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a poem and pilgrimage in the Holy Land

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In the south wall, where low it creeps
Crossing the hollow down between
Moriah and Zion, by dust-heaps
Of rubbish in a lonely scene,
A little door there is, and mean—
Such as a stable may befit;
'Tis locked, nor do they open it
Except when days of drought begin,
To let the water-donkeys in
From Rogel. 'Tis in site the gate
Of Scripture named the dung-gate—that
Also (the legends this instill)
Through which from over Kedron's rill—
In fear of rescue should they try
The way less roundabout and shy—
By torch the tipstaves Jesus led,
And so thro' back-street hustling sped
To Pilate. Odor bad it has
This gate in story, and alas,
In fact as well, and is in fine


Like ancient Rome's port Esquiline
Wherefrom the scum was cast.—
Next day
Ascending Zion's rear, without
The wall, the saint and Clarel stay
Their feet, being hailed, and by a shout
From one who nigh the small gate stood:
“Ho, ho there, worthy pilgrims, ho!
Acquainted in this neighborhood?
What city's this? town beautiful
Of David? I'm a stranger, know.
'Tis heavy prices here must rule;
Choice house-lot now, what were it worth?
How goes the market?” and more mirth.
Down there into the place unclean
They peer, they see the man therein,
An iron-gray, short, rugged one,
Round shouldered, and of knotty bone;
A hammer swinging in his hand,
And pouch at side, by the ill door.
Him had they chanced upon before
Or rather at a distance seen
Upon the hills, with curious mien
And eyes that—scarce in pious dream
Or sad humility, 'twould seem—
Still earthward bent, would pry and pore.
Perceiving that he shocked the twain,
His head he wagged, and called again,
“What city's this? town beautiful—”
No more they heard; but to annul
The cry, here Clarel quick as thought
Turned with the saint and refuge sought
Passing an angle of the wall.
When now at slower pace they went
Clarel observed the sinless one
Turning his Bible-leaves content;


And presently he paused: “Dear son,
The Scripture is fulfilled this day;
Note what these Lamentations say;
The doom the prophet doth rehearse
In chapter second, fourteenth verse:
‘All that pass by clap their hands
At thee; they hiss, and wag the head,
Saying, Is this the city’—read,
Thyself here read it where it stands.”
Inquisitive he quick obeyed,
Then dull relapsed, and nothing said,
Tho' more he mused, still laboring there
Upward, by arid gullies bare:—
What object sensible to touch
Or quoted fact may faith rely on,
If faith confideth overmuch
That here's a monument in Zion:
Its substance ebbs—see, day and night
The sands subsiding from the height;
In time, absorbed, these grains may help
To form new sea-bed, slug and kelp.
“The gate,” cried Nehemiah, “the gate
Of David!” Wending thro' the strait,
And marking that, in common drought,
'Twas yellow waste within as out,
The student mused: The desert, see,
It parts not here, but silently,
Even like a leopard by our side,
It seems to enter in with us—
At home amid men's homes would glide.
But hark! that wail how dolorous:
So grieve the souls in endless dearth;
Yet sounds it human—of the earth!