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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery

VII

BARABBAS IN PRISON

BARABBAS, to his fellow-prisoners
Barabbas is my name,
Barabbas, the Son of Shame,
  Is the meaning, I suppose;
I'm no better than the best,
And whether worse than the rest
  Of my fellow-men, who knows?

I was once, to say it in brief,
A highwayman, a robber-chief,
  In the open light of day.
So much I am free to confess;
But all men, more or less,
  Are robbers in their way.

From my cavern in the crags,
From my lair of leaves and flags,
  I could see, like ants, below,
The camels with their load
Of merchandise, on the road
  That leadeth to Jericho.

And I struck them unaware,
As an eagle from the air
  Drops down upon bird or beast;
And I had my heart's desire
Of the merchants of Sidon and Tyre,
  And Damascus and the East.

But it is not for that I fear;
It is not for that I am here
  In these iron fetters bound;
Sedition! that is the word
That Pontius Pilate heard,
  And he liketh not the sound.

What think ye, would he care
For a Jew slain here or there,
  Or a plundered caravan?
But Caesar!--ah, that is a crime,
To the uttermost end of time
  Shall not be forgiven to man.

Therefore was Herod wroth
With Matthias Margaloth,
  And burned him for a show!
Therefore his wrath did smite
Judas the Gaulonite,
  And his followers, as ye know.

For that cause and no more,
Am I here, as I said before;
  For one unlucky night,
Jucundus, the captain of horse,
Was upon us with all his force,
  And I was caught in the flight,

I might have fled with the rest,
But my dagger was in the breast
  Of a Roman equerry,
As we rolled there in the street,
They bound me, hands and feet
  And this is the end of me.

Who cares for death?  Not I!
A thousand times I would die,
  Rather than suffer wrong!
Already those women of mine
Are mixing the myrrh and the wine;
  I shall not be with you long.