Poet Lore/Volume 28/Number 4/On Golgotha
Translated from the Bohemian by
It was the third hour when the cross was raised
Betwixt the crosses.
Red from exertion
The soldiers sat upon the much trampled
And bloody ground. They parted His raiment.
And for the coat which was without seam they
And many of the multitude
Passed gazing up at Him and wagged their heads
And said, Ah, come down from the cross! For Thou
Didst style Thyself king! Thou, that wouldst destroy
The temple and then build it in three days,
Well, save Thyself!
Stood by also chief priests
And scribes with long and flowing beards, and said
Amongst themselves: True true, He saved others;
Let Him then save Himself now—There also
Were many women looking on afar,
Who ministered to Him in Galilee,
Salome, Mary, and Magdalene, and who
Came up with Him unto Jerusalem.
Crucified, naked, shorn, He was numbered
With transgressors. And crusted blood clung to
His scourged body, while ruddy streams oozed from
His hands and feet and dripped upon the ground.
His dying eyes gazed out into distance,
Across the white city, hills and woodlands
And ridges of the peaceful peaks in whose
Lap lie the blue waters of Galilee.
He bowed His head.
A winged rustling reached
His ear. ’Twas not the Father’s angel with
Refreshment’s chalice for a weary soul—
An unclean spirits with it batlike wings
Outstretched upon the air flew unto Him.
He had to suffer Satan to sit on
His cross, lean toward His head. For faint within
Him was His spirit and weak to resist.
And Satan then said: Woeful Sufferer,
Upon Thy cross of wood we meet again!
Today the last time. ’Tis settled today.
The battle has been fought.
Three years hence, when I carried Thee yon in
The wilderness upon a high mountain
And shewed Thee mighty kingdoms, promised Thee
All of the glory of this world, shouldst Thou
Fall down and worship me? Thou didst refuse.
Thou wouldst proclaim the coming kingdom of
Heaven to the weak, wretched. Thou wouldst bestow
Imperishable gifts upon clean hearts.
Thou wouldst show humble souls the way into
Thy Father’s dwelling and erase the curse
Of Adam from each generation’s brow!
Thou didst go to Thy death quiet, resigned,
Just as the lamb that openest not its mouth.
Thou pourest out Thy blood even like the dew.
To moisten Thy young and early sprouting seed.
Jesus of Nazareth, behold the throngs
That surge continually about Thy cross!
Not long ago, when Thou didst enter in
The city in triumph, they strewed palms neath
Thy colt, cried praises unto Thee, and then
Proclaimed Thee David’s son. For they thought ’mongst
Themselves the kingdom of God was at hand,
The cherished time of milk and honey was
Now come. And then Thou didst refuse again.
The disappointed throngs next in anger
Cried, “Crucify Him!” into Pilate’s ears.
And now they come and wag their heads and say:
Here the king of the Jews is crucified.
Let Him save Himself. He would be the Son
Of God. But God seems to forsake Him now.
And God forsook
Behold that heaven where Thou
Didst deem He reigns in all of His glory!
Cloudless, serene, it smiles quietly on
With its insensible blue smile. As ’twas
Before, so ’twill be after Thee. So too
The fowls flying the air and every beast
Inhabiting the earth has lived and lives
According to one law, that is my law.
The strong forever shall absorb the weak.
’Tis so with man. And this whole wide, wide world
Is my kingdom. Because I am the Life.
I rule. I sit enthroned in hearts, in souls.
No one shall ever banish me, nor Thou,
Nor Thy Father, Thy kingdom of God is
A dream. That dream I leave to man fore’er!
Behold, how calmly Rome’s centurion
Speaks with the scribe in white beneath Thy cross!
’Twill ever be thus. They are now heirs of
Thy words, Thy dreams. One shall change his idols,
The other this Jehovah for Thy name,
And on the world shall live as I ordain.
Why didst Thou not then take all those kingdoms
And this world’s glory from my gen'rous hand?
Thy youthful life would not have thus been spent
In shameful torture. Happily couldst Thou
Have lived and brought millions Thy happiness.
But what bring’st Thou? Death and discord Thou spreadst.
Thou fallest first. And for Thy name, Thy dreams,
Hundreds upon hundreds shall spill their blood
On crosses and arenas and scaffolds.
And when ’twill seem Thy dream has been fulfilled,
Then in Thy name, and only in Thy name,
The carnage shall go on. So far as eye
Can see, there, rows of flaming pyres extend
Where sacrifices are burned in Thy name;
And in Thy name numberless wars shall rage,
And in Thy name cities and towns shall burn,
And in Thy name countries shall be laid waste,
And in Thy name curses shall be uttered,
And in Thy name there shall be slavery
Of body and of spirit.
The centurion and the scribe! The one
Shall murder in Thy name, the other bless
Him in Thy name. Wretched millions shall pay
For Thy dream with their most precious estate,
And o’er the blood that is thus spilled,
Thy dream of God's eternal kingdom and
Heaven’s glory shall rise up like a phantom
That shall reward the dead. A lure to them
In life throughout and on till ends the world!
Why then didst Thou not take all these kingdoms
And glory of this world ? For life is mine.
I am the Life, the lord of all below,
And forever I sit in hearts, in souls—
And then forthwith Satan arose and spread
His great, dark, batlike wings, that extended
With swiftness of the wind in distance vast
And ghastly great. O’er Golgotha entire,
O’er city and valley and o’er the hills,
O’er regions round about, o’er distant peaks,
O’er waters blue of lakes of Galilee.
O’er realms beyond afar and seas remote
There was projected then a dark, black veil.
And there was darkness over all the land,
Which trembled then.
And in the end Jesus
About Him gazed and with a loud voice cried:
“Elȯi, Elȯi, lama zabachtani,”
And yielded up the ghost.