Herman Melville

Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (eds), The Writings of Herman Melville: The Northwestern-Newberry Edition, Vol. 12: Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land

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Editor’s Note40. The Mounds

  • 1Ere twilight and the shadow fall
  • 2On Zion hill without the wall
  • 3In place where Latins set the bier
  • 4Borne from the gate—who lingers here,
  • 5Where, typing faith exempt from loss,
  • 6By sodless mound is seen a cross?
  • 7Clarel it is, at Celio's grave.
  • 8For him, the pale one, ere yet cold,
  • 9Assiduous to win and save,
  • 10The friars had claimed as of their fold;
  • 11Lit by the light of ritual wicks,
  • 12Had held to unprotesting lips
  • 13In mistimed zeal the crucifix;
  • 14And last, among the fellowships
  • 15Of Rome's legitimate dead, laid one
  • 16Not saved through faith, nor Papal Rome's true son.
  • 17Life's flickering hour they made command
  • 18Faith's candle in Doubt's dying hand.
  • 19So some, who other forms did hold,
  • 20Rumored, or criticised, or told
  • 21The tale.
  • pg 122Not this did Clarel win
  • 22To visit the hermit of the mound.
  • 23Nay, but he felt the appeal begin—
  • 24The poor petition from the ground:
  • 25Remember me! for all life's din
  • 26Let not my memory be drowned.
  • 27And thought was Clarel's even for one
  • 28Of tribe not his—to him unknown
  • 29Through vocal word or vital cheer:
  • 30A stranger, but less strange made here,
  • 31Less distant. Whom life held apart—
  • 32Life, whose cross-purposes make shy—
  • 33Death yields without reserve of heart
  • 34To meditation.
  • With a sigh
  • 35Turning, he slow pursued the steep
  • 36Until he won that leveled spot,
  • 37Terraced and elevated plot
  • 38Over Gihon, where yet others keep
  • 39Death's tryst—afar from kindred lie:
  • 40Protestants, which in Salem die.
  • 41    There, fixed before a founded stone
  • 42With Bible mottoes part bestrown,
  • 43Stood one communing with the bier.
  • 44'Twas Rolfe. "Him, him I knew," said he,
  • 45Down pointing; "but 'twas far from here—
  • 46How far from here!" A pause. "But see,
  • Editor’s Note47Job's text in wreath, what trust it giveth;
  • 48'I know that my Redeemer liveth.'
  • 49Poor Ethelward! Thou didst but grope;
  • 50I knew thee, and thou hadst small hope.
  • 51But if at this spent man's death-bed
  • 52Some kind soul kneeled and chapter read—
  • 53Ah, own! to moderns death is drear,
  • 54So drear: we die, we make no sign,
  • 55We acquiesce in any cheer—
  • 56No rite we seek, no rite decline.
  • 57Is't nonchalance of languid sense,
  • 58Or the last, last indifference?
  • pg 12359With some, no doubt, 'tis peace within;
  • 60In others, may be, care for kin:
  • 61Exemplary thro' life, as well
  • 62Dying they'd be so, nor repel."
  • 63      He let his eyes half absent move
  • 64About the mound: "One's thoughts will rove
  • 65This minds me that in like content,
  • 66Other forms were kept without dissent
  • 67By one who hardly owned their spell.
  • 68He, in fulfillment of pledged work,
  • 69Among Turks having passed for Turk,
  • 70Sickened among them. On death-bed
  • 71Silent he heard the Koran read:
  • 72They shrilled the Islam wail for him,
  • 73They shawled him in his burial trim;
  • 74And now, on brinks of Egypt's waste,
  • 75Where the buried Sultans' chapels rise,
  • 76Consistently toward Mecca faced,
  • 77The blameless simulator lies:
  • 78The turbaned Swiss, Sheik Ibrahim—
  • Editor’s Note79Burckhardt.—But home the sparrow flees.
  • 80Come, move we ere the gate they quit,
  • 81And we be shut out here with these
  • 82Who never shall re-enter it."

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1.40.0    The Mounds]   This canto, exploring the problem of deathbed rites, may well have been prompted by Arnold's "The Wish," a poem on this theme which Melville marked up in a newspaper clipping in 1867 and again in New Poems (see the discussion at 1.19.29) in 1871 (Bezanson, "Arnold's Poetry," p. 384). The scene of the canto is the Latin and English cemeteries on Zion hill (Map A, p. 707). Melville's 1856–57 journal records: "I would stroll to Mount Zion, along the terraced walks, & survey the tomb stones of the hostile Armenians, Latins, Greeks, all sleeping together" (p. 87). The key word here for the canto is "hostile." Another entry reports: "I often passed the Protestant School &c on Mt Zion, but nothing seemed going on. The only place of interest there was the Grave Yard" (p. 92). The idea of "mistimed zeal" (line 13) could have been suggested by Bartlett's complaint, in Walks, p. 75, against the "bad taste" of a gravestone inscription in the same Latin Cemetery: it tells of an American turned Catholic in his last hours, while ill at the Terra Santa Convent (Celio's), "savouring more of the joy of the proselyte seeker than the sorrow of the friend."
Editor’s Note
1.40.47    Job's text]   Job 19.25.
Editor’s Note
1.40.79    Burckhardt]   Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784–1817), famous Swiss explorer and travel writer (e.g., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, 1822), had adopted the disguise of a Turkish native, mastered the languages and mores of an alien civilization, and so gained access to Mohammedan holy places no European had seen before. For his discovery of Petra see 2.30.8 and the discussion at 2.29.78–79 below. His burial as a Mohammedan is told by Bayard Taylor, Cyclopœdia of Modern Travel (Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys, 1856), p. 226.
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