Before this man that I have sent to death
Appeared before me. I have no love for Jews,
Nor ever feared them. What had I to fear?
Or what to love? And still I do not know,
But now I find the question troubles me.
And this man, Jew despised by other Jews,
He had no fear of me, and as for love,
I cannot say, and as for truth, he claims
It as his birthright. And were he not in chains
I do not know who I myself would be.
Chained there he stands, as if before my mercy,
Acknowledging my power over him,
As granted from above, and yet I know
He means not Caesar. In his eyes, a kingdom
Further removed from here than I can see,
Beyond my spirit’s compass to perceive.
How can a man judge what he cannot know?
The only guilt I found in him was this:
He gave me leave to name the truth myself,
When I, for the first time, am caught uncertain,
This strange permission reaching farther into
Authority than I have ever dared.
What is truth? Little enough I see.
I knew him for a Jew, for they were Jews
Who brought him to me. I knew him for a king,
For who could not? But all else I disclaim.
And so I ruled, and so I wrote the words
My prisoner permitted me to choose,
Proclaiming and condemning by my hand.
Therefore what I have written, let it stand.