12. The Banker -

by Herman Melville

Herman Melville

The Banker

Infer the wilds which next pertain
Though travel here be still a walk,
Small heart was theirs for easy talk.
Oblivious of the bridle-rein
Rolfe fell to Lethe altogether,
Bewitched by that uncanny weather
Of sultry cloud. And home-sick grew
The banker. In his revery blue
The cigarette, a summer friend,
Went out between his teeth — could lend
No solace, soothe him nor engage.
And now disrelished he each word
Of sprightly, harmless persiflage
Wherewith young Glaucon here would fain
Evince a jaunty disregard.
But hush betimes o'ertook the twain —
The more impressive, it may be,
For that the senior, somewhat spent,
Florid overmuch and corpulent,
Laboured in lungs, and audibly.
Rolfe, noting that the sufferer's steed
Was far less easy than his own,
Relieved him in his hour of need
By changing with him; then in tone
Aside, half musing, as alone,
" Unwise he is to venture here,
Poor fellow; 'tis but sorry cheer
For Mammon. Ill would it accord
If nabob with asthmatic breath
Lighted on Holbein's Dance of Death
Sly slipped among his prints from Claude.
Cosmetic-users scarce are bold
To face a skull. That sachem old
Whose wigwam is man's heart within —
How taciturn, and yet can speak,
Imparting more than volumes win;
Not Pleasure's darling cares to seek
Such counsellor: the worse he fares;
Since — heedless, taken unawares —
Arrest he finds. — Look: at yon ground
How starts he now! So Abel's hound,
Snuffing his prostrate master wan,
Shrank back from earth's first murdered man. —
But friend, how thrivest?" turning there
To Derwent. He, with altered air,
Made vague rejoinder, nor serene:
His soul, if not cast down, was vexed
By Nature in this dubious scene:
His theory she harsh perplexed —
The more so for wild Mortmain's mien:
And Nehemiah in eldritch cheer:
" Lord, now Thou goest forth from Seir;
Lord, now from Edom marchest Thou!" —

Shunning the Swede — disturbed to know
The saint in strange clairvoyance so,
Clarel yet turned to meet the grace
Of one who not infected dwelt —
Yes, Vine, who shared his horse's pace
In level sameness, as both felt
At home in dearth.
But unconcern
That never knew Vine's thoughtful turn
The venerable escort showed:
True natives of the waste abode,
They moved like insects of the leaf —
Tint, tone adapted to the fief.





Last updated January 14, 2019