University of Virginia Library


Some of the strangers late arrived
Tarried with Abdon at the inn;
And, ere long, having viewed the town
Would travel further, and pass on
To Siddim, and the Dead Sea win
And Saba. And would Clarel go?
'Twas but for days. They would return
By Bethlehem, and there sojourn
Awhile, regaining Zion so.
But Clarel undetermined stood,
And kept his vacillating mood,


Though learning, as it happed, that Vine
And Rolfe would join the journeying band.
Loath was be here to disentwine
Himself from Ruth. Nor less Lot's land,
And sea, and Judah's utmost drought
Fain would he view, and mark their tone:
And prove if, unredeemed by John,
John's wilderness augmented doubt.
As chanced, while wavering in mind,
And threading a hushed lane or wynd
Quick warning shout he heard behind
And clattering hoofs. He hugged the wall,
Then turned; in that brief interval
The dust came on him, powdery light,
From one who like a javelin flew
Spectral with dust, and all his plight
Charged with the desert and its hue;
A courier, and he bent his flight—
(As Clarel afterward recalled)
Whither lay Agar's close inwalled.
The clank of arms, the clink of shoe,
The cry admonitory too,
Smote him, and yet he scarce knew why;
But when, some hours having flitted by,
Nearing the precincts of the Jew
His host, he did Nehemiah see
Waiting in arch, and with a look
Which some announcement's shadow took,
His heart stood still—Fate's herald, he?
“What is it? what?”—The saint delayed.—
“Ruth?”—“Nathan;” and the news conveyed.
The threat, oft hurled, as oft reviled
By one too proud to give it heed,
The menace of stern foemen wild,
No menace now was, but a deed:
Burned was the roof on Sharon's plain;


And timbers charred showed clotted stain:
But, spirited away, each corse
Unsepulchered remained, or worse.
Ah, Ruth—woe, Agar! Ill breeds ill;
The widow with no future free,
Without resource perhaps, or skill
To steer upon grief's misty sea.
To grieve with them and lend his aid,
Straight to the house see Clarel fare,
The house of mourning—sadder made
For that the mourned one lay not there—
But found it barred. He, waiting so,
Doubtful to knock or call them—lo,
The rabbi issues, while behind
The door shuts to. The meeting eyes
Reciprocate a quick surprise,
Then alter; and the secret mind
The rabbi bears to Clarel shows
In dark superior look he throws:
Censorious consciousness of power:
Death—and it is the Levite's hour.
No word he speaks, but turns and goes.
The student lingered. He was told
By one without, a neighbor old,
That never Jewish modes relent:
Sealed long would be the tenement
To all but Hebrews—of which race
Kneeled comforters by sorrow's side.
So both were cared for. Clogged in pace
He turned away. How pass the tide
Of Ruth's seclusion? Might he gain
Relief from dull inaction's pain?
Yes, join he would those pilgrims now
Which on the morrow would depart
For Siddim, by way of Jericho


But first of all, he letters sent,
Brief, yet dictated by the heart—
Announced his plan's constrained intent
Reluctant; and consigned a ring
For pledge of love and Ruth's remembering.