Judas Iscariot by Countee Cullen
His first faint cry the night
That he was born, that worship stirred
Her at the sound and sight.
She thought his was as fair a frame
As flesh and blood had worn;
I think she made this lovely name
For him— "Star of my morn."
As any mother's son he grew
From spring to crimson spring;
I think his eyes were black, or blue,
His hair curled like a ring.
His mother's heart-strings were a lute
Whereon he all day played;
She listened rapt, abandoned, mute,
To every note he made.
I think he knew the growing Christ,
And played with Mary's son,
And where mere mortal craft sufficed,
There Judas may have won.
Perhaps he little cared or knew,
So folly-wise is youth,
That He whose hand his hand clung to
Was flesh-embodied Truth;
Until one day he heard young Christ,
With far-off eyes agleam,
Tell of a mystic, solemn tryst
Between Him and a dream.
And Judas listened, wonder-eyed,
Until the Christ was through,
Then said, “And I, though good betide,
Or ill, will go with you."
And so he followed, heard Christ preach,
Saw how by miracle
The blind man saw, the dumb got speech,
The leper found him well.
And Judas in those holy hours,
Loved Christ, and loved Him much,
And in his heart he sensed dead flowers
Bloom at the Master's touch.
And when Christ felt the death hour creep,
With sullen, drunken lurch,
He said to Peter, "Feed my sheep ,
And build my holy church.”
He gave to each the special task
That should be his to do,
But reaching one, I hear him ask,
“What shall I give to you?”
Then Judas in his hot desire
Said, "Give me what you will."
Christ spoke to him with words of fire,
“Then, Judas, you must kill,
One whom you love, One who loves you
As only God's son can:
This is the work for you to do
To save the creature man."
"And men to come will curse your name,
And hold you up to scorn;
In all the world will be no shame
Like yours; this is love's thorn.
It takes strong will of heart and soul,
But man is under ban.
Think, Judas, can you play this role
In heaven's mystic plan?"
So Judas took the sorry part,
Went out and spoke the word,
And gave the kiss that broke his heart,
But no one knew or heard.
And no one knew what poison ate
Into his palm that day,
Where, bright and damned, the monstrous weight
Of thirty white coins lay.
It was not death that Judas found
Upon a kindly tree;
The man was dead long ere he bound
His throat as final fee.
And who can say if on that day
When gates of pearl swung wide,
Christ did not go His honored way
With Judas by His side?
I think somewhere a table round
Owns Jesus as its head,
And there the saintly twelve are found
Who followed where He led.
And Judas sits down with the rest,
And none shrinks from His hand,
For there the worst is as the best,
And there they understand.
And you may think of Judas, 'friend,
As one who broke his word,
Whose neck came to a bitter end
For giving up his Lord.
But I would rather think of him
As the little Jewish lad
Who gave young Christ heart, soul, and limb,
And all the love he had.