Jeremiah: A Drama in Nine Scenes - Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. Jeremiah XXXIII, 3.
The flat roof of Jeremiah’s house; the white flagstones gleam in the dim moonlight. Below are seen the towers and battlements of sleeping Jerusalem. Nothing stirs, save that from time to time we hear the whispering of the breeze that heralds the dawn.
Of a sudden, impetuous footsteps sound upon the stair. Jeremiah staggers in; his robe is torn open at the throat; he gasps like one being strangled.
They batter in the gates … to the walls … to the walls!… Faithless watchmen … they are coming … they are upon us…. The temple is in flames…. Help, help!… The walls are breached…. [He has rushed forward to the edge of the roof, where he abruptly stops. His cry rends the shimmering silence. With a start, he awakens from his trance. He looks forth over the town like a drunken man; his arms, which in his terror he has raised, sink slowly to his sides; then wearily he draws his hand across his open eyes] Illusion! Once again these terrible visions. Full, how full, is the House of Dreams! [He leans on the parapet and gazes down] Peace broods over the city; the country is at peace; in me alone, in my breast alone, this fire rages. How quietly the town reposes in God’s arms, nestling in slumber, roofed over by peace, the moonbeams falling on every house, and every house plunged in gentle sleep. But I, I alone, am consumed with fire night after night; I crash earthward with the falling towers, rush to escape, perish amid the flames; I, and none but I, my bowels troubled, leap heated from my bed and stagger forth into the moonlight seeking coolness! For me alone comes a vision to shatter sleep; for me alone does a fiery horror wrench the darkness from my lids. The martyrdom of this vision; the madness of these faces which swarm in their blood-stained multitude and then fade in the clear moonlight!
Always the same dream, the same illusion. Night after night, the same terror seizes me, the same dream, culminating in the same torment. Who has instilled this dream poison into my veins? Who hunts me thus with terror? Who covets my sleep, that he must rob me of it; who is my torturer, and for whom must I thus hold vigil? Answer! Who art thou, invisible one, aiming at me from the darkness thy wingèd shafts? Who art thou, terror incarnate, coming to lie with me by night, quickening me with thy spirit until my frame is twisted as with labor pains? Wherefore in this slumbering city should the curse be laid on me alone? [He is silent, straining his ear to the all-pervading silence, and then continues with growing excitement] Silence, nothing but silence, while within is unceasing turmoil and storm-tossed night. With scorching talons it tears at my vitals and yet cannot grasp them. I am scourged with visions, and know not who holds the scourge. My cries go forth into the void. Desist, invisible hunter, or if it must be otherwise, seize your quarry; call to me when I wake, not when I sleep; speak to me in words, not in visions. Reveal what you are hiding from me; tell me the meaning of these torments.