The people talk

The people talk

The Feast of Tabernacles.

(The Gospel History, Section 77)

The Jews therefore sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the multitudes concerning him: some said, He is a good man: others said, Not so, but he leadeth the multitude astray. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

The people talk

(The Saviour of the World, Vol V Book I Poem VII)

Meetings and greetings, hurryings to and fro,
Comings and goings, exchange of family news,—
Was ever scene so animated, gay?
But not all given to mirth and jollity,—
The crowds that throng the City: see them sing
And play before the Lord, what time they catch
Some ruler’s supercilious glance; saith he,—
“No mischief brews behind the staring eyes,
Wide mouths of the fool-people! All is well!”
No sooner turns he than folk talk again
In whispers, glancing fearful round the while;
The shifting crowd resolve them into groups,
And all groups canvass, keen, the selfsame theme:—
“What think ye, will He come?” “Nay, for the Jews,
Our Rulers, lie in wait;—see ye yon man,
Watching, as cat a mouse? and yon? and yon?
They’re servitors of the temple; everywhere,
Scattered among the folk, they lay an ear:
‘Who be His followers?’ ask the crafty priests,—
And, mark you, things shall go but ill for him,
Who follows Jesus, named, of Nazareth!
What hope for Him, then, should He dare come here?
But He knows better—take my word for that!”
“But He’s a good man,” said a grateful soul
Whom Christ had raised from lingering sick bed,—
“Not worse than you or I, or other folk.”
“Good friend, thou art misled,” a sleek man cried,
Who knew it behoved him to keep well with those—
The Rulers of Israel who dealt out fat things,—
“Be not deceived by manifold good works
And ways of holiness; he doth but mock
The people, easily led; have ye ne’er heard,—
False prophets shall arise and lead astray
Them who give ear?”

That none in all that crowd,

Where thousand souls had known the ease of words
Dropped cool and healing on the burning spot
Of sin-wrought misery, where thousand frames,
Diseased, had known His touch, where many men
Had followed Him, disciples for a while,—
That none should up and say, “He is the Lord,
That Son of David, should deliver us!”
“No worse than the rest of us, a worthy man,”—
Behold, the limit of their poltroon praise!

And we—we who’ve heard words that quicken’d us,
Have passed through days when, “Lord, Lord!” was the cry,
Saved us from madness, we who know indeed,
Holding this secret knowledge of the Lord—
The light, the fire, the comfort of our days,—
Yet do we dare presume, judicial, cold,
To weigh the claims of Christ,—“Certes, He’s good,
The best of human kind, let’s say; no peer
Has risen to Him of Nazareth since time was:
But to suppose Him more than man, why, that
Would rank us with the credulous, ignorant:
This our last word,—‘He’s a good man, be sure!’”

But what say these? “Leadeth the multitude
Astray, giveth laws the Rulers know not of,
Should make the people free—each man sustained
By other meat than we wot of, set at large
From the thraldom of those laws that fetter men,—
Nay, let them know they be of small account,
The common people!”

St. John vii. 11–13.

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