Percy's Reliques - The Wandering Jew.

The Wandering Jew.

            The story of the Wandering Jew is of considerable antiquity. It had obtained full credit in this part of the world before the year 1228, as we learn from Matthew Paris: for in that year it seems there came an Armenian archbishop into England, to visit the shrines and reliques preserved in our churches; who being entertained at the monastery of St. Albans, was asked several questions relating to his country, &c. Among the rest a monk, who sat near him, inquired "if he had ever seen or heard of the famous person named Joseph, that was so much talked of; who was present at our Lord's crucifixion and conversed with him, and who was still alive in confirmation of the Christian faith." The archbishop answered that the fact was true. And afterwards one of his train, who was well known to a servant of the abbot's, interpreting his master's words, told them in French, "That his lord knew the person they spoke of very well: that he had dined at his table but a little while before he left the east: that he had been Pontius Pilate's porter, by name Cartaphilus; who, when they were dragging Jesus out of the door of the Judgment-hall, struck him with his fist on the back, saying, 'Go faster, Jesus, go faster: why dost thou linger?' Upon which Jesus looked at him with a frown, and said, 'I indeed am going, but thou shalt tarry till I come.' Soon after he was converted, and baptized by the name of Joseph. He lives for ever; but at the end of every hundred years falls into an incurable illness, and at length into a fit or ecstacy, out of which when he recovers, he returns to the same state of youth he was in when Jesus suffered, being then about thirty years of age. He remembers all the circumstances of the death and resurrection of Christ, the saints that arose with him, the composing of the apostles' creed, their preaching, and dispersion; and is himself a very grave and holy person." This is the substance of Matthew Paris's account, who was himself a monk of St. Albans, and was living at the time when this Armenian archbishop made the above relation.

            Since his time several impostors have appeared at intervals under the name and character of the Wandering Jew; whose several histories may be seen in Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible. See also the Turkish Spy, vol. ii. book iii. let. i. The story that is copied in the following ballad is of one who appeared at Hamburg in 1547, and pretended he had been a Jewish shoemaker at the time of Christ's crucifixion. The ballad, however, seems to be of later date. It is preserved in black-letter in the Pepys Collection.

WHEN as in faire Jerusalem
Our Saviour Christ did live,
And for the sins of all the worlde
His own deare life did give;
The wicked Jewes with scoffes and scornes
Did dailye him molest,
That never till he left his life,
Our Saviour could not rest.

When they had crown'd his head with thornes,
And scourg'd him to disgrace,
In scornfull sort they led him forthe
Unto his dying place,
Where thousand thousands in the streete
Beheld him passe along,
Yet not one gentle heart was there,
That pityed this his wrong.

Both old and young reviled him,
As in the streete he wente,
And nought he found but churlish tauntes,
By every ones consente:
His owne deare crosse he bore himselfe,
A burthen far too great,
Which made him in the street to fainte,
With blood and water sweat.

Being weary thus, he sought for rest,
To ease his burthened soule,
Upon a stone; the which a wretch
Did churlishly controule;
And sayd, "Awaye, thou king of Jewes,
Thou shalt not rest thee here;
Pass on; thy execution place
Thou seest nowe draweth neare."

And thereupon he thrust him thence;
At which our Saviour sayd,
"I sure will rest, but thou shalt walke,
And have no journey stayed."
With that this cursed shoemaker,
For offering Christ this wrong,
Left wife and children, house and all,
And went from thence along.

Where after he had seene the bloude
Of Jesus Christ thus shed,
And to the crosse his bodye nail'd,
Awaye with speed he fled
Without returning backe againe
Unto his dwelling place,
And wandred up and downe the worlde,
A runnagate most base.

No resting could he finde at all,
No ease, nor hearts content;
No house, nor home, nor biding place:
But wandring forth he went
From towne to towne in foreigne landes,
With grieved conscience still,
Repenting for the heinous guilt
Of his fore-passed ill.

Thus after some fewe ages past
In wandring up and downe;
He much again desired to see
Jerusalems renowne,
But finding it all quite destroyd,
He wandred thence with woe,
Our Saviours wordes, which he had spoke,
To verifie and showe.

"I'll rest," sayd hee,
"but thou shalt walke,"
So doth this wandring Jew
From place to place, but cannot rest
For seeing countries newe;
Declaring still the power of him,
Whereas he comes or goes,
And of all things done in the east,
Since Christ his death, he showes.

The world he hath still compast round
And seene those nations strange,
That hearing of the name of Christ,
Their idol gods doe change:
To whom he hath told wondrous thinges
Of time forepast, and gone,
And to the princes of the worlde
Declares his cause of moane:

Desiring still to be dissolv'd,
And yield his mortal breath;
But, if the Lord hath thus decreed,
He shall not yet see death.
For neither lookes he old nor young,
But as he did those times,
When Christ did suffer on the Crosse
For mortall sinners crimes.

He hath past through many a foreigne place,
Arabia, Egypt, Africa,
Grecia, Syria, and great Thrace,
And throughout all Hungaria.
Where Paul and Peter preached Christ,
Those blest apostles deare;
There he hath told our Saviours wordes,
In countries far, and neare.

And lately in Bohemia,
With many a German towne;
And now in Flanders, as 'tis thought,
He wandreth up and downe:
Where learned men with him conferre
Of those his lingering dayes,
And wonder much to heare him tell
His journeyes, and his wayes.

If people give this Jew an almes,
The most that he will take
Is not above a groat a time:
Which he, for Jesus' sake,
Will kindlye give unto the poore,
And thereof make no spare,
Affirming still that Jesus Christ
Of him hath dailye care.

He ne'er was seene to laugh nor smile,
But weepe and make great moane;
Lamenting still his miseries,
And dayes forepast and gone:
If he heare any one blaspheme,
Or take God's name in vaine,
He telles them that they crucifie
Their Saviour Christe againe.

"If you had seene his death," saith he,
"As these mine eyes hath done,
Ten thousand thousand times would yee
His torments think upon:
And suffer for his sake all paine
Of torments, and all woes,
These are his wordes and eke his life
Whereas he comes or goes.


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