15. The Fountain -

by Herman Melville

Herman Melville

It brake, it brake how long ago,
That morn which saw thy marvel done,
Elisha — healing of the spring!
A good deed lives, the doer low:
See how the waters eager run
With bounty which they chiming bring:
So out of Eden's bounds afar
Hymned Pison through green Havilah!
But ill those words in tone impart
The simple feelings in the heart
Of Nehemiah — full of the theme,
Standing beside the marge, with cup,
And pearls of water-beads adroop
Down thinnish beard of silvery gleam.
" Truly," said Derwent, glad to note
That Achor found her antidote,
" Truly, the fount wells grateful here."
Then to the student: " For the rest,
The site is pleasant; nor unblest
These thickets by their shade endear."
Assent half vacant Clarel gave,
Watching that miracle the wave.
Said Rolfe, reclining by the rill,
" Needs life must end or soon or late:
Perchance set down it is in fate
That fail I must ere we fulfil
Our travel. Should it happen true —
Attention, pray — I mend my will,
And name executors in you:
Bury me by the road, somewhere
Near spring or brook. Palms plant me there,
And seats with backs to them, all stone:
In peace then go. The years shall run,
And green my grave shall be, and play
The part of host to all that stray
In desert: water, shade, and rest
Their entertainment. So I 'll win
Balm to my soul by each poor guest
That solaced leaves the Dead Man's Inn.
But charges, mind, yourselves defray —
Seeing I 've naught."
Where thrown he lay,
Vine, sensitive, suffused did show,
Yet looked not up, but seemed to weigh
The nature of the heart whose trim
Of quaint good-fellowship could so
Strike on a chord long slack in him.
But how may spirit quick and deep
A constancy unfreakish keep?
A reed there shaken fitfully
He marks: " Was 't this we came to see
In wilderness?" and rueful smiled.
The meek one, otherwise beguiled,
Here chancing now the ass to note
Languidly munching straw and bran,
Drew nigh, and smoothed the roughened coat,
And gave her bread, the wheaten grain.
Vine watches; and his aspect knows
A flush of diffident humour: " Nay,
Me too, me too let wait, I pray,
On our snubbed kin here"; and he rose.

Erelong, alert the escort show:
'Tis stirrups. But the Swede moved not,
Aloof abiding in dark plot
Made by the deeper shadow: " Go —
My horse lead; but for me, I stay;
Some bread — there, that small loaf will do:
It is my whim — my whim, I say;
Mount, heed not me." — " And how long, pray?"
Asked Derwent, startled: " eve draws on:
Ye would not tarry here alone?"
" Thou man of God, nor desert here,
Nor Zin, nor Obi, yieldeth fear
If God but be — but be! This waste —
Soon shall night fold the hemisphere;
But safer then to lay me down,
Here, by yon evil Summit faced —
Safer than in the cut-throat town
Though on the church steps. Go from me —
Begone! To-morrow or next day
Jordan ye greet, then round ye sway
And win Lot's marge. In sight ye 'll be:
I 'll intercept. Ride on, go — nay,
Bewitched, why gape ye so at me?
Shall man not take the natural way
With nature? Tut, fling me the cloak!"
Away, precipitate he broke,
The skull-cap glooming thro' the glade:
They paused, nor ventured to invade.

While so, not unconcerned, they stood,
The Druze said, " Well, let be. Why chafe?
Nights here are mild; one 's pretty safe
When fearless. — Belex! come, the road!"





Last updated January 14, 2019