Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part III. The New England Tragedies. John Endicott. Act II

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part III. The New England Tragedies. John Endicott. Act II

SCENE I.—JOHN ENDICOTT’S room. Early morning.

“WHY dost thou persecute me, Saul of Tarsus?”

All night these words were ringing in mine ears!

A sorrowful sweet face; a look that pierced me

With meek reproach; a voice of resignation

That had a life of suffering in its tone;

And that was all! And yet I could not sleep,

Or, when I slept, I dreamed that awful dream!

I stood beneath the elm-tree on the Common

On which the Quakers have been hanged, and heard

A voice, not hers, that cried amid the darkness,

“This is Aceldama, the field of blood!

I will have mercy, and not sacrifice!”

Opens the window, and looks out.

The sun is up already; and my heart

Sickens and sinks within me when I think

How may tragedies will be enacted

Before his setting. As the earth rolls round,

It seems to me a huge Ixion’s wheel,

Upon whose whirling spokes we are bound fast,

And must go with it! Ah, how bright the sun

Strikes on the sea and on the masts of vessels,

That are uplifted in the morning air,

Like crosses of some peaceable crusade!

It makes me long to sail for lands unknown,

No matter whither! Under me, in shadow,

Gloomy and narrow lies the little town,

Still sleeping, but to wake and toil awhile,

Then sleep again. How dismal looks the prison,

How grim and sombre in the sunless street,—

The prison where she sleeps, or wakes and waits

For what I dare not think of,—death, perhaps!

A word that has been said may be unsaid:

It is but air. But when a deed is done

It cannot be undone, nor can our thoughts

Reach out to all the mischiefs that may follow.

’T is time for morning prayers. I will go down.

My father, though severe, is kind and just;

And when his heart is tender with devotion,—

When from his lips have fallen the words, “Forgive us

As we forgive,”—then will I intercede

For these poor people, and perhaps may save them.[Exit.

SCENE II.—Dock Square. On one side, the tavern of the Three Mariners. In the background, a quaint building with gables; and, beyond it, wharves and shipping. CAPTAIN KEMPTHORN and others seated at a table before the door. SAMUEL COLE standing near them.

Come, drink about! Remember Parson Melham,

And bless the man who first invented flip!

They drink.

Pray, Master Kempthorn, where were you last night?

On board the Swallow, Simon Kempthorn, master,

Up for Barbadoes, and the Windward Islands.

The town was in a tumult.

And for what?

Your Quakers were arrested.

How my Quakers?

Those you brought in your vessel from Barbadoes.

They made an uproar in the Meeting-house

Yesterday, and they ’re now in prison for it.

I owe you little thanks for bringing them

To the Three Mariners.

They have not harmed you.

I tell you, Goodman Cole, that Quaker girl

Is precious as a sea-bream’s eye. I tell you

It was a lucky day when first she set

Her little foot upon the Swallow’s deck,

Bringing good luck, fair winds, and pleasant weather.

I am a law-abiding citizen;

I have a seat in the new Meeting-house,

A cow-right on the Common; and, besides,

Am corporal in the Great Artillery.

I rid me of the vagabonds at once.

Why should you not have Quakers at your tavern

If you have fiddlers?

Never! never! never!

If you want fiddling you must go elsewhere,

To the Green Dragon and the Admiral Vernon,

And other such disreputable places.

But the Three Mariners is an orderly house,

Most orderly, quiet, and respectable.

Lord Leigh said he could be as quiet here

As at the Governor’s. And have I not

King Charles’s Twelve Good Rules, all framed and glazed,

Hanging in my best parlor?

Here ’s a health

To good King Charles. Will you not drink the King?

Then drink confusion to old Parson Palmer.

And who is Parson Palmer? I don’t know him.

He had his cellar underneath his pulpit,

And so preached o’er his liquor, just as you do.

A drum within.

Here comes the Marshal.

Make room for the Marshal.

How pompous and imposing he appears!

His great buff doublet bellying like a mainsail,

And all his streamers fluttering in the wind.

What holds he in his hand?

A proclamation.

Enter the MARSHAL, with a proclamation; and MERRY, with a halberd. They are preceded by a drummer, and followed by the hangman, with an armful of books, and a crowd of people, among whom are UPSALL and JOHN ENDICOTT. A pile is made of the books.

Silence, the drum! Good citizens, attend

To the new laws enacted by the Court.

“Whereas a cursed sect of Heretics

Has lately risen, commonly called Quakers,

Who take upon themselves to be commissioned

Immediately of God, and furthermore

Infallibly assisted by the Spirit

To write and utter blasphemous opinions,

Despising Government and the order of God

In Church and Commonwealth, and speaking evil

Of Dignities, reproaching and reviling

The Magistrates and Ministers, and seeking

To turn the people from their faith, and thus

Gain proselytes to their pernicious ways;—

This Court, considering the premises,

And to prevent like mischief as is wrought

By their means in our land, doth hereby order,

That whatsoever master or commander

Of any ship, bark, pink, or catch shall bring

To any roadstead, harbor, creek, or cove

Within this Jurisdiction any Quakers,

Or other blasphemous Heretics, shall pay

Unto the Treasurer of the Commonwealth

One hundred pounds, and for default thereof

Be put in prison, and continue there

Till the said sum be satisfied and paid.”

Now, Simon Kempthorn, what say you to that?

I pray you, Cole, lend me a hundred pounds!

“If any one within this Jurisdiction

Shall henceforth entertain, or shall conceal

Quakers, or other blasphemous Heretics,

Knowing them so to be, every such person

Shall forfeit to the country forty shillings

For each hour’s entertainment or concealment,

And shall be sent to prison, as aforesaid,

Until the forfeiture be wholly paid.”

Murmurs in the crowd.

Now, Goodman Cole, I think your turn has come!

Knowing them so to be!

At forty shillings

The hour, your fine will be some forty pounds!

Knowing them so to be! That is the law.

“And it is further ordered and enacted,

If any Quaker or Quakers shall presume

To come henceforth into this Jurisdiction,

Every male Quaker for the first offence

Shall have one ear cut off; and shall be kept

At labor in the Workhouse, till such time

As he be sent away at his own charge.

And for the repetition of the offence

Shall have his other ear cut off, and then

Be branded in the palm of his right hand.

And every woman Quaker shall be whipt

Severely in three towns; and every Quaker,

Or he or she, that shall for a third time

Herein again offend, shall have their tongues

Bored through with a hot iron, and shall be

Sentenced to Banishment on pain of Death.”

Loud murmurs. The voice of CHRISTISON in the crowd.

O patience of the Lord! How long, how long,

Ere thou avenge the blood of Thine Elect?

Silence, there, silence! Do not break the peace!

“Every inhabitant of this Jurisdiction

Who shall defend the horrible opinions

Of Quakers, by denying due respect

To equals and superiors, and withdrawing

From Church Assemblies, and thereby approving

The abusive and destructive practices

Of this accursed sect, in opposition

To all the orthodox received opinions

Of godly men, shall be forthwith committed

Unto close prison for one month; and then

Refusing to retract and to reform

The opinions as aforesaid, he shall be

Sentenced to Banishment on pain of Death.

By the Court. Edward Rawson, Secretary.”

Now, hangman, do your duty. Burn those books.

Loud murmurs in the crowd. The pile of books is lighted.

I testify against these cruel laws!

Forerunners are they of some judgment on us;

And, in the love and tenderness I bear

Unto this town and people, I beseech you,

O Magistrates, take heed, lest ye be found

As fighters against God!

Upsall, I thank you

For speaking words such as some younger man,

I, or another, should have said before you.

Such laws as these are cruel and oppressive;

A blot on this fair town, and a disgrace

To any Christian people.

MERRY (aside, listening behind them).
Here ’s sedition!

I never thought that any good would come

Of this young popinjay, with his long hair

And his great boots, fit only for the Russians

Or barbarous Indians, as his father says!

Woe to the bloody town! And rightfully

Men call it the Lost Town! The blood of Abel

Cries from the ground, and at the final judgment

The Lord will say, “Cain, Cain! where is thy brother?”

Silence there in the crowd!

’T is Christison!

O foolish people, ye that think to burn

And to consume the truth of God, I tell you

That every flame is a loud tongue of fire

To publish it abroad to all the world

Louder than tongues of men!

KEMPTHORN(springing to his feet.)
Well said, my hearty!

There ’s a brave fellow! There ’s a man of pluck!

A man who ’s not afraid to say his say,

Though a whole town ’s against him. Rain, rain, rain,

Bones of St. Botolph, and put out this fire!

The drum beats. Exeunt all but MERRY, KEMPTHORN, and COLE.

And now that matter ’s ended, Goodman Cole,

Fetch me a mug of ale, your strongest ale.

KEMPTHORN(sitting down).
And me another mug of flip; and put

Two gills of brandy in it.[Exit COLE.

No; no more.

Not a drop more, I say. You ’ve had enough.

And who are you, sir?

I ’m a Tithing-man,

And Merry is my name.

A merry name!

I like it; and I ’ll drink your merry health

Till all is blue.

And then you will be clapped

Into the stocks, with the red letter D

Hung round about your neck for drunkenness.

You ’re a free-drinker,—yes, and a freethinker!

And you are Andrew Merry, or Merry Andrew.

My name is Walter Merry, and not Andrew.

Andrew or Walter, you ’re a merry fellow;

I ’ll swear to that.

No swearing, let me tell you.

The other day one Shorthose had his tongue

Put into a cleft stick for profane swearing.

COLE brings the ale.

Well, where ’s my flip? As sure as my name ’s Kempthorn—

Is your name Kempthorn?

That ’s the name I go by.

What, Captain Simon Kempthorn of the Swallow?

No other.

MERRY (touching him on the shoulder).
Then you ’re wanted. I arrest you

In the King’s name.

And where ’s your warrant?

MERRY (unfolding a paper, and reading).

Listen to me. “Hereby you are required,

In the King’s name, to apprehend the body

Of Simon Kempthorn, mariner, and him

Safely to bring before me, there to answer

All such objections as are laid to him,

Touching the Quakers.” Signed, John Endicott.

Has it the Governor’s seal?

Ay, here it is.

Death’s head and cross-bones. That ’s a pirate’s flag!

Beware how you revile the Magistrates;

You may be whipped for that.

Then mum ’s the word.


There ’s mischief brewing! Sure, there ’s mischief brewing!

I feel like Master Josselyn when he found

The hornet’s nest, and thought it some strange fruit,

Until the seeds came out, and then he dropped it.[Exit.

SCENE III.—A room in the Governor’s house. Enter GOVERNOR ENDICOTT and MERRY.

My son, you say?

Your Worship’s eldest son.

Speaking against the laws?

Ay, worshipful sir.

And in the public market-place?

I saw him

With my own eyes, heard him with my own ears.


He stood there in the crowd

With Nicholas Upsall, when the laws were read

To-day against the Quakers, and I heard him

Denounce and vilipend them as unjust,

And cruel, wicked, and abominable.

Ungrateful son! O God! thou layest upon me

A burden heavier than I can bear!

Surely the power of Satan must be great

Upon the earth, if even the elect

Are thus deceived and fall away from grace!

Worshipful sir! I meant no harm—

’T is well.

You ’ve done your duty, though you ’ve done it roughly,

And every word you ’ve uttered since you came

Has stabbed me to the heart!

I do beseech

Your Worship’s pardon!

He whom I have nurtured

And brought up in the reverence of the Lord!

The child of all my hopes and my affections!

He upon whom I leaned as a sure staff

For my old age! It is God’s chastisement

For leaning upon any arm but His!

Your Worship!—

And this comes from holding parley

With the delusions and deceits of Satan.

At once, forever, must they be crushed out,

Or all the land will reek with heresy!

Pray, have you any children?

No, not any.

Thank God for that. He has delivered you

From a great care. Enough; my private griefs

Too long have kept me from the public service.

Exit MERRY. ENDICOTT seats himself at the table and arranges his papers.

The hour has come; and I am eager now

To sit in judgment on these Heretics.

A knock.

Come in. Who is it?(Not looking up).

It is I.

ENDICOTT(restraining himself).
Sit down!

JOHN ENDICOTT(sitting down).
I come to intercede for these poor people

Who are in prison, and await their trial.

It is of them I wish to speak with you.

I have been angry with you, but ’t is passed.

For when I hear your footsteps come or go,

See in your features your dead mother’s face,

And in your voice detect some tone of hers,

All anger vanishes, and I remember

The days that are no more, and come no more,

When as a child you sat upon my knee,

And prattled of your playthings, and the games

You played among the pear trees in the orchard!

Oh, let the memory of my noble mother

Plead with you to be mild and merciful!

For mercy more becomes a Magistrate

Than the vindictive wrath which men call justice!

The sin of heresy is a deadly sin.

’T is like the falling of the snow, whose crystals

The traveller plays with, thoughtless of his danger,

Until he sees the air so full of light

That it is dark; and blindly staggering onward,

Lost and bewildered, he sits down to rest;

There falls a pleasant drowsiness upon him,

And what he thinks is sleep, alas! is death.

And yet who is there that has never doubted?

And doubting and believing, has not said,

“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief”?

In the same way we trifle with our doubts,

Whose shining shapes are like the stars descending;

Until at last, bewildered and dismayed,

Blinded by that which seemed to give us light,

We sink to sleep, and find that it is death,


Death to the soul through all eternity!

Alas that I should see you growing up

To man’s estate, and in the admonition

And nurture of the Law, to find you now

Pleading for Heretics!

In the sight of God,

Perhaps all men are Heretics. Who dares

To say that he alone has found the truth?

We cannot always feel and think and act

As those who go before us. Had you done so,

You would not now be here.

Have you forgotten

The doom of Heretics, and the fate of those

Who aid and comfort them? Have you forgotten

That in the market-place this very day

You trampled on the laws? What right have you,

An inexperienced and untravelled youth,

To sit in judgment here upon the acts

Of older men and wiser than yourself,

Thus stirring up sedition in the streets,

And making me a byword and a jest?

Words of an inexperienced youth like me

Were powerless if the acts of older men

Went not before them. ’T is these laws themselves

Stir up sedition, not my judgment of them.

Take heed, lest I be called, as Brutus was,

To be the judge of my own son! Begone!

When you are tired of feeding upon husks,

Return again to duty and submission,

But not till then.

I hear and I obey![Exit.

Oh happy, happy they who have no children!

He ’s gone! I hear the hall door shut behind him.

It sends a dismal echo through my heart,

As if forever it had closed between us,

And I should look upon his face no more!

Oh, this will drag me down into my grave,—

To that eternal resting-place wherein

Man lieth down, and riseth not again!

Till the heavens be no more he shall not wake,

Nor be roused from his sleep; for Thou dost change

His countenance, and sendest him away![Exit.