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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery

VIII

ECCE HOMO

PILATE, on the tessellated pavement in front of his palace.
Ye have brought unto me this man, as one
Who doth pervert the people; and behold!
I have examined him, and found no fault
Touching the things whereof ye do accuse him.
No, nor yet Herod; for I sent you to him,
And nothing worthy of death he findeth in him.
Ye have a custom at the Passover;
That one condemned to death shall be released.
Whom will ye, then, that I release to you?
Jesus Barabbas, called the Son of Shame,
Or Jesus, Son of Joseph, called the Christ?

THE PEOPLE, shouting.
Not this man, but Barabbas!

PILATE.
                     What then will ye
That I should do with him that is called Christ?

THE PEOPLE.
Crucify him!

PILATE.
         Why, what evil hath he done?
Lo, I have found no cause of death in him;
I will chastise him, and then let him go.

THE PEOPLE, more vehemently.
Crucify him! crucify him!

A MESSENGER, to PILATE.
                       Thy wife sends
This message to thee,--Have thou naught to do
With that just man; for I this day in dreams
Have suffered many things because of him.

PILATE, aside.
The Gods speak to us in our dreams!  I tremble
At what I have to do!  O Claudia,
How shall I save him?  Yet one effort more,
Or he must perish!

Washes his hands before them.

                    I am innocent
Of the blood of this just person; see ye to it!

THE PEOPLE.
Let his blood be on us and on our children!

VOICES, within the palace.
Put on thy royal robes; put on thy crown,
And take thy sceptre!  Hail, thou King of the Jews!

PILATE.
I bring him forth to you, that ye may know
I find no fault in him.  Behold the man!

CHRISTUS is led in with the purple robe and crown of thorns.

CHIEF PRIESTS and OFFICERS.
Crucify him! crucify him!

PILATE.
                       Take ye him;
I find no fault in him.

CHIEF PRIESTS.
                     We have a Law,
And by our Law he ought to die; because
He made himself to be the Son of God.

PILATE, aside.
Ah! there are Sons of God, and demigods
More than ye know, ye ignorant High-Priests!

To CHRISTUS.
Whence art thou?

CHIEF PRIESTS.
            Crucify him! crucify him!

PILATE, to CHRISTUS.
Dost thou not answer me?  Dost thou not know
That I have power enough to crucify thee?
That I have also power to set thee free?

CHRISTUS.
Thou couldst have no power at all against me
Except that it were given thee from above;
Therefore hath he that sent me unto thee
The greater sin.

CHIEF PRIESTS.
               If thou let this man go,
Thou art not Caesar's friend.  For whosoever
Maketh himself a King, speaks against Caesar.

PILATE.
Ye Jews, behold your King!

CHIEF PRIESTS.
                    Away with him!
Crucify him!

PILATE.
           Shall I crucify your King?

CHIEF PRIESTS.
We have no King but Caesar!

PILATE.
                      Take him, then,
Take him, ye cruel and bloodthirsty priests,
More merciless than the plebeian mob,
Who pity and spare the fainting gladiator
Blood-stained in Roman amphitheatres,--
Take him, and crucify him if ye will;
But if the immortal Gods do ever mingle
With the affairs of mortals, which I doubt not,
And hold the attribute of justice dear,
They will commission the Eumenides
To scatter you to the four winds of heaven,
Exacting tear for tear, and blood for blood.
Here, take ye this inscription, Priests, and nail it
Upon the cross, above your victim's head:
Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

CHIEF PRIESTS.
Nay, we entreat! write not, the King of the Jews!
But that he said: I am the King of the Jews!

PILATE.
Enough.  What I have written, I have written.