University of Virginia Library


The camel's skull upon the beach
No more the sluggish waters reach—
No more the languid waters lave;
Not now they wander in and out
Of those void chambers walled about—
So dull the calm, so dead the wave.
Above thick mist how pallid looms,


While the slurred day doth wanly break,
Ammon's long ridge beyond the lake.
Down to the shrouded margin comes
Lone Vine—and starts: not at the skull,
The camel's, for that bides the same
As when overnight 'twas Mortmain's stool.
But, nigh it—how that object name?
Slant on the shore, ground-curls of mist
Enfold it, as in amethyst
Subdued, small flames in dead of night
Lick the dumb back-log ashy white.
What is it?—paler than the pale
Pervading vapors, which so veil,
That some peak-tops are islanded
Baseless above the dull, dull bed
Of waters, which not e'en transmit
One ripple 'gainst the cheek of It.
The start which the discoverer gave
Was physical—scarce shocked the soul,
Since many a prior revery grave
Forearmed against alarm's control.
To him, indeed, each lapse and end
Meet—in harmonious method blend.
Lowly he murmured, “Here is balm:
Repose is snowed upon repose—
Sleep upon sleep; it is the calm
And incantation of the close.”
The others, summoned to the spot,
Were staggered: Nehemiah? no!
The innocent and sinless—what!—
Pale lying like the Assyrian low?
The Swede stood by; nor after-taste
Extinct was of the liquid waste


Nor influence of that Wormwood Star
Whereof he spake. All overcast—
His genial spirits meeting jar—
Derwent on no unfeeling plea
Held back. Mortmain, relentless: “See:
To view death on the bed—at ease—
A dream, and draped; to minister
To inheriting kin; to comfort these
In chamber comfortable:—here
The elements all that unsay!
The first man dies. Thus Abel lay.”
The sad priest, rightly to be read
Scarce hoping,—pained, dispirited—
Was dumb. And Mortmain went aside
In thrill by only Vine espied:
Alas (thought Vine) thou bitter Swede,
Into thine armor dost thou bleed?
Intent but poised, the Druze looked on:
“The sheath: the sword?”
“Ah, whither gone?”
Clarel, and bowed him there and kneeled:
“Whither art gone? thou friendliest mind
Unfriended—what friend now shalt find?
Robin or raven, hath God a bird
To come and strew thee, lone interred,
With leaves, when here left far behind?”
“He's gone,” the Jew; “czars, stars must go
Or change! All's chymestry. Aye so.”—
Resurget”—faintly Derwent there.
In pace”—Vine, nor more would dare.
Rolfe in his reaching heart did win
Prelude remote, yet gathering in;
“Moist, moist with sobs and balsam shed—


Warm tears, cold odors from the urn—
They hearsed in heathen Rome their dead
All hopeless of the soul's return.
Embracing them, in marble set,
The mimic gates of Orcus met—
The Pluto-bolt, the fatal one
Wreathed over by the hung festoon.
How fare we now? But were it clear
In nature or in lore devout
That parted souls live on in cheer,
Gladness would be—shut pathos out.
His poor thin life: the end? no more?
The end here by the Dead Sea shore?”
He turned him, as awaiting nod
Or answer from earth, air, or skies;
But be it ether or the clod,
The elements yield no replies.
Cross-legged on a cindery hight,
Belex, the fatalist, smoked on.
Slow whiffs; and then, “It needs be done:
Come, beach the loins there, Bethlehemite.”—
Inside a hollow free from stone
With camel-ribs they scooped a trench;
And Derwent, rallying from blench
Of Mortmain's brow, and nothing loth
Tacit to vindicate the cloth,
Craved they would bring to him the Book,
Now ownerless. The same he took,
And thence had culled brief service meet,
But closed, reminded of the psalm
Heard when the salt fog shrunk the palm—
They wending toward these waters' seat—
Raised by the saint, as e'en it lent
A voice to low presentiment:
Naught better might one here repeat:


“Though through the valley of the shade
I pass, no evil do I fear;
His candle shineth on my head:
Lo, he is with me, even here.”
That o'er, they kneeled—with foreheads bare
Bowed as he made the burial prayer.
Even Margoth bent him; but 'twas so
As some hard salt at sea will do
Holding the narrow plank that bears
The shotted hammock, while brief prayers
Are by the master read mid war
Relentless of wild elements—
The sleet congealing on the spar:
It was a sulking reverence.
The body now the Arabs placed
Within the grave, and then with haste
Had covered, but for Rolfe's restraint:
“The Book!”—The Bible of the saint—
With that the relics there he graced,
Yea, put it in the hand: “Since now
The last long journey thou dost go,
Why part thee from thy friend and guide!
And better guide who knoweth? Bide.”
They closed. And came a rush, a roar—
Aloof, but growing more and more,
Nearer and nearer. They invoke
The long Judaic range, the hight
Of nearer mountains hid from sight
By the blind mist. Nor spark nor smoke
Of that plunged wake their eyes might see;
But, hoarse in hubbub, horribly,
With all its retinue around—
Flints, dust, and showers of splintered stone,


An avalanche of rock down tore,
In somerset from each rebound—
Thud upon thump—down, down and down—
And landed. Lull. Then shore to shore
Rolled the deep echo, fold on fold,
Which, so reverberated, bowled
And bowled far down the long El Ghor.
They turn; and, in that silence sealed,
What works there from behind the veil?
A counter object is revealed—
A thing of heaven, and yet how frail:
Up in thin mist above the sea
Humid is formed, and noiselessly,
The fog-bow: segment of an oval
Set in a colorless removal
Against a vertical shaft, or slight
Slim pencil of an aqueous light.
Suspended there, the segment hung
Like to the May-wreath that is swung
Against the pole. It showed half spent—
Hovered and trembled, paled away, and—went.