University of Virginia Library


Derwent fetched breath: “A healthy man:
His lungs are of the soundest leather.”
“Health's insolence in a Saurian,”
Said Rolfe. With that they fell together
Probing the purport of the Jew
In last ambiguous words he threw.
But Derwent, and in lenient way,
Explained it.
“Let him have his say,”
Cried Rolfe; “for one, I spare defiance
With such a kangaroo of science.”
“Yes; qualify though,” Derwent said,
“For science has her eagles too.”
Here musefully Rolfe hung the head;
Then lifted: “Eagles? ay; but few.


And search we in their æries lone
What find we, pray? perchance, a bone.”
“A very cheerful point of view!”
“'Tis as one takes it. Not unknown
That even in Physics much late lore
But drudges after Plato's theme;
Or supplements—but little more—
Some Hindoo's speculative dream
Of thousand years ago. And, own,
Darwin is but his grandsire's son.”
“But Newton and his gravitation!”
“Think you that system's strong persuasion
Is founded beyond shock? O'ermuch
'Twould seem for man, a clod, to clutch
God's secret so, and on a slate
Cipher all out, and formulate
The universe.” “You Pyrrhonist!
Why, now, perhaps you do not see—
Your mind has taken such a twist—
The claims of stellar chemistry.”
“What's that?” “No matter. Time runs on
And much that's useful, grant, is won.”
“Yes; but more's claimed. Now first they tell
The human mind is free to range.
Enlargement—ay; but where's the change?
We're yet within the citadel—
May rove in bounds, and study out
The insuperable towers about.”
“Come; but there's many a merry man:
How long since these sad times began?”
That steadied Rolfe: “Where's no annoy
I too perchance can take a joy—
Yet scarce in solitude of thought:
Together cymbals need be brought


Ere mirth is made. The wight alone
Who laughs, is deemed a witless one.
And why? But that we'll leave unsought.”
“By all means!—O ye frolic shapes:
Thou Dancing Faun, thou Faun with Grapes!
What think ye of them? tell us, pray.”
“Fine mellow marbles.”
“But their hint?”
“A mine as deep as rich the mint
Of cordial joy in Nature's sway
Shared somewhere by anterior clay
When life was innocent and free:
Methinks 'tis this they hint to me.”
He paused, as one who makes review
Of gala days; then—warmly too—
“Whither hast fled, thou deity
So genial? In thy last and best
Best avatar—so ripe in form—
Pure as the sleet—as roses warm—
Our earth's unmerited fair guest—
A god with peasants went abreast:
Man clasped a deity's offered hand;
And woman, ministrant, was then
How true, even in a Magdalen.
Him following through the wilding flowers
By lake and hill, or glad detained
In Cana—ever out of doors—
Ere yet the disenchantment gained
What dream they knew, that primal band
Of gipsy Christians! But it died;
Back rolled the world's effacing tide:
The “world”—by Him denounced, defined—
Him first—set off and countersigned,
Once and for all, as opposite
To honest children of the light.
But worse came—creeds, wars, stakes. Oh, men


Made earth inhuman; yes, a den
Worse for Christ's coming, since his love
(Perverted) did but venom prove.
In part that's passed. But what remains
After fierce seethings? golden grains?
Nay, dubious dregs: be frank, and own.
Opinion eats; all crumbles down:
Where stretched an isthmus, rolls a strait:
Cut off, cut off! Can'st feel elate
While all the depths of Being moan
Though luminous on every hand,
The breadths of shallow knowledge more expand?
Much as a light-ship keeper pines
Mid shoals immense, where dreary shines
His lamp, we toss beneath the ray
Of Science' beacon. This to trim
Is now man's barren office.—Nay,”
Starting abrupt, “this earnest way
I hate. Let doubt alone; best skim,
Not dive.”
“No, no,” cried Derwent gay,
Who late, upon acquaintance more,
Took no mislike to Rolfe at core,
And fain would make his knell a chime—
Being pledged to hold the palmy time
Of hope—at least, not to admit
That serious check might come to it:
“No, sun doubt's root—'twill fade, 'twill fade!
And for thy picture of the Prime,
Green Christianity in glade—
Why, let it pass; 'tis good, in sooth:
Who summons poets to the truth?”
How Vine sidelong regarded him
As 'twere in envy of his gift


For light disposings: so to skim!
Clarel surmised the expression's drift,
Thereby anew was led to sift
Good Derwent's mind. For Rolfe's discourse—
Prior recoil from Margoth's jeer
Was less than startled shying here
At earnest comment's random force.
He shrunk; but owned 'twas weakness mere.
Himself he chid: No more for me
The petty half-antipathy:
This pressure it need be endured:
Weakness to strength must get inured;
And Rolfe is sterling, though not less
At variance with that parlor-strain
Which counts each thought that borders pain
A social treason. Sterling—yes,
Despite illogical wild range
Of brain and heart's impulsive counterchange.