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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pg 2682. The Carpenter

  • 1From vehemence too mad to stem
  • 2Fain would they turn and solace them.
  • 3Turn where they may they find a dart.
  • 4For while recumbent here they view,
  • 5Beneath them spread, the seats malign,
  • 6Nehemiah recurs—in last recline
  • 7A hermit there. And some renew
  • Critical Apparatus8Their wonderment at such a heart,
  • 9Single in life—in death, how far apart!
  • 10That life they question, seek a clew:
  • 11Those virtues which his meekness knew,
  • 12Marked these indeed but wreckful wane
  • 13Of strength, or the organic man?
  • 14The hardy hemlock, if subdued,
  • 15Decays to violets in the wood,
  • 16Which put forth from the sodden stem:
  • 17His virtues, might they breed like them?
  • Editor’s Note18      Nor less that tale by Rolfe narrated
  • 19(Thrown out some theory to achieve),
  • 20Erewhile upon Mount Olivet,
  • 21That sea-tale of the master fated;
  • 22Not wholly might it here receive
  • 23An application such as met
  • 24The case. It needed something more
  • 25Or else, to penetrate the core.
  • 26      But Clarel—made remindful so
  • 27Of by-gone things which death can show
  • 28In kindled meaning—here revealed
  • 29That once Nehemiah his lips unsealed
  • 30(How prompted he could not recall)
  • 31In story which seemed rambling all,
  • 32And yet, in him, not quite amiss.
  • 33In pointed version it was this:
  • 34      A gentle wight of Jesu's trade,
  • 35A carpenter, for years had made
  • 36His living in a quiet dell,
  • 37And toiled and ate and slept alone,
  • pg 26938Esteemed a harmless witless one.
  • 39Had I a friend thought he, 'twere well.
  • 40A friend he made, and through device
  • 41Of jobbing for him without price.
  • 42But on a day there came a word—
  • 43A word unblest, a blow abhorred.
  • 44Thereafter, in the mid of night,
  • 45When from the rafter and the joist
  • 46The insect ticked; and he, lone sprite,
  • 47How wakeful lay, what word was voiced?
  • 48Me love; fear only man. And he—
  • 49He willed what seemed too strange to be:
  • 50The hamlet marveled and the glade:
  • 51Interring him within his house,
  • 52He there his monastery made,
  • 53And grew familiar with the mouse.
  • 54Down to the beggar who might sing,
  • 55Alms, silent alms, unseen he'd fling,
  • 56And cakes to children. But no more
  • 57Abroad he went, till spent and gray,
  • 58Feet foremost he was borne away.
  • 59      As when upon a misty shore
  • 60The watchful seaman marks a light
  • 61Blurred by the fog, uncertain quite;
  • 62And thereto instant turns the glass
  • 63And studies it, and thinks it o'er
  • 64By compass: Is't the cape we pass?
  • 65So Rolfe from Clarel's mention caught
  • 66Food for an eagerness of thought:
  • 67"It bears, it bears; such things may be:
  • 68Shut from the busy world's pell-mell
  • 69And man's aggressive energy—
  • 70In cloistral Palestine to dwell
  • 71And pace the stone!"
  • And Mortmain heard,
  • 72Attesting; more his look did tell
  • 73Than comment of a bitter word.
  • 74Meantime the ass, high o'er the bed
  • pg 27075Late scooped by Siddim's borders there—
  • 76As stupefied by brute despair,
  • 77Motionless hung the earthward head.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
3.2.8     heart,  NN     ~‸
Editor’s Note
3.2.18    tale by Rolfe narrated] See 1.37. The story of the carpenter is reminiscent in tone of Ishmael's tale of the blacksmith (Moby-Dick, chap. 112, pp. 484–86). Cf. similarly motivated withdrawals by the title character in "Jimmy Rose" (NN Piazza Tales volume, pp. 336ff.) and by Charlemont in The Confidence-Man (chap. 34, pp. 184ff.).
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