by Herman Melville
Well for the student, might it last,
This dreamful frame which Lethe bred:
Events obtruded, and it passed.
For on a time the twain were led
From Gihon's upper pool and glade
Down to the deeper gulf. They strayed
Along by many silent cells
Cut in the rock, void citadels
Of death. In porch of one was seen
A mat of tender turf, faint green;
And quiet standing on that sward
A stranger whom they overheard
Low murmuring — " Equivocal!
Woo'st thou the weary to thee — tell,
Thou tomb, so winsome in thy grace?
To me no reassuring place."
He saw them not; and they, to shun
Disturbing him, passed, and anon
Met three demoniacs, sad three
Ranging those wasteful limits o'er
As in old time. That look they wore
Which in the moody mad bids flee:
'Tis — What have I to do with thee?
Two shunned approach. But one did sit
Lost in some reminiscence sore
Of private wrong outrageous. He,
As at the larger orb of it,
Looming through mists of mind, would bound,
Or cease to pore upon the ground
As late; and so be inly riven
By arrows of indignant pain:
Convulsed in face, he glared at heaven
Then lapsed in sullenness again.
Dire thoughts the pilgrim's mind beset:
" And did Christ come? in such a scene
Encounter the poor Gadarene
Long centuries ago? and yet —
But here came in review —
Though of their nearness unaware —
The stranger, downward wending there,
Who, marking Clarel, instant knew —
At least so might his start declare —
A brother that he well might own
In tie of spirit. Young he was,
With crescent forehead — but alas,
Of frame misshaped. Word spake he none,
But vaguely hovered, as may one
Not first who would accost, but deep
Under reserve the wish may keep.
Ere Clarel, here embarrassed grown,
Made recognition, the Unknown
Compressed his lips, turned, and was gone.
Mutely for moment, face met face:
But more perchance between the two
Was interchanged than e'en may pass
In many a worded interview.
The student in his heart confessed
A novel sympathy impressed;
And late remissness to retrieve
Fain the encounter would renew.
And yet — if oft one's resolution
Be overruled by constitution —
Herein his heart he might deceive.
Ere long, retracing higher road,
Clarel with Nehemiah stood
By David's Tower, without the wall,
Where black the embattled shadows fall
At morn over Hinnom. Groups were there
Come out to take the evening air,
Watching a young lord Turk in pride,
With fez and sash as red as coral,
And on a steed whose well-groomed hide.
Was all one burnished burning sorrel,
Scale the lit slope; then veering wide,
Rush down into the gloomful gorge,
The steel hoof showering sparks as from a forge.
Even Nehemiah, in senile tone
Of dreamy interest, was won
That shooting star to gaze upon.
But rallying, he bent his glance
Toward the opposing eminence;
And turning, " Seest thou not," he said,
" As sinks the sun beyond this glen
Of Moloch, how clouds intervene
And hood the brightness that was shed?
But yet few hours and he will rise
In better place, and beauty get;
Yea, friend in Christ, in morning skies
Return he will over Olivet:
And we shall greet him. Say ye so?
Betimes then will we up and go.
Farewell. At early dawn await
Christ's bondman old at Stephen's Gate."
Last updated January 14, 2019