The Dream of Pilates Wife.

From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston


“When Pilate was set down on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him,
saying, ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered
many things this day in a dream because of him.” —Matthew xxvii. 19.

I KNOW my lord would laugh my dream to scorn.
He dreams no dreams; or else sees truth and dream
The same. Why should I tell him? What a night!
If I should speak its visions, I believe
The very augurs would declare me mad;
And these fanatic Jews themselves would say
No prophet of their sacred books e’er saw
In fasting trance so weird a world.
I stood before the Temple gates. A vast
And wondrous moonlight flooded the huge pile,
1’’bose pillars gleamed with stately white and gold.
And on the steps one stood, and stretched his ar1ns,
And called, “Come unto me, come unto me,
All ye who labor and are heavy laden,
And I will give you rest!” Sweet was that voice,
And plaintive, with an undertone of strength,
That thrilled the soul with strange unrest and love.
Nor less did love burn in his earnest eyes.
But all the people hurried by, and scoffed,
Or laughed. None came to him. None took his hand.
Yet still he stood there, like some eloquent
Grand statue of our Roman Pantheon—
But different. Jove and Apollo thus
Never were fashioned by the sculptor’s hand.

But my dream changed. The golden moonlight paled
Under a flying scud of mist, and all
Grew black behind the Temple. Muttering moans
Of thunder growled afar o’er Olivet.
The monumental cypresses beyond
The walls grew blacker, and the olive-trees
Tossed like gray phantoms, their huge twisted trunks
Moaning and shivering. A great wind arose
And bore a blare of trumpets from the west,
Wailing along the sky. Then shadowy shapes,
That seemed the semblance of an army, passed,
Tumultuous, crowding all their serried force
With chariots and with flying standards on
Into one solid thunder-cloud, whence rolled
Swift balls of fire and crashing thunder-peals,
Till the whole Temple rocked. But in the pause
Between the peals I heard upon the steps
That voice still plaintive as a wind-harp’s tone.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” it cried;
“Thou that dost stone the prophets, thou whose hand
Nails to the bitter and the shameful cross
The bringers of good tidings,—ah, how oft
Would I have gathered thee unto my heart,
As the hen gathereth her young! But ye
Would not. Behold your hour has come!”
                                And then,
The changes of my dream swept me along
Through streets I never saw, through low-arched doors,
Through cramped and tortuous eaves, up marble steps,
Through royal halls that opened vistas long,
Past golden thrones, where kings and emperors
Sat mute and dead; past endless hurrying crowds,
Past gleaming files of grim centurions,—
On, till I reached a bleak and windy hill.
And some one whispered, “Golgotha!” There hung
The youth whom they accuse to-day, upon
The Roman gibbet. Low his head was bowed
In agonizing death. But slowly his form
Grew luminous, and luminous the cross,
And the great light increased till all the place
Was morning sunshine. And, behold, the crowd
Around all vanished in the blaze. Behold,
The pale kings crumbled on their shadowy thrones.
The iron legions blew away like smoke.
Yea, the great Temple and the city walls
And all the people faded into air.
But that strange cross, with him who hung thereon,
Grew to a blinding sun.
                         Then a voice spoke,—
“The heavenly kingdom cometh upon earth.
The truth—not mine, but God’s and man’s—the truth
Man’s soul is born to inherit as the air
And sunshine, comes not to destroy, but comes
Creating all things new, till the whole earth
Is saturated with the love of God,
And all mankind are one great family.”
Then, far away, along the horizon’s verge
I saw a city shining; half on earth
It seemed, and half in air. “Perhaps,” I thought,
“This is great Rome, and I shall find the house
I lived in when a girl, and shield myself
In its cool courts from this intense strange light.”
And then I hurried on, o’er rugged rocks,
O’er windy plains, down valleys dim and damp,
That held the twilight all day long; till all
Grew dark about me, groping through the gloom.
Then, suddenly, a yawning precipice
Ended my flight, and giddy on its verge
I sank, and slid—down, down, clutching the air,—
Shot through with dizzy horror,—while pale forms
Of nameless terror at the bottom stood
And stretched long arms to grasp me,—when I woke.
I woke, drenched with great drops of agony;
And by awake, counting the weird, wan hours
Of murky dawn, I will not tell my dream
To Pilate, only that I dreamed of Him,
The wondrous teacher, suffering much in dreams.
I trust my lord will bear no part to-day
In this unhallowed trial. Else I fear
Some hidden curse will light upon our house.
Such visions cannot be false auguries.


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