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a poem and pilgrimage in the Holy Land

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Noble gods at the board
Where lord unto lord
Light pushes the care-killing wine:
Urbane in their pleasure,
Superb in their leisure—
Lax ease—
Lax ease after labor divine!
“Golden ages eternal,
Autumnal, supernal,
Deep mellow their temper serene:
The rose by their gate
Shall it yield unto fate?
They are gods—
They are gods and their garlands keep green.
“Ever blandly adore them;
But spare to implore them:
They rest, they discharge them from time;
Yet believe, light believe
They would succor, reprieve—
Nay, retrieve—
Might but revelers pause in the prime!”
“Who sings?” cried Rolfe; “dare say no Quaker:
Fine song o'er funeral Siddim here:
So, mindless of the undertaker,
In cage above her mistress' bier
The gold canary chirps. What cheer?
Who comes?”
“Ay, welcome as the drums


Of marching allies unto men
Beleaguered—comes, who hymning comes—
What rescuer, what Delian?”
So Derwent, and with quick remove
Scaling the rock which hemmed their cove
He thence descried where higher yet
A traveler came, by cliffs beset,
Descending, and where terrors met.
Nor Orpheus of heavenly seed
Adown thrilled Hades' gorges singing,
About him personally flinging
The bloom transmitted from the mead;
In listening ghost such thoughts could breed
As did the vocal stranger here
In Mortmain, where relaxed he lay
Under that voice from other sphere
And carol laughing at the clay.
Nearer the minstrel drew. How fair
And light he leaned with easeful air
Backward in saddle, so to frame
A counterpoise as down he came.
Against the dolorous mountain side
His Phrygian cap in scarlet pride
Burned like a cardinal-flower in glen.
And after him, in trappings paced
His escort armed, three goodly men.
Observing now the other train,
He halted. Young he was, and graced
With fortunate aspect, such as draws
Hearts to good-will by natural laws.
No furtive scrutiny he made,
But frankly flung salute, and said:
“Well met in desert! Hear my song?”
“Indeed we did,” cried Derwent boon.
“And wondered where you got that tune,”
Rolfe added there. “Oh, brought along


From Cyprus; I'm a Cypriote,
You see; one catches many a note
Wafted from only heaven knows where.”
“And, pray, how name you it?” “The air?
Why, hymn of Aristippus.” “Ah:
And whither wends your train?” “Not far;”
And sidelong in the saddle free
A thigh he lolled: “'Tis thus, you see:
My dame beneath Our Lady's star
Vowed in her need, to Saba's shrine
Three flagons good for holy wine:
Vowed, and through me performed. Even now
I come from Saba, having done
Her will, accomplishing the vow.
But late I made a private one—
Meant to surprise her with a present
She'll value more than juicy pheasant,
Good mother mine. Yes, here I go
To Jordan, in desert there below,
To dip this shroud for her.” “Shroud, shroud?”
Cried Derwent, following the hand
In startled wonderment unfeigned,
Which here a little tap bestowed
In designation on a roll
Strapped to the pommel; “Azrael's scroll!
You do not mean you carry there
A—a—” “The same; 'tis woven fair:
“My shroud is saintly linen,
In lavender 'tis laid;
I have chosen a bed by the marigold
And supplied me a silver spade!”
The priest gazed at the singer; then
Turned his perplexed entreating ken
Upon Djalea. But Rolfe explained:


“I chance to know. Last year I gained
The Jordan at the Easter tide,
And saw the Greeks in numbers there,
Men, women, blithe on every side,
Dipping their winding-sheets. With care
They bleach and fold and put away
And take home to await the day:
A custom of old precedent,
And curious too in mode 'tis kept,
Showing how under Christian sway
Greeks still retain their primal bent,
Nor let grave doctrine intercept
That gay Hellene lightheartedness
Which in the pagan years did twine
The funeral urn with fair caress
Of vintage holiday divine.”
He turned him toward the Cypriote:
“Your courier, the forerunning note
Which ere we sighted you, we heard—
You're bold to trill it so, my bird.”
“And why? It is a fluent song.
Though who they be I cannot say,
I trust their lordships think no wrong;
I do but trill it for the air;
'Tis anything as down we fare.”
Enough; Rolfe let him have his way;
Yes, there he let the matter stay.
And so, with mutual good-will shown,
They parted.
For l'envoy anon
They heard his lilting voice impel
Among the crags this versicle:
With a rose in thy mouth
Through the world lightly veer:


Rose in the mouth
Makes a rose of the year!”
Then, after interval again,
But fainter, further in the strain:
“With the Prince of the South
O'er the Styx bravely steer:
Rose in the mouth
And a wreath on the bier!”
Chord deeper now that touched within.
Listening, they at each other look;
Some charitable hope they brook,
Yes, vague belief they fondly win
That heaven would brim his happy years
Nor time mature him into tears.
And Vine in heart of revery saith:
Like any flute inspired with breath
Pervasive, and which duly renders
Unconscious in melodious play,
Whate'er the light musician tenders;
So warblest thou lay after lay
Scarce self-derived; and (shroud before)
Down goest singing toward Death's Sea,
Where lies aloof our pilgrim hoar
In pit thou'lt pass. Ah, young to be!