Clarel/Part 1/Canto 5

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5. Clarel[edit]

Upon the morrow's early morn
Clarel is up, and seeks the Urn.
  Advancing towards the fane's old arch
Of entrance—curved in sculptured stone,
Dim and defaced, he saw thereon 5
From rural Bethany the march
Of Christ into another gate—
The golden and triumphal one,
Upon Palm Morn. For porch to shrine
On such a site, how fortunate 10
That adaptation of design.
Well might it please.
                  He entered then.
Strangers were there, of each degree,
From Asian shores, with island men, 15
Mild guests of the Epiphany.
  As when to win the Paschal joy
And Nisan's festal month renew, The
Nazarenes to temple drew,
Even Joseph, Mary, and the BOY, 20
Whose hand the mother's held; so here
To later rites and altars dear,
Domestic in devotion's flame
Husbands with wives and children came.
  But he, the student, under dome 25
Pauses; he stands before the Tomb.
Through open door he sees the wicks
Alight within, where six and six
For Christ's apostles, night and day,
Lamps, olden lamps do burn. In smoke 30
Befogged they shed no vivid ray,
But heat the cell and seem to choke.
  He marked, and revery took flight:
"These burn not like those aspects bright
Of starry watchers when they kept 35
Vigil at napkined feet and head
Of Him their Lord.—Nay, is He fled?
Or tranced lies, tranced nor unbewept
With Dorian gods? or, fresh and clear,
A charm diffused throughout the sphere, 40
Streams in the ray through yonder dome?
Not hearsed He is. But hath ghost home
Dispersed in soil, in sea, in air?
False Pantheism, false though fair!"
  So he; and slack and aimless went, 45
Nor might untwine the ravelment
Of doubts perplexed. For easement there
Halting awhile in pillared shade,
A friar he marked, in robe of blue
And round Greek cap of sable hue: 50
Poor men he led; much haste he made,
Nor sequence kept, but dragged them so
Hither and thither, to and fro,
To random places. Might it be
That Clarel, who recoil did here, 55
Shared but that shock of novelty
Which makes some Protestants unglad
First viewing the mysterious cheer
In Peter's fane? Beheld he had,
In Rome beneath the Lateran wall, 60
The Scala Santa—watched the knees
Of those ascending devotees,
Who, absolution so to reap,
Breathe a low prayer at every step.
  Nay, 'twas no novelty at all. 65
Nor was it that his nature shrunk
But from the curtness of the monk:
Another influence made swerve
And touched him in profounder nerve.
  He turned, and passing on enthralled, 70
Won a still chapel; and one spake
The name. Brief Scripture, here recalled,
The context less obscure may make:
'Tis writ that in a garden's bound
Our Lord was urned. On that green ground 75
He reappeared, by Mary claimed.
The place, or place alleged, is shown—
Arbors congealed to vaults of stone—
The Apparition's chapel named.
This was the spot where now, in frame 80
Hard to depict, the student came—
The spot where in the dawning gray,
His pallor with night's tears bedewed,
Restored the Second Adam stood—
Not as in Eden stood the First 85
All ruddy. Yet, in leaves immersed
And twilight of imperfect day,
Christ seemed the gardener unto her
Misjudging, who in womanhood
Had sought him late in sepulchre 90
Embowered, nor found.
                Here, votive here—
Here by the shrine that Clarel won—
A wreath shed odors. Scarce that cheer
Warmed some poor Greeks recumbent thrown, 95
Sore from late journeying far and near,
To hallowed haunts without the town;
So wearied, that no more they kneeled,
But over night here laid them down,
Matrons and children, yet unhealed 100
Of ache. And each face was a book
Of disappointment. "Why weep'st thou?
Whom seekest?"—words, which chanceful now
Recalled by Clarel, he applied
To these before him; and he took, 105
In way but little modified,
Part to himself; then stood in dream
Of all which yet might hap to them.
He saw them spent, provided ill—
Pale, huddled in the pilgrim fleet, 110
Back voyaging now to homes afar.
Midnight, and rising tempests beat—
Such as St. Paul knew—furious war,
To meet which, slender is the skill.
The lamp that burnt upon the prow 115
In wonted shrine, extinct is now—
Drowned out with Heaven's last feeble star.
Panic ensues; their course is turned;
Toward Tyre they drive—Tyre undiscerned:
A coast of wrecks which warping bleach 120
On wrecks of piers where eagles screech.
  How hopeful from their isles serene
They sailed, and on such tender quest;
Then, after toils that came between,
They reembarked; and, tho' distressed, 125
Grieved not, for Zion had been seen;
Each wearing next the heart for charm
Some priestly scrip in leaf of palm.
  But these, ah, these in Dawn's pale reign
Asleep upon beach Tyrian! 130
Or is it sleep? no, rest—that rest
Which naught shall ruffle or molest.
  In gliding turn of dreams which mate
He saw from forth Damascus' gate
Tall Islam in her Mahmal go— 135
Elected camel, king of all,
In mystic housings draped in flow,
Silk fringed, with many a silver ball,
Worked ciphers on the Koran's car
And Sultan's cloth. He hears the jar 140
Of janizaries armed, a throng
Which drum barbaric, shout and gong
Invest. And camels—robe and shawl
Of riders which they bear along—
Each sheik a pagod on his tower, 145
Crosslegged and dusky. Therewithal,
In affluence of the opal hour,
Curveting troops of Moslem peers
And flash of scimeters and spears
In groves of grassgreen pennons fair, 150
(Like Feiran's palms in fanning air,)
Wherefrom the crescent silvery soars.
  Then crowds pell-mell, a concourse wild,
Convergings from Levantine shores;
On foot, on donkeys; litters rare— 155
Whole families; twin panniers piled;
Rich men and beggars—all beguiled
To cheerful trust in Allah's care;
Allah, toward whose prophet's urn
And Holy City, fond they turn 160
As forth in pilgrimage they fare.
  But long the way. And when they note,
Ere yet they pass wide suburbs green,
Some camp in field, nor far remote,
Inviting, pastoral in scene; 165
Some child shall leap, and trill in glee
"Mecca, 'tis Mecca, mother—see!"
  Then first she thinks upon the waste
Whither the Simoom maketh haste;
Where baskets of the white ribbed dead 170
Sift the fine sand, while dim ahead
In long, long line, their way to tell,
The bones of camels bleaching dwell,
With skeletons but part interred—
Relics of men which friendless fell; 175
Whose own hands, in last office, scooped
Over their limbs the sand, but drooped:
Worse than the desert of the Word,
El Tih, the great, the terrible.
  Ere town and tomb shall greet the eye 180
Many shall fall, nor few shall die
Which, punctual at set of sun,
Spread the worn prayer cloth on the sand,
Turning them toward the Mecca stone,
Their shadows ominously thrown 185
Oblique against the mummy land.
  These pass; they fade. What next comes near?
The tawny peasants—human wave
Which rolls over India year by year,
India, the spawning place and grave. 190
  The turbaned billow floods the plains,
Rolling toward Brahma's rarer fanes—
His Compostel or brown Loret
Where sin absolved, may grief forget.
But numbers, plague struck, faint and sore, 195
Drop livid on the flowery shore—
Arrested, with the locusts sleep,
Or pass to muster where no man may peep.
  That vision waned. And, far afloat,
From eras gone he caught the sound 200
Of hordes from China's furthest moat,
Crossing the Himalayan mound,
To kneel at shrine or relic so
Of Buddha, the Mongolian Fo
Or Indian Saviour. What profound 205
Impulsion makes these tribes to range?
Stable in time's incessant change
Now first he marks, now awed he heeds
The inter-sympathy of creeds,
Alien or hostile tho' they seem— 210
Exalted thought or groveling dream.
  The worn Greek matrons mark him there:
Ah, young, our lassitude dost share?
Home do thy pilgrim reveries stray?
Art thou too, weary of the way?— 215
  Yes, sympathies of Eve awake;
Yet do but err. For how might break
Upon those simple natures true,
The complex passion? might they view
The apprehension tempest tossed, 220
The spirit in gulf of dizzying fable lost?