by Herman Melville
" Bless that good chaplain," Derwent here;
" All doves and halcyons round the sphere
Defend him from war's rude alarms!"
Then (O, sweet impudence of wine)
Then rising and approaching Vine
In suppliant way: " I crave an alms:
Since this gray guest, this serious one,
Our wrinkled old Euroclydon,
Since even he, with genial breath
His quota here contributeth,
Helping our gladness to prolong —
Thou too! Nay, nay; as everywhere
Water is found if one not spare
To delve — tale, prithee now, or song!"
Vine's brow shot up with crimson lights
As may the North on frosty nights
Over Dilston Hall and his low state —
The fair young Earl whose bloody end
Those red rays do commemorate,
And take his name.
Now all did bend
In chorus, crying, " Tale or song!"
Investing him. Was no escape
Beset by such a Bacchic throng.
" Ambushed in leaves we spy your grape,"
Cried Derwent; " black but juicy one —
No way for Vine to shun:
" Well, if you 'll let me here recline
At ease the while, I 'll hum a word
Which in his Florence loft I heard
An artist trill one morning fine: —
" What is beauty? 'tis a dream
Dispensing still with gladness:
The dolphin haunteth not the shoal,
And deeps there be in sadness.
" The rose-leaves, see, disbanded be —
Blowing, about me blowing;
But on the death-bed of the rose
My amaranths are growing.
" His amaranths : a fond conceit,
Yes, last illusion of retreat!
Short measure 'tis." " And yet enough,"
Said Derwent; " 'tis a hopeful song;
Or, if part sad, not less adorning,
Like purple in a royal mourning.
We debtors be. Now come along
To table, we 'll take no rebuff."
So Vine sat down among them then —
Adept — shy prying into men.
Derwent here wheeled him: " But for sake
Of conscience, noble Arnaut, tell;
When now I as from dream awake
It just dawns on me: how is this?
Wine-bibbing? No! that kind of bliss
Your Koran bars. And Belex, man,
Thou'st smoked before the sun low fell;
And this month 's what? your Ramadan?
May true believers thus rebel?"
Good sooth, did neither know to tell,
Or care to know, what time did fall
The Islam fast; yet took it so
As Derwent roguish prompted, though
It was no Ramadan at all;
'Twas far ahead, a movable fast
Of lunar month, which to forecast
The Anak made: " Mahone has laws,
And Allah 's great — of course: — forefend!
Ho, rouse a stave, and so an end:
" The Bey, the Emir, and Mameluke lords
Charged down on the field in a grove of swords:
Hurrah! hurrah and hurrah
For the grove of swords in the wind of war!
" And the Bey to the Emir exclaimed, Who knows?
In the shade of the scimetars Paradise shows!
Hurrah! hurrah and hurrah
For the grove of swords in the wind of war!"
He sang; then settled down, a mate
For Mars' high pontiff — solemn sate,
And on his long broad Bazra blade
Deep ruminated. Less sedate,
The Spahi now in escapade
Vented some Turkish guardroom joke,
But scarce thereby the other woke
To laughter, for he never laughed,
Into whatever mood he broke,
Nor verbal levity vouchsafed,
So leonine the man. But here
The Spahi, with another cheer
Into a vein of mockery ran,
Toasting the feast of Ramadan,
Laughing thereat, removed from fear.
It was a deep-mouthed mastiff burst,
Nor less, for all the jovial tone
The echo startling import won —
At least for Clarel, little versed
In men, their levities and tides
Unequal, and of much besides.
There by a lattice open swung
Over the Kedron's gulf he hung,
And pored and pondered: With what sweep
Doubt plunges, and from maw to maw;
Traditions none the nations keep —
Old ties dissolve in one wide thaw;
The Frank, the Turk, and e'en the Jew
Share it; perchance the Brahmin too.
Returns each thing that may withdraw?
The schools of blue-fish years desert
Our sounds and shores — but they revert;
The ship returns on her long tack:
The bones of Theseus are brought back:
A comet shall resume its path
Though three millenniums go. But faith?
Ah, Nehemiah — and, Derwent, thou
'Twas dust to dust: what is it now
And here? Is life indeed a dream?
Are these the pilgrims late that heard
The wheeling desert vultures scream
Above the Man and Book interred —
Scream like the haglet and the gull
Off Chiloe o'er the foundered hull?
But hark: while here light fell the clink
The five cups made touched brink to brink
In fair bouquet of fellowship,
And just as the gay Lesbian's lip
Was parted — jetting came a wail
In litany from Kedron's jail
Profound, and belly of the whale:
" Lord, have mercy .
Christ, have mercy.
Intercede for me,
Angel of the Agony.
Spare me, spare me!
Merciful be —
Lord, spare me —
Spare and deliver me!"
Arrested, those five revellers there,
Fixed in light postures of their glee,
Seemed problematic shapes ye see
In linked caprice of festal air
Graved round the Greek sarcophagi.
Last updated January 14, 2019