University of Virginia Library


Towers twain crown Saba's mountain hight;
And one, with larger outlook bold,
Monks frequent climb or day or night
To peer for Arabs. In the breeze
So the ship's lifted topmen hold
Watch on the blue and silver seas,
To guard against the slim Malay,


That perilous imp whose slender proa
Great hulls have rued—as in ill hour
The whale the sword-fish' lank assay.
Upon that pile, to catch the dawn,
Alert next day see Derwent stand
With Clarel. All the mountain-land
Disclosed through Kedron far withdrawn,
Cloven and shattered, hushed and banned,
Seemed poised as in a chaos true,
Or throe-lock of transitional earth
When old forms are annulled, and new
Rebel, and pangs suspend the birth.
That aspect influenced Clarel. Fair
Derwent's regard played otherwhere—
Expectant. Twilight gray took on
Suffusion faint of cherry tone.
The student marked it; but the priest
Marked whence it came: “Turn, turn—the East!
Oh, look! how like an ember red
The seed of fire, by early hand
Raked forth from out the ashy bed,
Shows you tinged flake of dawn. See, fanned
As 'twere, by this spice-air that blows,
The live coal kindles—the fire grows!”
And mute, he watched till all the East
Was flame: “Ah, who would not here come,
And from dull drowsiness released,
Behold morn's rosy martyrdom!”
It was an unaffected joy,
And showed him free from all annoy
Within—such, say, as mutiny
Of non-content in random touch
That he perchance had overmuch
Favored the first night's revelry.


For Clarel—though at call indeed
He might not else than turn and feed
On florid dawn—not less, anon,
When wonted light of day was won,
Sober and common light, with that
Returned to him his unelate
And unalleviated tone;
And thoughts, strange thoughts, derived overnight,
Touching the Swede's dark undelight,
Recurred; with sequence how profuse
Concerning all the company—
The Arnaut, and the man of glee—
The Lesbian, and calm grave Druze,
And Belex; yes, and in degree
Even Rolfe; Vine too. Less he who trim
Beside him stood, eludes his doubt—
Derwent himself, whose easy skim
Never had satisfied throughout.
He now, if not deemed less devout
Through wassail and late hint of him,
Was keenlier scanned. Yet part might be
Effect of long society,
Which still detracts. But in review
Of one who could such doubt renew,
Clarel inveighs: Parhelion orb
Of faith autumnal, may the dew
Of earth's sad tears thy rays absorb?
Truth bitter: Derwent bred distrust
Heavier than came from Mortmain's thrust
Into the cloud—profounder far
Than Achor's glen with ominous scar.
All aliens now being quite aloof,
Fain would he put that soul to proof.
Yet, fearful lest he might displease,
His topics broached he by degrees.


Needless. For Derwent never shrunk:
“Lad, lad, this diffidence forget;
Believe, you talk here to no monk:
Who's old Duns Scotus? We're well met.
Glad that at last your mind you set
In frank communion here with me.
Better had this been earlier, though;
There lacked not times of privacy
Had such been sought. But yes, I know;
You're young, you're off the poise; and so
A link have felt with hearts the same
Though more advanced. I scarce can blame.
And yet perhaps one here might plead
These rather stimulate than feed.
Nor less let each tongue say its say;
Therefrom we truth elicit. Nay,
And with the worst, 'tis understood
We broader clergy think it good
No more to use censorious tone:
License to all.—We are alone;
Speak out, that's right.”
The student first
Cited the din of clashed belief
So loud in Palestine, and chief
By Calvary, where are rehearsed
Within the Sepulcher's one fane
All rituals which, ere Luther's reign,
Shared the assent of Christendom.
Besides: how was it even at home?
Behind the mellow chancel's rail
Lurked strife intestine. What avail
The parlor-chapels liberal?
The hearers their own minds elect;
The very pews are each a sect;
No one opinion's steadfast sway:
A wide, an elemental fray.


As with ships moored in road unsafe,
When gales augment and billows chafe,
Hull drives 'gainst hull, endangering all
In crossing cables; while from thrall
Of anchor, others, dragged amain,
Drift seaward: so the churches strain,
Much so the fleets sectarian meet
Doubt's equinox. Yes, all was dim;
He saw no one secure retreat;
Of late so much had shaken him.
Derwent in grave concern inclined.
“Part true, alas!” Nor less he claimed
Reserves of solace, and of kind
Beyond that in the desert named,
When the debate was scarce with men
Who owned with him a common ground—
True center where they might convene.
And yet this solace when unbound
At best proved vague (so Clarel deemed).
He thought, too, that the priest here seemed
Embarrassed on the sudden, nay,
He faltered. What could so betray?
In single contact, heart to heart,
With young, fresh, fervid earnestness,
Was he surprised into distress—
An honest quandary, a smart
More trying e'en than Mortmain's dart,
Grieving and graveling, could deal?
But Derwent rallied, and with zeal:
“Shall everything then plain be made?
Not that there's any ambuscade:
In youth's first heat to think to know!
For time 'tis well to bear a cross:
Yet on some waters here below
Pilots there be, if one's at loss.”
The pupil colored; then restrained


An apt retort too personal,
Content with this: “Pilots retained?
But in debates which I recall
Such proved but naught. This side—that side,
They crossing hail through fogs that dwell
Upon a limitless deep tide,
While their own cutters toll the bell
Of groping.”
Derwent bit the lip;
Altered again, had fain let slip
“Throw all this burden upon HIM;”
But hesitated. Changing trim,
Considerate then he turned a look
Which seemed to weigh as in a book
Just how far youth might well be let
Into maturity's cabinet.
He, as in trial, took this tone:
“Not but there's here and there a heart
Which shares at whiles strange throbs alone.
Such at the freakish sting will start:
No umpirage! they cry—we dote
To dream heaven drops a casting vote,
In these perplexities takes part!”
Clarel, uncertain, stood at gaze,
But Derwent, riving that amaze,
Advanced impulsively: “Your hand!
No longer will I be restrained.
Yours is a sect—but never mind:
By function we are intertwined,
Our common function. Weigh it thus:
Clerics we are—clerics, my son;
Nay, shrink not so incredulous;
Paternally my sympathies run—
Toward you I yearn. Well, now: what joy,
What saving calm, what but annoy
In all this hunt without one clew?


What lack ye, pray? what would ye do?
Have Faith, which, even from the myth,
Draws something to be useful with:
In any form some truths will hold;
Employ the present-sanctioned mold.
Nay, hear me out; clean breast I make,
Quite unreserved—and for whose sake?
Suppose an instituted creed
(Or truth or fable) should indeed
To ashes fall; the spirit exhales,
But reinfunds in active forms:
Verse, popular verse, it charms or warms—
Bellies Philosophy's flattened sails—
Tinctures the very book, perchance,
Which claims arrest of its advance.
Why, the true import, deeper use
Shows first when Reason quite slips noose,
And Faith's long dead. Attest that gold
Which Bacon counted down and told
In one ripe tract, by time unshamed,
Wherein from riddle he reclaimed
The myths of Greece. But go back—well,
Reach to the years of first decay
Or totter: prithee, lad, but tell
How with the flamens of that day?
When brake the sun from morning's tents
And walked the hills, and gilded thence
The fane in porch; the priest in view
Bowed—hailed Apollo, as before,
Ere change set in; what else to do?
Or whither turn, or what adore?
What but to temporize for him,
Stranded upon an interim
Between the ebb and flood? He knew.—
You see? Transfer—apply it, you.”
“Ill know I what you there advise.—


Ah, heaven!” and for a moment stood;
Then turned: “A rite they solemnize—
An awful rite, and yet how sweet
To humble hearts which sorrows best.
Tell, is that mystic flesh and blood—
I shrink to utter it!—Of old
For medicine they mummy sold—
Conjurer's balsam.—God, my God,
Sorely Thou triest me the clod!”
Upon the impassioned novice here
Discreet the kind proficient throws
The glance of one who still would peer
Where best to take the hedge or close.
Ere long: “You'd do the world some good?
Well, then: no good man will gainsay
That good is good, done any way,
In any name, by any brotherhood.
How think you there?”
From Clarel naught.
Derwent went on: “For lamp you yearn—
A lantern to benighted thought.
Obtain it—whither will you turn?
Still lost you'd be in banks of snow.
My fellow-creature, do you know
That what most satisfies the head
Least solaces the heart? Less light
Than warmth needs earthly wight.
Christ built a hearth: the flame is dead
We'll say, extinct; but lingers yet,
Enlodged in stone, the hoarded heat.
Why not nurse that? Would rive the door
And let the sleet in? But, once o'er,
This tarrying glow, never to man,
Methinks, shall come the like again.
What if some camp on crags austere


The Stoic held ere Gospel cheer?
There may the common herd abide,
Having dreamed of heaven? Nay, and can you?
You shun that; what shall needier do?
Think, think!”
The student, sorely tried,
The appeal and implication felt,
But comfort none.
And Derwent dealt
Heaped measure still: “All your ado
In youth was mine; your swarm I knew
Of buzzing doubts. But is it good
Such gnats to fight? or well to brood
In selfish introverted search,
Leaving the poor world in the lurch?
Not so did Christ. Nor less he knew
And shared a troubled era too;
And shared besides that problem gray
Which is forever and alway:
His person our own shadow threw.
Then heed him, heed his eldership:
In all respects did Christ indeed
Credit the Jews' crab-apple creed
Whereto he yet conformed? or so
But use it, graft it with his slip
From Paradise? No, no—no, no!
Spare fervid speech! But, for the rest,
Be not extreme. Midway is best.
Herein 'tis never as by Nile—
From waste to garden but a stile.
Betwixt rejection and belief,
Shadings there are—degrees, in brief.
But ween you, gentle friend, your way
Of giving to yourself the goad
Is obsolete, no more the mode?
Our comrades—frankly let me say—


That Rolfe, good fellow though he be,
And Vine, methinks, would you but see,
Are much like prints from plates but old.
Interpretations so unfold
New finding, happy gloss or key,
A decade's now a century.
Byron's storm-cloud away has rolled—
Joined Werter's; Shelley's drowned; and—why,
Perverse were now e'en Hamlet's sigh:
Perverse?—indecorous indeed!”
“E'en so? e'en sadly is it so?”
“Not sad, but veritable, know.
But what—how's this!” For here, with speed
Of passion, Clarel turned: “Forbear!
Ah, wherefore not at once name Job,
In whom these Hamlets all conglobe.
Own, own with me, and spare to feign,
Doubt bleeds, nor Faith is free from pain!”
Derwent averted here his face—
With his own heart he seemed to strive;
Then said: “Alas, too deep you dive.
But hear me yet for little space:
This shaft you sink shall strike no bloom:
The surface, ah, heaven keeps that green;
Green, sunny: nature's active scene,
For man appointed, man's true home.”
He ended. Saba's desert lay—
Glare rived by gloom. That comment's sway
He felt: “Our privacy is gone;
Here trips young Anselm to espy
Arab or pilgrim drawing nigh.
Dost hear him? come then, we'll go down.
At every step and steep,


While higher came the youthful monk,
Lower and lower in Clarel sunk
The freighted heart. It touched this deep:
Ah, Nehemiah, alone art true?
Secure in reason's wane or loss?
Thy folly that folly of the cross
Contemned by reason, yet how dear to you?