33. Easter -

by Herman Melville

Herman Melville

But on the third day Christ arose;
And, in the town He knew, the rite
Commemorative eager goes
Before the hour. Upon the night
Between the week's last day and first,
No more the Stabat is dispersed
Or Tenebrae. And when the day,
The Easter, falls in calendar
The same to Latin and the array
Of all schismatics from afar —
Armenians, Greeks from many a shore —
Syrians, Copts — profusely pour
The hymns: 'tis like the choric gush
Of torrents Alpine when they rush
To swell the anthem of the spring.
That year was now. Throughout the fane,
Floor, and arcades in double ring
About the gala of The T OMB ,
Blazing with lights, behung with bloom —
What childlike thousands roll the strain,
The hallelujah after pain,
Which in all tongues of Christendom
Still through the ages has rehearsed
That Best, the outcome of the Worst.
Nor blame them who by lavish rite
Thus greet the pale victorious Son,
Since Nature times the same delight,
And rises with the Emerging One;
Her passion-week, her winter mood
She slips, with crape from off the Rood.
In soft rich shadow under dome,
With gems and robes repletely fine,
The priests like birds Brazilian shine:
And moving tapers charm the sight,
Enkindling the curled incense-fume:
A dancing ray, auroral light.

Burn on the hours, and meet the day.
The morn invites; the suburbs call
The concourse to come forth — this way!
Out from the gate by Stephen's wall,
They issue, dot the hills, and stray
In bands, like sheep among the rocks;
And the Good Shepherd in the heaven,
To whom the charge of these is given,
The Christ, ah! counts He there His flocks?
But they, at each suburban shrine,
Grateful adore that Friend benign;
Though chapel now and cross divine
Too frequent show neglected; nay,
For charities of early rains
Rim them about with vernal stains,
Forerunners of maturer May,
When those red flowers, which so can please
( Christ's-Blood-Drops named — anemones),
Spot Ephraim and the mountain-way.
BuTheart bereft is unrepaid
Though Thammuz' spring in Thammuz' glade
Invite; then how in Joel's glen?
What if dyed shawl and bodice gay
Make bright the black dell? what if they
In distance clear diminished be
To seeming cherries dropped on pall
Borne graveward under laden tree?
The cheer, so human, might not call
The maiden up; Christ is arisen:
But Ruth, may Ruth so burst the prison?

The rite supreme being ended now,
Their confluence here the nations part:
Homeward the tides of pilgrims flow,
By contrast making the walled town
Like a depopulated mart;
More like some kirk on week-day lone,
On whose void benches broodeth still
The brown light from November hill.

But though the freshet quite be gone —
Sluggish, life's wonted stream flows on.





Last updated January 14, 2019