1. In Saddle -

Of old, if legend truth aver,

With hearts that did in aim concur,

Three mitred kings — Amerrian,

Apelius, and Damazon —

By miracle in Cassak met

(An Indian city, bards infer);

Thence, prompted by the vision yet

To find the new-born Lord nor err,

Westward their pious feet they set —

With gold and frankincense and myrrh

Nor failed they, though by deserts vast

And voids and menaces they passed:

They failed not, for a light was given —

The light and pilotage of heaven:

A light, a lead, no longer won

By any, now, who seekers are:

Or fable is it? but if none,

Let man lament the foundered Star.

And Kedron's pilgrims: In review

The wilds receive those guests anew

Yet ere, the Manger now to win,

Their desert march they re-begin,

Belated leaving Saba's tower;

Reverted glance they grateful throw,

Nor slight the abbot's parting dower

Whose benedictions with them go.

Nor did the sinner of the isle

From friendly cheer refrain, though lax:

" Our Lady of the Vines beguile

Your travel and bedew your tracks!"

Blithe wishes, which slim mirth bestow;

For, ah, with chill at heart they mind

Two now for ever left behind.

But as men drop, replacements rule:

Though fleeting be each part assigned,

The eternal ranks of life keep full:

So here — if but in small degree —

Recruits for fallen ones atone;

The Arnaut and pilgrim from the sea

The muster joining; also one

In military undress dun —

A stranger quite.

The Arnaut rode

For escort mere. His martial stud

A brother seemed — as strong as he,

As brave in trappings, and with blood

As proud, and equal gravity,

Reserving latent mettle. Good

To mark the rider in his seat —

Tall, shapely, powerful and complete;

Alean, too, in an easy way,

Like Pisa's Tower confirmed in place,

Nor lacking in subordinate grace

Of lighter beauty. Truth to say,

This horseman seemed to waive command:

Abeyance of the bridle-hand.

But winning space more wide and clear,

He showed in ostentation here

How but a pulse conveyed through rein

Could thrill and fire, or prompt detain.

On dappled steed, in kilt snow-white,

With burnished arms refracting light,

He orbits round the plodding train.

Djalea in quiet seat observes;

'Tis little from his poise he swerves;

Sedate he nods, as he should say:

Rough road may tame this holiday

Of thine; but pleasant to look on:

Come, that 's polite! for on the wing,

Or in suspense of curveting

Chiron salutes the Emir's son.

Meantime, remiss, with dangling sword,

Upon a cloistral beast but sad,

A Saba friar's befitting pad

(His own steed, having sprained a cord,

Left now behind in convent ward)

The plain-clad soldier, heeding none

Though marked himself, in neutral tone

Maintained his place. His shoulders lithe

Were long-sloped and yet ample, too,

In keeping with each limb and thew:

Waist flexile as a willow withe;

Withal, a slouched reserve of strength,

As in the pard's luxurious length;

The cheek, high-boned, of copperish show

Enhanced by sun on land and seas;

Long hair, much like a Cherokee's,

Curving behind the ear in flow

And veiling part a sabre-scar

Slant on the neck, a livid bar;

Nor might the felt hat hide from view

One temple pitted with strange blue

Of powder-burn. Of him you 'd say —

A veteran, no more. But nay:

Brown eyes, what reveries they keep —

Sad woods they be, where wild things sleep.

Hereby, and by yet other sign,

To Rolfe, and Clarel part, and Vine,

The stranger stood revealed, confessed

A native of the fair South-West —

Their countryman, though of a zone

Varied in nature from their own:

A countryman — but how estranged!

Nor any word as yet exchanged

With them. But yester-evening's hour

Then first he came to Saba's tower,

And saw the Epirot aside

In conference, and word supplied

Touching detention of the troop

Destined to join him for the swoop

Over Jordan. But the pilgrims few

Knew not hereof, not yet they knew,

But deemed him one who took his way

Eccentric in an armed survey

Of Judah.

On the pearl-gray ass

(From Siddim riderless, alas!)

Rode now the timoneer sedate,

Jogging beneath the Druze's lee,

As well he might, instructed late

What perils in lack of convoy be.

A frater-feeling of the sea

Influenced Rolfe, and made him take

Solace with him of salt romance,

Albeit Agath scarce did wake

To full requital — chill, perchance

Derived from years or diffidence;

Howe'er, in friendly way Rolfe plied

One-sided chat.

As on they ride

And o'er the ridge begin to go,

A parting glance they turn; and lo!

The convent's twin towers disappear —

Engulfed like a brig's masts below

Submerging waters. Thence they steer

Upward anew, in lane of steeps —

Ravine hewn out, as 'twere by sledges;

Enwalled, from ledges unto ledges,

And stepwise still, each rider creeps.

Until, at top, their eyes behold

Judaea in highlands far unrolled.

A horseman so, in easier play

Wheeling aloft (so travellers say)

Up the Moor's Tower, may outlook gain

From saddle over Seville's plain.

But here, 'twixt tent-lapped hills, they see,

Northward, a land immovably

Haggard and haggish, specked gray-green —

Pale tint of those frilled lichens lean,

Which on a prostrate pine ye view,

When fallen from the banks of grace

Down to the sand-pit's sterile place,

Blisters supplant the beads of dew.

Canker and palmer-worm both must

Famished have left those fields of rust:

The rain is powder — land of dust:

There few do tarry, none may live —

Save mad, possessed, or fugitive.

Exalted in accursed estate,

Like Naaman in his leprous plight

Haughty before Elisha's gate,

Show the blanched hills.

All now alight

Upon the Promethean ledge.

The Druze stands by the imminent edge

Peering, and rein in hand. With head

Over her master's shoulder laid,

The mare, too, gazed, nor feared a check,

Though leaning half her lovesome neck,

Yet lightly, as a swan might do.

An arm Djalea enfolding stretched,

While sighs the sensitive creature fetched,

As e'en that waste to sorrow moved

Instinctive. So, to take the view

See man and mare, lover and loved.

Slant palm to brow against the haze,

Meantime the salt one sent his gaze

As from the mast-head o'er the pale

Expanse. But what may eyes avail?

Land lone as seas without a sail.

" Wreck, ho — the wreck!" Not unamazed

They hear his sudden outcry. Crazed?

Or subject yet by starts dismayed

To flighty turns, for friars said

Much wandered he in mind when low.

But never Agath heeded them:

Forth did his levelled finger go

And, fixing, pointed: " See ye, see?

'Way over where the gray hills be;

Yonder — no, there — that upland dim:

Wreck, ho! the wreck — Jerusalem!"

" Keen-sighted art thou!" said Djalea,

Confirming him; " ay, it is there"

Then Agath, that excitement gone,

Relapsed into his quiet tone.

Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.