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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27. Vine and Clarel

  • 1While now, to serve the pilgrim train,
  • 2The Arabs willow branches hew,
  • 3(For palms they serve in dearth of true),
  • 4Or, kneeling by the margin, stoop
  • 5To brim memorial bottles up;
  • 6And the Greek's wine entices two:
  • 7Apart see Clarel here incline,
  • 8Perplexed by that Dominican,
  • 9Nor less by Rolfe—capricious man:
  • 10"I cannot penetrate him.—Vine?"
  • 11      As were Venetian slats between,
  • 12He espied him through a leafy screen,
  • 13Luxurious there in umbrage thrown,
  • 14Light sprays above his temples blown—
  • 15The river through the green retreat
  • 16Hurrying, reveling by his feet.
  • 17      Vine looked an overture, but said
  • 18Nothing, till Clarel leaned—half laid—
  • 19Beside him: then "We dream, or be
  • Editor’s Note20In sylvan John's baptistery:
  • 21May Pisa's equal beauty keep?—
  • 22But how bad habits persevere!
  • 23I have been moralizing here
  • 24Like any imbecile: as thus:
  • 25Look how these willows over-weep
  • 26The waves, and plain: 'Fleet so from us?
  • 27And wherefore? whitherward away?
  • 28Your best is here where wildings sway
  • 29And the light shadow's blown about;
  • 30Ah, tarry, for at hand's a sea
  • 31Whence ye shall never issue out
  • 32Once in.' They sing back: 'So let be!
  • pg 22533We mad-caps hymn it as we flow—
  • 34Short life and merry! be it so!' "
  • 35      Surprised at such a fluent turn,
  • 36The student did but listen—learn.
  • 37      Putting aside the twigs which screened,
  • 38Again Vine spake, and lightly leaned
  • 39"Look; in yon vault so leafy dark,
  • 40At deep end lit by gemmy spark
  • 41Of mellowed sunbeam in a snare;
  • 42Over the stream—ay, just through there—
  • 43The sheik on that celestial mare
  • Editor’s Note44Shot, fading.—Clan of outcast Hagar,
  • 45Well do ye come by spear and dagger!
  • 46Yet in your bearing ye outvie
  • 47Our western Red Men, chiefs that stalk
  • 48In mud paint—whirl the tomahawk.—
  • Editor’s Note49But in these Nimrods noted you
  • 50The natural language of the eye,
  • 51Burning or liquid, flame or dew,
  • 52As still the changeable quick mood
  • 53Made transit in the wayward blood?
  • 54Methought therein one might espy,
  • 55For all the wildness, thoughts refined
  • 56By the old Asia's dreamful mind;
  • 57But hark—a bird?"
  • Pure as the rain
  • 58Which diamondeth with lucid grain,
  • 59The white swan in the April hours
  • 60Floating between two sunny showers
  • 61Upon the lake, while buds unroll;
  • 62So pure, so virginal in shrine
  • 63Of true unworldliness looked Vine.
  • 64Ah, clear sweet ether of the soul
  • 65(Mused Clarel), holding him in view.
  • 66Prior advances unreturned
  • 67Not here he recked of, while he yearned—
  • 68O, now but for communion true
  • 69And close; let go each alien theme;
  • 70Give me thyself!
  • pg 226But Vine, at will
  • 71Dwelling upon his wayward dream,
  • 72Nor as suspecting Clarel's thrill
  • 73Of personal longing, rambled still;
  • 74"Methinks they show a lingering trace
  • 75Of some quite unrecorded race
  • Editor’s Note76Such as the Book of Job implies.
  • 77What ages of refinings wise
  • 78Must have forerun what there is writ—
  • 79More ages than have followed it.
  • Editor’s Note80At Lydda late, as chance would have,
  • 81Some tribesmen from the south I saw,
  • 82Their tents pitched in the Gothic nave,
  • 83The ruined one. Disowning law,
  • 84Not lawless lived they; no, indeed;
  • Editor’s Note85Their chief—why, one of Sydney's clan,
  • 86A slayer, but chivalric man;
  • 87And chivalry, with all that breed
  • 88Was Arabic or Saracen
  • 89In source, they tell. But, as men stray
  • Editor’s Note90Further from Ararat away
  • 91Pity it were did they recede
  • 92In carriage, manners, and the rest;
  • 93But no, for ours the palm indeed
  • 94In bland amenities far West!
  • 95Come now, for pastime let's complain;
  • 96Grudged thanks, Columbus, for thy main!
  • 97Put back, as 'twere—assigned by fate
  • 98To fight crude Nature o'er again,
  • 99By slow degrees we re-create.
  • 100But then, alas, in Arab camps
  • 101No lack, they say, no lack of scamps."
  • 102      Divided mind knew Clarel here;
  • 103The heart's desire did interfere.
  • 104Thought he, How pleasant in another
  • 105Such sallies, or in thee, if said
  • 106After confidings that should wed
  • 107Our souls in one:—Ah, call me brother!
  • 108So feminine his passionate mood
  • pg 227109Which, long as hungering unfed,
  • 110All else rejected or withstood.
  • 111      Some inklings he let fall. But no:
  • 112Here over Vine there slid a change—
  • 113A shadow, such as thin may show
  • 114Gliding along the mountain-range
  • 115And deepening in the gorge below.
  • 116      Does Vine's rebukeful dusking say—
  • 117Why, on this vernal bank to-day,
  • 118Why bring oblations of thy pain
  • 119To one who hath his share? here fain
  • 120Would lap him in a chance reprieve?
  • 121Lives none can help ye; that believe.
  • 122Art thou the first soul tried by doubt?
  • 123Shalt prove the last? Go, live it out.
  • 124But for thy fonder dream of love
  • 125In man toward man—the soul's caress—
  • 126The negatives of flesh should prove
  • 127Analogies of non-cordialness
  • 128In spirit.—E'en such conceits could cling
  • 129To Clarel's dream of vain surmise
  • 130And imputation full of sting.
  • 131But, glancing up, unwarned he saw
  • 132What serious softness in those eyes
  • 133Bent on him. Shyly they withdraw.
  • 134Enslaver, wouldst thou but fool me
  • 135With bitter-sweet, sly sorcery,
  • 136Pride's pastime? or wouldst thou indeed,
  • 137Since things unspoken may impede,
  • Critical Apparatus138Let flow thy nature but for bar?—
  • 139Nay, dizzard, sick these feelings are;
  • 140How findest place within thy heart
  • 141For such solicitudes apart
  • 142From Ruth?—Self-taxings.
  • But a sign
  • 143Came here indicative from Vine,
  • 144Who with a reverent hushed air
  • 145His view directed toward the glade
  • 146Beyond, wherein a niche was made
  • pg 228147Of leafage, and a kneeler there,
  • 148The meek one, on whom, as he prayed,
  • 149A golden shaft of mellow light,
  • 150Oblique through vernal cleft above,
  • 151And making his pale forehead bright,
  • 152Scintillant fell. By such a beam
  • Editor’s Note153From heaven descended erst the dove
  • 154On Christ emerging from the stream.
  • 155It faded; 'twas a transient ray;
  • 156And, quite unconscious of its sheen,
  • 157The suppliant rose and moved away,
  • 158Not dreaming that he had been seen.
  • 159      When next they saw that innocent,
  • 160From prayer such cordial had he won
  • 161That all his aspect of content
  • Editor’s Note162As with the oil of gladness shone.
  • 163Less aged looked he. And his cheer
  • 164Took language in an action here:
  • 165The train now mustering in line,
  • 166Each pilgrim with a river-palm
  • 167In hand (except indeed the Jew),
  • 168The saint the head-stall need entwine
  • 169With wreathage of the same. When new
  • 170They issued from the wood, no charm
  • 171The ass found in such idle gear
  • 172Superfluous: with her long ear
  • 173She flapped it off, and the next thrust
  • 174Of hoof imprinted it in dust.
  • 175Meek hands (mused Vine), vainly ye twist
  • 176Fair garland for the realist.
  • 177      The Hebrew, noting whither bent
  • 178Vine's glance, a word in passing lent:
  • 179"Ho, tell us how it comes to be
  • 180That thou who rank'st not with beginners
  • 181Regard have for yon chief of sinners."
  • 182      "Yon chief of sinners?"
  • "So names he
  • 183Himself. For one I'll not express
  • 184How I do loathe such lowliness."

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2.27.20–21    John's baptistery: / May Pisa's] The Jordan compared with the building Melville saw in Italy: "Baptistery like dome set on ground. Wonderful pulpit of marble" (Journals, pp. 113–14; see also p. 489).
Editor’s Note
2.27.44    Hagar] Mother of Ishmael (Gen. 16), who fled into the wilderness. See also the discussion at 1.16.183.
Editor’s Note
2.27.49    Nimrods] Like the mighty hunter of Genesis 10.8–10.
Editor’s Note
2.27.76    the Book of Job] Nineteenth-century commentaries carry immense speculations on the sources and nationality of this ancient poem, one of Melville's favorite biblical books.
Editor’s Note
2.27.80    At Lydda late] A small village which Melville visited on the way from Jerusalem to Jaffa in order to see the picturesque ruins of the old Crusaders' church (Journals, p. 80).
Editor’s Note
2.27.85    one of Sydney's clan] A true "nobleman," in the image of Sir Philip Sydney (or "Sidney," 1554–86), English poet and soldier who died in battle and was reputed to have passed a cup of water to a wounded soldier, saying, "Thy necessity is greater than mine."
Editor’s Note
2.27.90    Ararat] See the discussion at 1.16.80.
Critical Apparatus
2.27.138     bar?—  HM     ~?‸
Editor’s Note
2.27.153    descended erst the dove] Luke 3.21–22.
Editor’s Note
2.27.162    the oil of gladness] Ps. 45.7: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."
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