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

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

Christus: A Mystery

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

SCENE I.—King Street, in front of the town-house. KEMPTHORN in the pillory. MERRY and a crowd of lookers-on.

THE WORLD is full of care,

Much like unto a bubble;

Women and care, and care and women,

And women and care and trouble.

Good Master Merry, may I say confound?

Ay, that you may.

Well, then, with your permission,

Confound the Pillory!

That ’s the very thing

The joiner said who made the Shrewsbury stocks.

He said, Confound the stocks, because they put him

Into his own. He was the first man in them.

For swearing, was it?

No, it was for charging;

He charged the town too much; and so the town,

To make things square, set him in his own stocks,

And fined him five pound sterling,—just enough

To settle his own bill.

And served him right;

But, Master Merry, is it not eight bells?

Not quite.

For, do you see? I ’m getting tired

Of being perched aloft here in this cro’nest

Like the first mate of a whaler, or a Middy

Mast-headed, looking out for land! Sail ho!

Here comes a heavy-laden merchantman

With the lee clews eased off, and running free

Before the wind. A solid man of Boston.

A comfortable man, with dividends,

And the first salmon, and the first green peas.

A gentleman passes.

He does not even turn his head to look.

He ’s gone without a word. Here comes another,

A different kind of craft on a taut bowline,—

Deacon Giles Firmin the apothecary,

A pious and a ponderous citizen,

Looking as rubicund and round and splendid

As the great bottle in his own shop window!


And here ’s my host of the Three Mariners,

My creditor and trusty taverner,

My corporal in the Great Artillery!

He ’s not a man to pass me without speaking.

COLE looks away and passes.

Don’t yaw so; keep your luff, old hypocrite!

Respectable, ah yes, respectable,

You, with your seat in the new Meeting-house,

Your cow-right on the Common! But who ’s this?

I did not know the Mary Ann was in!

And yet this is my old friend, Captain Goldsmith,

As sure as I stand in the bilboes here.

Why, Ralph, my boy!


Why, Simon, is it you?

Set in the bilboes?

Chock-a-block, you see,

And without chafing-gear.

And what ’s it for?

Ask that starbowline with the boat-hook there,

That handsome man.

For swearing.

In this town

They put sea-captains in the stocks for swearing,

And Quakers for not swearing. So look out.

I pray you set him free; he meant no harm;

’T is an old habit he picked up afloat.

Well, as your time is out, you may come down.

The law allows you now to go at large

Like Elder Oliver’s horse upon the Common.

Now, hearties, bear a hand! Let go and haul.
KEMPTHORN is set free, and comes forward, shaking GOLDSMITH’S hand.

Give me your hand, Ralph. Ah, how good it feels!

The hand of an old friend.

God bless you, Simon!

Now let us make a straight wake for the tavern

Of the Three Mariners, Samuel Cole commander;

Where we can take our ease, and see the shipping,

And talk about old times.

First I must pay

My duty to the Governor, and take him

His letters and dispatches. Come with me.

I ’d rather not. I saw him yesterday.

Then wait for me at the Three Nuns and Comb.

I thank you. That ’s too near to the town pump.

I will go with you to the Governor’s,

And wait outside there, sailing off and on;

If I am wanted, you can hoist a signal.

Shall I go with you and point out the way?

Oh no, I thank you. I am not a stranger

Here in your crooked little town.

How now, sir?

Do you abuse our town?[Exit.

Oh, no offence.

Ralph, I am under bonds for a hundred pound.

Hard lines. What for?

To take some Quakers back

I brought here from Barbadoes in the Swallow.

And how to do it I don’t clearly see,

For one of them is banished, and another

Is sentenced to be hanged! What shall I do?

Just slip your hawser on some cloudy night;

Sheer off, and pay it with the topsail, Simon![Exeunt.

SCENE II.—Street in front of the prison. In the background a gateway and several flights of steps leading up terraces to the Governor’s house. A pump on one side of the street. JOHN ENDICOTT, MERRY, UPSALL, and others. A drum beats.

Oh shame, shame, shame!

Yes, it would be a shame

But for the damnable sin of Heresy!

A woman scourged and dragged about our streets!

Well, Roxbury and Dorchester must take

Their share of shame. She will be whipped in each!

Three towns, and Forty Stripes save one; that makes

Thirteen in each.

And are we Jews or Christians?

See where she comes, amid a gaping crowd!

And she a child. Oh, pitiful! pitiful!

There ’s blood upon her clothes, her hands, her feet!

Enter MARSHAL and a drummer, EDITH, stripped to the waist, followed by the hangman with a scourge, and a noisy crowd.

Here let me rest one moment. I am tired.

Will some one give me water?

At his peril.

Alas! that I should live to see this day!

Did I forsake my father and my mother

And come here to New England to see this?

I am athirst. Will no one give me water?

JOHN ENDICOTT(making his way through the crowd with water).
In the Lord’s name!

In his name I receive it!

Sweet as the water of Samaria’s well

This water tastes. I thank thee. Is it thou?

I was afraid thou hadst deserted me.

Never will I desert thee, nor deny thee.

Be comforted.

O Master Endicott,

Be careful what you say.

Peace, idle babbler!

You ’ll rue these words!

Art thou not better now?

They ’ve struck me as with roses.

Ah, these wounds!

These bloody garments!

It is granted me

To seal my testimony with my blood.

O blood-red seal of man’s vindictive wrath!

O roses of the garden of the Lord!

I, of the household of Iscariot,

I have betrayed in thee my Lord and Master!

WENLOCK CHRISTISON appears above, at the window of the prison, stretching out his hands through the bars.

Be of good courage, O my child! my child!

Blessed art thou when men shall persecute thee!

Fear not their faces, saith the Lord, fear not,

For I am with thee to deliver thee.

Who is it crying from the prison yonder?

It is old Wenlock Christison.


Him who was scourged, and mocked, and crucified!

I see his messengers attending thee.

Be steadfast, oh, be steadfast to the end!

EDITH(with exultation).
I cannot reach thee with these arms, O father!

But closely in my soul do I embrace thee

And hold thee. In thy dungeon and thy death

I will be with thee, and will comfort thee!

Come, put an end to this. Let the drum beat.
The drum beats. Exeunt all but JOHN ENDICOTT, UPSALL, and MERRY.

Dear child, farewell! Never shall I behold

Thy face again with these bleared eyes of flesh;

And never wast thou fairer, lovelier, dearer

Than now, when scourged and bleeding, and insulted

For the truth’s sake. O pitiless, pitiless town!

The wrath of God hangs over thee; and the day

Is near at hand when thou shalt be abandoned

To desolation and the breeding of nettles.

The bittern and the cormorant shall lodge

Upon thine upper lintels, and their voice

Sing in thy windows. Yea, thus saith the Lord!

Awake! awake! ye sleepers, ere too late,

And wipe these bloody statutes from your books![Exit.

Take heed; the walls have ears!

At last, the heart

Of every honest man must speak or break!

Enter GOVERNOR ENDICOTT with his halberdiers.

What is this stir and tumult in the street?

Worshipful sir, the whipping of a girl,

And her old father howling from the prison.

ENDICOTT(to his halberdiers).
Go on.

Antiochus! Antiochus!

O thou that slayest the Maccabees! The Lord

Shall smite thee with incurable disease,

And no man shall endure to carry thee!

Peace, old blasphemer!

I both feel and see

The presence and the waft of death go forth

Against thee, and already thou dost look

Like one that ’s dead!

And there is your own son,

Worshipful sir, abetting the sedition.

Arrest him. Do not spare him.

His own child!

There is some special providence takes care

That none shall be too happy in this world!

His own first-born.

O Absalom, my son!
[Exeunt; the Governor with his halberdiers ascending the steps of his house.

SCENE III.—The Governor’s private room. Papers upon the table. ENDICOTT and BELLINGHAM.

There is a ship from England has come in,

Bringing dispatches and much news from home.

His Majesty was at the Abbey crowned;

And when the coronation was complete

There passed a mighty tempest o’er the city,

Portentous with great thunderings and lightnings.

After his father’s, if I well remember,

There was an earthquake, that foreboded evil.

Ten of the Regicides have been put to death!

The bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw

Have been dragged from their graves, and publicly

Hanged in their shrouds at Tyburn.


Thus the old tyranny revives again!

Its arm is long enough to reach us here,

As you will see. For, more insulting still

Than flaunting in our faces dead men’s shrouds,

Here is the King’s Mandamus, taking from us,

From this day forth, all power to punish Quakers.

That takes from us all power; we are but puppets,

And can no longer execute our laws.

His Majesty begins with pleasant words,

“Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well;”

Then with a ruthless hand he strips from me

All that which makes me what I am; as if

From some old general in the field, grown gray

In service, scarred with many wounds,

Just at the hour of victory, he should strip

His badge of office and his well-gained honors,

And thrust him back into the ranks again.

Opens the Mandamus and hands it to BELLINGHAM; and, while he is reading, ENDICOTT walks up and down the room.

Here, read it for yourself; you see his words

Are pleasant words—considerate—not reproachful—

Nothing could be more gentle—or more royal;

But then the meaning underneath the words,

Mark that. He says all people known as Quakers

Among us, now condemned to suffer death

Or any corporal punishment whatever,

Who are imprisoned, or may be obnoxious

To the like condemnation, shall be sent

Forthwith to England, to be dealt with there

In such wise as shall be agreeable

Unto the English law and their demerits.

Is it not so?

BELLINGHAM(returning the paper).
Ay, so the paper says.

It means we shall no longer rule the Province;

It means farewell to law and liberty,

Authority, respect for Magistrates,

The peace and welfare of the Commonwealth.

If all the knaves upon this continent

Can make appeal to England, and so thwart

The ends of truth and justice by delay,

Our power is gone forever. We are nothing

But ciphers, valueless save when we follow

Some unit; and our unit is the King!

’T is he that gives us value.

I confess

Such seems to be the meaning of this paper,

But being the King’s Mandamus, signed and sealed,

We must obey, or we are in rebellion.

I tell you, Richard Bellingham,—I tell you,

That this is the beginning of a struggle

Of which no mortal can foresee the end.

I shall not live to fight the battle for you,

I am a man disgraced in every way;

This order takes from me my self-respect

And the respect of others. ’T is my doom,

Yes, my death-warrant, but must be obeyed!

Take it, and see that it is executed

So far as this, that all be set at large;

But see that none of them be sent to England

To bear false witness, and to spread reports

That might be prejudicial to ourselves.


There ’s a dull pain keeps knocking at my heart,

Dolefully saying, “Set thy house in order,

For thou shalt surely die, and shalt not live!”

For me the shadow on the dial-plate

Goeth not back, but on into the dark![Exit.

SCENE IV.—The street. A crowd, reading a placard on the door of the Meeting-house. NICHOLAS UPSALL among them. Enter JOHN NORTON.

What is this gathering here?

One William Brand,

An old man like ourselves, and weak in body,

Has been so cruelly tortured in his prison,

The people are excited, and they threaten

To tear the prison down.

What has been done?

He has been put in irons, with his neck

And heels tied close together, and so left

From five in the morning until nine at night.

What more was done?

He has been kept five days

In prison without food, and cruelly beaten,

So that his limbs were cold, his senses stopped.

What more?

And is this not enough?

Now hear me.

This William Brand of yours has tried to beat

Our Gospel Ordinances black and blue;

And, if he has been beaten in like manner,

It is but justice, and I will appear

In his behalf that did so. I suppose

That he refused to work.

He was too weak.

How could an old man work, when he was starving?

And what is this placard?

The Magistrates,

To appease the people and prevent a tumult,

Have put up these placards throughout the town,

Declaring that the jailer shalt be dealt with

Impartially and sternly by the Court.

(tearing down the placard).
Down with this weak and cowardly concession,

This flag of truce with Satan and with Sin!

I fling it in his face! I trample it

Under my feet! It is his cunning craft,

The masterpiece of his diplomacy,

To cry and plead for boundless toleration.

But toleration is the first-born child

Of all abominations and deceits.

There is no room in Christ’s triumphant army

For tolerationists. And if an Angel

Preach any other gospel unto you

Than that ye have received, God’s malediction

Descend upon him! Let him be accursed![Exit.

Now, go thy ways, John Norton! go thy ways,

Thou Orthodox Evangelist, as men call thee!

But even now there cometh out of England,

Like an o’ertaking and accusing conscience,

An outraged man, to call thee to account

For the unrighteous murder of his son![Exit.

SCENE V.—The Wilderness. Enter EDITH.

How beautiful are these autumnal woods!

The wilderness doth blossom like the rose,

And change into a garden of the Lord!

How silent everywhere! Alone and lost

Here in the forest, there comes over me

An inward awfulness. I recall the words

Of the Apostle Paul: “In journeyings often,

Often in perils in the wilderness,

In weariness, in painfulness, in watchings,

In hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness;”

And I forget my weariness and pain,

My watchings, and my hunger and my thirst.

The Lord hath said that He will seek his flock

In cloudy and dark days, and they shall dwell

Securely in the wilderness, and sleep

Safe in the woods! Whichever way I turn,

I come back with my face towards the town.

Dimly I see it, and the sea beyond it.

O cruel town! I know what waits me there,

And yet I must go back; for ever louder

I hear the inward calling of the Spirit,

And must obey the voice. O woods, that wear

Your golden crown of martyrdom, bloodstained,

From you I learn a lesson of submission,

And am obedient even unto death,

If God so wills it.[Exit.

Edith! Edith! Edith!
He enters.

It is in vain! I call, she answers not;

I follow, but I find no trace of her!

Blood! blood! The leaves above me and around me

Are red with blood! The pathways of the forest,

The clouds that canopy the setting sun

And even the little river in the meadows

Are stained with it! Where’er I look, I see it!

Away, thou horrible vision! Leave me! leave me!

Alas! yon winding stream, that gropes its way

Through mist and shadow, doubling on itself,

At length will find, by the unerring law

Of nature, what it seeks. O soul of man,

Groping through mist and shadow, and recoiling

Back on thyself, are, too, thy devious ways

Subject to law? and when thou seemest to wander

The farthest from thy goal, art thou still drawing

Nearer and nearer to it, till at length

Thou findest, like the river, what thou seekest?[Exit.