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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44. The Start

  • 1The twilight and the starlight pass,
  • Editor’s Note2And breaks the morn of Candlemas.
  • 3      The pilgrims muster; and they win
  • 4A common terrace of the inn,
  • Editor’s Note5Which, lifted on Mount Acra's cope,
  • 6Looks off upon the town aslope
  • 7In gray of dawn. They hear the din
  • 8Of mongrel Arabs—the loud coil
  • 9And uproar of high words they wage
  • 10Harnessing for the pilgrimage.
  • 11'Tis special—marks the Orient life,
  • 12Which, roused from indolence to toil,
  • 13Indignant starts, enkindling strife.
  • 14Tho' spite the fray no harm they share,
  • 15How fired they seem by burning wrong;
  • pg 13216And small the need for strenuous care,
  • 17And languor yet shall laze it long.
  • 18      Wonted to man and used to fate
  • 19A pearl-gray ass there stands sedate
  • 20While being saddled by a clown
  • 21And buffeted. Of her anon.
  • 22      Clarel regards; then turns his eye
  • 23Away from all, beyond the town,
  • 24Where pale against the tremulous sky
  • 25Olivet shows in morning shy;
  • 26Then on the court again looks down.
  • 27The mountain mild, the wrangling crew—
  • 28In contrast, why should these indue
  • 29With vague unrest, and swell the sigh?
  • 30Add to the burden? tease the sense
  • 31With unconfirmed significance?
  • 32      To horse. And, passing one by one
  • 33Their host the Black Jew by the gate,
  • 34His grave salute they take, nor shun
  • 35His formal God-speed. One, elate
  • 36In air Auroral, June of life,
  • 37With quick and gay response is rife.
  • 38But he, the Israelite alone,
  • 39'Tis he reflects Jehovah's town;
  • 40Experienced he, the vain elation gone;
  • 41While flit athwart his furrowed face
  • 42Glimpses of that ambiguous thought
  • 43Which in some aged men ye trace
  • 44When Venture, Youth and Bloom go by;
  • 45Scarce cynicism, though 'tis wrought
  • 46Not all of pity, since it scants the sigh.
  • 47      They part. Farewell to Zion's seat.
  • 48Ere yet anew her place they greet,
  • 49In heart what hap may Clarel prove?
  • 50Brief term of days, but a profound remove.
  • 51end of part first

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1.44.2    the morn of Candlemas]   February 2, the feast commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary; the day when altar candles are blessed.
Editor’s Note
1.44.5    Mount Acra's cope]   See the discussion at 1.1.134.
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