University of Virginia Library



The gray of dawn. A tremor slight:
The trouble of imperfect light
Anew begins. In floating cloud
Midway suspended down the gorge,
A long mist trails white shreds of shroud
How languorous toward the Dead Sea's verge.
Riders in seat halt by the gate:
Why not set forth? For one they wait
Whose stirrups empty be—the Swede.
Still absent from the frater-hall
Since afternoon and vesper-call,
He, they imagined, had but sought
Some cave in keeping with his thought,
And reappear would with the light
Suddenly as the Gileadite
In Obadiah's way. But—no,
He cometh not when they would go.
Dismounting, they make search in vain;
Till Clarel—minding him again
Of something settled in his air—
A quietude beyond mere calm—
When seen from ledge beside the Palm
Reclined in nook of Bethel stair,
Thitherward led them in a thrill
Of nervous apprehension, till
Startled he stops, with eyes avert
And indicating hand.—
'Tis he
So undisturbed, supine, inert—
The filmed orbs fixed upon the Tree—
Night's dews upon his eyelids be.
To test if breath remain, none tries:


On those thin lips a feather lies—
An eagle's, wafted from the skies.
The vow: and had the genius heard,
Benignant? nor had made delay,
But, more than taking him at word,
Quick wafted where the palm-boughs sway
In Saint John's heaven? Some divined
That long had he been undermined
In frame; the brain a tocsin-bell
Overburdensome for citadel
Whose base was shattered. They refrain
From aught but that dumb look that fell
Identifying; feeling pain
That such a heart could beat, and will—
Aspire, yearn, suffer, baffled still,
And end. With monks which round them stood
Concerned, not discomposed in mood,
Interment they provided for—
Heaved a last sigh, nor tarried more.
Nay; one a little lingered there;
'Twas Rolfe. And as the rising sun,
Though viewless yet from Bethel stair,
More lit the mountains, he was won
To invocation, scarce to prayer:
“Holy Morning,
What blessed lore reservest thou,
Withheld from man, that evermore
Without surprise,
But, rather, with a hurtless scorning
In thy placid eyes,
Thou viewest all events alike?
Oh, tell me, do thy bright beams strike
The healing hills of Gilead now?”


And glanced toward the pale one near
In shadow of the crag's dark brow.—
Did Charity follow that poor bier?
It did; but Bigotry did steer:
Friars buried him without the walls
(Nor in a consecrated bed)
Where vulture unto vulture calls,
And only ill things find a friend:
There let the beak and claw contend,
There the hyena's cub be fed:
Heaven that disclaims, and him beweeps
In annual showers; and the tried spirit sleeps.