University of Virginia Library


Tis night, with silence, save low moan
Of winds. By torches red in glen
A muffled man upon a stone
Sits desolate sole denizen.
Pilgrims and friars on ledge above
Repose. A figure in remove
This prologue renders: “He in view
Is that Cartaphilus, the Jew
Who wanders ever; in low state,
Behold him in Jehoshaphat
The valley, underneath the hem
And towers of gray Jerusalem:
This must ye feign. With quick conceit
Ingenuous, attuned in heart,
Help out the actor in his part,
And gracious be;” and made retreat.
Then slouching rose the muffled man;
Gazed toward the turrets, and began:


“O city yonder,
Exposed in penalty and wonder,
Again thou seest me! Hither I
Still drawn am by the guilty tie
Between us; all the load I bear
Only thou know'st, for thou dost share.
As round my heart the phantoms throng
Of tribe and era perished long,
So thou art haunted, sister in wrong!
While ghosts from mounds of recent date
Invest and knock at every gate—
Specters of thirty sieges old
Your outer line of trenches hold:
Egyptian, Mede, Greek, Arab, Turk,
Roman, and Frank, beleaguering lurk.—
Not solely for that bond of doom
Between us, do I frequent come
Hither, and make profound resort
In Shaveh's dale, in Joel's court;
But hungering also for the day
Whose dawn these weary feet shall stay,
When Michael's trump the call shall spread
Through all your warrens of the dead.
“Time, never may I know the calm
Till then? my lull the world's alarm?
But many mortal fears and feelings
In me, in me here stand reversed:
The unappeased judicial pealings
Wrench me, not wither me, accursed.
‘Just let him live, just let him rove,’
(Pronounced the voice estranged from love)
‘Live—live and rove the sea and land;
Long live, rove far, and understand
And sum all knowledge for his dower;
For he forbid is, he is banned;


His brain shall tingle, but his hand
Shall palsied be in power:
Ruthless, he meriteth no ruth,
On him I imprecate the truth.’”
He quailed; then, after little truce,
Moaned querulous:
“My fate!
Cut off I am, made separate;
For man's embrace I strive no more;
For, would I be
Friendly with one, the mystery
He guesses of that dreadful lore
Which Eld accumulates in me:
He fleeth me.
My face begetteth superstition:
In dungeons of Spain's Inquisition
Thrice languished I for sorcery,
An Elymas. In Venice, long
Immured beneath the wave I lay
For a conspirator. Some wrong
On me is heaped, go where I may,
Among mankind. Hence solitude
Elect I; in waste places brood
More lonely than an only god;
For, human still, I yearn, I yearn,
Yea, after a millennium, turn
Back to my wife, my wife and boy;
Yet ever I shun the dear abode
Or site thereof, of homely joy.
I fold ye in the watch of night,
Esther! then start. And hast thou been?
And I for ages in this plight?
Caitiff I am; but there's no sin
Conjecturable, possible,
No crime they expiate in hell


Justly whereto such pangs belong:
The wrongdoer he endureth wrong.
Yea, now the Jew, inhuman erst,
With penal sympathy is cursed—
The burden shares of every crime,
And throttled miseries undirged,
Unchronicled, and guilt submerged
Each moment in the flood of time.
Go mad I can not: I maintain
The perilous outpost of the sane.
Memory could I mitigate,
Or would the long years vary any!
But no, 'tis fate repeating fate:
Banquet and war, bridal and hate,
And tumults of the people many;
And wind, and dust soon laid again:
Vanity, vanity's endless reign!—
What's there?”
He paused, and all was hush
Save a wild screech, and hurtling rush
Of wings. An owl—the hermit true
Of grot the eremite once knew
Up in the cleft—alarmed by ray
Of shifted flambeau, burst from cave
On bushy wing, and brushed away
Down the long Kedron gorge and grave.
“It flees, but it will be at rest
Anon! But I—” and hung oppressed—
“Years, three-score years, seem much to men;
Three hundred—five—eight hundred, then;
And add a thousand; these I know!
That eighth dim cycle of my woe,
The which, ahead, did so delay,
To me now seems but yesterday:
To Rome I wandered out of Spain,


And saw thy crowning, Charlemagne,
On Christmas eve. Is all but dream?
Or is this Shaveh, and on high,
Is that, even that, Jerusalem?—
How long, how long? Compute hereby:
The years, the penal years to be,
Reckon by years, years, years, and years
Whose calendar thou here mayst see
On grave-slabs which the blister sears—
Of ancient Jews which sought this clime
Inscriptions nigh extinct,
Or blent or interlinked
With dotard scrawl of idiot Time.
Transported felon on the seas
Pacing the deck while spray-clouds freeze;
Pacing and pacing, night and morn,
Until he staggers overworn;
Through time, so I, Christ's convict grim,
Deathless and sleepless lurching fare—
Deathless and sleepless through remorse for Him;
Deathless, when sleepless were enough to bear.”
Rising he slouched along the glen
Halting at base of crag—detached
Erect, as from the barrier snatched,
And upright lodged below; and then:
“Absalom's Pillar! See the shoal
Before it—pebble, flint, and stone,
With malediction, jeer or groan
Cast through long ages. Ah, what soul
That was but human, without sin,
Did hither the first just missile spin!
Culprit am I—this hand flings none;
Rather through yon dark-yawning gap,
Missed by the rabble in mishap
Of peltings vain—abject I'd go,


And, contrite, coil down there within,
Lie still, and try to ease the throe.
But nay—away!
Not long the feet unblest may stay.
They come: the vengeful vixens strive—
The harpies, lo—hag, gorgon, drive!”
There caught along, as swept by sand
In fierce Sahara hurricaned,
He fled, and vanished down the glen.
The Spahi, who absorbed had been
By the true acting, turned amain,
And letting go the mental strain,
Vented a resonant, “Bismillah!”
Strange answering which pealed from on high—
Dies irœ, dies illa!”
They looked, and through the lurid fume
Profuse of torches that but die,
And ghastly there the cliffs illume;
The skull-capped man they mark on high—
Fitful revealed, as when, through rift
Of clouds which dyed by sunset drift,
The Matterhorn shows its cragged austerity.