University of Virginia Library


But Clarel, bides he still by tower?
His was no sprightly frame; nor mate
He sought: it was his inner hour.
Yes, keeping to himself his state,
Nor thinking to break fast till late,
He moved along the gulf's built flank
Within the inclosures rank o'er rank.
Accost was none, for none he saw,
Until the Druze he chanced to meet,
Smoking, nor did the Emir draw
The amber from the mouth, to greet,
Not caring so to break the spell
Of that Elysian interval;
But lay, his pipe at lengthy lean,
Reclined along the crag serene,
As under Spain's San Pedro dome
The long-sword Cid upon his tomb;
And with an unobtrusive eye
Yet apprehending, and mild mien,
Regarded him as he went by
Tossed in his trouble. 'Twas a glance
Clarel did many a time recall,


Though its unmeant significance—
That was the last thing learned of all.
But passing on by ways that wind,
A place he gained secluded there
In ledge. A cenobite inclined
Busy at scuttle-hole in floor
Of rock, like smith who may repair
A bolt of Mammon's vault. The door
Or stony slab lay pushed aside.
Deeming that here the monks might store,
In times of menace which they bide,
Their altar plate, Clarel drew near,
But faltered at the friar's sad tone
Ascetical. He looked like one
Whose life is but a patience mere,
Or worse, a fretting doubt of cheer
Beyond; he toiled as in employ
Imposed, a bondman far from joy.
No answer made he to salute,
Yet deaf might be. And now, while mute
The student lingered, lo, down slipped
Through cleft of crags, the sun did win
Aloft in Kedron's citadel,
A fiery shaft into that crypt
(Like well-pole slant in farm-house well)
And lighted it: and he looked in.
On stony benches, head by head,
In court where no recorders be,
Preserved by nature's chemistry
Sat the dim conclave of the dead,
Encircled where the shadow rules,
By sloping theatres of skulls.
He rose—retreated by the line
Of cliff, but paused at tones which sent:
“So pale? the end's nor imminent
Nor far. Stand, thou; the countersign!”—


It came from over Kedron's rent.
Thitherward then his glance he bent,
And saw, by mouth of grot or mine,
Rustic with wicket's rude design,
A sheeted apparition wait,
Like Lazarus at the charnel gate
In Bethany.
“The countersign!”
“Reply, say something; yea, say Death,”
Prompted the monk, erewhile so mute.
Clarel obeyed; and, in a breath,
“Advance!” the shroud cried, turning foot,
And so retired there into gloom
Within, and all again was dumb.
“And who that man—or ghost?” he yearned
Unto the toiler; who returned:
“Cyril. 'Tis long since that he craved
Over against to dwell encaved.
In youth he was a soldier. Go.”
But Clarel might not end it so:
“I pray thee, friend, what grief or zeal
Could so unhinge him? that reveal.”
“Go—ask your world:” and grim toiled on,
Fitting his clamp as if alone,
Dismissing him austerely thus.
And Clarel, sooth, felt timorous.
Conscious of seeds within his frame
Transmitted from the early gone,
Scarce in his heart might he disclaim
That challenge from the shrouded one.
He walked in vision—saw in fright
Where through the limitless of night
The spirits innumerable lie,
Strewn like snared miners in vain flight
From the dull black-damp. Die—to die!


To be, then not to be! to end,
And yet time never, never suspend
His going.—This is cowardice
To brood on this!—Ah, Ruth, thine eyes
Abash these base mortalities!
But slid the change, anew it slid
As by the Dead Sea marge forbid:
The vision took another guise:
From 'neath the closing, lingering lid
Ruth's glance of love is glazing met,
Reproaching him: Dost tarry, tarry yet?