22. Of Wickednes the Word -

by Herman Melville

Herman Melville

Since, for the charity they knew,
None cared the exile to upbraid
Or further breast — while yet he threw,
In silence that oppressive weighed,
The after-influence of his spell —
The priest in light disclaimer said
To Rolfe apart: " The icicle,
The dagger-icicle draws blood;
But give it sun!" " You mean his mood
Is accident — would melt away
In fortune's favourable ray.
But if 'tis happiness he lacks,
Why, let the gods warm all cold backs
With that good sun. But list!"
In vent
Of thought, abrupt the malcontent:
" What incantation shall make less
The ever-upbubbling wickedness!
Is this fount nature's?"
Under guard
Asked Vine: " Is wickedness the word?"
" The right word? Yes; but scarce the thing
Is there conveyed; for one need know
Wicked has been the tampering
With wickedness the word." " Even so?"
" Ay, ridicule's light sacrilege
Has taken off the honest edge —
Quite turned aside — perverted all
That Saxon term and seriptural."
" Restored to the incisive wedge,
What means it then, this wickedness?"
Ungar regarded him with look
Of steady search: " And wilt thou brook?
Thee leaves it whole? — This wickedness
(Might it retake true import well)
Means not default, nor vulgar vice,
Nor Adam's lapse in Paradise;
But worse: 'twas this evoked the hell —
Gave in the conscious soul's recess
Credence to Calvin. What 's implied
In that deep utterance decried
Which Christians labially confess —
Be born anew?"
" Ah, overstate
Thou dost!" the priest sighed; " but look there!
No jarring theme may violate
Yon tender evening sky! How fair
These olive-orchards: see, the sheep
Mild drift toward the folds of sleep.
The blessed Nature! still her glance
Returns the love she well receives
From hearts that with the stars advance,
Each heart that in the goal believes!"
Ungar, though nettled, as might be,
At these bland substitutes in plea
(By him accounted so), yet sealed
His lips. In fine, all seemed to yield
With one consent a truce to talk.
But Clarel, who, since that one hour
Of unreserve on Saba's tower,
Less relished Derwent's pleasant walk
Of myrtles, hardly might remain
Uninfluenced by Ungar's vein:
If man in truth be what you say,
And such the prospects for the clay,
And outlook of the future — cease!
What 's left us but the senses' sway?
Sinner, sin out life's petty lease:
We are not worth the saving. Nay,
For me, if thou speak true — but ah,
Yet, yet there gleams one beckoning star —
So near the horizon, judge I right
That 'tis of heaven?
But wanes the light —
The evening Angelus is rolled:
They rise, and seek the convent's fold.





Last updated January 14, 2019