University of Virginia Library


In Crete they claimed the tomb of Jove
In glen over which his eagles soar;
But thro' a peopled town ye rove
To Christ's low urn, where, nigh the door.
Settles the dove. So much the more
The contrast stamps the human God
Who dwelt among us, made abode
With us, and was of woman born;
Partook our bread, and thought no scorn
To share the humblest, homeliest hearth,


Shared all of man except the sin and mirth.
Such, among thronging thoughts, may stir
In pilgrim pressing thro' the lane
That dusty wins the reverend fane,
Seat of the Holy Sepulchre,
And naturally named therefrom.
What altars old in cluster rare
And grotto-shrines engird the Tomb:
Caves and a crag; and more is there;
And halls monastic join their gloom.
To sum in comprehensive bounds
The Passion's drama with its grounds,
Immense the temple winds and strays
Finding each storied precinct out—
Absorbs the sites all roundabout—
Omnivorous, and a world of maze.
And yet time was when all here stood
Separate, and from rood to rood,
Chapel to shrine, or tent to tent,
Unsheltered still the pilgrim went
Where now enroofed the whole coheres—
Where now thro' influence of years
And spells by many a legend lent.
A sort of nature reappears—
Sombre or sad, and much in tone
Perhaps with that which here was known
Of yere, when from this Salem height.
Then sylvan in primeval plight,
Down came to Shaveh's Dale, with wine
And bread, after the four King's cheek,
The Druid priest Melehizedek,
Abram to bless with rites divine.
What rustlings here from shadowy spaces,
Deep vistas where the votary paces,
Will, strangely intermitting, creep
Like steps in Indian forest deep


How bird-like steals the singer's note
Down from some rail or arch remote:
While, glimmering where kneelers be,
Small lamps, dispersed, with glow-worm light
Mellow the vast nave's azure night,
And make a baze of mystery:
The blur is spread of thousand years,
And Calvary's seen as through one's tears.
In cloistral walks the dome detains
Hermits, which during public days
Seclude them where the shadow stays,
But issue when charmed midnight reigns,
Unshod, with tapers lit, and roam,
According as their hearts appoint,
The purlieus of the central Tomb
In round of altars; and anoint
With fragrant oils each marble shelf;
Or, all alone, strange solace find
And oratory to their mind
Lone locked within the Tomb itself.
Cells note ye as in bower a nest
Where some sedate rich devotee
Or grave guest-monk from over sea
Takes up through Lent his votive rest,
Adoring from his saintly perch
Golgotha and the guarded Urn,
And mysteries everywhere expressed;
Until his soul, in rapt sojourn,
Add one more chapel to the Church.
The friars in turn which tend the Fane,
Dress it and keep, a home make there,
Nor pass for weeks the gate. Again
Each morning they ascend the stair
Of Calvary, with cloth and broom,
For dust thereon will settle down,
And gather, too, upon the Tomb


And places of the Passion's moan.
Tradition, not device and fraud
Here rules—tradition old and broad.
Transfixed in sites the drama's shown—
Each given spot assigned; 'tis here
They scourged Him; soldiers yonder nailed
The Victim to the tree; in jeer
There stood the Jews; there Mary paled;
The vesture was divided here.
A miracle-play of haunted stone—
A miracle-play, a phantom one,
With power to give pause or subdue.
So that whatever comment be—
Serious, if to faith unknown—
Not possible seems levity
Or aught that may approach thereto.
And, sooth, to think what numbers here,
Age after age, have worn the stones
In suppliance or judgment fear;
What mourners—men and women's moans,
Ancestors of ourselves indeed;
What souls whose penance of remorse
Made poignant by the elder creed,
Found honest language in the force
Of chains entwined that ate the bone;
How here a'Becket's slayers clung
Taking the contrite anguish on,
And, in release from fast and thong,
Buried upon Moriah sleep;
With more, much more; such ties, so deep,
Endear the spot, or false or true
As an historic site. The wrong
Of carpings never may undo
The nerves that clasp about the plea
Tingling with kinship through and through—
Faith child-like and the tried humanity.


But little here moves hearts of some;
Rather repugnance grave, or scorn
Or cynicism, to mark the dome
Beset in court or yard forlorn
By pedlars versed in wonted tricks,
Venders of charm or crucifix;
Or, on saint-days, to hark the din
As during market day at inn,
And polyglot of Asian tongues
And island ones, in interchange
Buzzed out by crowds in costumes strange
Of nations divers. Are these throngs
Merchants? Is this Cairo's bazar
And concourse? Nay, thy strictures bar.
It is but simple nature, see;
None mean irreverence, though free.
Unvexed by Europe's grieving doubt
Which asks And can the Father be?
Those children of the climes devout,
On festival in fane installed,
Happily ignorant, make glee
Like orphans in the play-ground walled.
Others the duskiness may find
Imbued with more than nature's gloom;
These, loitering hard by the Tomb,
Alone, and when the day's declined—
So that the shadow from the stone
Whereon the angel sat is thrown
To distance more, and sigh or sound
Echoes from place of Mary's moan,
Or cavern where the cross was found;
Or mouse-stir steals upon the ear
From where the soldier reached the spear—
Shrink, much like Ludovico erst
Within the haunted chamber. Thou,
Less sensitive, yet haply versed


In everything above, below—
In all but thy deep human heart;
Thyself perchance mayst nervous start
At thine own fancy's final range
Who here wouldst mock: with mystic smart
The subtile Eld can slight avenge.
But gibe—gibe on, until there crawl
About thee in the scorners' seat,
Reactions; and pride's Smyrna shawl
Plague-strike the wearer. Ah, retreat!
But how of some which still deplore
Yet share the doubt? Here evermore
'Tis good for such to turn afar
From the Skull's place, even Golgotha
And view the cedarn dome in sun
Pierced like the marble Pantheon:
No blurring pane, but open sky:
In there day peeps, there stars go by,
And, in still hours which these illume,
Heaven's dews drop tears upon the Tomb.
Nor lack there dreams romance can thrill:
In hush when tides and towns are still,
Godfrey and Baldwin from their graves
(Made meetly near the rescued Stone)
Rise, and in arms. With beaming glaives
They watch and ward the urn they won.
So fancy deals, a light achiever:
Imagination, earnest ever,
Recalls the Friday far away,
Re-lives the crucifixion day—
The passion and its sequel proves
Sharing the three pale Marys' frame;
Thro' the eclipse with these she moves
Back to the house from which they came
To Golgotha. O empty room,
O leaden heaviness of doom—


O cowering hearts, which sore beset
Deem vain the promise now, and yet
Invoke him who returns no call;
And fears for more that may befall.
O terror linked with love which cried
“Art gone? is't o'er? and crucified?”
Who might foretell from such dismay
Of blank recoilings, all the blest
Lilies and anthems which attest
The floral Easter holiday?