University of Virginia Library


Next day the wanderer drawing near
Saluting with his humble cheer,
Made Clarel start. Where now the look
That face but late in slumber took?
Had he but dreamed it? It was gone.
But other thoughts were stirring soon,
To such good purpose, that the saint
Through promptings scarce by him divined,
Anew led Clarel thro' constraint
Of inner bye-ways, yet inclined
Away from his peculiar haunt,
And came upon a little close,
One wall whereof a creeper won.
On casement sills, small pots in rows


Showed herb and flower, the shade and sun—
Surprise how blest in town but sere.
Low breathed the guide, “They harbor here—
Agar, and my young raven, Ruth.
And, see, there's Nathan, nothing loath,
Just in from Sharon, 'tis his day;
And, yes—the Rabbi in delay.”—
The group showed just within the door
Swung open where the creeper led.
In lap the petting mother bore
The half reclining maiden's head—
The stool drawn neighboring the chair;
In front, erect, the father there,
Hollow in cheek, but rugged, brown—
Sharon's red soil upon his shoon—
With zealot gesture urged some plea
Which brought small joy to Agar's eyes,
Whereto turned Ruth's. In scrutiny
Impassive, wrinkled, and how wise
(If wisdom be but craft profound)
Sat the hoar Rabbi. This his guise:
In plaits a head-dress agate-bound,
A sable robe with mystic hem—
Clasps silver, locked in monogram.
An unextinguished lamp they view
Whose flame scarce visibly did sway,
Which having burned till morning dew
Might not be quenched on Saturday
The unaltered sabbath of the Jew.
Struck by the attitudes, the scene,
And loath, a stranger, to advance
Obtrusive, coming so between;
While, in emotion new and strange,
Ruth thrilled him with life's first romance;


Clarel abashed and faltering stood,
With cheek that knew a novel change.
But Nehemiah with air subdued
Made known their presence; and Ruth turned,
And Agar also, and discerned
The stranger, and a settle placed:
Matron and maid with welcome graced
Both visitors, and seemed to find
In travel-talk which here ensued
Relief to burdens of the mind.
But by the sage was Clarel viewed
With stony and unfriendly look—
Fixed inquisition, hard to brook.
And that embarrassment he raised
The Rabbi marked, and colder gazed.
But in redemption from his glance—
For a benign deliverance—
On Clarel fell the virgin's eyes,
Pure home of all we seek and prize,
And crossing with their humid ray
The Levite's arid eyes of gray—
But skill is none to word the rest:
To Clarel's heart there came a swell
Like the first tide that ever pressed
Inland, and of a deep did tell.
Thereafter, little speech was had
Save syllables which do but skim;
Even in these, the zealot—made
A slave to one tyrannic whim—
Was scant; while still the sage unkind
Sat a torpedo-fish, with mind
Intent to paralyze, and so
Perchance, make Clarel straight forego
Acquaintance with his flock, at least
With two, whose yearnings—he the priest


More than conjectured—oft did flow
Averse from Salem. None the less
A talismanic gentleness
Maternal welled from Agar faint;
Thro' the sad circle's ill constraint
Her woman's way could yet instill
Her prepossession, her good will;
And when at last they bade good-bye—
The visitors—another eye
Spake at the least of amity.