University of Virginia Library


The legend round a Grecian urn,
The sylvan legend, though decay
Have wormed the garland all away,
And fire have left its Vandal burn;
Yet beauty inextinct may charm
In outline of the vessel's form.
Much so with Sodom, shore and sea.
Fair Como would like Sodom be
Should horror overrun the scene
And calcine all that makes it green,
Yet haply sparing to impeach
The contour in its larger reach.
In graceful lines the hills advance,
The valley's sweep repays the glance,
And wavy curves of winding beach;
But all is charred or crunched or riven,
Scarce seems of earth whereon we dwell;
Though framed within the lines of heaven
The picture intimates a hell.


That marge they win. Bides Mortmain there?
No trace of man, not anywhere.
It was the salt wave's northern brink.
No gravel bright nor shell was seen,
Nor kelpy growth nor coralline,
But dead boughs stranded, which the rout
Of Jordan, in old freshets born
In Libanus, had madly torn
Green from her arbor and thrust out
Into the liquid waste. No sound
Nor motion but of sea. The land
Was null: nor bramble, weed, nor trees,
Nor anything that grows on ground,
Flexile to indicate the breeze;
Though hitherward by south winds fanned
From Usdum's brink and Bozrah's site
Of bale, flew gritty atoms light.
Toward Karek's castle lost in blur,
And thence beyond toward Aroer
By Arnon where the robbers keep,
Jackal and vulture, eastward sweep
The waters, while their western rim
Stretches by Judah's headlands grim,
Which make in turns a sea-wall steep.
There, by the cliffs or distance hid,
The Fount or Cascade of the Kid
An Eden makes of one high glen,
One vernal and contrasted scene
In jaws of gloomy crags uncouth—
Rosemary in the black boar's mouth.
Alike withheld from present view
(And, until late, but hawk and kite
Visited the forgotten site).
The Maccabees' Masada true;
Stronghold which Flavian arms did rend,


The Peak of Eleazer's end,
Where patriot warriors made with brides
A martyrdom of suicides.
There too did Mariamne's hate
The death of John accelerate.
A crag of fairest, foulest weather—
Famous, and infamous together.
Hereof they spake, but never Vine,
Who little knew or seemed to know
Derived from books, but did incline
In docile way to each one's flow
Of knowledge bearing anyhow
In points less noted.
The sea indefinite was lost
Under a catafalque of cloud.
Unwelcome impress to disown
Or light evade, the priest, aloud
Taking an interested tone
And brisk, “Why, yonder lies Mount Hor,
E'en thereaway—that southward shore.”
“Ay,” added Rolfe, “and Aaron's cell
Thereon. A mountain sentinel,
He holds in solitude austere
The outpost of prohibited Seir
In cut-off Edom.”
“God can sever!”
Brake in the saint, who nigh them stood;
“The satyr to the dragon's brood
Crieth! God's word abideth ever:
None there pass through—no, never, never!”
“My friend Max Levi, he passed through.”
They turned. It was the hardy Jew.
Absorbed in vision here, the saint
Heard not. The priest in flushed constraint
Showed mixed emotion; part he winced


And part a humor pleased evinced—
Relish that would from qualms be free—
Aversion involved with sympathy.
But changing, and in formal way—
“Admitted; nay, 'tis tritely true;
Men pass thro' Edom, through and through.
But surely, few so dull to-day
As not to make allowance meet
For Orientalism's play
In Scripture, where the chapters treat
Of mystic themes.”
With eye askance,
The apostate fixed no genial glance:
“Ay, Keith's grown obsolete. And, pray,
How long will these last glosses stay?
The agitating influence
Of knowledge never will dispense
With teasing faith, do what ye may.
Adjust and readjust, ye deal
With compass in a ship of steel.”
“Such perturbations do but give
Proof that faith's vital: sensitive
Is faith, my friend.”
“Go to, go to:
Your black bat! how she hangs askew,
Torpid, from wall by claws of wings:
Let drop the left—sticks fast the right;
Then this unhook—the other swings;
Leave—she regains her double plight.”
“Ah, look,” cried Derwent; “ah, behold!”
From the blue battlements of air,
Over saline vapors hovering there,
A flag was flung out—curved in fold—
Fiery, rosy, violet, green—
And, lovelier growing, brighter, fairer,
Transfigured all that evil scene;
And Iris was the standard-bearer.


None spake. As in a world made new,
With upturned faces they review
That oriflamme, the which no man
Would look for in such clime of ban.
'Twas northern; and its home-like look
Touched Nehemiah. He, late with book
Gliding from Margoth's dubious sway,
Was standing by the ass apart;
And when he caught that scarf of May
How many a year ran back his heart:
Scythes hang in orchard, hay-cocks loom
After eve-showers, the mossed roofs gloom
Greenly beneath the homestead trees;
He tingles with these memories.
For Vine, over him suffusive stole
An efflorescence; all the soul
Flowering in flush upon the brow.
But 'twas ambiguously replaced
In words addressed to Clarel now—
“Yonder the arch dips in the waste;
Thither! and win the pouch of gold.”
Derwent reproached him: “ah, withhold!
See, even death's pool reflects the dyes—
The rose upon the coffin lies!”
“Brave words,” said Margoth, plodding near;
“Brave words; but yonder bow's forsworn.
The covenant made on Noah's morn,
Was that well kept? why, hardly here,
Where whelmed by fire and flood, they say,
The townsfolk sank in after day,
Yon sign in heaven should reappear.”
They heard, but in such torpid gloom
Scarcely they recked, for now the bloom
Vanished from sight, and half the sea
Died down to glazed monotony.


Craved solace here would Clarel prove,
Recalling Ruth, her glance of love.
But nay; those eyes so frequent known
To meet, and mellow on his own—
Now, in his vision of them, swerved;
While in perverse recurrence ran
Dreams of the bier Armenian.
Against their sway his soul he nerved:
“Go, goblins; go, each funeral thought—
Bewitchment from this Dead Sea caught!”
Westward they move, and turn the shore
Southward, till, where wild rocks are set,
Dismounting, they would fain restore
Ease to the limb. But haunts them yet
A dumb dejection lately met.