The Roman net grips land and sea,
Roman hearts are stones,
And on many a hill of Galilee
Shudders the bitter felon tree,
Whose fruit cries out and moans.
“Set forth the supper,” bade Joseph;
“Is not the day far spent?”
Weary he came from his workshop,
His heavy shoulders bent.
One daughter spread the rich-hued mat
And brought the wooden tray;
Another poured water on his hands
From a cruse of tawny clay;
Another fetched the stoup of wine
And the thin round cakes of bread,
The dish of herbs and the cheeses,
And after the prayer was said
James and Joses and Simon
Around the tray with him
Sat on the floor like Arabs,
While Juda ran to trim
The lamp and see that the floating
Wick on the oil burned clean,
For he might not sit with the men-folk
Till his years had touched thirteen.
But our Lady Mary tarried,
Leaning out over the sill
Of the door till she heard the steps she loved
Climbing Nazareth hill.
“Welcome, my Ever-Truant,
Have you brought me fresh rose-laurel
For the mouths of our water-jars?”
But the face of the world’s desire
Was pale as a poplar leaf;
The young face framed in the open door
Was wan and wild as never before,
A face acquainted with grief.
“You are long away,” quoth Joseph,
But his tone might not condemn
The firstborn son of his household,
“We have labored from dawn to even
With many a fruitless wish
For our master-carver, yet sit at board
And dip your hand in the dish.”
Still Jesus stood in the doorway,
His eyes dark pools of pain;
Muffled in purple cloak, he seemed
The shadow of a dream that dreamed
Divinely and in vain.
His sisters drew off his sandals
And washed and dried his feet,
While his touch on their bowed heads blessed them
For their service deft and sweet.
“There is blood on his sleeve,” cried Simon,
But Joses laughed: “Such flings
The knife when it cuts a creature’s throat.
He has chanced on the slaying of sheep or goat,
He who sickens at common things.”
“Nay!” chided James, unspringing,
Leal Brother of our Lord;
“He has met the men of Herod the Fox,
Hunting the rebels from out their rocks.
O Galilee under the sword!”
“Have they hurt you?” sobbed little Juda,
“Hurt you whom the smallest bird
Will not flutter away from?” But Jesus
Answered never a word.
How could Love find speech for the horror
No beauty should henceforth hide?
How could Pity forevermore forget
Those feet he had kissed, still red and wet,
Of a young Jew crucified?