Clarel/Part 1/Canto 20

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20. Vale of Ashes[edit]

Beyond the city's thin resort
And northward from the Ephraim port
The Vale of Ashes keepeth place.
If stream it have which showeth face,
Thence Kedron issues when in flood: 5
A pathless dell men seldom trace;
The same which after many a rood
Down deepens by the city wall
Into a glen, where--if we deem
Joel's wild text no Runic dream-- 10
An archangelic trump shall call
The nations of the dead from wreck,
Convene them in one judgment-hall
The hollow of Melchizedek.

  That upper glade by quarries old 15
Reserves for weary ones a seat--
Porches of caves, stone benches cold,
Grateful in sultry clime to meet.
To this secluded spot austere,
Priests borc Talmudic records treat-- 20
The ashes from the altar; here
They laid them, hallowed in release,
Shielded from winds in glade of peace.

  From following the bier to end
Hitherward now see Clarel tend; 25
A dell remote from Celio's mound,
As he for time would shun the ground
So freshly opened for the dead,
Nor linger there while aliens stray
And ceremonious gloom is shed. 30
  Withdrawing to this quiet bay
He felt a natural influence glide
In lenitive through every vein,
And reach the heart, lull heart and brain.
The comrade old was by his side, 35
And solace shared. But this would pass,
Or dim eclipse would steal thereon,
As over autumn's hill-side grass
The cloud. Howbeit, in freak anon

His Bible he would muttering con, 40
Then turn, and brighten with a start--
"I hear them, hear them in my heart;
Yea, friend in Christ, I hear them swell--
The trumpets of Immanuel!"
Illusion. But in other hour 45
When oft he would foretell the flower
And sweets that time should yet bring in,
A happy world, with peace for dower--
This more of interest could win;
For he, the solitary man 50
Who such a social dream could fan,
What had he known himself of bliss?

And--nearing now his earthly end--
Even that he pledged he needs must miss.
To Clarel now, such musings lend 55
A vague disturbance, as they wend
Returning thro' the noiseless glade.
But in the gate Nehemiah said,
"My room in court is pleasant, see;
Not yet you've been there come with me." 60