction of unbroken rest,—

    Who would believe such deeds could find a place

    As these whose tragic history we retrace?

    ’T was but a village then: the goodman ploughed

    His ample acres under sun or cloud;

    The goodwife at her doorstep sat and spun,

    And gossiped with her neighbors in the sun;

    The only men of dignity and state

    Were then the Minister and the Magistrate,

    Who ruled their little realm with iron rod,

    Less in the love than in the fear of God;

    And who believed devoutly in the Powers

    Of Darkness, working in this world of ours,

    In spells of Witchcraft, incantations dread,

    And shrouded apparitions of the dead.

    Upon this simple folk “with fire and flame,”

    Saith the old Chronicle, “the Devil came;

    Scattering his firebrands and his poisonous darts,

    To set on fire of Hell all tongues and hearts!

    And ’t is no wonder; for, with all his host,

    There most he rages where he hateth most,

    And is most hated; so on us he brings

    All these stupendous and portentous things!”

    Something of this our scene to-night will show;

    And ye who listen to the Tale of Woe,

    Be not too swift in casting the first stone,

    Nor think New England bears the guilt alone.

    This sudden burst of wickedness and crime

    Was but the common madness of the time,

    When in all lands, that lie within the sound

    Of Sabbath bells, a Witch was burned or drowned.