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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Syria: Jerusalem

Christ’s Entrance into Jerusalem

By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)

HE sat upon the ass’s foal and rode

Toward Jerusalem. Beside him walked,

Closely and silently, the faithful twelve,

And on before him went a multitude

Shouting hosannas, and with eager hands

Strewing their garments thickly in his way.

The unbroken foal beneath him gently stepped,

Tame as its patient dam; and as the song

Of “Welcome to the Son of David” burst

Forth from a thousand children, and the leaves

Of the waved branches touched its silken ears,

It turned its wild eye for a moment back,

And then, subdued by an invisible hand,

Meekly trode onward with its slender feet.

The dew’s last sparkle from the grass had gone

As he rode up Mount Olivet. The woods

Threw their cool shadows freshly to the west,

And the light foal, with quick and toiling step,

And head bent low, kept its unslackened way

Till its soft mane was lifted by the wind

Sent o’er the mount from Jordan. As he reached

The summit’s breezy pitch, the Saviour raised

His calm blue eye,—there stood Jerusalem!

Eagerly he bent forward, and beneath

His mantle’s passive folds, a bolder line

Than the wont slightness of his perfect limbs

Betrayed the swelling fulness of his heart.

There stood Jerusalem! How fair she looked,—

The silver sun on all her palaces,

And her fair daughters mid the golden spires

Tending their terrace flowers, and Kedron’s stream

Lacing the meadows with its silver band,

And wreathing its mist-mantle on the sky

With the morn’s exhalations. There she stood,—

Jerusalem,—the city of his love,

Chosen from all the earth; Jerusalem—

That knew him not, and had rejected him;

Jerusalem, for whom he came to die!

The shouts redoubled from a thousand lips

At the fair sight; the children leaped and sang

Louder hosannas; the clear air was filled

With odor from the trampled olive-leaves,

But Jesus wept. The loved disciple saw

His Master’s tears, and closer to his side

He came with yearning looks, and on his neck

The Saviour leant with heavenly tenderness,

And mourned: “How oft, Jerusalem! would I

Have gathered you, as gathereth a hen

Her brood beneath her wings,—but ye would not!”

He thought not of the death that he should die—

He thought not of the thorns he knew must pierce

His forehead, of the buffet on the cheek,

The scourge, the mocking homage, the foul scorn!

Gethsemane stood out beneath his eye

Clear in the morning sun, and there, he knew,

While they who “could not watch with him one hour”

Were sleeping, he should sweat great drops of blood,

Praying the cup might pass. And Golgotha

Stood bare and desert by the city wall,

And in its midst, to his prophetic eye,

Rose the rough cross, and its keen agonies

Were numbered all,—the nails were in his feet,

The insulting sponge was pressing on his lips,

The blood and water gushing from his side,

The dizzy faintness swimming in his brain,

And, while his own disciples fled in fear,

A world’s death-agonies all mixed in his!

Ay!—he forgot all this. He only saw

Jerusalem,—the chosen, the loved, the lost!

He only felt that for her sake his life

Was vainly given, and in his pitying love

The sufferings that would clothe the heavens in black

Were quite forgotten. Was there ever love,

In earth or heaven, equal unto this?