Robert Herrick

 

Good Friday: Rex Tragicus, or,

Christ Going to His Cross

 

Put off thy robe of purple, then go on

To the sad place of executïon:

Thine hour is come, and the tormentor stands

Ready to pierce thy tender feet and hands.

Long before this, the base, the dull, the rude,

The inconstant and unpurgèd multitude

Yawn for thy coming: some ere this time cry

'How he defers, how loath he is to die!'

Amongst this scum, the soldier with his spear,

And that sour fellow with his vinegar,

His spunge, and stick, do ask why thou dost stay.

So do the scurf and bran too: go thy way,

Thy way, thou guiltless man, and satisfy

By thine approach each their beholding eye.

Not as a thief shalt thou ascend the mount,

But like a person of some high account:

The cross shall be thy stage, and thou shalt there

The spacious field have for thy theatre.

Thou art that Roscius, and that marked-out man,

That must this day act the tragedian,

To wonder and affrightment: thou art he

Whom all the flux of nations comes to see;

Not those poor thieves that act their parts with thee:

Those act without regard, when once a king,

And God, as thou art, comes to suffering.

No, no, this scene from thee takes life and sense,

And soul and spirit, plot and excellence.

Why then begin, great king! Ascend thy throne,

And thence proceed to act thy passïon

To such a height, to such a period raised,

As hell, and Earth, and heaven may stand amazed.

God and good angels guide thee; and so bless

Thee in thy several parts of bitterness

That those who see thee nailed unto the tree

May, though they scorn thee, praise and pity thee.

And we, thy lovers, while we see thee keep

The laws of action, will both sigh and weep,

And bring our spices to embalm thee dead:

That done, we'll see thee sweetly burièd.         

                                                         (1648)