University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a poem and pilgrimage in the Holy Land

collapse section 
collapse section 
collapse section1. 
expand section1. 
expand section2. 
expand section2. 


Credit the Arab wizard lean,
And still at favoring hour are seen
(But not by Franks, whom doubts debar)
Through waves the cities overthrown:
Seboym and Segor, Aldemah,
With two whereof the foul renown
And syllables more widely reign.
Astarte, worshiped on the Plain
Ere Terah's day, her vigil keeps
Devoted where her temple sleeps
Like moss within the agate's vein—
A ruin in the lucid sea.
The columns lie overlappingly—
Slant, as in order smooth they slid
Down the live slope. Her ray can bid
Their beauty thrill along the lane
Of tremulous silver. By the marge
(If yet the Arab credence gain)
At slack wave, when midsummer's glow
Widens the shallows, statues show—


He vouches; and will more enlarge
On sculptured basins broad in span,
With alum scurfed and alkatran.
Nay, further—let who will, believe—
As monks aver, on holy eve,
Easter or John's, along the strand
Shadows Corinthian wiles in weave:
Voluptuous palaces expand,
From whose moon-lighted colonnade
Beckons Armida, deadly maid:
Traditions; and their fountains run
Beyond King Nine and Babylon.
But disenchanters grave maintain
That in the time ere Sodom's fall
'Twas shepherds here endured life's pain:
Shepherds, and all was pastoral
In Siddim; Abraham and Lot,
Blanketed Bedouins of the plain;
Sodom and her four daughters small—
For Sodom held maternal reign—
Poor little hamlets, such as dot
The mountain side and valley way
Of Syria as she shows to-day;
The East, where constancies in dwell,
Such hint may give: 'tis plausible.
Hereof the group—from Mortmain's blight
Withdrawn where sands the beach embayed
And Nehemiah apart was laid—
Held curious discourse that night.
They chatted; but 'twas underrun
By heavier current. And anon,
After the meek one had retired
Under the tent, the thought transpired,
And Mortmain was the theme.
“If mad,


'Tis indignation at the bad,”
Said Rolfe; “most men somehow get used
To seeing evil, though not all
They see; 'tis sympathetical;
But never some are disabused
Of first impressions which appal.”
“There, there,” cried Derwent, “let it fall.
Assume that some are but so-so,
They'll be transfigured. Let suffice:
Dismas he dwells in Paradise.”
“Who?” “Dismas the Good Thief, you know.
Ay, and the Blest One shared the cup
With Judas; e'en let Judas sup
With him, at the Last Supper too.—
But see!”
It was the busy Jew
With chemic lamp aflame, by tent
Trying some shrewd experiment
With minerals secured that day,
Dead unctuous stones.
“Look how his ray,”
Said Rolfe, “too small for stars to heed,
Strange lights him, reason's sorcerer,
Poor Simon Magus run to seed.
And, yes, 'twas here—or else I err—
The legends claim, that into sea
The old magician flung his book
When life and lore he both forsook:
The evil spell yet lurks, may be.—
But yon strange orb—can be the moon?
These vapors: and the waters swoon.”
Ere long the tent received them all;
They slumber—wait the morning's call.