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a poem and pilgrimage in the Holy Land

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Jerusalem, the mountain town
Is based how far above the sea;
But down, a lead-line's long reach down,
A deep-sea lead, beneath the zone
Of ocean's level, heaven's decree
Has sunk the pool whose deeps submerged
The doomed Pentapolis fire-scourged.
Long then the slope, though varied oft,
From Zion to the seats abject;
For rods and roods ye wind aloft
By verges where the pulse is checked;
And chief both hight and steepness show
Ere Achor's gorge the barrier rends
And like a thunder-cloud impends
Ominous over Jericho.
Hard by the brink the Druze leads on,
But halts at a projecting crown
Of cliff, and beckons them. Nor goat
Nor fowler ranging far and high
Scales such a steep; nor vulture's eye
Scans one more lone. Deep down in throat
It shows a sooty black.
“A forge


Abandoned,” Rolfe said, “thus may look.”
“Yea,” quoth the saint, “and read the Book:
Flames, flames have forked in Achor's gorge.”
His wizard vehemence surprised:
Some new illusion they surmised;
Not less authentic text he took:
“Yea, after slaughter made at Ai
When Joshua's three thousand fled,
Achan the thief they made to die—
They stoned him in this hollow here—
They burned him with his children dear;
Among them flung his ingot red
And scarlet robe of Babylon:
Meet end for Carmi's wicked son
Because of whom they failed at Ai:
'Twas meet the trespasser should die;
Yea, verily.”—His visage took
The tone of that uncanny nook.
To Rolfe here Derwent: “Study him;
Then weigh that most ungenial rule
Of Moses and the austere school
Which e'en our saint can make so grim—
At least while Achor feeds his eyes.”
“But here speaks Nature otherwise?”
Asked Rolfe; “in region roundabout
She's Calvinistic if devout
In all her aspect.”—
Vine, o'ercast,
Estranged rode in thought's hid repast.
Clarel, receptive, saw and heard,
Learning, unlearning, word by word.
Erelong the wilds condense the ill—
They hump it into that black Hill
Named from the Forty Days and Nights,
The Quarantania's sum of blights.


Up from the gorge it grows, it grows:
Hight sheer, sheer depth, and death's repose.
Sunk in the gulf the wave disowns,
Stranded lay ancient torrent-stones.
These Mortmain marks: “Ah, from your deep
Turn ye, appeal ye to the steep?
But that looks off, and everywhere
Descries but worlds more waste, more bare.”
Flanked by the crag and glen they go.
Ahead, erelong in greeting show
The mounts of Moab, o'er the vale
Of Jordan opening into view,
With cloud-born shadows sweeping thro'.
The Swede, intent: “Lo, how they trail
The mortcloths in the funeral
Of gods!”
Although he naught confessed,
In Derwent, marking there the scene,
What interference was expressed
As of harsh grit in oiled machine—
Disrelish grating interest:
Howbeit, this he tried to screen.
“Pisgah!” cried Rolfe, and pointed him.
“Peor, too—ay, long Abarim
The ridge. Well, well: for thee I sigh,
Poor Moses. Saving Jericho
And her famed palms in Memphian row,
No cheerful landscape met thine eye;
Unless indeed (yon Pisgah's high)
Was caught, beyond each mount and plain,
The blue, blue Mediterranean.”
“And might he then for Egypt sigh?”
Here prompted Rolfe; but no reply;
And Rolfe went on: “Balboa's ken
Roved in fine sweep from Darien:


The woods and waves in tropic meeting,
Bright capes advancing, bays retreating—
Green land, blue sea in charm competing!”
Meantime, with slant reverted eyes
Vine marked the Crag of Agonies.
Exceeding high (as Matthew saith)
It shows from skirt of that wild path
Bare as an iceberg seamed by rain
Toppling awash in foggy main
Off Labrador. Grottoes Vine viewed
Upon the flank—or cells or tombs—
Void as the iceberg's catacombs
Of frost. He starts. A form endued
With living guise, from ledges dim
Leans as if looking down toward him.
Not pointing out the thing he saw
Vine watched it, but it showed no claw
Of hostile purpose; tho' indeed
Robbers and outlaws armed have dwelt
Vigilant by those caves where knelt
Of old the hermits of the creed.
Beyond, they win a storied fount
Which underneath the higher mount
Gurgles, clay-white, and downward sets
Toward Jericho in rivulets,
Which—much like children whose small mirth
Not funerals can stay—through dearth
Run babbling. One old humpbacked tree,
Sad grandam whom no season charms,
Droops o'er the spring her withered arms;
And stones as in a ruin laid,
Like penitential benches be
Where silent thickets fling a shade
And gather dust. Here halting, here
Awhile they rest and try the cheer.