University of Virginia Library


Clarel and Ruth—might it but be
That range they could green uplands free
By gala orchards, when they fling
Their bridal favors, buds of Spring;
And, dreamy in her morning swoon,
The lady of the night, the moon,
Looks pearly as the blossoming;
And youth and nature's fond accord
Wins Eden back, that tales abstruse
Of Christ, the crucified, Pain's Lord,
Seem foreign—forged—incongruous.
Restrictions of that Eastern code
Immured the maiden. From abode


Frequent nor distant she withdrew
Except with Jewess, scarce with Jew.
So none the less in former mode,
Nehemiah still with Clarel went,
Who grew in liking and content
In company of one whose word
Babbled of Ruth—“My bird—God's bird.”
The twain were one mild morning led
Out to a waste where beauty clings.
Vining a grot how doubly dead:
The rifled Sepulcher of Kings.
Hewn from the rock a sunken space
Conducts to garlands—fit for vase—
In sculptured frieze above a tomb:
Palm leaves, pine apples, grapes. These bloom,
Involved in dearth—to puzzle us—
As 'twere thy line, Theocritus,
Dark Joel's text of terror threading:
Yes, strange that Pocahontas-wedding
Of contraries in old belief—
Hellenic cheer, Hebraic grief.
The homicide Herods, men aver,
Inurned behind that wreathage were.
But who is he uncovered seen,
Profound in shadow of the tomb
Reclined, with meditative mien
Intent upon the tracery?
A low wind waves his Lydian hair:
A funeral man, yet richly fair—
Fair as the sabled violets be.
The frieze and this secluded one,
Retaining each a separate tone,
Beauty yet harmonized in grace
And contrast to the barren place.


But noting that he was discerned,
Salute the stranger made, then turned
And shy passed forth in obvious state
Of one who would keep separate.
Those cells explored, thro' dale they paced
Downward, and won Moriah's walls
And seated them. Clarel recalls
The colonnades that Herod traced—
Herod, magnific Idumæan—
In marble along the mountain flank:
Column on column, rank on rank
Above the valley Tyropœon.
Eastward, in altitude they view
Across Jehoshaphat, a crag
Of sepulchers and huts. Thereto
They journey. But awhile they lag
Beneath, to mark the tombs in row
Pierced square along the gloomy steep
In beetling broadside, and with show
Of port-holes in black battle-ship.
They climb; and Clarel turning saw
Their late resort, the hill of law—
Moriah, above the Kedron's bed;
And, turreting his aged head,
The angle of King David's wall—
Acute seen here, here too best scanned,
As 'twere that cliff, tho' not so tall,
Nor tempest-sculptured therewithal,
Envisaged in Franconian land,
The marvel of the Pass.
A call he hears behind, in note
Familiar, being man's; remote
No less, and strange in hollowed tone
As 'twere a voice from out the tomb.


A tomb it is; and he in gloom
Of porch there biddeth them begone.
Clings to his knee a toddling one
Bewildered poising in wee hand
A pictured page—Nehemiah's boon—
He passive in the sun at stand.
Morosely then the Arab turns,
Snatches the gift, and drops and spurns.
As down now from the crag they wend
Reverted glance see Clarel lend:
Thou guest of Death, which in his house
Sleep'st nightly, mayst thou not espouse
His daughter, Peace?
Aslant they come
Where, hid in shadow of the rocks,
Stone steps descend unto Siloam.
Proof to the fervid noon-day tide
Reflected from the glen's steep side,
Moist ledge with ledge here interlocks,
Vaulting a sunken grotto deep.
Down there, as quiet as in sleep,
Anew the stranger they descried
Sitting upon a step full low,
Watching the fountain's troubled tide
Which after ebb began to flow,
Gurgling from viewless caves. The lull
Broke by the flood is wonderful.
Science explains it. Bides no less
The true, innate mysteriousness.
Through him there might the vision flit
Of angel in Bethesda's pool
With porches five, so troubling it
That whoso bathed then was made whole?
Or, by an equal dream beguiled,
Did he but list the fountain moan


Like Ammon's in the Libyan wild.
For muse and oracle both gone?
By chance a jostled pebble there
Slipped from the surface down the stair.
It jarred—it broke the brittle spell:
Siloam was but a rural well.
Clarel who could again but shun
To obtrude on the secluded one,
Turned to depart.—“Ere yet we go,”
Said Nehemiah, “I will below:
Dim be mine eyes, more dim they grow:
I'll wash them in these waters cool,
As did the blind the Master sent,
And who came seeing from this pool;”
And down the grotto-stairs he went.
The stranger, just ascending, stood;
And, as the votary laved his eyes,
He marked, looked up, and Clarel viewed,
And they exchanged quick sympathies
Though but in glance, moved by that act
Of one whose faith transfigured fact.
A bond seemed made between them there;
And presently the trio fare
Over Kedron, and in one accord
Of quietude and chastened tone
Approach the spot, tradition's own,
For ages held the garden of Our Lord.