Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery



When Rabban Simeon--upon whom be peace!--
Taught in these Schools, he boasted that his pen
Had written no word that he could call his own,
But wholly and always had been consecrated
To the transcribing of the Law and Prophets.
He used to say, and never tired of saying,
The world itself was built upon the Law.
And ancient Hillel said, that whosoever
Gains a good name gains something for himself,
But he who gains a knowledge of the Law
Gains everlasting life.  And they spake truly.
Great is the Written Law; but greater still
The Unwritten, the Traditions of the Elders,
The lovely words of Levites, spoken first
To Moses on the Mount, and handed down
From mouth to mouth, in one unbroken sound
And sequence of divine authority,
The voice of God resounding through the ages.

The Written Law is water; the Unwritten
Is precious wine; the Written Law is salt,
The Unwritten costly spice; the Written Law
Is but the body; the Unwritten, the soul
That quickens it and makes it breathe and live.
I can remember, many years ago,
A little bright-eyed school-boy, a mere stripling,
Son of a Galilean carpenter,
From Nazareth, I think, who came one day
And sat here in the Temple with the Scribes,
Hearing us speak, and asking many questions,
And we were all astonished at his quickness.
And when his mother came, and said: Behold
Thy father and I have sought thee, sorrowing;
He looked as one astonished, and made answer,
How is it that ye sought me?  Wist ye not
That I must be about my Father's business?
Often since then I see him here among us,
Or dream I see him, with his upraised face
Intent and eager, and I often wonder
Unto what manner of manhood he hath grown!
Perhaps a poor mechanic like his father,
Lost in his little Galilean village
And toiling at his craft, to die unknown
And he no more remembered among men.

CHRISTUS, in the outer court.
The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat;
All, therefore, whatsoever they command you,
Observe and do; but follow not their works
They say and do not.  They bind heavy burdens
And very grievous to be borne, and lay them
Upon men's shoulders, but they move them not
With so much as a finger!

GAMALIEL, looking forth.
                         Who is this
Exhorting in the outer courts so loudly?

Their works they do for to he seen of men.
They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge
The borders of their garments, and they love
The uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats
In Synagogues, and greetings in the markets,
And to be called of all men Rabbi, Rabbi!

It is that loud and turbulent Galilean,
That came here at the Feast of Dedication,
And stirred the people up to break the Law!

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom
Of heaven, and neither go ye in yourselves
Nor suffer them that are entering to go in!

How eagerly the people throng and listen,
As if his ribald words were words of wisdom!

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! for ye devour the houses
Of widows, and for pretence ye make long prayers;
Therefore shall ye receive the more damnation.

This brawler is no Jew,--he is a vile
Samaritan, and hath an unclean spirit!

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! ye compass sea and land
To make one proselyte, and when he is made
Ye make him twofold more the child of hell
Than you yourselves are!

               O my father's father!
Hillel of blessed memory, hear and judge!

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint,
Of anise, and of cumin, and omit
The weightier matters of the law of God,
Judgment and faith and mercy; and all these
Ye ought to have done, nor leave undone the others!

O Rabban Simeon! how must thy bones
Stir in their grave to hear such blasphemies!

Woe unto you, ye Scribes, and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! for ye make clean and sweet
The outside of the cup and of the platter,
But they within are full of all excess!

Patience of God! canst thou endure so long?
Or art thou deaf, or gone upon a journey?

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! for ye are very like
To whited sepulchres, which indeed appear
Beautiful outwardly, but are within
Filled full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness!

Am I awake?  Is this Jerusalem?
And are these Jews that throng and stare and listen?

Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees,
Ye hypocrites! because ye build the tombs
Of prophets, and adorn the sepulchres
Of righteous men, and say: if we had lived
When lived our fathers, we would not have been
Partakers with them in the blood of Prophets.
So ye be witnesses unto yourselves,
That ye are children of them that killed the Prophets!
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
I send unto you Prophets and Wise Men,
And Scribes, and some ye crucify, and some
Scourge in your Synagogues, and persecute
From city to city; that on you may come
The righteous blood that hath been shed on earth,
From the blood of righteous Abel to the blood
Of Zacharias, son of Barachias,
Ye slew between the Temple and the altar!

Oh, had I here my subtle dialectician,
My little Saul of Tarsus, the tent-maker,
Whose wit is sharper than his needle's point,
He would delight to foil this noisy wrangler!

Jerusalem! Jerusalem! O thou
That killest the Prophets, and that stonest them
Which are sent unto thee, how often would I
Have gathered together thy children, as a hen
Gathereth her chickens underneath her wing,
And ye would not!  Behold, your house is left
Unto you desolate!

                   This is a Prophet!
This is the Christ that was to come!

                              Ye fools!
Think ye, shall Christ come out of Galilee?