University of Virginia Library


The hill above the garden here
They rove; and chance ere long to meet
A second stranger, keeping cheer
Apart. Trapper or pioneer
He looked, astray in Judah's seat—
Or one who might his business ply
On waters under tropic sky.
Perceiving them as they drew near,
He rose, removed his hat to greet,
Disclosing so in shapely sphere
A marble brow over face embrowned:
So Sunium by her fane is crowned.


One read his superscription clear—
A genial heart, a brain austere—
And further, deemed that such a man
Though given to study, as might seem,
Was no scholastic partisan
Or euphonist of Academe,
But supplemented Plato's theme
With dædal life in boats and tents,
A messmate of the elements;
And yet, more bronzed in face than mind,
Sensitive still and frankly kind—
Too frank, too unreserved, may be,
And indiscreet in honesty.
But what implies the tinge of soil—
Like tarnish on Pizarro's spoil,
Precious in substance rudely wrought,
Peruvian plate—which here is caught?
What means this touch of the untoward
In aspect hinting nothing froward?
From Baalbec, for a new sojourn,
To Jewry Rolfe had made return;
To Jewry's inexhausted shore
Of barrenness, where evermore
Some lurking thing he hoped to gain—
Slip quite behind the parrot-lore
Conventional, and—what attain?
Struck by each clear or latent sign
Expressive in the stranger's air,
The student glanced from him to Vine:
Peers, peers—yes, needs that these must pair.
Clarel was young. In promise fine,
To him here first were brought together
Exceptional natures, of a weather
Strange as the tropics with strange trees,
Strange birds, strange fishes, skies and seas,


To one who in some meager land
His bread wins by the horny hand.
What now may hap? what outcome new
Elicited by contact true—
Frank, cordial contact of the twain?
Crude wonderment, and proved but vain.
If average mortals social be,
And yet but seldom truly meet,
Closing like halves of apple sweet—
How with the rarer in degree?
The informal salutation done,
Vine into his dumb castle went—
Not as all parley he would shun,
But looking down from battlement,
Ready, if need were, to accord
Reception to the other's word,—
Nay, far from wishing to decline,
And neutral not without design,
May be.—
“Look, by Christ's belfry set,
Appears the Moslem minaret!”
So—to fill trying pause alone—
Cried Rolfe; and o'er the deep defile
Of Kedron, pointed toward the Town,
Where, thronged about by many a pile
Monastic, but no vernal bower,
The Saracen shaft and Norman tower
In truce stand guard beside that Dome
Which canopies the Holy's home:
“The tower looks lopped; it shows forlorn—
A stunted oak whose crown is shorn;
But see, palm-like the minaret stands
Superior, and the tower commands.”
“Yon shaft,” said Clarel, “seems ill-placed.”
“Ay, seems; but 'tis for memory based.
The story's known: how Omar there


After the town's surrender meek—
Hallowed to him, as dear to Greek—
Clad in his clouts of camel's hair,
And with the Patriarch robed and fine
Walking beneath the dome divine,
When came the Islam hour for prayer
Declined to use the carpet good
Spread for him in the church, but stood
Without, even yonder where is set
The monumental minaret;
And, earnest in true suppliance cried,
Smiting his chest: “Me overrule!
Allah, to me be merciful!”
'Twas little shared he victor-pride
Though victor. So the church he saved
Of purpose from that law engraved
Which prompt transferred to Allah sole
Each fane where once his rite might roll.
Long afterward, the town being stormed
By Christian knights, how ill conformed
The butchery then to Omar's prayer
And heart magnanimous. But spare.”
Response they looked; and thence he warmed:
—Yon gray Cathedral of the Tomb,
Who reared it first? a woman weak,
A second Mary, first to seek
In pagan darkness which had come,
The place where they had laid the Lord:
Queen Helena, she traced the site,
And cleared the ground, and made it bright
With all that zeal could then afford.
But Constantine—there falls the blight!
The mother's warm emotional heart,
Subserved it still the son's cold part?


Even he who, timing well the tide,
Laced not the Cross upon Rome's flag
Supreme, till Jove began to lag
Behind the new religion's stride.
And Helena—ah, may it be
The saint herself not quite was free
From that which in the years bygone,
Made certain stately dames of France,
Such as the fair De Maintenon,
To string their rosaries of pearl,
And found brave chapels—sweet romance:
Coquetry of the borrowed curl?—
You let me prate.”
“Nay, nay—go on,”
Cried Clarel, yet in such a tone
It showed disturbance.—
“Land the dame:
Her church, admit, no doom it fears.
Unquelled by force of battering years—
Years, years and sieges, sword and flame;
Fallen—rebuilt, to fall anew;
By armies shaken, earthquake too;
Lo, it abides—if not the same,
In self-same spot. Last time 'twas burnt
The Rationalist a lesson learnt.
But you know all.”—
“Nay, not the end,”
Said Vine. And Clarel, “We attend.”
“Well, on the morrow never shrunk
From wonted rite the steadfast monk,
Though hurt and even maimed were some
By crash of the ignited dome.
Staunch stood the walls. As friars profess
(And not in fraud) the central cell—
Christ's tomb and faith's last citadel—
The flames did tenderly caress,


Nor harm; while smoking, smouldering beams,
Fallen across, lent livid gleams
To Golgotha. But none the less
In robed procession of his God
The mitred one the cinders trod;
Before the calcined altar there
The host he raised; and hymn and prayer
Went up from ashes. These, ere chill
Away were brushed; and trowel shrill
And hod and hammer came in place.
'Tis now some three score years ago.
In Lima's first convulsion so,
When shock on shock had left slim trace
Of hundred temples; and—in mood
Of malice dwelling on the face
Itself has tortured and subdued
To uncomplaint—the cloud pitch-black
Lowered o'er the rubbish; and the land
Not less than sea, did countermand
Her buried corses—heave them back;
And flocks and men fled on the track
Which wins the Andes; then went forth
The prelate with intrepid train
Rolling the anthem 'mid the rain
Of ashes white. In rocking plain
New boundaries staked they, south and north
For ampler piles. These stand. In cheer
The priest reclaimed the quaking sphere.
Hold it he shall, so long as spins
This star of tragedies, this orb of sins.”
“That,” Clarel said, “is not my mind.
Rome's priest forever rule the world?”
“The priest, I said. Though some be hurled
From anchor, nor a haven find;
Not less religion's ancient port,


Till the crack of doom, shall be resort
In stress of weather for mankind.
Yea, long as children feel affright
In darkness, men shall fear a God;
And long as daisies yield delight
Shall see His footprints in the sod.
Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
Science doth but elucidate—
Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
Demonstrable that God is not—
What then? it would not change this lot:
The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.”
Intense he spake, his eyes of blue
Altering, and to eerie hue,
Like Tyrrhene seas when overcast;
The which Vine noted, nor in joy,
Inferring thence an ocean-waste
Of earnestness without a buoy:
An influence which afterward
Acquaintance led him to discard
Or modify, or not employ.
Clarel ill-relished.
Rolfe, in tone
Half elegiac, thus went on:
“Phylæ, upon thy sacred ground
Osiris' broken tomb is found:
A god how good, whose good proved vain—
In strife with bullying Python slain.
For long the ritual chant or moan
Of pilgrims by that mystic stone
Went up, even much as now ascend
The liturgies of yearning prayer
To one who met a kindred end—
Christ, tombed in turn, and worshiped there,”
And pointed.—“Hint you,” here asked Vine,
“In Christ Osiris met decline


Anew?”—“Nay, nay; and yet, past doubt,
Strange is that text St. Matthew won
From gray Hosea in sentence: Out
Of Egypt have I called my son.”
Here Clarel spake, and with a stir
Not all assured in eager plight:
“But does not Matthew there refer
Only to the return from flight,
Flight into Egypt?”—“May be so,”
Said Rolfe; “but then Hosea?—Nay,
We'll let it pass.”—And fell delay
Of talk; they mused.—
“To Cicero,”
Rolfe sudden said, “is a long way
From Matthew; yet somehow he comes
To mind here—he and his fine tomes,
Which (change the gods) would serve to read
For modern essays. And indeed
His age was much like ours: doubt ran,
Faith flagged; negations which sufficed
Lawyer, priest, statesman, gentleman,
Not yet being popularly prized,
The augurs hence retained some state—
Which served for the illiterate.
Still, the decline so swiftly ran
From stage to stage, that To Believe,
Except for slave or artisan,
Seemed heresy. Even doubts which met
Horror at first, grew obsolete,
And in a decade. To bereave
Of founded trust in Sire Supreme,
Was a vocation. Sophists throve—
Each weaving his thin thread of dream
Into the shroud for Numa's Jove.
Cæsar his atheism avowed
Before the Senate. But why crowd


Examples here: the gods were gone.
Tully scarce dreamed they could be won
Back into credence; less that earth
Ever could know yet mightier birth
Of deity. He died. Christ came.
And, in due hour, that impious Rome,
Emerging from vast wreck and shame,
Held the fore front of Christendom.
The inference? the lesson?—come:
Let fools count on faith's closing knell—
Time, God, are inexhaustible.—
But what? so earnest? ay, again.”
“Hard for a fountain to refrain,”
Breathed Vine. Was that but irony?
At least no envy in the strain.
Rolfe scarce remarked, or let go by.
For Clarel—when ye, meeting, scan
In waste the Bagdad caravan,
And solitude puts on the stir,
Clamor, dust, din of Nineveh,
As horsemen, camels, footmen all,
Soldier and merchant, free and thrall,
Pour by in tide processional;
So to the novice streamed along
Rolfe's filing thoughts, a wildering throng.
Their sway he owned. And yet how Vine—
Who breathed few words, or gave dumb sign—
Him more allured, suggestive more
Of choicer treasure, rarer store
Reserved, like Kidd's doubloons long sought
Without the wand.
The ball of thought
And chain yet dragging, on they strained
Oblique along the upland—slow
And mute, until a point they gained
Where devotees will pause, and know


A tenderness, may be. Here then,
While tarry now these pilgrim men,
The interval let be assigned
A niche for image of a novel mind.