Clarel/Part 2/Canto 27

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27. Vine and Clarel[edit]

While now, to serve the pilgrim train,
The Arabs willow branches hew,
(For palms they serve in dearth of true),
Or, kneeling by the margin, stoop
To brim memorial bottles up; 5
And the Greek's wine entices two:
Apart see Clarel here incline,
Perplexed by that Dominican,
Nor less by Rolfe--capricious man:
"I cannot penetrate him.--Vine?" 10
  As were Venetian slats between,
He espied him through a leafy screen,
Luxurious there in umbrage thrown,
Light sprays above his temples blown--
The river through the green retreat 15
Hurrying, reveling by his feet.
  Vine looked an overture, but said
Nothing, till Clarel leaned--half laid--
Beside him: then "We dream, or be
In sylvan John's baptistery: 20
May Pisa's equal beauty keep?--
But how bad habits persevere!
I have been moralizing here
Like any imbecile: as thus:
Look how these willows over-weep 25
The waves, and plain: 'Fleet so from us?
And wherefore? whitherward away?
Your best is here where wildings sway
And the light shadow's blown about;
Ah, tarry, for at hand's a sea 30
Whence ye shall never issue out
Once in.' They sing back: 'So let be!

We mad-caps hymn it as we flow--
Short life and merry! be it so!' "
  Surprised at such a fluent turn, 35
The student did but listen--learn.

  Putting aside the twigs which screened,
Again Vine spake, and lightly leaned
"Look; in yon vault so leafy dark,
At deep end lit by gemmy spark 40
Of mellowed sunbeam in a snare;
Over the stream--ay, just through there--
The sheik on that celestial mare
Shot, fading.--Clan of outcast Hagar,
Well do ye come by spear and dagger! 45
Yet in your bearing ye outvie
Our western Red Men, chiefs that stalk
In mud paint--whirl the tomahawk.--
But in these Nimrods noted you
The natural language of the eye, 50
Burning or liquid, flame or dew,
As still the changeable quick mood
Made transit in the wayward blood?
Methought therein one might espy,
For all the wildness, thoughts refined 55
By the old Asia's dreamful mind;

But hark--a bird?"
                 Pure as the rain
Which diamondeth with lucid grain,
The white swan in the April hours 60
Floating between two sunny showers
Upon the lake, while buds unroll;
So pure, so virginal in shrine
Of true unworldliness looked Vine.
Ah, clear sweet ether of the soul 65
(Mused Clarel), holding him in view.
Prior advances unreturned
Not here he recked of, while he yearned--
O, now but for communion true
And close; let go each alien theme; 70
Give me thyself!

           But Vine, at will
Dwelling upon his wayward dream,
Nor as suspecting Clarel's thrill
Of personal longing, rambled still; 75
"Methinks they show a lingering trace
Of some quite unrecorded race
Such as the Book of Job implies.
What ages of refinings wise
Must have forerun what there is writ-- 80
More ages than have followed it.
At Lydda late, as chance would have,
Some tribesmen from the south I saw,
Their tents pitched in the Gothic nave,
The ruined one. Disowning law, 85
Not lawless lived they; no, indeed;
Their chief--why, one of Sydney's clan,
A slayer, but chivalric man;
And chivalry, with all that breed
Was Arabic or Saracen 90
In source, they tell. But, as men stray
Further from Ararat away
Pity it were did they recede
In carriage, manners, and the rest;
But no, for ours the palm indeed 95
In bland amenities far West!
Come now, for pastime let's complain;
Grudged thanks, Columbus, for thy main!
Put back, as 'twere--assigned by fate
To fight crude Nature o'er again, 100
By slow degrees we re-create.
But then, alas, in Arab camps
No lack, they say, no lack of scamps."
  Divided mind knew Clarel here;
The heart's desire did interfere. 105
Thought he, How pleasant in another
Such sallies, or in thee, if said
After confidings that should wed
Our souls in one:--Ah, call me brother!--
So feminine his passionate mood 110

Which, long as hungering unfed,
All else rejected or withstood.
  Some inklings he let fall. But no:
Here over Vine there slid a change
A shadow, such as thin may show 115
Gliding along the mountain-range
And deepening in the gorge below.
  Does Vine's rebukeful dusking say--
Why, on this vernal bank to-day,
Why bring oblations of thy pain 120
To one who hath his share? here fain
Would lap him in a chance reprieve?
Lives none can help ye; that believe.
Art thou the first soul tried by doubt?
Shalt prove the last? Go, live it out. 125
But for thy fonder dream of love
In man toward man--the soul's caress--
The negatives of flesh should prove
Analogies of non-cordialness
In spirit.--E'en such conceits could cling 130
To Clarel's dream of vain surmise
And imputation full of sting.
But, glancing up, unwarned he saw
What serious softness in those eyes
Bent on him. Shyly they withdraw. 135
Enslaver, wouldst thou but fool me

With bitter-sweet, sly sorcery,
Pride's pastime? or wouldst thou indeed,
Since things unspoken may impede,
Let flow thy nature but for bar?-- 140
Nay, dizzard, sick these feelings are;
How findest place within thy heart
For such solicitudes apart
From Ruth?--Self-taxings.
                  But a sign 145
Came here indicative from Vine,
Who with a reverent hushed air
His view directed toward the glade
Beyond, wherein a niche was made

Of leafage, and a kneeler there, 150
The meek one, on whom, as he prayed,
A golden shaft of mellow light,
Oblique through vernal cleft above,
And making his pale forehead bright,
Scintillant fell. By such a beam 155
From heaven descended erst the dove
On Christ emerging from the stream.
It faded; 'twas a transient ray;
And, quite unconseious of its sheen,
The suppliant rose and moved away, 160
Not dreaming that he had been seen.

  When next they saw that innocent,
From prayer such cordial had he won
That all his aspect of content
As with the oil of gladness shone. 165
Less aged looked he. And his cheer
Took language in an action here:
The train now mustering in line,
Each pilgrim with a river-palm
In hand (except indeed the Jew), 170
The saint the head-stall need entwine
With wreathage of the same. When new
They issued from the wood, no charm
The ass found in such idle gear
Superfluous: with her long ear 175
She flapped it off, and the next thrust
Of hoof imprinted it in dust.
Meek hands (mused Vine), vainly ye twist
Fair garland for the realist.
  The Hebrew, noting whither bent 180
Vine's glance, a word in passing lent:
"Ho, tell us how it comes to be
That thou who rank'st not with beginners
Regard have for yon chief of sinners."
  "Yon chief of sinners?" 185
                        "So names he
Himself. For one I'll not express
How I do loathe such lowliness."