Clarel/Part 4/Canto 9

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Clarel by Herman Melville
Part 4, Canto 9: The Shepherds' Dale

9. The Shepherds' Dale[edit]

"Up, up! Around morn's standard rally
She makes a sortic join the sally:
Up, slugabeds; up, up!"
                That call
Ere matins did each pilgrim hear 5
In cell, and knew the blithe voice clear.
   "Beshrew thee, thou'rt poetical,"
Rolfe murmured from his place withdrawn.
   "Ay, brother; but 'tis not surprising:
Apollo's the god of early rising. 10
Up, up! The negro-groom of Night
Leads forth the horses of the Dawn!
Up, up!" So Derwent, jocund sprite--
Although but two days now were passed
Since he had viewed a sunrise last-- 15
Persuaded them to join him there

And unto convent roof repair.
Thought one: He's of no nature surly,
So cheerful in the morning early.
  Sun-worship over, they came down: 20
And Derwent lured them forth, and on.
  Behind the Convent lies a dale,
The Valley of the Shepherds named,
(And never may the title fail!)
By old tradition fondly claimed 25
To be in truth the very ground
About whose hollow, on the mound
Of hills, reclined in dozing way
That simple group ere break of day,
Which, startled by their flocks' dismay-- 30
All bleating up to them in panic
And sparkling in scintillant ray--
Beheld a splendor diaphanic--
Effulgence never dawn hath shot,
Nor flying meteors of the night; 35
And trembling rose, shading the sight;
But heard the angel breathe--Fear not.
So (might one reverently dare
Terrene with heavenly to compare),
So, oft in mid-watch on that sea 40
Where the ridged Andes of Peru
Are far seen by the coasting crew--

Waves, sails and sailors in accord
Illumed are in a mystery,
Wonder and glory of the Lord, 45
Though manifest in aspect minor--
Phosphoric ocean in shekinah.

   And down now in that dale they go,
Meeting a little St. John boy
In sackcloth shirt and belt of tow, 50
Leading his sheep. Ever behind
He kept one hand, stained with a shrub,
The which an ewe licked, never coy;
And all the rest with docile mind

Followed; and fleece with fleece did rub. 55
   Beyond, hard by twin planted tents,
Paced as in friendly conference
Two shepherds on the pastoral hill,
Brown patriarchs in shaggy cloak;
Peaceful they went, as in a yoke 60
The oxen unto pasture oak
To lie in shade when noon is still.
Nibbling the herb, or far or near,
Advanced their flocks, and yet would veer,
For width of range makes wayward will. 65

   Ungar beheld: "What treat they of?
Halving the land?--This might reclaim
Old years of Lot and Abraham
Just ere they parted in remove:
A peaceful parting: 'Let there be 70
No strife, I pray thee, between me
And thee, my herdmen and thine own;
For we be brethren. See, the land
Is all before thee, fenced by none:
Then separate thyself from me, 75
I pray thee. If now the left hand
Thou, Lot, wilt take, then I will go
Unto the right; if thou depart
Unto the right, then I will go
Unto the left.'--They parted so, 80
And not unwisely: both were wise.
'Twas East and West; but North and South!"
   Rolfe marked the nip of quivering mouth,
Passion repressed within the eyes;
But ignorance feigned: "This calm," he said, 85
"How fitly hereabout is shed:
The site of Eden's placed not far;
In bond 'tween man and animal
Survives yet under Asia's star
A link with years before the Fall." 90
    "Indeed," cried Derwent, pleased thereat,
"Blest, blest is here the creature's state

Those pigeons, now, in Saba's hold,
Their wings how winsome would they fold
Alighting at one's feet so soft. 95
Doves, too, in mosque, I've marked aloft,
At hour of prayer through window come
From trees adjacent, and a'thrill
Perch, coo, and nestle in the dome,
Or fly with green sprig in the bill. 100
How by the marble fount in court,
Where for ablution Turks resort
Ere going in to hear the Word,
These small apostles they regard
Which of sweet innocence report. 105
None stone the dog; caressed, the steed;
Only poor Dobbin (Jew indeed
Of brutes) seems slighted in the East."

  Ungar, who chafed in heart of him
At Rolfe's avoidance of his theme 110
(Although he felt he scarce could blame),
Here turned his vexed mood on the priest:
"As cruel as a Ttlrk: Whence came
That proverb old as the crusades?
From Anglo-Saxons. What are they? 115
Let the horse answer, and blockades
Of medicine in civil fray!

The Anglo-Saxons--lacking grace
To win the love of any race;
Hated by myriads dispossessed 120
Of rights--the Indians East and West.
These pirates of the sphere! grave looters--
Grave, canting, Mammonite freebooters,
Who in the name of Christ and Trade
(Oh, bucklered forehead of the brass!) 125
Deflower the world's last sylvan glade!"
  "Alas, alas, ten times alas,
Poor Anglo-Saxons!" Derwent sighed.
   "Nay, but if there I lurched too wide,
Respond to this: Old ballads sing 130
Fair Christian children crucified
By impious Jews: you've heard the thing:
Yes, fable; but there's truth hard by:
How many Hughs of Lincoln, say,
Does Mammon in his mills, to-day, 135
Crook, if he do not crucify?"
  "Ah, come," said Derwent; "come, now, come
Think you that we who build the home
For foundlings, and yield sums immense
To hospitals for indigencc " 140
  "Your alms-box, smaller than your till
And poor-house won't absolve your mill.
But what ye are, a straw may tell--
Your dearth of phrases affable.
Italian, French--more tongues than these-- 145
Addresses have of courtesies
In kindliness of man toward man,
By prince used and by artisan,
And not pervertible in sense
Of scorn or slight. Ye have the Sir, 150
That sole, employed in snub or slur,
Never in pure benevolence,
And at its best a formal term
Of cold regard."
               "Ah, why so warm 155
In mere philology, dear sir?"
Plead Derwent; "there, don't that confer
Sweet amity? I used the word."
  But Ungar heeded not--scarce heard
And, earnest as the earnest tomb, 160
With added feeling, sting, and gloom
His strange impeachment urged. Reply
Came none; they let it go; for why
Argue with man of bitter blood?
But Rolfe he could but grieve within 165
For countryman in such a mood--
Knowing the cause, the origin.