The Crucifixion

Henry Lawson, 1904

      They sunk a post into the ground
             Where their leaders bade them stop;
      It was a man's height, and they spiked
             A crosspiece to the top.
      They bound it well with thongs of hide,
             To make it firm and good;
      Then roughly, with His back to this,
             Their enemy they stood.
      They held His hands upon the piece,
             And they spiked them to the wood.

      They mocked Him then — the while He rocked
             In agony His head —
      With things that He had never done,
             And He had never said —
      With that which He had never been —
             And in His face they spat.
      They placed a plank beside the post,
             And they spiked His feet to that.

      They pelted Him, but not with stones,
             Lest He should die too soon;
      They stayed to mock His agony
             All through the blazing noon.
      They did not pelt with stones, lest they
             Might kill Him unaware,
      But with foul things that lay about
             The filthy hovels there.

      And this was how they murdered Him
             They killed Him in his youth
      Because He had been good to men,
             Because He told the truth,
      Because they did not understand
             The things He felt and knew:
      He only said the world-old words,
             "They know not what they do."

      The flaunting harlots taunted Him;
             He only bowed His head,
      And prayed for public women then,
             While "Save Thyself!" they said.
      They went with soldiers to the camp,
             And the rest went by-and-bye,
      When they were weary of the sport —
             And they left Him there to die.

      He lingered yet, for He was strong,
             But He shut His blighted eyes,
      And shuddered oft, for round Him swarmed
             The loathsome desert flies.
      His throat was parched, His temples throbbed,
             And when He drooped, the pain
      That shot from all His wounds tenfold
             Would draw Him up again.

      Two thieves were nailed beside Him there —
             They raved, their wounds they tore,
      And though they both were stronger men,
             They seemed to suffer more;
      And while with agony great beads
             Of sweat stood on His brow,
      He'd comfort them in words like these:
             "'Twill soon be ended now."

      His friends had all deserted Him —
             They fled in deadly fear
      (As friends desert a friend to-day,
             Afraid of jibe and sneer):
      The same poor human nature now,
             As it has ever been —
      Small credit to be crucified
             Beside a Nazarene.

      But when the people in the town
             And the drunken soldiers slept,
      From some mean huts that stood hard by
             Three wretched women crept;
      Like thieves, across the stony ground,
             They came with stealthy tread,
      And they had water in a gourd —
             But they found that He was dead.

      They brought some still more wretched men,
             And O their hearts were good:
      In terror, and with pains, they wrenched
             The strong spikes from the wood;
      They washed His body hurriedly,
             For they had lives to save,
      And they bore it off and hid it well,
             Where none might find his grave.

      His name is known where'er the foot
             Of Christian man has trod.
      They worship in cathedrals now,
             They call Him Son of God.
      They ask for aid in His dear name
             When they suffer care and pain,
      And if He came on earth to-day,
             They'd murder Him again.