Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/On Golgotha
4. ON GOLGOTHA.
It was the third hour, when the cross was raised
Betwixt the crosses.
From their striving flushed
Upon the trampled, blood-stained earth, the soldiers
Had sat them down. They shared the raiment out.
Then for the shirt, that had the woof throughout
They played at dice.
And many from the crowd
Approaching thither, turned their gazes upwards,
Wagging their heads, and jeering: Ho, ho, ho,
Down from the cross,—'twas king you dubbed yourself!
You were the one, who would destroy the temple,
And in three days would build it up afresh,
Help now yourself!
Priests also tarried there,
And there were scribes with white and flowing beards;
They said amongst themselves: 'Tis very true,
He would help others, let him help himself.—
And from afar were many women gazing,
Who had of old served him in Galilee,
Salome, Mary and the Magdalene;
They to Jerusalem had fared with him.
Numbered with rogues, he hung upon the cross,
Naked and shorn. Upon his lash-seared body
Clung clots of blood. And on his hands and feet
The red streaks oozed, drops trickled to the earth.
With rigid stare his eyes were turned afar
Across the glittering town, the knolls and groves
To crests of peaceful hills, in whose lap lie
Blue waters of the Galilean lakes.
He bowed his head.
Then to his ear was wafted
The hum of plumage. Not his Father’s angel
With quickening draught for the exhausted soul,
An unclean spirit spread his vampire-wings
And scoured the air and lighted at his side.
He could not flinch, when Satan sat him down
Upon his cross,—yea, squatted at his head,
For his tired spirit was disarmed from strife.
And Satan said: "O hapless sufferer,
Upon this wooden cross we meet again,
To-day, and then no more. To-day 'tis settled,
The fight fought out.
You know, three years have passed,
Since in the wilderness I bore you forth
On to a lofty peak and let you see
Strong kingdoms, all the glory of the world,
And all I promised you, if you would sink
And kneel before me. But you flouted it.
You went to preach the coming realm of heaven
Unto the poor, the weak. To stainless hearts
You offered treasures of undwindling worth.
To simple souls you sought to show the way
Unto the father's glory. From men's brows
You strove to cleanse the trace of Adam's curse.
You turned to death with calm abandonment,
Like to the lamb, that opens not its mouth,
And you have shed your blood as it were dew,
So that your new-sown grain might not be parched.
Jesus of Nazareth, behold these throngs,
That surge like billows round about your cross!
'Tis not long since, when glorified you rode
Into the town, they littered palms beneath
Your ass-colt's hoofs, and they cried unto you
Your glory, and proclaimed you David's son,
For they supposed, that now the realm of God
Was heralded, and this the longed-for time
Of milk and honey. But you flouted it.
The cozened throngs then in the wrath of vengeance
Dinned "Crucify!" into the ears of Pilate.
And here they loiter, wagging with their heads
And jeering: Yonder hangs the King of the Jews!
Find he his own help,—he's the Son of God.
His Father hath, forsooth, forgotten him!—
The Father has forgotten.
See this sky,
Where in full glory, you have deemed, he sits:
Cloudless and radiant it softly smiles
With that blue unimpassioned smile, the same
After you, as before you. And the birds,
Scouring the air, and every living creature
That roves the earth, has lived and lives to-day
After a single law,—and that is mine.
The stronger ever preys upon the weaker.
And so with mortals too. This whole wide world
Is my domain. For I am Life itself.
I rule alone. I lurk in hearts and souls,
And none shall hound me out or banish me.
Not you, and not your Father. Your God's kingdom
Is dream. That dream I leave to men for ever.
Under the cross, behold the Roman captain
In peaceful converse with the white-haired scribe!
So shall it ever be. These twain inherit
Your words, your dreams. The one will change his idols,
The other his Jehovah in your name,
And in my covenant the world shall live.
Why did you scorn to take all kingdoms then,
And the world's glory from my bounteous hand?
Then your young life would not have ended here
In shameful pangs, you might have lived untrammelled
To your own gladness, to the weal of myriads.
What have you brought? You sowed dispute and death,
Yourself first victim. For your name, your dreams,
Hundreds and hundreds yet will shed their blood
On crosses, in arenas, judgment-places.
And when it seems as though your dream has conquered,
Then in your name, and only in your name
Shall murder thrive. As far as eye shall see
Will stand a rank of flaring stakes, whereon
Burning of victims in your name shall be,
And in your name shall frenzied wars be waged,
And in your name shall towns be set ablaze,
And in your name shall countries be laid waste,
And in your name shall malediction speak,
And in your name shall there be servitude
Of body and of spirit.
See this captain
And here, this scribe. The first will, in your name,
Do murder and the second, in your name,
Will bless him. Millions of ill-fated men
Will forfeit for your dream their dearest portion,
And over all the equandered blood
Your dream of the eternal realm of God,
Of heavenly glory, will go drifting on
Like a mere wraith to recompense the dead,
To lure the living till the crack of doom!
Why did you scorn to take all kingdoms then
And glory of the earth? For mine is life,
I, I am life, and lord of all things here,
And age on age I lurk in hearts and souls!"
And Satan then uprising, folded out
His tawny-hued and mighty vampire-wings,
Whose girth with stirring of a tempest waxed
Dread, overwhelming. On all Golgotha,
Above the town, the valley and the hills,
Above the plain, above the distant mountains,
Above blue-watered lakes of Galilee,
Above the realms and oceans far-removed
The black and frowning mantle was outstretched.
And there was mighty gloom on all the earth,
And last time of all, the eyes
Of Jesus turned, and with loud voice he cried:
"Eloi, Eloi lama zabachtani!"
And breathed away his spirit. . .