The Poetry Corner

Pilate's Wife'S Dream.

By Charlotte Bronte

I've quench'd my lamp, I struck it in that start Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall, The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall; Over against my bed, there shone a gleam Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream. It sank, and I am wrapt in utter gloom; How far is night advanced, and when will day Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom, And fill this void with warm, creative ray? Would I could sleep again till, clear and red, Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread! I'd call my women, but to break their sleep, Because my own is broken, were unjust; They've wrought all day, and well-earn'd slumbers steep Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust; Let me my feverish watch with patience bear, Thankful that none with me its sufferings share. Yet, oh, for light! one ray would tranquillize My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can; I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies: These trembling stars at dead of night look wan, Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear. All black, one great cloud, drawn from east to west, Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below; Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast On yonder stony mount a lurid glow. I see men station'd there, and gleaming spears; A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears. Dull, measured strokes of axe and hammer ring From street to street, not loud, but through the night Distinctly heard, and some strange spectral thing Is now uprear'd, and, fix'd against the light Of the pale lamps, defined upon that sky, It stands up like a column, straight and high. I see it all, I know the dusky sign, A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine Pilate, to judge the victim, will appear, Pass sentence-yield Him up to crucify; And on that cross the spotless Christ must die. Dreams, then, are true, for thus my vision ran; Surely some oracle has been with me, The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan, To warn an unjust judge of destiny: I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know, Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe. I do not weep for Pilate, who could prove Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway No prayer can soften, no appeal can move: Who tramples hearts as others trample clay, Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread, That might stir up reprisal in the dead. Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds; Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour, In whose gaunt lines the abhorrent gazer reads A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power; A soul whom motives fierce, yet abject, urge, Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge. How can I love, or mourn, or pity him? I, who so long my fetter'd hands have wrung; I, who for grief have wept my eyesight dim; Because, while life for me was bright and young, He robb'd my youth, he quench'd my life's fair ray, He crush'd my mind, and did my freedom slay. And at this hour-although I be his wife, He has no more of tenderness from me Than any other wretch of guilty life; Less, for I know his household privacy, I see him as he is, without a screen; And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien! Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood, Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly? And have I not his red salute withstood? Ay, when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee In dark bereavement, in affliction sore, Mingling their very offerings with their gore. Then came he, in his eyes a serpent-smile, Upon his lips some false, endearing word, And through the streets of Salem clang'd the while His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword, And I, to see a man cause men such woe, Trembled with ire, I did not fear to show. And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought Jesus, whom they in mock'ry call their king, To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought; By this mean reptile, innocence to sting. Oh! could I but the purposed doom avert, And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt! Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear, Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf; Could he this night's appalling vision hear, This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe, Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail, And make even terror to their malice quail. Yet if I tell the dream, but let me pause. What dream? Erewhile the characters were clear, Graved on my brain, at once some unknown cause Has dimm'd and razed the thoughts, which now appear, Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene; Not what will be, but what, long since, has been. I suffer'd many things, I heard foretold A dreadful doom for Pilate, lingering woes, In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold Built up a solitude of trackless snows, There he and grisly wolves prowl'd side by side, There he lived famish'd, there, methought, he died; But not of hunger, nor by malady; I saw the snow around him, stain'd with gore; I said I had no tears for such as he, And, lo! my cheek is wet, mine eyes run o'er; I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt, I weep the impious deed, the blood self-spilt. More I recall not, yet the vision spread Into a world remote, an age to come, And still the illumined name of Jesus shed A light, a clearness, through the unfolding gloom, And still I saw that sign, which now I see, That cross on yonder brow of Calvary. What is this Hebrew Christ?-to me unknown His lineage, doctrine, mission; yet how clear Is God-like goodness in his actions shown, How straight and stainless is his life's career! The ray of Deity that rests on him, In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim. The world advances; Greek or Roman rite Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay; The searching soul demands a purer light To guide it on its upward, onward way; Ashamed of sculptured gods, Religion turns To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns. Our faith is rotten, all our rites defiled, Our temples sullied, and, methinks, this man, With his new ordinance, so wise and mild, Is come, even as He says, the chaff to fan And sever from the wheat; but will his faith Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death? ******* I feel a firmer trust, a higher hope Rise in my soul, it dawns with dawning day; Lo! on the Temple's roof, on Moriah's slope Appears at length that clear and crimson ray Which I so wished for when shut in by night; Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless pour light! Part, clouds and shadows! Glorious Sun appear! Part, mental gloom!Come insight from on high! Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear The longing soul doth still uncertain sigh. Oh! to behold the truth, that sun divine, How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine! This day, Time travails with a mighty birth; This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth; Ere night descends I shall more surely know What guide to follow, in what path to go; I wait in hope, I wait in solemn fear, The oracle of God, the sole, true God, to hear.