Clarel/Part 4/Canto 20
20. Derwent and Ungar 
"Not thou com'st in the still small voice,"
Said Derwent, "thou queer Mexican!"
And followed him with eyes: "This man,"
And turned here, "he likes not grave talk,
The settled undiluted tone; 5
It does his humorous nature balk.
'Twas ever too his sly rebuff,
While yet obstreperous in praise,
Taking that dusty pinch of snuff.
An oddity, he has his ways; 10
Yet trust not, friends, the half he says:
Not he would do a weasel harm;
A secret agent of Reform;
At least, that is my theory."
"The quicksilver is quick to skim," 15
Ungar remarked, with eye on him.
"Yes, nature has her levity,"
Nothing might disarm
The other; he: "Your word reform: 20
What meaning's to that word assigned?
From Luther's great initial down,
Through all the series following on
The impetus augments--the blind
Precipitation: blind, for tell 25
Whitherward does the surge impel?
The end, the aim? 'Tis mystery."
"Oh, no. Through all methinks I see
The object clear: belief revised,
Men liberated--equalized 30
In happiness. No mystery,
Just none at all; plain sailing."
Assume this: is it feasible?
Your methods? These are of the world: 35
Now the world cannot save the world;
And Christ renounces it. His faith,
Breaking with every mundane path,
Aims straight at heaven. To founded thrones
He says: Trust not to earthly stanchions 40
And unto poor and houseless ones--
My Father's house has many mansions.
Warning and solace be but this;
No thought to mend a world amiss."
"Ah now, ah now!" plead Derwent. 45
Test further; take another way:
Go ask Aurelius Antonine--
A Caesar wise, grave, just, benign,
Lord of the world--why, in the calm 50
Which through his reign the empire graced--
Why he, that most considerate heart
Superior, and at vantage placed,
Contrived no secular reform,
Though other he knew not, nor balm." 55
"Alas," cried Derwent (and, in part,
As vainly longing for retreat)
"Though good Aurelius was a man
Matchless in mind as sole in seat,
Yet pined he under numbing ban 60
Of virtue without Christian heat:
As much you intimated too,
Just saying that no balm he knew.
Howbeit, true reform goes on
By Nature; doing, never done. 65
Mark the advance: creeds drop the hate;
Events still liberalize the state."
"But tell: do men now more cohere
In bonds of duty which sustain?
Cliffs crumble, and the parts regain 70
A liberal freedom, it is clear.
And for conventicles--I fear,
Much as a hard heart aged grown
Abates in rigor, losing tone;
So sects decrepit, at death's door, 75
Dote into peace through loss of power."
"You put it so," said Derwent light:
"No more developments to cite?"
"Ay, quench the true, the mock sun fails
Therewith. Much so, Hypocrisy, 80
The false thing, wanes just in degree
That Faith, the true thing, wanes: each pales.
There's one development; 'tis seen
In masters whom not low ye rate:
What lack, in some outgivings late, 85
Of the old Christian style toward men--
I do not mean the wicked ones,
But Pauperism's unhappy sons
In cloud so blackly ominous,
Grimy in Mammon's English pen-- 90
Collaterals of his overplus:
How worse than them Immanuel fed
On hill-top--helped and comforted.
Thou, Poverty, erst free from shame,
Even sacred through the Savior's claim, 95
Professed by saints, by sages prized--
A pariah now, and bastardized!
Reactions from the Christian plan
Bear others further. Quite they shun
A god to name, or cite a man 100
Save Greek, heroical, a Don:
'Tis Plato's aristocratic tone.
All recognition they forego
Of Evil; supercilious skim
With spurious wing of seraphim 105
The last abyss. Freemen avow
Belief in right divine of Might,
Yet spurn at kings. This is the light--
Divine the darkness. Mark the way
The Revolution, whose first mode 110
Ere yet the maniacs overrode,
Despite the passion of the dream
Evinced no disrespect for God;
Mark how, in our denuding day,
E'en with the masses, as would seem 115
It tears the fig-leaf quite away.
Contrast these incidents: The mob,
The Paris mob of Eighty-nine,
Haggard and bleeding, with a throb
Burst the long Tuileries. In shrine 120
Of chapel there, they saw the Cross
And Him thereon. Ah, bleeding Man,
The people's friend, thou bled'st for us
Who here bleed, too! Ragged they ran--
They took the crucifix; in van 125
They put it, marched with drum and psalm
And throned it in their Notre Dame.
But yesterday--how did they then,
In new uprising of the Red,
The offspring of those Tuileries men? 130
They made a clothes-stand of the Cross
Before the church; and, on that head
Which bowed for them, could wanton toss
The sword-belt, while the gibing sped.
Transeended rebel angels! Woe 135
To us; without a God, 'tis woe!"