University of Virginia Library

That flank of Kedron still he held
Which is built up; and, passing on—
While now sweet peal of chimings swelled
From belfry old, withdrawn in zone—
A way through cloisters deep he won
And winding vaults that slope to hight;
And heard a voice, espied a light
In twinkle through far passage dim,
And aimed for it, a friendly gleam;
And so came out upon the Tree
Mid-poised, and ledge-built balcony
Inrailed, and one who, leaning o'er,
Beneath the Palm—from shore to shore
Of Kedron's overwhelming walls
And up and down her gap and grave,
A golden cry sent, such as calls
To creatures which the summons know.
And, launching from crag, tower, and cave
Beatified in flight they go:


St. Saba's doves, in Saba bred.
For wonted bounty they repair,
These convent-pensioners of air;
Fly to their friend; from hand outspread
Or fluttering at his feet are fed.
Some, iridescent round his brow,
Wheel, and with nimbus him endow.
Not fortune's darling here was seen,
But heaven's elect. The robe of blue
So sorted with the doves in hue
Prevailing, and clear skies serene
Without a cloud; so pure he showed—
Of stature tall, in aspect bright—
He looked an almoner of God,
Dispenser of the bread of light.
'Twas not the intellectual air—
Not solely that, though that be fair:
Another order, and more rare—
As high above the Plato mind
As this above the Mammon kind.
In beauty of his port unsealed,
To Clarel part he stood revealed
At first encounter; but the sweet
Small pecking bills and hopping feet
Had previous won; the host urbane,
In courtesy that could not feign,
Mute welcome yielding, and a seat.
It charmed away half Clarel's care,
And charmed the picture that he saw,
To think how like that turtle pair
Which Mary, to fulfill the law,
From Bethlehem to temple brought
For offering; these Saba doves
Seemed natives—not of Venus' court
Voluptuous with wanton wreath—
But colonnades where Enoch roves,
Or walks with God, as Scripture saith.


Nor myrtle here, but sole the Palm
Whose vernal fans take rich release
From crowns of foot-stalks golden warm.
O martyr's scepter, type of peace,
And trouble glorified to calm!
What stillness in the almoner's face:
Nor Fomalhaut more mild may reign
Mellow above the purple main
Of autumn hills. It was a grace
Beyond medallions ye recall.
The student murmured, filial—
“Father,” and tremulously gleamed,
“Here, sure, is peace.” The father beamed;
The nature of the peace was such
It shunned to venture any touch
Of word. “And yet,” went Clarel on;
But faltered there. The saint but glanced.
“Father, if Good, 'tis unenhanced:
No life domestic do ye own
Within these walls: woman I miss.
Like cranes, what years from time's abyss
Their flight have taken, one by one,
Since Saba founded this retreat:
In cells here many a stifled moan
Of lonely generations gone;
And more shall pine as more shall fleet.”