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{The Wandering Jew 1893}






COME, Faith, with eyes of patient heavenward gaze!
Come, Hope, with feet that bleed from thorny ways!
With hand for each, leading those twain to me,
Come with thy gifts of grace, fair Charity!
Bring Music too, whose voices trouble so
Our very footfalls as we graveward go,
Whose bright eyes, as she sings to Humankind,
Shine with the glory of God which keeps them blind!
Not to Parnassus, nor the Fabled Fount,
Nor to the folds of that Diviner Mount
Whereon our Milton kneeling prayed so deep,—
But hither, to this City stretched asleep
In silence, to this City of souls bereaven,
I call you, last hierophants of Heaven!                                                [l.xiv]
Come, Muses of the bleeding heart of Man,
Fairer than all the Nine Parnassian,
Fairer and clad in grace more heavenly                                               4
Than those sweet visions of Man’s infancy,
Come from your lonely heights with song and prayer
To inspire an epos of the World’s despair!
For lo, to that White Light which floweth from Him
Before whose gaze all sense and sight grow dim,
Holpen by you, his Angels pure and strong,                                         [l.vii]
With tears I raise this tremulous Prism of Song!
O shine thereon, White Light, and melted be
Into the hues that lose themselves in Thee,
And tho’ they are broken and but faintly show
Hints of the ray no sight may see or know,
On the poor Song let some dim gleam remain
To prove that Light Divine is never sought in vain!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Introductory verse:
Page 3, l. xiv: I call you, gracious hierophants of Heaven!
Page 4, l. vii: Holpen by you, His Angels pure and strong,
Note: subsequent ‘divine’ pronouns are capitalised in the 1901 version, but I’ve accepted this as a publishing convention and have not detailed these changes in this transcript.]





As in the City’s streets I wander’d late,
Bitter with God because my wrongs seem’d great,
Chiller at heart than the bleak winds that flew
Under the star-strewn voids of steel-bright blue,
Sick at the silence of the Snow, and dead
To the white Earth beneath and Heaven o’erhead,
I heard a voice sound feebly at my side
In hollow human accents, and it cried
‘For God’s sake, mortal, let me lean on thee!’
And as I turn’d in mute amaze to see
Who spake, there flew a whirlwind overhead
In which the lights of Heaven were darkenèd,
Shut out from sight or flickering sick and low
Like street-lamps when a sudden blast doth blow;
But I could hear a rustling robe wind-swept
And a faint breathing; then a thin hand crept                                        6
Into mine own, clammy and cold as clay!

’Twas on that Night which ushereth in Christ’s Day.
The winds had winnowèd the drifts of cloud,
But the white fall had ceased. There, pale and proud,
In streets of stone empty of life, while Sleep
In silvern mist hung beautiful and deep
Over the silent City even as breath,
I mused on God and Man, on Life and Death,
And mine own woe was as a glass wherein
I mirror’d God’s injustice and Man’s sin.
And so, remembering the time, I sneer’d
To think the mockery of Christ’s birth-tide near’d,
And pitying thought of all the blinded herd
Who eat the dust and ashes of the Word,
Holding for all their light and all their good
The Woeful Man upon the Cross of wood;
And bitterly to mine own heart I said,
‘In vain, in vain, upon that Cross he bled!
In vain he swore to vanquish Death, in vain                                          7
He spake of that glad Realm where he should reign!
Lo, all his promise is a foolish thing,
Flowers gathered by a child and withering
In the moist hand that holdeth them; for lo!
Winter hath come, and on his grave the snow
Lies mountain-deep; and where he sleeping lies
We too shall follow soon and close our eyes
Unvex’d by dreams. The golden Dream is o’er,
And he whom Death hath conquer’d wakes no more!’

Even then I heard the desolate voice intone,
And the thin hand crept trembling in my own,
And while my heart shut sharp in sudden dread
Against the rushing blood, I murmurèd
‘Who speaks? who speaks?’ Suddenly in the sky
The Moon, a luminous white Moth, flew by,
And from her wings silent and mystical
Thick rays of vitreous dust began to fall,
Illuming Earth and Heaven; when I was ’ware
Of One with reverend silver beard and hair                                         8
Snow-white and sorrowful, looming suddenly
In the new light like to a leafless Tree
Hung round with ice and magnified by mist
Against a frosty Heaven! But ere I wist
Darkness return’d, the splendour died away,
And all I felt was that thin hand which lay
Fluttering in mine!
                               Then suddenly again
I heard the tremulous voice cry out in pain
‘For God’s sake, mortal, let me lean on thee!’
And peering thro’ the dimness I could see
Snows of white hair blowing feebly in the wind;
And deeply was I troubled in my mind
To see so ancient and so weak a Wight
At the cold mercy of the storm that night,
And said, while ’neath his wintry load he bent,
‘Lean on me, father!’ adding, as he leant
Feebly upon me, wearied out with woe,
‘Whence dost thou come? and whither dost thou go?’
O then, meseem’d, the womb of Heaven afar                                      9
Quickened to sudden life, and moon and star
Flash’d like the opening of a million eyes,
Dimming from every labyrinth of the skies
Their lustre on that Lonely Man; and he
Loom’d like a comer from a far Countrie
In ragged antique raiment, and around
His waist a rotting rope was loosely bound,
And in one feeble hand a lanthorn quaint
Hung lax and trembling, and the light was faint
Within it unto dying, tho’ it threw
Upon the snows beneath him light enew
To show his feeble feet were bloody and bare!

Thereon, with deep-drawn breath and dull dumb stare,
‘Far have I travelled and the night is cold,’
He murmur’d, adding feebly, ‘I am old!’
He spake like one whose wits are wandering,
And strange his accents were, and seem’d to bring
The sense of some strange region far away;
And like a cagèd Lion gaunt and grey                                                 10
Who, looking thro’ the bars, all woe-begone,
Beholdeth not the men he looketh on,
But gazeth thro’ them on some lonely pool
Far in the desert, whither he crept to cool
His sunburnt loins and drink when strong and free,
Ev’n so with dull dumb stare he gazed thro’ me
On some far bourne; and tho’ his eyes were bright
They seem’d to suffer from the piteous light
They shed upon me thro’ his hoary hair!

Then was I seized with wonder unaware
To see a man so old and strangely dight
Wandering alone beneath the Heavens that night;
For round us were the silenced haunts of trade,
The public marts and buildings deep in shade,
All emptied of their living waters; cold
And swift the stars did plunge thro’ fold on fold
Of vaporous gauze, wind-driven; and the street
Was washen everywhere around my feet
With smoky silver; and the stillness round                                           11
Was dreadfuller by memory of the sound
Which fill’d the place all day from dawn to dark;
And strange it was and pitiful to mark
The heavy snow of years upon this Man,
His furrow’d cheeks down which the rheum-drops ran,
His wintry eyes that saw some summer land
Far off and very peaceful, while his hand
Dank as the drownèd dead's lay loose in mine.

But, my fear lessening, eager to divine
What man he was, and thro’ what cruel fate
He wander’d homeless and disconsolate,
Scourged by the pitiless God who hateth men,
A victim, the more piteous in his pain
Because that God had given him length of days,
I cried, ‘Who art thou? From what weary ways
Comest thou, father? Thou art frail and old!
Sad is thy lot upon a night so cold
To wander barefoot in a world of snow!
Speak to me, father! for I fain would know                                         12
What cruel Hand is on thee out of Heaven,
That by the wintry tempests thou art driven
Hither and thither? Speak thy grief out strong,
For God, I know, is hard, and I, too, have my wrong.’

Then as I looked full eagerly on him,
And my limbs trembled and mine eyes grew dim,
With dull still gaze he starèd on thro’ me
At that far bourne of rest his Soul could see,
And shiver’d as the frost took blood and bone,
And even as a feeble child might moan
He murmurèd, ‘I am hungry and athirst!’

O then my soul was sicken’d, and I curst
The winds and snows that smote this Man so old,
And drave him outcast thro’ the wintry wold,
And made the belly of him tight with pain
For lack of food, and only with the rain
Moisten’d his toothless gums! and ’neath my breath
I curst the pitiless Lord of Life and Death,                                           13
And ‘all the hate I bare for Him who wrought
This crumbling prison-house of flesh (methought)
Is vindicated by this Wight who bears
The rueful justification of grey hairs!’
And as I held his clay-cold hand, nor spake,
For I was hoarse with sorrow for his sake,
He cried in a strange, witless, wandering way,
Not loud, but as a burthen children say
When they have known it long by heart, ‘Aye me!
The blessèd Night is dark on land and sea,
On tired eyes the dusts of Sleep are shed,
And yet I have no place to rest my head!’

Ev’n as he spake there flash’d across my sight
A glamour of the Sleepers of the Night:
The hushèd rooms where dainty ladies dream,
And shaded night-lamps shed a slumberous gleam
Across the silken sheets and broider’d couch;
The beggarman, a groat within his pouch,
Pillow’d on filthy rags and chuckling deep                                           14
Because his dreams are golden; the sweet sleep
Of little children holding in pink palm
The fancied toy, and smiling; slumbers calm
Of delicate-limb’d vestals, slumbers wild
Of puerperal women and of nymphs defiled
Wasting like rotten fruit;—as scenes we see
By lightning flashes, changing momently,
These visions came and went, each gleaming clear
Yet spectral, in the act to disappear;
I mark’d the long streets empty to the sky,
And every dim square window was an eye
That gazing dimly inward saw within
Some hidden mystery of shame or sin,—
Lovebed and deathbed, raggedness and wealth,
Pale Murder, tiptoe, creeping on in stealth
With sharp uplifted knife, or haggard Lust
Mouthing his stolen fruit of tasteless dust;
And then I saw strange huddled shapes that lay
In blankets under palm trees, while the day
Drew far across the sands its bloodred line;                                       15
The sailor drearily dozing, while the brine
Flash’d eyes of foam around him; glimpses then
Of purple royal chambers, where pale men
Lay naked of their glory; and of the warm
Bonfires on mountain sides, where many a form
Lay prone but gript the sword; of halls of stone
Lofty and cold, where wounded men made moan,
And the calm nurse stole softly down the row
Of narrow sickbeds, like a ghost; and lo!
These pictures swiftly came and vanishèd
Like northern meteors, leaving as they fled
A trouble like the wash of leaden seas.

Then, while the glamour of such images
Weighed on my Soul, I said, ‘Hard by I dwell,—
Poor is the place, yet thou mayst find it well
After thy travail. Thither let us go!’
And by my side he falter’d feeble and slow,
Breathing the frosty air with pain, and soon
We reached a lonely Bridge o’er which the Moon                               16
Hung phosphorescent, blinding with its wings
The lamps that flicker’d there like elfin things;
But near us, on the water’s brim, engloom’d
In its own night, a mighty Abbey loom’d,
Clothen with rayless snow as with a shroud;
And suddenly that old Man cried aloud,
Lifting his weary face and woe-begone
Up to the painted windowpanes that shone
With frosty glimmers, ‘Open, O thou Priest
Who waitest in the Temple!’ As he ceased,
The fretted arches echoed to the cry
And with a shriek the wintry wind went by
And died in silence. For a moment’s space
He stood and listened with upturnèd face,
Then moan’d and faltered on in dumb despair,
Until we stood upon the Bridge, and there
The vitreous light was luminously drawn,
Making the lamps burn dim, as in a ghostly dawn.





VASTER and mightier a thousandfold
Than Babylon or Nineveh of old,
Shrouded in snow the silent City slept;
And through its heart the great black River crept
Snakewise, with sullen coils that as they wound
Flash’d scales of filmy silver; all around
The ominous buildings huddled from the light
With cold grey roofs and gables tipt with white,
And lines of lamps made a pale aqueous glow
With streaks of crimson in the pools below
Between the clustering masts. ’Twas still, like Death!
Still as a snow-clad grave! No stir! No breath!
A mist of silence o’er the City asleep,
A frozen smoke of incense that did creep
From Life’s deserted Altar. And on high
Clouds white as wool that melted o’er the sky                                    18
Before the winnowing beams. In Heaven’s Serene
No sound! no stir! but all the still stars, green
With their exceeding lustre, shedding light
From verge to verge of the great dome of Night,
And scattering hoarfrost thro’ the lustrous space
Between their spheres and the dark dwelling place
Of mortals blind to sight and dead to sound.

So lay the silent City glory-crowned,
All the rich blood of human life that flows
Thro’ its dark veins hushèd in deep repose,
The pulses of its heart scarce felt to beat,
Calm as a corpse, the snow its winding sheet,
The sky its pall; and o’er its slumbers fell
The white Moon’s luminous and hypnotic spell,
As when some bright Magician’s hands are prest
With magic gloves upon a Monster’s breast,
So that the heart just flutters, and the eyes
Shut drowsily!—But it dream’d beneath the skies
God knows what dreams! What dreams of Heavens unknown,           19
Where sits the Lord of Life on his white Throne,
While angel-wings flash thick as fowl that flee
Round islands Hebridean, when the Sea
Burns to a molten sapphire of dead calm!

Upon my fever’d eyes fell soft as balm
The ablution of the Midnight, as once more
I led that old Man weary and footsore,
Guiding his steps, while ever and anon
He paused in pain; and thro’ the light that shone
O’er the still Bridge we falter’d, with no sound.

Then, as he paused for breath, and gazed around,
Again I questioned gently whence he came,
His place of birth, his kindred, and his name,
And whisper’d softly, ‘I can surely see
Thou art a comer from a far Countrie,
And thou art very old!’—‘So old! so old!’
He answered, shivering in the moonlight cold;                                      20
Then raised his head, upgazing thro’ the Night,
And threw his arms up quick, and rose his height,
Crying, ‘For ever at the door of Death
Faintly I knock, and when it openeth
Would fain creep in, but ever a Hand snow-cold
Thrusteth me back into the open wold,
And ever a voice intones early and late
“Until thy work is done, remain and wait!”
And century after century I have trod
The infinitely weary glooms of God,
And lo! the Winter of mine age is here!’

Even as he spake, in a low voice yet clear,
Clinging upon me, with his hungry eyes
Cast upward at the cold and pitiless skies,
His white hair blent with snows around him blown,
And his feet naked on the Bridge of stone,
Methought I knew that Wanderer whom God’s curse
Scourgeth for ever thro’ the Universe
Because he mocked with words of blasphemy                                    21
God’s Martyr on the path to Calvary,
Yea, did deny him on his day of Death!
Wherefore, with shuddering sense and bated breath
I gazed upon him. Shivering he stood there,
The consecration of a vast despair
Cast round him like a raiment; and ere I knew
I moaned aloud, ‘Thou art that Wandering Jew
Whose name all men and women know too well!’

Strangely on me his eyes of sorrow fell,
And bending low, as doth a wind-blown tree,
In a low voice he answer’d:
                                             ‘I am He!’





O NIGHT of wonder! O enchanted Night!
Full of strange whisperings and wondrous light,
How shall I, singing, summon up again
Thine hours of awe and deep miraculous pain?
For as I stood upon those streets of stone
I seem’d to hear the wailing winds intone
‘AHASUERUS!’—while with lips apart,
His thin hand prest upon his fluttering heart,
His face like marble lit by lightning’s glare,
His frail feet bleeding, and his bosom bare,
List’ning he stood!
                             From the blue Void o’erhead
Starlight and moonlight round his shape were shed,
And the chill air was troubled all around
With piteous wails and echoes of such sound
As fills the great sad Sea on nights of Yule,                                          23
When all the cisterns of the heavens are full
And one great hush precedes the coming Storm.
And like a snow-wrapt statue seem’d the form
I looked on, and of more than mortal height!
Wintry his robe, his hair and beard snow-white
Frozen like icicles, his face all dim,
And in the sunken, sunless eyes of him
Silent despair, as of a lifeless stone!

And then meseem’d that in some frozen zone,
Where never flower doth blossom or grass is green,
Chill’d to the heart by cruel winds and keen
Shiv’ring I stood, and the thick choking breath
Of Frost was round me, terrible as Death,
And he I look’d on was a figure wan
Hewn out of snow in likeness of a Man;
And all the silent City in a trice
Was turn’d to domes and towers of rayless ice,
As of some spectral City whose pale spires
Are lighted dimly with the auroral fires                                                 24
That gleam for ever at the sunless Pole!

How long this glamour clung upon my Soul
I know not; but at last methought I spake,
Like one who, fresh from vision, half awake,
Murmurs his thought—‘Father of men that roam,
Outcast from God and exile from thy home,
(If such there be for any Soul in need)
I will not say, God bless thee, since indeed
God’s blessing is a burthen and a blight;
Yet will I bless thee, in that God’s despite,
Knowing thy sorrow manifold and deep.
Aye me, aye me, what may I do but weep,
Seeing thy poor grey hair, and frail shape driven
Hither and thither by the winds of Heaven,
Sharing thy sorrow, hearing thy sad moan
That penetrates all hearts but God’s alone,
Knowing thee mortal, yet predoom’d to fare
For ever, with no restplace anywhere,
Although all other mortal things may die!                                              25
Death is the one good thing beneath the sky;
Death is the one sweet thing that men may see;
Yet even this God doth deny to thee!
Thou canst not die!’ With feeble lips of clay
He answered, yet the voice seem’d far away,
‘Yea, Death is best, and yet I cannot die!’

Before my vision, as I heard the cry,
There flash’d a glamour of the Dead; and lo!
I saw a hooded Phantom come and go
Across great solitary plains by night,
Red with all nameless horror of the fight,
And dead white faces glimmer’d from the sward,
And here a helmet gleamed and there a sword,
And all was still and dreadful, and the scent
Of carnage thickened where the Phantom went.
This faded, and methought I stood stone-still
In a great Graveyard strewn with moonbeams chill
Like bleaching shrouds, and through the grassy glooms
Pale crosses glimmer’d and great marble tombs;                                 26
But as I crost my frozen hands to pray
The apparition changed and died away,
And I was walking very silently
Some oozy bottom of the sunless Sea.
And midst the sombre foliage I could mark
Black skeletons of many a shipwreck’d bark
Within whose meshes, washing to and fro,
Were skeletons of men as white as snow
Picked clean by many a hideous ocean-thing.
The waters swung around me as they swing
Round drowning men, and with a choking pain
I struggled,—and that moment saw again
The sleeping City and the cold Moonshine,
And in the midst, with his blank eyes on mine,
That Man of Mystery who could not die!

And lo, his lips were openèd with a cry,
And his lean hands were stretchèd up to Heaven.
‘Ah, woe is me,’ he said, ‘to stand bereaven
Of that which every man of clay may share!                                         27
Eternity hath snowed upon my hair,
And yet, though feeble and weary, I endure.
Still might I fare, if Death at last were sure,
If I might see, eternities away,
A grave, wide open, where my feet might stay!’
Then in a lower voice more deep with dread,
‘Father which art in Heaven,’ the old Man said,
‘Thou from the holy shelter of whose wing
I came, an innocent and shining thing,
A lily in my hand and in mine eyes
The passion and the peace of Paradise,
Thou who didst drop me gently down to rest
A little while upon my Mother’s breast,
Wrapt in the raiment of a mortal birth,
How long, how long, across thy stricken Earth
Must I fare onward, deathless? Tell me, when
May I too taste the cup thou givest to men,
My brethren and thy children and the heirs
Of all my spirit’s sorrows and despairs?
My work is o’er—my sin (if sin there be)                                           28
Is buried with the bones of Calvary;
My blessing has been spoken, and my curse
Is wingèd vengeance in thy Universe;
My voice hath thrill’d thy dark Eternity
To protestation and to agony,
And Man hath listen’d with wild lips apart
As to a cry from his own breaking heart!
What then remains for me to do, O God,
But fold thin hands and bend beneath thy rod,
And ask for respite after labour done?’

In sorrow and in awe he spake, as one
Communing with some Shape I could not mark,
And all his words seem’d wild, his meaning dark;
And as he ceased the Heavens grew dark in woe,
And faster, thicker, fell the encircling Snow,
Wrapping him with its whiteness round and round;
But from the Void above no sign, no sound,
Came answering his prayer.                                                                 29
‘Father,’ I said,
‘Chill falls the snow upon thy holy head
(Yea, holy through much sorrow ’tis to me)
And He to whom thou prayest so piteously
Hears not, and will not hear, and hath not heard
Since first the Spirit of Man drew breath and stirred!
Let us seek shelter!’ But I spake in vain—
He heard not; but as one that dies in pain
Sank feebly on the parapet of stone.

Upon his naked breast the Snow was blown
Thicker and colder—on his hoary head
Heavily like a cruel hand of lead
It thickened—so he stood from head to feet
Smother’d and wrapt as in a winding sheet,
Forlorn and weary, panting, overpowered.

Then lo! a miracle!—For a space he cowered
As if o’ermastered by the cruel touch,                                                 30
But all at once, as one that suffers much
Yet quickeneth into anger suddenly,
He said, in a sharp voice of sovereignty,
‘Cease, cease!’ and at the very voice’s sound,
The white Snow wildly wavering round and round
Rose like a curtain, leaving all things bright!

Spell-bound and wonder-stricken at the sight,
And comprehending not its import yet,
(For still my Soul with fever and with fret
Was laden, and I bore upon my mind
The darkness of that doubt that keeps men blind)
I cried, ‘See! see! the elemental Snow
Obeys thy call, in pity for thy woe—
Gentler than He who fashioned men for pain,
The white Snow and the wild Wind and the Rain
Would bless thee, and there is no cruel beast
Which He hath made, the greater or the least,
Which would not spare thy life and lick thy hand,
Poor outcast comer from a lonely land.                                               31
Yea, only God is cruel—Only He
Whose foot is on the Mountains and the Sea,
And on the bruisèd frame and flesh of Man!’





LO, now the Moonlight lit his features wan
With spectral beams, and o’er his hoary hair
A halo of brightness fell, and rested there!
And while upon his face mine eyes were bent
In utterness of woeful wonderment,
Into mine ear the strange voice crept once more—
‘Far have I wandered, weary and spirit-sore,
And lo! wherever I have chanced to be,
All things, save men alone, have pitied me!’

Thenthen—even as he spake, forlornly crown’d
By the cold light that wrapt him round and round,
I saw upon his twain hands raised to Heaven
Stigmata bloody as of sharp nails driven
Thro’ the soft palms of mortals crucified!
And swiftly glancing downward I descried                                           33
Stigmata bloody on the naked feet
Set feebly on the cold stones of the street!—
And moveless in the frosty light he stood,
Ev’n as one hanging on the Cross of wood!

Then, like a lone man in the north, to whom
The auroral lights on the world’s edge assume
The likeness of his gods, I seem’d to swoon
To a sick horror; and the stars and moon
Reel’d wildly o’er me, swift as sparks that blow
Out of a forge; and the cold stones below
Chattered like teeth! For lo, at last I knew
The lineaments of that diviner Jew
Who like a Phantom passeth everywhere,
The World’s last hope and bitterest despair,
Deathless, yet dead!—
                                       Unto my knees I sank,
And with an eye glaz’d like the dying’s drank
The wonder of that Presence!
                                                 White and tall                                    34
And awful grew He in the mystical
Chill air around Him,—at His mouth a mist
Made by His frosty breathing!—Then I kissed
His frozen raiment-hem, and murmurèd
‘Adonai! Master! Lord of Quick and Dead!’
’Twas more than heart could suffer and still beat—
So with a hollow moan I fainted at his feet!





O YE, ye ancient men born yesterday,
Some few of whom may in this Yuletide lay
Feel echoes of your own hearts, listen on,
Till the faint music of the harp is gone
And the weak hand drops leaden down the string!
For lo, I voice to you a mystic thing
Whose darkness is as full of starry gleams
As is a tropic twilight; in your dreams
This thing shall haunt you, and become a sound
Of friendship in still places, and around
Your lives this thing shall deepen, and impart
A music to the trouble of the heart,
So that perchance, upon some gracious day,
Ye may bethink you of the Song, and pray
That God may bless the Singer for your sake!

Not unto bliss and peace did I awake                                                 36
From that deep swoon, nor to the garish light
Wherein all spiritual things grow slight
And vanish—nay!—the midnight and the place                                   [l.iv]
Had changèd not, and o’er me still the Face
Shone piteously serene; I felt its ray
On mine unclosèd eyelids as I lay;
Then gazing up, blinking mine eyes for dread
Of some new brightness, I discern’d instead
That Man Forlorn, and as I gazed he smiled
Even as a Father looking on a child!
Aye me! the sorrow of that smile! ’Twas such
As singer ne’er may sing or pencil touch!—
But ye who have seen the light that is in snow,
The glimmer on the heights where sad and slow
Some happy day is dying—ye who have seen
Strange dawns and moonlit waters, woodlands green
Troubled with their own beauty; think of these,
And of all other tender images,
Then think of some belovèd face asleep
’Mid the dark pathos of the grave, blend deep                                    37
Its beauty with all those until ye weep,
And ye may partly guess the woe divine
Wherewith that Face was looking down on mine,—                           [l.iv]
While trembling, wondering, like a captive thrown
By cruel hands into some cell of stone,
Who waiting Death to end his long despair
Sees the door open and a friend stand there
Bringing new light and life into his prison,
I faltered, ‘Lord of Life, hast thou arisen?’

‘Arisen! Arisen! Arisen!’

                                         At the word
The silent cisterns of the Night were stirred
And plash’d with troublous waters, and in the sky
The pale stars clung together, while the cry
Was wafted on the wind from street to street!
Like to a dreaming man whose heart doth beat
With thick pulsations, while he fights to break
The load of terror with a shriek and wake,
The sleeping City trembled thro’ and thro’;                                          38 [l.i]
And in its darkness, open’d to my view
As by enchantment, those who slumberèd
Rose from their pillows, listening in dread;
And out of soot-black windows faces white
Gleamed ghost-like, peering forth into the night;
And haggard women by the River dark,
Crawling to plunge and drown, stood still to heark;
And in the silent shrouded Hospitals,
Where the dim night-lamp flickering on the walls
Made woeful shadows, men who dying lay,
Picking the coverlit as they pass’d away                                             [l.xii]
And babbling babe-like, raised their heads to hear,
While all their darkening sense again grew clear,
And moaned ‘Arisen! Arisen!’ and in his cell                                       [l.xv]
The Murderer, for whom the pitiless bell
Would toll at dawn, sat with uplifted hair
And broke to piteous impotence of prayer!

Then all grew troubled as a rainy Sea,
I sank in stupor, struggling to be free                                                  39
Even as a drowning wight; and as the brain
Of him who drowneth flasheth with no pain
Into a sudden vision of things fled,
Faces forgotten, places vanishèd
Came, went, and came again, and ’mid it all
I knew myself the weary, querulous, small,
Weak, wayward Soul, with little hope or will,
Crying for ‘God, God, God,’ and thrusting still
Cain’s offering on His altar. All this past—                                         [l.x]
Then came a longer darkness—and at last
I found myself upon my feet once more
Tottering and faint and fearful, a dull roar
Of blood within mine ears, still crying aloud
‘Arisen! Arisen! Arisen!’ . . .
                             Whereon the cloud
Of wonder lifted, and again mine eyes
Saw the sad City sleeping ’neath the skies,
Silent and flooded with the white Moon’s beams
As still as any City seen in dreams;
And lo! the great Bridge, and the River that ran                                   40
Blindly beneath it, and that hoary Man
Standing thereon with naked piercèd feet
Uplooking to the Heavens as if to meet
Some vision; and the abysses of the air
Had opened, and the Vision was shining there!

Far, far away, faint as a filmy cloud,
A Form Divine appeared, her bright head bowed,
Her eyes down-looking on a Babe she prest
In holy rapture to her gentle breast,
And tho’ all else was ghost-like, strange, and dim,
A brightness touched the Babe and cover’d Him,—
Such brightness as we feel in summer days
When hawthorn blossoms scent the flowery ways
And all the happy clay is verdure-clad;
And the Babe seem’d as others who make glad
The homes of mortals, and the Mother’s face
Was like a fountain in a sunny place
Giving and taking gladness, and her eyes
Beheld no other sight in earth or skies                                                41
Save the blest Babe on whom their light did shine;
But he, that little one, that Babe Divine,
Gazed down with reaching hands and face aglow
Upon the Lonely Man who stood below,
And smiled upon him, radiant as the morn!
Whereat the weary Christ raised arms forlorn
And answer’d with a thin despairing moan!
And at the sound Darkness like dust was blown
Over the Heavens, and the sweet Vision fled,
And all that wonder of the night was dead! . . . .

Yet still I saw him looming woebegone
Upon the lonely Bridge, and faltering on
With feeble feet beneath the falling snow,
And in his hand the lamp hung, flickering low
As if to die, yet died not. Far away
He seemèd now, altho’ so near,—a grey
Ghost seen in dreams; yet even as dreams appear
To one who sleeps more mystically clear
Than any vision of the waking sight,                                                     42
He shone upon the sadness of the Night
As softly as a star, while all around
Loom’d the great City, sleeping with no sound
Save its own deep-drawn breath. Yet I could mark
The glimmer of eyes that watched him from the dark
Shadows beyond the Bridge, and, where the rays
Of the dim moonlight lit the frozen ways,
Shapes crouching low or crawling serpent-wise
Waited to catch the pity of his eyes
Or touch his raiment-hem!

                                           Then, while I wept
For pity of his loneliness, and crept
In wonder after him, with bated breath,
Fell a new Darkness deep and dread as Death;
And from the Darkness came tumultuously
Clangour and roar as of a storm-torn Sea,—
And, shrill as shrieks of ocean-birds that fly                                         43
Over the angry waters, rose the cry
Of human voices!
                               Then the four Winds blew
Their clarions, while the stormy tumult grew,
And all was dimly visible again.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Part V:
Page 36, l. iv: And vanish—nay;—the midnight and the place
Page 37, l. iv: Wherewith that face was looking down on mine,—
Page 38, l. i: The sleeping City trembled thro’ and thro’!
Page 38, l. xii: Picking the coverlet as they pass’d away
Page 38, l. xv: And moaned ‘Arisen! Arisen!’ In his cell
Page 39, l. x: Cain’s offering on His altar. All this pass’d— ]





METHOUGHT I stood upon an open Plain
Beyond the City, and before my face
Rose, with mad surges thundering at its base,
A mountain like Golgotha; and the waves
That surgèd round its sunless cliffs and caves
Were human—countless swarms of Quick and Dead!

Then, while the fire-flaught flickered overhead,
I saw the Phantoms of Golgotha throng
Around that ancient Man, who trailed along
A woeful Cross of Wood; and as he went,
His body bruisèd and his raiment rent,
His bare feet bleeding and his force out-worn,
They pricked him on with spears and laughed in scorn,
Shouting, ‘At last Thy Judgment Day hath come!’
And when he faltered breathless, faint, and dumb,                                45
And stumbled on his face amid the snows,
They dragged him up and drave him on with blows
To that black Mountain!

                                         Then my soul was ’ware
Of One who silent sat in Judgment there
Shrouded and spectral; lonely as a cloud
He loomed above the surging and shrieking crowd.
Human he seemed, and yet his eyeballs shone
From fleshless sockets of a Skeleton,
And from the shroud around him darkly roll’d
He pointed with a fleshless hand and cold
At those who came, and, in a voice that thrill’d
The tumult at his feet till it was still’d,

               ‘Back, ye Waters of Humanity!
Wait and be silent. Leave this Man to me.                                          [l.xvii]
The centuries of his weary watch have pass’d,
And lo! the Judgment Time is ripe at last.
Stand up, thou Man whom men would doom to death,                       46
And speak thy Name!’
                                       ‘JESUS OF NAZARETH!’
Answer’d the Man.
                                   And as he spake his name,
The multitude with thunderous acclaim
Shriek’d!                                                                                          [l.vii]
                   But again the solemn voice, which thrill’d
The tumult and the wrath till they were still’d,
Cried:                                                                                               [l.x]

             ‘Peace, ye broken hearts, have patience yet!
This Man is surely here to pay his debt                                              [l.xii]
To Death and Time.’

                                     And to the Man he said:                               [l.xiv]

‘Jesus of Nazareth, lift up thy head
And hearken! Brought to face Eternity
By men, thy brethren, form’d of flesh like thee,
Brought here by men to me, the Spirit of Man,
To answer for thy deeds since life began,                                            47
Brought hither to Golgotha, whereupon
Thyself wast crucified in days long gone,
Thou shalt be judged and hear thy judgment spoken
Before the World whose slumbers thou hast broken.
Thou saidst, “I have fought with Death and am the stronger!
Wake to Eternal Life and sleep no longer!”
And men, thy brethren, troubled by thy crying,
Have rush’d from Death to seek the Life undying,
And men have anguish’d, wearied out with waiting
For the great unknown Father of thy creating,
And now for vengeance on thy head they gather,
Crying, “Death reigns! There is no God—no Father!”’

He ceased, and Jesus spake not, but was mute
In woe supreme and pity absolute.

Then calmly amid the shadows of the Throne
Another awful shrouded Skeleton,
Human yet more than human, rose his height,
With baleful eyes of wild and wistful light,                                           48
And said:
                   ‘O Judge, Death reigned since Time began,
Sov’ran of Life and Change! and ere this Man
Came with his lying dreams to break our rest
The reign of Death was beautiful and blest!                                          []
But now within the flesh of men there grows
The poison of a Dream that slays repose,
The trouble of a mirage in the air
That turneth into terror and despair;
So that the Master of the World, ev’n Death,
Hated in his own kingdom, travaileth
In darkness, creeping haunted and afraid,
Like any mortal thing, from shade to shade,
From tomb to tomb; and ever where he flies
The seed of men shrink with averted eyes,
And call with mad yet unavailing woe
On this Man and his God to lay Death low.
Wherefore the Master of the Quick and Dead
Demandeth doom and justice on the head
Of Him, this Jew, who hath usurp’d the throne                                    49
The Lord of flesh claims ever for his own.
This Jew hath made the Earth that once was glad
A lazar-house of woeful man and mad                                                [l.iv]
Who can yet will not sleep, and in their strife
For barren glory and eternal Life,
Have rent each other, murmuring his Name!’

He paused—and from the listening host there came
Tumult nor voice—there was no sound, no stir,
But all was hushèd as a death-chamber;
And while that pallid shrouded Skeleton
In a low voice like funeral bells spake on,
From heart to heart a nameless horror ran.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Part VI:
Page 45, l. xvii: Wait and be silent. Leave this man to me.
Page 46, l. vii: Shriek’d.
Page 46, l. x: Cried: ‘Peace, ye broken hearts, have patience yet!
Page 46, l. xii: This man is surely here to pay his debt
Page 46, l. xiv: And to the man he said:
Page 48, l. vi: The reign of Death was beautiful and blest;
Page 49, l. iv: A lazar-house of woeful men and mad ]



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