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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32. The Encampment

  • 1Southward they find a strip at need
  • 2Between the mount and marge, and make,
  • 3In expectation of the Swede,
  • 4Encampment there, nor shun the Lake.
  • 5'Twas afternoon. With Arab zest
  • 6The Bethlehemites their spears present,
  • 7Whereon they lift and spread the tent
  • 8And care for all.
  • As Rolfe from rest
  • 9Came out, toward early eventide,
  • 10His comrades sat the shore beside,
  • 11In shadow deep, which from the west
  • 12The main Judæan mountains flung.
  • 13That ridge they faced, and anxious hung
  • 14Awaiting Mortmain, some having grown
  • 15The more concerned, because from stone
  • 16Inscribed, they had indulged a hope:
  • 17But now in ill surmise they grope.
  • 18Anew they question grave Djalea.
  • 19But what knows he?
  • Their hearts to cheer,
  • 20"Trust," Derwent said, "hope's silver bell;
  • 21Nor dream he'd do his life a wrong—
  • 22No, never!"
  • "Demons here which dwell,"
  • 23Cried Rolfe, "riff-raff of Satan's throng,
  • 24May fetch him steel, rope, poison—well,
  • pg 24125He'd spurn them, hoot their scurvy hell:
  • 26There's nobler.—But what other knell
  • 27Of hap—" He turned him toward the sea.
  • 28      Like leagues of ice which slumberous roll
  • 29About the pivot of the pole—
  • 30Vitreous—glass it seemed to be.
  • 31Beyond, removed in air sublime,
  • 32As 'twere some more than human clime,
  • 33In flanking towers of Ætna hue
  • 34The Ammonitish mounts they view
  • 35Enkindled by the sunset cast
  • 36Over Judah's ridgy headlands massed
  • 37Which blacken baseward. Ranging higher
  • 38Where vague glens pierced the steeps of fire,
  • 39Imagination time repealed—
  • 40Restored there, and in fear revealed
  • Editor’s Note41Lot and his daughters twain in flight,
  • 42Three shadows flung on reflex light
  • 43Of Sodom in her funeral pyre.
  • 44      Some fed upon the natural scene,
  • 45Deriving many a wandering hint
  • 46Such as will ofttimes intervene
  • 47When on the slab ye view the print
  • 48Of perished species.—Judge Rolfe's start
  • 49And quick revulsion, when, apart,
  • 50Derwent he saw at ease reclined,
  • 51With page before him, page refined
  • 52And appetizing, which threw ope
  • 53New parks, fresh walks for Signor Hope
  • 54To saunter in.
  • "And read you here?
  • 55Scarce suits the ground with bookish cheer.
  • 56Escaped from forms, enlarged at last,
  • 57Pupils we be of wave and waste—
  • 58Not books; nay, nay!"
  • "Book-comment, though,"—
  • 59Smiled Derwent—"were it ill to know?"
  • 60      "But how if nature vetoes all
  • 61Her commentators? Disenthrall
  • pg 24262Thy heart. Look round. Are not here met
  • 63Books and that truth no type shall set?"—
  • 64Then, to himself in refluent flow:
  • 65"Earnest again!—well, let it go."
  • 66      Derwent quick glanced from face to face,
  • 67Lighting upon the student's hue
  • 68Of pale perplexity, with trace
  • 69Almost of twinge at Rolfe: "Believe,
  • 70Though here I random page review,
  • 71Not books I let exclusive cleave
  • 72And sway. Much too there is, I grant,
  • 73Which well might Solomon's wisdom daunt—
  • 74Much that we mark. Nevertheless,
  • 75Were it a paradox to confess
  • 76A book's a man? If this be so,
  • 77Books be but part of nature. Oh,
  • 78'Tis studying nature, reading books:
  • 79And 'tis through Nature each heart looks
  • 80Up to a God, or whatsoe'er
  • 81One images beyond our sphere.
  • 82Moreover, Siddim's not the world:
  • 83There's Naples. Why, yourself well know
  • 84What breadths of beauty lie unfurled
  • 85All round the bays where sailors go.
  • 86So, prithee, do not be severe,
  • 87But let me read."
  • Rolfe looked esteem:
  • Editor’s Note88"You suave St. Francis! Him, I mean,
  • 89Of Sales, not that soul whose dream
  • 90Founded the bare-foot Order lean.
  • Editor’s Note91Though wise as serpents, Sales proves
  • 92The throbbings sweet of social doves.
  • 93I like you."
  • Derwent laughed; then, "Ah,
  • 94From each Saint Francis am I far!"
  • 95And grave he grew.
  • It was a scene
  • 96Which Clarel in his memory scored:
  • 97How reconcile Rolfe's wizard chord
  • pg 24398And forks of esoteric fire,
  • 99With common-place of laxer mien?
  • 100May truth be such a spendthrift lord?
  • 101Then Derwent: he reviewed in heart
  • 102His tone with Margoth; his attire
  • 103Of tolerance; the easy part
  • 104He played. Could Derwent, having gained
  • 105A certain slant in liberal thought,
  • 106Think there to bide, like one detained
  • 107Half-way adown the slippery glacier caught?
  • 108Was honesty his, with lore and art
  • 109Not to be fooled?—But if in vain
  • 110One tries to comprehend a man,
  • 111How think to sound God's deeper heart!

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2.32.41    Lot and his daughters twain] Gen. 19.15–30.
Editor’s Note
2.32.88    St. Francis] Not St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226), founder of the Friars Minor, but St. Francis of Sales (1567–1622), who reconverted the province of Chablais after it had gone Calvinistic and who directed the founding of the Order of the Visitation for the ill or physically weak.
Editor’s Note
2.32.91    wise as serpents] Christ's commission to the apostles, Matt. 10.16: "be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Cf. the brooch worn by the Reverend Mr. Falsgrave in Pierre, "representing the allegorical union of the serpent and dove" (bk. 5, p. 102).
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