University of Virginia Library


A lamp in archway hangs from key—
A lamp whose sidelong rays are shed
On a slim vial set in bed
Of door-post all of masonry.
That vial hath the Gentile vexed;
Within it holds Talmudie text.
Or charm. And there the Black Jew sits,
Abdon the host. The lamp-light flits
O'er reverend beard of saffron hue
Sweeping his robe of Indian blue.
Disturbed and troubled in estate,
Longing for solacement of mate.
Clarel in court there nearer drew,
As yet unnoted, for the host
In meditation seemed engrossed,
Perchance upon some line late scanned
In leathern scroll that drooped from hand.
Ere long, without surprise expressed,
The lone man marked his lonelier guest.
And welcomed him. Discourse was bred;
In end a turn it took, and led


To grave recital. Here was one
(If question of his word be none)
Descended from those dubious men,
The unreturning tribes, the Ten
Whom shout and halloo wide have sought,
Lost children in the wood of time.
Yes, he, the Black Jew, stinting naught,
Averred that ancient India's clime
Harbored the remnant of the Tribes,
A people settled with their scribes
In far Cochin. There was he born
And nurtured, and there yet his kin,
Never from true allegiance torn,
Kept Moses' law.
Cochin, Cochin
(Mused Clarel), I have heard indeed
Of those Black Jews, their ancient creed
And hoar tradition. Esdras saith
The Ten Tribes built in Arsareth—
Eastward, still eastward. That may be.
But look, the scroll of goat-skin, see
Wherein he reads, a wizard book;
It is the Indian Pentateuch
Whereof they tell. Whate'er the plea
(And scholars various notions hold
Touching these missing claus of old),
This seems a deeper mystery;
How Judah, Benjamin, live on—
Unmixed into time's swamping sea
So far can urge their Amazon.
He pondered. But again the host,
Narrating part his life-time tossed,
Told how, long since, with trade in view,
He sailed from India with a Jew
And merchant of the Portuguese
For Lisbon. More he roved the seas


And marts, till in the last event
He pitched in Amsterdam his tent.
“There had I lived my life,” he said.
“Among my kind, for good they were;
But loss came—loss, and I was led
To long for Judah—only her.
But see.” He rose, and took the light
And led within: “There ye espy
What prospect's left to such as I—
Yonder!”—a dark slab stood upright
Against the wall; a rude grave-stone
Sculptured, with Hebrew ciphers strown.
“Under Moriah it shall lie—
No distant date, for very soon,
Ere yet a little, and I die.
From Ind to Zion have I come,
But less to live, than end at home.
One other last remove!” he sighed,
And meditated on the stone,
Lamp held aloft. That magnified
The hush throughout the dim unknown
Of night—night in a land how dead!
Thro' Clarel's heart the old man's strain
Dusky meandered in a vein
One with the revery it bred;
His eyes still dwelling on the Jew
In added dream—so strange hif shade
Of swartness like a born Hindoo,
And wizened visage which betrayed
The Hebrew cast. And subtile yet
In ebon frame an amulet
Which on his robe the patriarch wore—
And scroll, and vial in the door,
These too contributed in kind.
They parted. Clarel sought his cell
Or tomb-like chamber, and—with mind


To break or intermit the spell,
At least perplex it and impede—
Lighted the lamp of olive oil,
And, brushing from a trunk the soil—
'Twas one late purchased at his need—
Opened, and strove to busy him
With small adjustments. Bootless cheer!
While wavering now, in chanceful skim
His eyes fell on the word Judæa
In paper lining of the tray,
For all was trimmed, in cheaper way,
With printed matter. Curious then
To know this faded denizen,
He read, and found a piece complete,
Briefly comprised in one poor sheet:
“The World accosts—
“Last one out of Holy Land,
What gift bring'st thou? Sychem grapes?
Tabor, which the Eden drapes,
Yieldeth garlands. I demand
Something cheery at thy hand.
Come, if Solomon's Song thou singest,
Haply Sharon's rose thou bringest.”
The Palmer replies:
“Nay, naught thou nam'st thy servant brings,
Only Judæa my feet did roam;
And mainly there the pilgrim clings
About the precincts of Christ's tomb.
These palms I bring—from dust not free,
Since dust and ashes both were trod by me.”
O'er true thy gift (thought Clarel). Well,
Scarce might the world accept, 'twould seem.
But I, shall I my feet impel
Through road like thine and naught redeem?


Rather thro' brakes, lone brakes. I wind:
As I advance they close behind.—
Thought's burden! on the couch he throws
Himself and it—rises, and goes
To peer from casement. 'Twas moonlight,
With stars, the Olive Hill in sight,
Distinct, yet dreamy in repose,
As of Katahdin in hot noon,
Lonely, with all his pines in swoon.
The nature and evangel clashed,
Rather, a double mystery flashed.
Olivet, Olivet do I see?
The ideal upland, trod by Thee?
Up or reclined, he felt the soul
Afflicted by that noiseless calm.
Till sleep, the good nurse, deftly stole
The bed beside, and for a charm
Took the pale hand within her own,
Nor left him till the night was gone.