A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem : First Century

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ISBN: N/A
Language: English
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A ROMAN LAWYER IN JERUSALEM

Marcus, abiding in Jerusalem,
Greeting to Caius, his best friend in Rome!
Salve! these presents will he borne to you
By Lucius, who is wearied with this place,
Sated with travel, looks upon the East
As simply hateful—blazing, barren, bleak,
And longs again to find himself in Rome,
After the tumult of its streets, its trains
Of slaves and clients, and its villas cool
With marble porticoes beside the sea,
And friends and banquets—more than all, its games—
This life seems blank and flat. He pants to stand
In its vast circus all alive with heads
And quivering arms and floating robes—the air
Thrilled by the roaring fremitus of men—
The sunlit awning heaving overhead,
Swollen and strained against its corded veins
And flapping out its hem with loud report—
The wild beasts roaring from the pit below—
The wilder crowd responding from above
With one long yell that sends the startled blood
With thrill and sudden flush into the cheeks—
A hundred trumpets screaming—the dull thump
Of horses galloping across the sand—
The clang of sabbards, the sharp clash of steel—
Live swords, that whirl a circle of grey fire—
Brass helmets flashing 'neath their streaming hair—
A universal tumult—then a hush
Worse than the tumult—all eyes staining down
To the arena's pit—all lips set close—
All muscles strained—and then that sudden yell,
Habet!—That's Rome, says Lucius! so it is!
That is, 'tis his Rome—'tis not yours and mine.

And yet, great Jupiter here at my side,
He stands with face aside as if he saw
The games he thus describes, and says, "That's life!
Life! life! my friend, and this is simply death!
Ah! for my Rome!" I jot his very words
Just as he utters them. I hate these games,
And Darius knows it, yet he will go on,
And all against my will he stirs my blood—
I suspend my letter for a while.

A walk has calmed me—I begin again—
Letting this last page, since it is written, stand.
Lucius is going: you will see him soon
In our great Forum, there with him will walk,
And hear him rail and rave against the East.
I stay behind—for these bare silences,
These hills that in the sunset melt and burn,
This proud stern people, these dead seas and lakes,
These sombre cedars, this intense still sky,
To me, o'erwearied with life's din and strain,
Are grateful as the solemn blank of night
After the fierce day's irritant excess;
Besides, a deep absorbing interest
Detains me here, fills up my mind, and sways
My inmost thoughts—has got, as 'twere a gripe
Upon my very life, as strange as new.
I scarcely know how well to speak of this,
Fearing your raillery at best—at worst
Even your contempt; yet, spite of all, I speak.

First, do not deem me to have lost my head,
Sunstruck, as that man Paulus was at Rome.
No, I am sane as ever, and my pulse
Beats even, with no fever in my blood.
And yet I half incline to think his words,
Wild as they were, were not entirely wild.
Nay, shall I dare avow it? I half tend,
Here in this place, surrounded by these men—
Despite the jeering natural at first,
And then the pressure of my life-long thought
Trained up against it—to excuse his faith,
And half admit the Christus he thinks God
Is, at the least, a most mysterious man....