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{The Wandering Jew 1893}





WITH woe unutterable, and pity cast                                                  [l.i]
As the still Heaven on which His eyes were cast,
That old Jew listen’d, while new voices cried,
‘We too were slain, because we testified!’
But as they pass’d along with waving brands
Beneath Him, He outstretched His trembling hands
As if to bless them, murmuring low yet clear,
‘Father in Heaven, where art Thou? Dost Thou hear?’
And at the voice those Spirits cried again,
‘We testified against thee, and were slain!’
And never down on them His eyes were turn’d,
But still upon the silent Heaven, that yearn’d
Its heart of stars out on his hoary head!                                              [l.xiii]

Even as a shipwrecked wight doth cling in dread
To some frail spar, and seèth all around                                               101
The dark wild waters swelling without bound,
While momently the black waves flash to foam,
Ev’n so I saw the Spirits go and come
With piteous cries around me. From all lands
They gather’d, moaning low and waving hands,
Women and men and naked little ones;
And some were dusky-hued from flaming suns
That light the West and East; for lo, I knew
The hosts of Ind, the children of Peru,
And the black seed of Ham; and following these,
Wan creatures bearing hideous images
Of wood and stone; yellow and black and red,
They gather’d, murmuring as they came, and fled!
And all the air was troubled, as when the rain
Maketh the multitudinous leaves complain
In some deep forest solitude, with the stirs
Of tutelary gods and worshippers,
Of creatures thronging thick as ants to upbuild
Strange Temples, frail as ant-heaps, faintly filled
With the first gleams of godhead chill and grey,                                   102
Then crumbling into dust, and vanishing away!

Borne on a purple litter came a King
Gold-crown’d, with eager armies following
Swift-footed like the pard, crested with plumes
Of many-coloured birds, and deck’d with blooms
Of many-colour’d flowers; and as he came
Choirs of dark maidens sang in glad acclaim,
‘All hail to MONTEZUMA, King and Lord!’
And round him dusky Priests kept fierce accord
Of drums and cymbals, till their lord was borne
Close to the Throne; and on that Man forlorn
Fixing his sad, brown, antelope’s eyes, and lying
Like to a stricken deer sore-spent and dying,
He cried:

                 ‘In the grassy West I reigned supreme
O’er a great Kingdom wondrous as a dream.
As high as Heaven rose my palaces,
And fair as Heaven was the light in these,                                           103
And out of gold I ate, and gold and gems
Cover’d me to the very raiment hems,
And gems and gold miraculously bright
Illumed my roofs and floors with starry light.
The wondrous lama-wool as white as milk,
More soft and snowy than the worm’s thin silk,
Was woven for my raiment; unto me
The creatures of the Mountains and the Sea
Were brought in tribute; and from shore to shore
My naked couriers flew for ever, and bore
My mandate to the lesser Kings, my slaves;
Yea, and my throne was on a thousand graves,
And Death, obedient to my lifted hand,
Smiled peacefully upon a golden Land.
There, as I reigned, and millions blest my sway,                                   [l.xvi]
Came rumours of a fair God far away
Greater than those I worshipt, till my throne
Shook at the coming of that form unknown;
And o’er the Ocean, borne on flying things
That caught the winds and held them in their wings,                              104
Riding on manèd monsters that obeyed
Bridles of gold and champ’d the bit and neigh’d,
Came this Man’s followers, clad and shod with steel,
Trampling my naked hosts with armèd heel
And raising up the Cross; and me they found
Within my shining palace sitting crown’d,
’Mid priests and slaves that trembled at my nod,
And bade me worship him, their pale white God,
Nailèd upon a Tree and crucified;
And when upon mine own strong gods I cried,
They answer’d not! nay, even when I was cast
Unto the dust, bound like a slave at last,
Still they were dumb; and tho’ my people arose
Innumerable, they were scattered even as snows
Before the wintry blast; with sword and spear
The bloody Spaniard hunted them like deer,
So that my realm ran blood in this Man’s name;
And lo! my proud heart broken with its shame,
I died to all my glory, and lay mute,
Defiled, and scorn’d, beneath the Spaniard’s foot,                             105
And all my Kingdom fell to nothingness.’

He pass’d, and after him came Monarchs less
Than he, yet proud and mighty,—I watch’d them fly
Like flocks of antelopes beneath the sky,
And harrying them the Hunters clad in mail
Follow’d, with cruel faces marble pale,
Lifting the Cross, and speeding fast beyond
My sight, on steeds with gold caparison’d.

Nor ceased the pageant yet. Sceptred and crown’d,
A King, with plumèd legions wailing round,
Stood up and cried:

                               ‘The splendour of the Sun
Illumed the Temples where my rites were done,
And to the Sun-god who for ever gazed
With face of gold upon my realm, I raised
The pæan and the prayer. Beneath my rule
The happy lands grew bright and beautiful,                                         106
And countless thousands innocent of strife
Blest me, and that refulgent Fount of Life.                                          [l.iii]
Fairer my palaces and temples far
In sight of Heaven than Morn or Even Star,
For in them dwelt the quickening Light of him
Before whose glory every sphere is dim!
Yea, but at last mine eyes did gaze upon
A blood-star, rising o’er the horizon
Out eastward, and before its baleful ray
The Sun-god shrivel’d and was driven away;
And leagued with iron monsters belching fire,
And riding living monsters tame yet dire,
Out from the gulfs of sudden blackness pour’d
A mailèd band who called this man their Lord,
And slew us ev’n as sheep, and undertrod
The shining temples of the Sun, our God;
Me too they smote and slaughter’d, offering me,
Last of the Incas, to their Deity—
And Darkness reign’d where once the Light had shone!’

Wailing, he wrung his hands and wander’d on,                                     107
And after him like bleeding sheep a train
Of naked slaughter’d things that sob’d in pain—
Midst them a dusky woman richly drest,                                             [l.iv]
Who wrung her hands and smote her naked breast,
Crying, ‘I loved the soldier of this Jew,
And me he lusted for, then foully slew,
And wheresoe’er his Cross waved overhead
Came shrieks of women torn and ravishèd!’
And round her as she spake those butcher’d bands
Of women smote their breasts or wrung their hands.

‘O shadowy crowds of men,’ the Accuser cried,
‘Dark naked women, children piteous-eyed,
All manacled and bleeding, worn and weak,
How do ye testify against him? Speak!’

‘Because,’ they said, ‘the radiant summer Light
Had burnt our bodies and made them black yet bright,
Altho’ our hearts within were sweet and mild,
We suffered sorrow, man and wife and child:                                      108
Far in the West we prayed, bending the knee
In Cities fairer far than Nineveh,
And high as Heaven arose fair palaces
Lit with the many colour’d images
Of gentle gods,—but on our shores there came
Devils that smote us in this white God’s name,
Our gods dethroned, our temples overcast,
And scattered us as chaff before the blast.
This Jew looked on. His Priests piled gold, while we
Were basely slain or sold to slavery;
Tears worse than blood we shed, and bloodiest sweat,
While on the soil, with blood of millions wet,
They did upraise his Church, that rose on high
With fiery finger pointing at the sky
Where every happy star had ceased to shine!’


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Part XI:
Page 100, l. i: WITH woe unutterable, and pity vast
Page 100, l. xiii: Its heart of stars out on His hoary head.
Page 103, l. xvi: There, as I reigned, and millions bless’d my sway,
Page 106, l. iii: Bless’d me, and that refulgent Fount of Life.
Page 107, l. iv: ’Midst them a dusky woman richly dress’d ]





‘THOU hearest, Jew?’

                                     But Jesus made no sign.

With woe unutterable and pity vast
As the still Heaven on which his eyes were cast,
He listen’d dumbly, while new voices cried,
‘We too were slain, and by his Priests we died!’
And like to cloud on cloud, blown by the wind
And broken, dusky swarms of Humankind
Still came and went; and then rose wailing crowds
Who bare the lighted candle, and in their shrouds
Walk’d naked-footed to the martyr’s pyre;
With men whose entrails Famine’s hidden fire
Gnaw’d till they shriek’d aloud; and everywhere
A cruel scent of carnage filled the air,                                                 110
As countless armèd legions of the slain
Roll’d up as if for battle once again,
While o’er them, flaming between earth and sky,
The crimson Cross was swung!

                                           All these pass’d by;
Then Silence deep as Death fell suddenly,
And all was hushèd as a rainy Sea!

Then came a rush of hosts mingled in storm
Confusedly, and phantoms multiform
That shriek’d and smote each other!

                                   ‘Behold them,’ cried
The Accuser, ‘Followers of the Crucified!
The ravening wolves of wrath that never sleep,
Yet seek his fold and call themselves his sheep!
Where’er they strive, Murder and Madness dwell,
And Earth is lighted with the hates of Hell!
Lo, how they love each other, having heard                                         111
The crafty gospel of his broken Word!
Lo, how they surge in everlasting strife,
Seeking the mirage of Eternal Life!’

Struggling unto the Judgment place they came,
Smiting each other in their Master’s Name;
Beneath their feet fell women stab’d and cleft,
And little children anguishing bereft.
And like a River of Blood that ever grew,
They rush’d until they roll’d round that pale Jew,
And lo! his feet grew bloody ere he was ’ware!
Yet still they smote each other, and in despair
Shriek’d out his praises as they multiplied
Their dead around him . . . And thus they testified!

And he, the Man Forlorn, stood mute in woe.

I saw the white corpse of the Huguenot
Float past him on that dreadful Sea of Lives;
I saw the nun struck down and gash’d with knives                               112
Ev’n as she told her beads; I saw them pass,
The Martyrs of the Book or of the Mass,
Cast down and slain alike; the priest of Rome
Fought with the priest of Luther, thrusting home
With venomous knife or sword; and evermore
The Cross of Blood was wildly waven o’er
The waves of carnage, till they swept from sight,
Moaning and rushing onward thro’ the Night.

Then, as the Storm seem’d weeping itself away,
I saw two ghostly Spirits looming grey
Against that dark Golgotha, and one of these
Clung to the other, and sank upon his knees.

‘What man art thou?’

                                     ‘JEAN CALAS.’

                                               ‘He whose hands
Thou, kneeling, wettest with thy tears; who stands
Smiling upon the Accused?’

                                           The last replied:                                       113
‘VOLTAIRE the people named me. I denied
The godhead of that Jew, and at his brow
Pointed in mockery and scorn, as now!
Pope, Kings, and Priests shiver’d like frighten’d birds
Before the rain and lightning of my words,
And crouch’d with draggled plumage, awed and dumb,
Because they deem’d that Antichrist had come.
One day I heard this man in his poor home
Shriek loud, encircled by the snakes of Rome;
And tho’ their poison slew him, ere he died
I crush’d the vipers ’neath my heel, and cried
“Thy woes shall be avengèd; I am here!”
Even then a million wretches cast off fear,
And looking on this man’s seed, redeem’d by me,
Fear’d the foul Christ no longer, and grew free!’

Thin, gaunt and pale, around his lips the ray
Of a cold scorn, he smiled and passed away,
His eyes upon the Jew; and with him went
Dark silent men whose musing eyes were bent                                    114
On open scrolls; and ’mong them laughing stood
A King who held a mimic Cross of wood,
And broke it o’er his knee, with a fierce jest;
So pass’d they, Holbach, Diderot, and the rest,
The foes of Godhead and the friends of Man;
But after them great crowds in tumult ran,
Who waved their dark and blood-stain’d arms and shrieked,
‘We, who had lain in darkness, rose and wreak’d
Man’s wrath on this false God, who had scorn’d our prayer
And sent his Kings and Slaves to strip us bare!
Yea, in his Name the Harlots and the Priests
Yoked us and harness’d us like blinded beasts;
And when we cried for food they profferèd
The stones of his cold Gospel and not bread;
And where his blessing fell the foul found gold,
And where it fell not we were bought and sold.
His foot was on the heads beneath him bowed,
His hand was with the pitiless and the proud,                                      115
His mercy failed us, but the curse he gave
Pursued our spirits even beyond the grave.
Thus he who had promised love gave only hate!
He spake of Heaven and made Earth desolate!
Thou didst at last avenge us, Spirit of Man,
Through thee the Night was cloven and Day began,
And on thine altars blood as sacrament
Appal’d the Kings of Earth this God had sent!’

Then once again the Accuser rose and cried:
‘The countless hosts of Dead have testified;
But lastly, to this solemn Judgment-place,
I summon up the seed of this Man’s race;
Bear witness now, ye Jews, against this Jew!’





THEN instantly, as if some swift hand drew
A curtain back, the darkness of the Night                                            [l.ii]
Was cloven, and thronging in the starry light
New legions of the ghostly Dead appear’d,
And ever, as the Judgment Seat they near’d,
They shriek’d ‘MESSIAH!’ and with lips apart,
Startled as if a knife had prick’d His heart,
That pale Jew listen’d, and his wan face turn’d
To those who cried; but when those hosts discern’d
His human lineaments, they shriek’d anew
‘One God we worship, and this Man we slew,
Seeing he took the Holy Name in vain!
And since that hour that he was justly slain,
His hate hath follow’d us from place to place!
Wherefore, O Judge, we, children of his race,
Scorn’d, tortured, shamed, defamed, defiled, and driven                      117
Outcast from every gate of Earth or Heaven,
Still martyr’d living and still dishonour’d dead,
Demand thy wrath and judgment on his head,
Jesus the Jew, not Christ, but Antichrist!’

Dumb as a lamb brought to be sacrificed,
Helpless and bound, He listen’d—still with gaze
Fix’d on the starry azure’s pathless ways,
But down his cheeks, furrow’d with weary years,
Slowly and softly fell the piteous tears.

Like hordes of wolves, fierce, foul, and famishing,
That round some lonely Traveller shriek and spring,
Black’ning the snows around his lonely path,
Rending each other in their hungry wrath,
The children of the Ghetto, gathering there,
His brethren, fed their eyes on his despair
And spat their hate upon him; and the snow
Was sooted with these nameless shapes of woe;
But hither and thither ’mid the ravening horde,                                    118
Moved Rabbis who lookt upward and adored
The Lord of Hosts, with hoary Saints and Seers,
And dark-eyed Maids who sang with sobs and tears
Of God’s bright City overthrown in shame,
Jerusalem the Golden!—and at the Name
The woeful throngs who roll’d in tumult by
Rent robes, and wail’d, and echoed back the cry
‘Jerusalem! Jerusalem!’—and lo!
From ’midst the multitudinous ebb and flow
That ever came and went, there did arise
A Prophet, with white beard and burning eyes,
Saying, ‘Holy, Holy still, thy Name shall be,
Jerusalem, thro’ God’s Eternity!
For tho’ thy glory hath fallen, and thy gate
Lies broken, and thy streets are desolate,
And on thy head ashes and dust are flung,
And in thy folds the wolf suckles her young,
Thou shalt arise in splendour and in pride,
And we, thy people, shall be justified!                                                [l.xx]
Our tents are scattered, and our robes are riven,                                119
Like chaff before the blast our race hath driven
In darkness, ever homeless, thro’ the lands,
But never another City by our hands
Hath been upbuilded, since where’er we roam
Thou, City of God, art still our Hope and Home!
And tho’ with bitterest tears our eyes are dim,
We hearken ever for the call of Him
Who thunder’d upon Sinai! . . . In thy breast
This Snake who stings thee still doth make his nest!
This Son who smote thee, Mother, still doth lie
Within thine arms; but o’er thee, yonder on high,
Watches the God of Jacob! Patience yet!
Tho’ for a little space thy sun hath set,
As red as blood it shall arise again
For vengeance, and the God of Wrath shall reign,
With thee, his Bride long chosen, and over us,
Thy children!’
                         Thronging multitudinous,
With one great voice they answered: ‘Holy be
Thy Name, Jerusalem, thro’ Eternity!’                                                120
And now their wailings sobb’d themselves to calm,
While to a sound of harps and lutes the psalm
Of Israël rose to Heaven—‘Holy be
Thy Name, Jerusalem, thro’ Eternity!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Part XIII:
Page 116, l. ii: A curtain back, the Darkness of the Night
Page 118, l. xx: And we, thy people, shall be justified; ]





THEN said that Form who sat in Judgment:

Once judged and slain, yet risen and judged anew,
Thou hast heard the Accuser and his Witnesses.
Hast thou a word to utter answering these?
Hast thou a living Soul beneath the sky
To rise upon thy side and testify?
Summon thy Witnesses, if such there be,
Ere I pronounce the doom of Man on thee!’

The Jew gazed round, and wheresoe’er his gaze
Shed on that throng its gentle suffering rays,
Tumult and wrath were hush’d, as in deep Night
Great waves lie down to lap the starry light
And lick the Moon’s cold feet that touch the Sea.

‘I have no word to answer,’ murmured He,                                         122
‘The winter of mine age hath come, and lo!
My heart within sinks ’neath its weight of woe!
So faint and far-removed all seems to be,
I seem the ghost of mine own Deity,
The apparition of myself, and not
A living thing with will or strength or thought!
Yet I remember (here his piteous eyes
Search’d the bare Heavens again with dim surmise),
Yet I remember, on this my Judgment Day,
Not what is near, but what is far away.
Within my Father’s House I fell to sleep
In dreamless slumber mystical and deep,
And when I waken’d to mine own faint crying,
Above the cradle small where I was lying
A Mother’s face hung like a star, and smiled.

‘Transform’d into the likeness of a child,
Feebly I drank the milk of mortal being;
But as the green world brightened to my seeing
And the round arc of air closed over me,                                             123
The Land beyond grew dark to memory,
And I forgot my former dwelling-place,
The Life Eternal, and my Father’s Face.
Closer and darker, as the summers flew,
The folds of flesh around my spirit grew,
Shutting that heavenly Mansion from my sight,
Save oftentimes in visions of the night
When for a space I slept the sleep of earth;
But since that moment of my mortal birth,
I have not seen my Father, and now he seems
More faint than any form beheld in dreams!’

He paused, uplifting still his weary gaze
To search the empty Heaven’s pathless ways
For miracle and token, then was dumb.

‘Thy quest hath fail’d, thy Kingdom hath not come,’
The dark Judge said; ‘thy promise was a Lie—
Thy Witnesses?’

                             And Jesus made reply:                                          124
‘Hosts of the happy Dead whom I have blest!’

‘Call—let them come!’

                                       ‘I would not break their rest.’

‘Thou hast lied to them, O Jew!’ the dark Judge cried.

And Jesus said, ‘O Judge, I have not lied!’

‘False was thy promise—false and mad and drear.
There is no Father!’

                                 ‘Father, dost Thou hear?’

‘Enough—renew thy miracles, and prove
Thy words, O Jew! From yonder Void above
Summon the Form, the Face, in all men’s eyes,
And we absolve thee!’

                                       On the starry skies,                                      125
Still thinly shrouded with the falling snow,
He fix’d his wistful gaze, and answer’d low,
‘I bide my Father’s time!’





                                       THEN, as he bent
His brow like one who kneels for sacrament,
And on his feeble form and hoary head
The benediction of the Night was shed,
Methought I saw a Shape behind him stand,
Grim as a godhead graven in brass, his hand
Uplifted, and his wrinkled face set stern,
While terrible his deep black eyes did burn
In scornful wrath. Naked as any stone
He stood, save for a beast’s skin loosely thrown
Around his dusky shoulders, and he said:

‘Thy Witnesses?—Lord of the Quick and Dead,
Call them, and they shall come! I first, who stood
And prophesied by Jordan’s rolling flood,
And saw thee shining o’er the throng on me,                                      127
Thro’ the white cloud of thy Humanity,
And knew thee in a moment by those eyes
Full of the peace of our lost Paradise!
Master and Lord of Life, these hands of mine
Baptized thee, blest thee, hailed thee most Divine,
Long promised, the Messiah!—and tho’ thy brow
Is furrowed deep with years, I know thee now,
And in the name of all thou wast and art,
God’s substance, of the living God a part,
Bear witness still, as I bare witness then,
Before this miserable race of men!’

Then saw I, as he ceased and stood aside,
Another Spirit fair and radiant-eyed,
Who, creeping thither, at the Jew’s feet fell,
And looking up with love ineffable
Cried ‘Master!’ and I knew that I beheld,
Tho’ his face, too, was worn and grey with eld,
That other John whom Jesus to his breast
Drew tenderly, because he loved him best!                                        128
But even as I gazed, my soul was stirred
By other Shapes that stole without a word
Out of the silent dark, and kneeling low
Stretchèd out loving hands and wept in woe:
The gentle Mother of God grown grey and old,
Her silver hair still thinly sown with gold,
Mary the wife, and Mary Magdalen
Who murmur’d ‘Lord, behold thy Handmaiden,’
And kiss’d his feet, her face so sadly fair
Hid in the shadows of her snow-strewn hair;
And close to them, as thick as stars, appear’d
Faces of children brightening as they near’d
The presence of their Father; and following these
Pallid Apostles falling upon their knees,
Crying ‘Messiah!—Master—we are here!’

As some poor famish’d wight doth take good cheer
Seeing an open door and one who stands
Upon the threshold with outstretchèd hands
That welcome him to some well-laden board,                                     129
That Wanderer brightened, while they murmur’d ‘Lord!
We are thy Witnesses in all men’s sight!’

Feebly yet happily he rose his height,
And even as a Shepherd grave and old
Who smiles upon his flock within the fold,
He shone upon them till that sad place seemed
Fair as a starry night; and still they stream’d
Out of the shadows, passionately crying
Upon the Name Beloved and testifying,
Till the dark Earth forgot its sorrowing
And grew as glad as Heaven opening!

Then one cried (and I knew him, for his face
Was dark and proud, yet lit with dews of grace,
And like an organ’s peal his strong voice rang
With solemn echoes as of Saints that sang),
‘Thy Witnesses? Father of all that be,
I persecuted those who followed thee,                                                130
Thy remnant, till thy fire from out the sky
Smote me, and as I fell I heard thee cry,
“Saul, Saul!”—and shook as at the touch of Death;
But on my face and eyelids came thy breath
To make me whole; and lo! I sheathed the sword,
And girded up my loins to preach thy Word.
And the World listen’d, while the heathen praised
Thy glory, and believed; and I upraised
Temples of marble where thy flocks might pray,
And where no Temple was from day to day
I made the Earth thy Temple, and the sky
A roof for thy Belovèd. Lamb of God,
Thy blood redeemed the Nations, while I trode
The garden of thy gospel, bearing thence
Strange flowers of Love and holy Innocence,
And setting up aloft for all to see
Thy Hûleh-lilies, Faith, Hope, Charity;
And of these three I knew the last was best
Because, like thee, dear Lord, ’twas lowliest!
Thy Witnesses? Countless as desert sands                                         131
Their bones are scatter’d o’er the seas and lands!
Whene’er the Lamp of Life hath sunken low,
Whene’er Death beckon’d and ’twas time to go,
Where’er dark Pestilence and Disease had crawl’d,
Where’er the Soul was darken’d and appal’d,
Where mothers wept above their dead first-born,
Where children to green graves brought gifts forlorn
Of flowers and tears, where, struck ’spite helm and shield,
Pale warriors moan’d upon the battlefield,
Where Horror thicken’d as a spider’s mesh
Round plague-smit men and lepers foul of flesh,
Where Love and Innocence were brought to shame,
And Life forgot its conscience and its aim,
Thy blessing, even as Light from far away,
Came bright and radiant upon eyes of clay
And turn’d the tears of pain to tears of bliss!
Nay, more, to Death itself thy loving kiss
Brought consecration; he, that Angel sad,
Ran like a Lamb beside thee, and was glad
Uplooking in thy face!’                                                                      132
He ceased, and lo!
Like warriors gathering when the trumpets blow,
Shapes of dead Saints arose, a shining throng,
And standing in their shrouds upraised the song
‘Hosannah to the Lord!’—Faint was the cry
Withering on the wind as if to die,
And loud as clarion-winds above the sound
Shrill’d the fierce anger of the hosts around;
And while before the Storm his head was bowed
They rose like ocean waves and clamour’d aloud
For judgment on the Jew!





                                         FAR as the sight
Could penetrate the blackness of the Night,
Stretchèd the multitudinous living Sea,
The angry waters of Humanity,
And lo! their voice was as the ocean’s roar
Thund’rously beating on some sleepless shore;
And he, the Man Divine, whose eyes were dim
With shining down on those who worshipt him,
Seem’d as a lonely pharos on a rock,
Firm in its place, yet shaken by the shock,
And ever blinded by the pitiless foam
Of waves that surge and thunder as they come!

And as I have seen, on some lone ocean-isle
Where never Summer lights or flowers may smile,
But where the fury of the Tempest blows,                                           134
The ocean birds in black and shivering rows
Huddle along the rocks; now one, alone,
Plunges upon the whirlwind, and is blown
Hither and thither as a straw, and then
Struggles back feebly to his rocky den,
There still to shiver and eye the dreadful flood
And with his comrades hungering for food
Ruffle the feathery crest and brood in fear:—
Ev’n so, those lonely Saints who gather’d near
The Man forlorn, seem’d to the Sea of Life
Which rose around with ceaseless stress and strife,
And ever one of these, as if to face
The angry blast, would flutter from his place,
And driven hither and thither be backward blown,
And fall again with faint despairing moan
At his sad Master’s feet!

                                       Then as the Storm
Raged ever louder round his lonely form,
The Jew uplifted hands and cried aloud!                                              135

And in a moment, Darkness like a cloud
Cover’d him, the great whirlwinds ceased to roar,
And all those Waves of Life were still once more.





THEN said that Form who sat in Judgment there:

‘Ye saw a mirage and ye thought it fair,
He brought a gospel and ye found it sweet,
Yea, deemed it heavenly manna and did eat,
Yet were ye empty still and never fed.
This man has given ye husks to eat, not bread.
He said “There is no Death!” yet Death doth reign.
He promised you a gift no man may gain,
Yea, Life that shall endure eternally,
And told ye of a God no eye shall see,
Because He is not! Bid him lift his hand
And show the Life Divine and Heavenly Land,
Bid him arise and take his Throne and reign!
He cannot, for he knoweth he dream’d in vain,
And empty of his hope he stands at last,                                             137
Now the full measure of his power hath passed.
Not yours the sin, poor Shadows of the Dead,
Not yours the shame, which rests upon his head
As dust and ashes. Back to your graves, and sleep!
We judge the Shepherd, not the blameless sheep
Who gather’d on the heights to hear his voice
Cry down to deep on deep “Rejoice! rejoice!”
Fringe of his raiment that is riven and rent,
Breath of his nostrils that is lost and spent,
Thin echoes of his voice from out the tomb,
Go by. This man is ours, to judge and doom.’

He spake; and quietly, without a word,
The Christ bow’d down his head, but those who heard,
His remnant, wringing hands and making moan,
Cried: ‘Lord, thou hearest? Speak—and take thy Throne!
Still these wild waters of Humanity,
Walking thereon, as once on Galilee!
Our graves lie open yonder, but we are fain                                        138
To wake with thee and never to sleep again—
Unfold Thy Heavens, and bid these clouds give place,
That we may look upon the Father’s face!’

And Jesus answer’d not, but shook and wept.

Then the grey Mother to his bosom crept,
And with her thin hands touch’d his sad grey hair,
Saying ‘My Son, my First-born! Let me share
Thy failure or Thy glory! Free or bound,
Cast down into the dust or throned and crown’d,
Thou art still my Son!’ and kneeling at his feet,
That other Mary, gazing up to meet
The blessing of his eyes, cried ‘Holy be
Thy Name, for all the joy it brought to me!
Not for thy Godhead did I hold thee dear,
Not for thy Father, who hath left thee here
Helpless, unpitied, homeless ’neath the skies,
But for the human love within thine eyes!
And wheresoe’er thou goest, howsoe’er                                            139
Thou fallest, tho’ it be to Hell’s despair,
I, thy poor handmaid, still would follow thee,
For in thy face is Love’s Eternity,
And tho’ thou art of all the World bereaven,
Still, where thou art, Belovèd, there is Heaven!’

As some white Alpine peak, wrapt round with cloud,
Suddenly sweeps aside its clinging shroud
Of gloomy mists and vapours dark and chill,
And shines in lonely splendour clear and still,
With gleams of stainless ice and snow thrice shriven,
Against the azure of the opening Heaven,
So that the soul is shaken unaware
With that new glory desolately fair,—
E’en so the Christ, uprising suddenly
To loneliness of lofty sovereignty,
Cast off the darkness of despair and tower’d
High o’er the shadows that beneath him cower’d!
Then all was hush’d, while on his hoary head
Light from a million spheres was softly shed,                                        140
Fire from a million worlds that lit the Night
Fell on his face miraculously bright,
And even that Judge who watch’d him from afar
Seem’d but a storm-cloud shrinking ’neath a Star!
And thus, while heavenly anger lit his cheek
As still sheet-lightning lights the snowy peak,
He answered:
                         ‘Woe! eternal Woe! be yours
Who scorn the Eternal Pity which endures
While all things else pass by! Your lips did thirst—
I brought ye water from the Founts which burst
Beneath the bright tread of my Father’s feet!
Ye hunger’d, and I brought ye food to eat—
Manna, not husks or ashes: these ye chose,
And me, the living Christ, ye bruised with blows
And would have slain once more, and evermore!
Ye revell’d, and I moan’d without your door
Outcast and cold; ye sinnèd in my Name,
And flung me then the raiment of your shame;
Ye turn’d the heart of the Eternal One                                                 141
’Gainst you, his children, and ’gainst me, his Son,
So that my promise grew a dream forlorn,
And all I sow’d in love, ye reapt in scorn.
Woe to ye all! and endless Woe to Me
Who deem’d that I could save Humanity!
The Father knew men better when He sent
His angel Death to be his instrument
And smite them ever down as with a sword!
Instead of Death, I offer’d ye my Word,
My Light, my Truth, my Life!—I wasted breath,
For though I gave ye these, ye turn’d to Death!
And I, your Lord, for love of you, denied
My Soul the sleep it sought, and rose to guide
Your footsteps to the Land we ne’er shall gain,
Because at last I know my Dream was vain!
I plough’d the rocks, and cast in rifts of stone
The seeds of Life Divine that ne’er have grown;
I labour’d and I labour, last and first,
Within a barren Vineyard God hath curst;
And now the Winter of mine age is here,                                            142
And one by one like leaves ye disappear,
While I, a blighted Tree, abide to show
The Woe of all Mankind, the eternal Woe
Which I, your Lord, must share!’

                                         Even so he spake,
Pallid in wrath; but as low murmurs wake
Under the region of the Peak, and rise
To thunders answered from the thund’ring skies,
While cataract cries to cataract, and o’erhead
Heaven darkens into anger deep and dread,
Cries from the shadowy legions answer’d him,
Wild voices wail’d, and all the Void grew dim
With cloud on cloud. So that serene sad Face
Was blotted out of vision for a space,
And out of darkness on that radiant form
Sprang the fierce pards and panthers of the Storm!
Then the Earth trembled, and the crimson levin
Shot swift and lurid o’er the vaults of Heaven,
And thunder answer’d thunder with crash on crash                             143
As beast doth beast, but at each lightning-flash
I saw him standing pale and terrible,
Unscath’d yet swathen as with fire from Hell!

But lo, from out the darkness round his feet
There came a voice most passionately sweet
Crying ‘Adonai! Lord! Forgive us, even
Altho’ our sins be seventy times seven!
Comfort the remnant of thy flock, and bless
Thy Well Belovèd!’—and my Soul could guess
Whose voice had call’d, for at the voice’s sound
He trembled and he reach’d towards the ground
With eager trembling hands; and at the touch
Of her who had loved not wisely, but too much,
His force fell from him, and he wept aloud,
While heavily his hoary head was bowed
In utter impotence of Deity!





EVEN then, methought, that angry living Sea
Surged round him, and again I did discern
The Phantoms of Golgotha!—Soldiers stern
Who pointed with their spears and pricked him on,
While on his shoulders drooping woe-begone
They thrust the great black Cross! Upon his head
A crown of thorns was set, and dript its red
Dark drops upon his brow, while loud they cried
‘Lo, this is Jesus whom we crucified,
And lo, he hath risen, and shall die once more!’
And as a waif is cast on some dark shore
By breaking waves of Ocean and is ta’en
Back by the surge again and yet again,
Even so the Man was tost, till he lay prone,
Breathless, a ragged heap, beneath the Throne.

Golgotha! Like the very Hill of Death,                                                 145
Skull-shapen, yet a living thing of breath,
The dark Judge loom’d, with orbs of fateful flame,
And motion’d back the crying crowd that came
Shrieking for judgment on that holy head;
And lo, they faltered back!
                                             Then the Voice said:
‘Arise, O Jew!’
                             And Jesus rose.
Take up thy Cross!’
                                   Calm, with no moan of pain,
Jesus took up the Cross. While ’neath its load
He shook as if to fall, his white hair snow’d
Around his woeful face and wistful eyes!

While thus he stood, bowed down in pain, the cries
Of those who loved him pierced his suffering heart.
Trembling he heard again, with lips apart
And listening eyes, the faithful remnant moan:                                       146
‘Adonai! Lord and Master! Take thy Throne,
And claim thy Kingdom!’ but with clamorous sound
Of laughter fierce and mad the cry was drowned,
And at his naked breast the forkèd light
Stabb’d like a knife, while thro’ the gulfs of Night
The thunders roar’d!

                                   Trembling at last he rose,
And as a wind-smit tree shakes off the snows
That cling upon its boughs, he gatherèd
His strength together, and with lifted head
Gazed at his Judge; and lo, again the storm
Of darkness ebbed away and left his Form
Serene and luminous as an Alpine peak
Shining above these valleys! On his cheek
The sheeted light gleam’d softly, while on high
The silent azure open’d like an eye
And gazed upon him, pitilessly fair.

So round about him as he waited there                                                147
Silence like starlight fell, till suddenly,
Like surge innumerable of one great Sea,
A million voices moaned, ‘Speak now his Doom!’





THEN, pointing with dark finger thro’ the gloom
On him who stood erect with hoary head,
The Judge gazed down with dreadful eyes, and said:

‘Ere yet I speak thy Doom that must be spoken
Before the World whose great heart thou hast broken,
Hast thou another word to say, O Jew?’

And the Jew answer’d, while the heavenly blue
Fill’d like an eye with starry crystal tears,
‘Far have I wander’d thro’ the sleepless years—
Be pitiful, O Judge, and let me die!’

‘Death to him, Death!’ I heard the voices cry
Of that great Multitude. But the Voice said:
                                                                 ‘Nay!                              149
Death that brought peace thyself didst seek to slay!
Death that was merciful and very fair,
Sweet dove-eyed Death that hush’d the Earth’s despair,
Death that shed balm on tirèd eyes like thine,
Death that was Lord of Life and all Divine,
Thou didst deny us, offering instead
The Soul’s fierce famine that can ne’er be fed—
Death shall abide to bless all things that be,
But evermore shall turn aside from thee—
Hear then thy Doom!’
                                 He paused, while all around
The Sea of Life lay still without a sound,
And on the Man Divine, Death’s King and Lord,
The sacrament of heavenly Light was pour’d.

‘Since thou hast quicken’d what thou canst not kill,
Awaken’d famine thou canst never still,
Spoken in madness, prophesied in vain,
And promised what no thing of clay shall gain,
Thou shalt abide while all things ebb and flow,                                    150
Wake while the weary sleep, wait while they go,
And treading paths no human feet have trod
Search on still vainly for thy Father, God;
Thy blessing shall pursue thee as a curse
To hunt thee, homeless, thro’ the Universe;
No hand shall slay thee, for no hand shall dare
To strike the godhead Death itself must spare!
With all the woes of Earth upon thy head,
Uplift thy Cross, and go. Thy Doom is said.’





AND lo! while all men come and pass away,
That Phantom of the Christ, forlorn and grey,
Haunteth the Earth with desolate footfall. . . .

God help the Christ, that Christ may help us all!


Note to the Second Edition of The Wandering Jew and Press Comments

“Is Christianity Played Out?” - The Wandering Jew controversy.



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