Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery



The streets are silent.  The dark houses seem
Like sepulchres, in which the sleepers lie
Wrapped in their shrouds, and for the moment dead.
The lamps are all extinguished; only one
Burns steadily, and from the door its light
Lies like a shining gate across the street.
He waits for me.  Ah, should this be at last
The long-expected Christ!  I see him there
Sitting alone, deep-buried in his thought,
As if the weight of all the world were resting
Upon him, and thus bowed him down.  O Rabbi,
We know thou art a Teacher come from God,
For no man can perform the miracles
Thou dost perform, except the Lord be with him.
Thou art a Prophet, sent here to proclaim
The Kingdom of the Lord.  Behold in me
A Ruler of the Jews, who long have waited
The coming of that kingdom.  Tell me of it.

Verily, verily I say unto thee,
Except a man be born again, he cannot
Behold the Kingdom of God!

                      Be born again?
How can a man be born when he is old?
Say, can he enter for a second time
Into his mother's womb, and so be born?

Verily I say unto thee, except
A man be born of water and the spirit,
He cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
For that which of the flesh is born, is flesh;
And that which of the spirit is born, is spirit.

We Israelites from the Primeval Man
Adam Ahelion derive our bodies;
Our souls are breathings of the Holy Ghost.
No more than this we know, or need to know.

Then marvel not, that I said unto thee
Ye must be born again.

                       The mystery
Of birth and death we cannot comprehend.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear
The sound thereof, but know not whence it cometh,
Nor whither it goeth.  So is every one
Born of the spirit!

              How can these things be?
He seems to speak of some vague realm of shadows,
Some unsubstantial kingdom of the air!
It is not this the Jews are waiting for,
Nor can this be the Christ, the Son of David,
Who shall deliver us!

                     Art thou a master
Of Israel, and knowest not these things?
We speak that we do know, and testify
That we have seen, and ye will not receive
Our witness.  If I tell you earthly things,
And ye believe not, how shall ye believe,
If I should tell you of things heavenly?
And no man hath ascended up to heaven,
But he alone that first came down from heaven,
Even the Son of Man which is in heaven!

This is a dreamer of dreams; a visionary,
Whose brain is overtasked, until he deems
The unseen world to be a thing substantial,
And this we live in, an unreal vision!
And yet his presence fascinates and fills me
With wonder, and I feel myself exalted
Into a higher region, and become
Myself in part a dreamer of his dreams,
A seer of his visions!

                      And as Moses
Uplifted the serpent in the wilderness,
So must the Son of Man be lifted up;
That whosoever shall believe in Him
Shall perish not, but have eternal life.
He that believes in Him is not condemned;
He that believes not, is condemned already.

He speaketh like a Prophet of the Lord!

This is the condemnation; that the light
Is come into the world, and men loved darkness
Rather than light, because their deeds are evil!

Of me he speaketh!  He reproveth me,
Because I come by night to question him!

For every one that doeth evil deeds
Hateth the light, nor cometh to the light
Lest he should be reproved.

                      Alas, how truly
He readeth what is passing in my heart!

But he that doeth truth comes to the light,
So that his deeds may be made manifest,
That they are wrought in God.

                          Alas! alas!