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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery

VII

THE COASTS OF CAESAREA PHILIPPI

CHRISTUS, going up the mountain.
Who do the people say I am?

JOHN.
                           Some say
That thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias;
And others Jeremiah.

JAMES.
                    Or that one
Of the old Prophets is risen again.

CHRISTUS.
But who say ye I am?

PETER.
                 Thou art the Christ?
Thou art the Son of God!

CHRISTUS.
                     Blessed art thou,
Simon Barjona!  Flesh and blood hath not
Revealed it unto thee, but even my Father,
Which is in Heaven.  And I say unto thee
That thou art Peter; and upon this rock
I build my Church, and all the gates of Hell
Shall not prevail against it.  But take heed
Ye tell no man that I am the Christ.
For I must go up to Jerusalem,
And suffer many things, and be rejected
Of the Chief Priests, and of the Scribes and Elders,
And must be crucified, and the third day
Shall rise again!

PETER.
             Be it far from thee, Lord!
This shall not be!

CHRISTUS.
            Get thee behind me, Satan!
Thou savorest not the things that be of God,
But those that be of men!  If any will
Come after me, let him deny himself,
And daily take his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it,
And whosoever will lose his life shall find it.
For wherein shall a man be profited
If he shall gain the whole world, and shall lose
Himself or be a castaway?

JAMES, after a long pause.
                          Why doth
The Master lead us up into this mountain?

PETER.
He goeth up to pray.

JOHN.
                 See where He standeth
Above us on the summit of the hill!
His face shines as the sun! and all his raiment
Exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller
On earth can white them!  He is not alone;
There are two with him there; two men of eld,
Their white beards blowing on the mountain air,
Are talking with him.

JAMES.
                    I am sore afraid!

PETER.
Who and whence are they?

JOHN.
                    Moses and Elias!

PETER.
O Master! it is good for us to be here!
If thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles;
For thee one, and for Moses and Elias!

JOHN.
Behold a bright cloud sailing in the sun!
It overshadows us.  A golden mist
Now hides them from us, and envelops us
And all the mountains in a luminous shadow!
I see no more.  The nearest rocks are hidden.

VOICE from the cloud.
Lo! this is my beloved Son!  Hear Him!

PETER.
It is the voice of God.  He speaketh to us,
As from the burning bush He spake to Moses!

JOHN.
The cloud-wreaths roll away.  The veil is lifted;
We see again.  Behold!  He is alone.
It was a vision that our eyes beheld,
And it hath vanished into the unseen.

CHRISTUS, coming down from the mountain.
I charge ye, tell the vision unto no one,
Till the Son of Man is risen from the dead!

PETER, aside.
Again He speaks of it!  What can it mean,
This rising from the dead?

JAMES.
                   Why say the Scribe!
Elias must first come?

CHRISTUS.
                      He cometh first,
Restoring all things.  But I say to you,
That this Elias is already come.
They knew him not, but have done unto him
Whate'er they listed, as is written of him.

PETER, aside.
It is of John the Baptist He is speaking.

JAMES.
As we descend, see, at the mountain's foot,
A crowd of people; coming, going, thronging
Round the disciples, that we left behind us,
Seeming impatient, that we stay so long.

PETER.
It is some blind man, or some paralytic
That waits the Master's coming to be healed.

JAMES.
I see a boy, who struggles and demeans him
As if an unclean spirit tormented him!

A CERTAIN MAN, running forward.
Lord! I beseech thee, look upon my son.
He is mine only child; a lunatic,
And sorely vexed; for oftentimes he falleth
Into the fire and oft into the water.
Wherever the dumb spirit taketh him
He teareth him.  He gnasheth with his teeth,
And pines away.  I spake to thy disciples
That they should cast him out, and they could not.

CHRISTUS.
O faithless generation and perverse!
How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?
Bring thy son hither.

BYSTANDERS.
                How the unclean spirit
Seizes the boy, and tortures him with pain!
He falleth to the ground and wallows, foaming!
He cannot live.

CHRISTUS.
                How long is it ago
Since this came unto him?

THE FATHER.
                       Even of a child.
Oh, have compassion on us, Lord, and help us,
If thou canst help us.

CHRISTUS.
                  If thou canst believe.
For unto him that verily believeth,
All things are possible.

THE FATHER.
                        Lord, I believe!
Help thou mine unbelief!

CHRISTUS.
               Dumb and deaf spirit,
Come out of him, I charge thee, and no more
Enter thou into him!

The boy utters a loud cry of pain, and then lies still.

BYSTANDERS.
                     How motionless
He lieth there.  No life is left in him.
His eyes are like a blind man's, that see not.
The boy is dead!

OTHERS.
           Behold! the Master stoops,
And takes him by the hand, and lifts him up.
He is not dead.

DISCIPLES.
         But one word from those lips,
But one touch of that hand, and he is healed!
Ah, why could we not do it?

THE FATHER.
                     My poor child!
Now thou art mine again.  The unclean spirit
Shall never more torment thee!  Look at me!
Speak unto me!  Say that thou knowest me!

DISCIPLES to CHRISTUS departing.
Good Master, tell us, for what reason was it
We could not cast him out?

CHRISTUS.
            Because of your unbelief!