Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart
Ahasuerus the Jew crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel. Near two thousand years have elapsed since he was first goaded by never-ending restlessness to rove the globe from pole to pole. When our Lord was wearied with the burthen of His ponderous cross, and wanted to rest before the door of Ahasuerus, the unfeeling wretch drove Him away with brutality. The Saviour of mankind staggered, sinking under the heavy load, but uttered no complaint. An angel of death appeared before Ahasuerus, and exclaimed indignantly, "Barbarian! thou has denied rest to the Son of man: be it denied thee also, until He comes to judge the world."
A black demon, let loose from hell upon Ahasuerus, goads him now from country to country; he is denied the consolation which death affords, and precluded from the rest of the peaceful grave.
Ahasuerus crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel — he shook the dust from his beard — and taking up one of the skulls heaped there, hurled it down the eminence: it rebounded from the earth in shivered atoms. "This was my father!" roared Ahasuerus. Seven more skulls rolled down from rock to rock; while the infuriate Jew, following them with ghastly looks, exclaimed — "And these were my wives!" He still continued to hurl down skull after skull, roaring in dreadful accents — "And these, and these, and these were my children! They could die; but I! reprobate wretch! alas! I cannot die! Dreadful beyond conception is the judgment that hangs over me. Jerusalem fell — I crushed the sucking babe, and precipitated myself into the destructive flames. I cursed the Romans — but, alas! alas! the restless curse held me by the hair, — and I could not die!
"Rome the giantess fell — I placed myself before the falling statue — she fell and did not crush me. Nations sprang up and disappeared before me; — but I remained and did not die. From cloud-encircled cliffs did I precipitate myself into the ocean; but the foaming billows cast me upon the shore, and the burning arrow of existence pierced my cold heart again. I leaped into Etna's flaming abyss, and roared with the giants for ten long months, polluting with my groans the Mount's sulphureous mouth — ah! ten long months. The volcano fermented, and in a fiery stream of lava cast me up. I lay torn by the torture-snakes of hell amid the glowing cinders, and yet continued to exist. — A forest was on fire: I darted on wings of fury and despair into the crackling wood. Fire dropped upon me from the trees, but the flames only singed my limbs; alas! it could not consume them. — I now mixed with the butchers of mankind, and plunged in the tempest of the raging battle. I roared defiance to the infuriate Gaul, defiance to the victorious German; but arrows and spears rebounded in shivers from my body. The Saracen's flaming sword broke upon my skull: balls in vain hissed upon me: the lightnings of battle glared harmless around my loins: in vain did the elephant trample upon me, in vain the iron hoof of the wrathful steed! The mine, big with destructive power, burst upon me, and hurled me high in the air — I fell on heaps of smoking limbs, but was only singed. The giant's steel club rebounded from my body; the executioner's hand could not strangle me, the tiger's tooth could not pierce me, nor would the hungry lion in the circus devour me. I cohabited with poisonous snakes, and pinched the red crest of the dragon. — The serpent stung, but could not destroy me. The dragon tormented, but dared not devour me. — I now provoked the fury of tyrants: I said to Nero, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' I said to Christiern, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' I said to Muley Ismail, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' — The tyrants invented cruel torments, but did not kill me — Ha! not to be able to die — not to be able to die — not to be permitted to rest after the toils of life — to be doomed to be imprisoned for ever in the clay-formed dungeon — to be for ever clogged with this worthless body, its load of diseases and infirmities — to be condemned to [be]hold for milleniums that yawning monster Sameness, and Time, that hungry hyaena, ever bearing children, and ever devouring again her offspring! — Ha! not to be permitted to die! Awful Avenger in Heaven, hast Thou in Thine armoury of wrath a punishment more dreadful? then let it thunder upon me, command a hurricane to sweep me down to the foot of Carmel, that I there may lie extended; may pant, and writhe, and die!"
-trans. Peter Will
-German title, Der ewige Jude.
(Illustration is Carl Gustav Carus, Pilgrim in a Rocky Valley, 1820.)