by Herman Melville
Days fleet. They rove the storied ground —
Tread many a site that rues the ban
Where serial wrecks on wrecks confound
Era and monument and man;
Or rather, in stratifying way
Bed and impact and overlay.
The Hospitallers' cloisters shamed
Crumble in ruin unreclaimed
On shivered Fatamite palaces
Reared upon crash of Herod's sway —
In turn built on the Maccabees,
And on King David's glory, they;
And David on antiquities
Of Jebusites and Ornan's floor,
And hunters' camps of ages long before.
So Glenroy's tiers of beaches be —
Abandoned margins of the Glacial Sea.
Amid that waste from joy debarred,
How few the islets fresh and green;
Yet on Moriah, tree and sward
In Allah's courts park-like were seen
From roof near by; below, fierce ward
Being kept by Mauritanian guard
Of bigot blacks. But of the reign
Of Christ did no memento live
Save soil and ruin? Negative
Seemed yielded in that crumbling fane,
Erst gem to Baldwin's sacred fief,
The chapel of our Dame of Grief.
But hard by Ophel's winding base.
Well watered by the runnel led,
A spot they found, not lacking grace,
Named Garden of King Solomon,
Tho' now a cauliflower-bed
To serve the kitchens of the town.
One day as here they came from far,
The saint repeated with low breath,
" Adonijah, Adonijah —
The stumbling-stone of Zoheleth."
He wanders, Clarel thought — but no,
For text and chapter did he show
Narrating how the prince in glade,
This very one, the banquet made,
The plotters' banquet, long ago,
Even by the stone named Zoheleth;
But startled by the trump that blew,
Proclaiming Solomon, pale grew
With all his guests.
From lower glen
They slanted up the steep, and there
Attained a higher terraced den,
Or small and silent field, quite bare.
The mentor breathed: " Come early here
A sign thou 'lt see." — Clarel drew near;
" What sign?" he asked. Whereto with sighs:
" Abashed by morning's holy eyes
This field will crimson, and for shame."
Struck by his fantasy and frame,
Clarel regarded him for time,
Then noted that dull reddish soil,
And caught sight of a thing of grime
Whose aspect made him to recoil —
A rotting charnel-house forlorn
Midway inearthed, caved in and torn.
And Clarel knew — one scarce might err —
The field of blood, the bad Aceldama.
By Olivet in waning day
The saint in fond illusion went,
Dream mixed with legend and event;
And as with reminiscence fraught,
Narrated in his rambling way
How here at eve was Christ's resort,
The last low sheep-bell tinkling lone —
Christ and the dear disciple — John.
Oft by the Golden Gate that looks
On Shaveh down, and far across
Toward Bethany's secluded nooks —
That gate which sculptures rare emboss
In arches twin; the same where rode
Christ entering with secret load —
Same gate, or on or near the site —
When palms were spread to left and right
Before Him, and with sweet acclaim
Were waved by damsels under sway
Of trees wherefrom those branches came —
Over and under palms He went
Unto that crown how different!
The port walled up by Moslem hands
In dread of that predicted day
When pealing hymns, armed Christian bands —
So Islam seers despondent vouch —
Shall storm it, wreathed in Mary's May:
By that sealed gate, in languor's slouch,
How listless in the golden day,
Clarel the mentor frequent heard
The time for Christ's return allot:
A dream, and like a dream it blurred
The sense — faded, and was forgot
Moved by some mystic impulse, far
From motive known or regular,
The saint would thus his lore unfold,
Though inconclusive; yes, half told
The theme he 'd leave, then nod, droop, doze —
Start up and prattle — sigh, and close.
Last updated January 14, 2019