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In waters where no charts avail,
Where only fin and spout ye see,
The lonely spout of hermit-whale,
God set that isle which haunteth me.
There clouds hang low, but yield no rain—
Forever hang, since wind is none
Or light; nor ship-boy's eye may gain
The smoke-wrapped peak, the inland one
Volcanic; this, within its shroud
Streaked black and red, burns unrevealed;
It burns by night—by day the cloud
Shows leaden all, and dull and sealed.
The beach is cinders. With the tide
Salt creek and ashy inlet bring
More loneness from the outer ring
Of ocean.”
Pause he made, and sighed.—
“But take the way across the marl,
A broken field of tumbled slabs
Like ice-cakes frozen in a snarl
After the break-up in a sound;
So win the thicket's upper ground
Where silence like a poniard stabs,
Since there the low throb of the sea
Not heard is, and the sea-fowl flee
Far off the shore, all the long day
Hunting the flying-fish their prey.
Haply in bush ye find a path:
Of man or beast it scarce may be;
And yet a wasted look it hath,
As it were traveled ceaselessly—
Century after century—


The rock in places much worn down
Like to some old, old kneeling-stone
Before a shrine. But naught's to see,
At least naught there was seen by me,
Of any moving, creeping one.
No berry do those thickets bear,
Nor many leaves. Yet even there,
Some sailor from the steerage den
Put sick ashore—alas, by men
Who weary of him thus abjure—
The way may follow, in pursuit
Of apples red—the homestead-fruit
He dreams of in his calenture.
He drops, lost soul; but we go on—
Advance, until in end be won
The terraced orchard's mysteries,
Which well do that imp-isle beseem;
Paved with jet blocks those terraces,
The surface rubbed to unctuous gleam
By something which has life, you feel:
And yet, the shades but death reveal;
For under cobwebbed cactus trees,
White by their trunks—what hulks be these
Which, like old skulls of Anaks, are
Set round as in a Golgotha?
But, list,—a sound! Dull, dull it booms—
Dull as the jar in vaulted tombs
When urns are shifted. With amaze
Into the dim retreats ye gaze.
Lo, 'tis the monstrous tortoise drear!
Of huge humped arch, the ancient shell
Is trenched with seams where lichens dwell,
Or some adhesive growth and sere:
A lumpish languor marks the pace—
A hideous, harmless look, with trace
Of hopelessness; the eyes are dull


As in the bog the dead black pool:
Penal his aspect; all is dragged,
As he for more than years had lagged—
A convict doomed to bide the place;
A soul transformed—for earned disgrace
Degraded, and from higher race.
Ye watch him—him so woe-begone:
Searching, he creeps with laboring neck,
Each crevice tries, and long may seek:
Water he craves, where rain is none—
Water within the parching zone,
Where only dews of midnight fall
And dribbling lodge in chinks of stone.
For meat the bitter tree is all—
The cactus, whose nipped fruit is shed
On those bleached skull-like hulks below,
Which, when by life inhabited,
Crept hither in last journey slow
After a hundred years of pain
And pilgrimage here to and fro,
For other hundred years to reign
In hollow of white armor so—
Then perish piecemeal. You advance:
Instant, more rapid than a glance,
Long neck and four legs are drawn in,
Letting the shell down with report
Upon the stone; so falls in court
The clattering buckler with a din.
There leave him, since for hours he'll keep
That feint of death.—But for the isle—
Much seems it like this barren steep:
As here, few there would think to smile.”
So, paraphrased in lines sincere
Which still similitude would win,
The sketch ran of that timoneer.


He ended, and how passive sate:
Nature's own look, which might recall
Dumb patience of mere animal,
Which better may abide life's fate
Than comprehend.
What may man know?
(Here pondered Clarel;) let him rule—
Pull down, build up, creed, system, school
And reason's endless battle wage,
Make and remake his verbiage—
But solve the world! Scarce that he'll do:
Too wild it is, too wonderful.
Since this world, then, can baffle so—
Our natural harbor—it were strange
If that alleged, which is afar,
Should not confound us when we range
In revery where its problems are.—
Such thoughts! and can they e'en be mine
In fount? Did Derwent true divine
Upon the tower of Saba—yes,
Hinting I too much felt the stress
Of Rolfe—or whom? Green and unsure,
And in attendance on a mind
Poised at self-center and mature,
Do I but lacquey it behind?
Yea, here in frame of thought and word
But wear the cast clothes of my lord?