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Quiet Agath, with a start, just then
Shrieked out, abhorrent or in fright.
Disturbed in its pernicious den
Amid dry flints and shards of blight,
A crabbed scorpion, dingy brown,
With nervous tail slant upward thrown
(Like to a snake's wroth neck and head
Dilating when the coil's unmade
Before the poor affrighted clown
Whose foot offends it unbeknown)
Writhing, faint crackling, like wire spring,
With anguish of the poisonous bile
Inflaming the slim duct, the while
In act of shooting toward the sting;
This, the unblest, small, evil thing,
'Tis this they mark, wriggling in range,
Fearless, and with ill menace, strange
In such a minim.
Derwent rose,
And Clarel; Vine and Rolfe remained
At gaze; the soldier too and Druze.
Cried Rolfe, while thus they stood enchained:
“O small epitome of devil,
Wert thou an ox couldst thou thus sway?
No, disproportionate is evil
In influence. Evil do I say?
But speak not evil of the evil:
Evil and good they braided play
Into one cord.”
While they delay,
The object vanished. Turning head
Toward the salt one, Derwent said:


“The thing's not sweet; but why start so,
My good man, you that frequent know
The wonders of the deep?” He flushed,
And in embarrassment kept dumb.
But Rolfe here to the rescue pushed:
“Men not deemed craven will succumb
To such an apparition. Why,
Soldiers, that into battle marching
Elastic pace with instep arching—
Sailors (and he's a sailor nigh)
Who out upon the jib-boom hie,
At world's end, in the midnight gale,
And wrestle with the thrashing sail,
The while the speared spar like a javelin flies
Slant up from thundering seas to skies
Electric:—these—I've known one start
Seeing a spider run athwart!”
In common-place here lightly blew
Across them through the desert air
A whiff from pipe that Belex smoked:
The Druze his sleek mare smooth bestroked,
Then gave a sign. One parting view
At Zion blurred, and on they fare.