17. In Mid-watch -

Disturbed by topics canvassed late,
Clarel, from dreams of like debate,
Started, and heard strange muffled sounds,
Outgivings of wild mountain bounds.
He rose, stood gazing toward the height —
Bethinking him that thereaway
Behind it o'er the desert lay
The walls that sheltered Ruth that night —
When Rolfe drew near. With motion slight,
Scarce conscious of the thing he did,
Partly aside the student slid;
Then, quick as thought, would fain atone.
Whence came that shrinking start unbid?
But from desire to be alone?
Or skim or sound him, was Rolfe one
Whom honest heart would care to shun?
By spirit immature or dim
Was nothing to be learned from him?
How frank seemed Rolfe. Yet Vine could lure
Despite reserve which overture
Withstood — e'en Clarel's — late repealed,
Finding that heart a fountain sealed.

But Rolfe: however it might be —
Whether in friendly fair advance
Checked by that start of dissonance,
Or whether rapt in revery
Beyond — apart he moved, and leant
Down peering from the battlement
Upon its shadow. Then and there
Clarel first noted in his air
A gleam of oneness more than Vine's —
The irrelation of a weed
Detached from vast Sargossa's mead,
And drifting where the clear sea shines.
But Clarel turned him; and anew
His thoughts regained their prior clue;
When lo, a fog, and all was changed.
Crept vapours from the Sea of Salt,
Overspread the plain, nor there made halt,
But blurred the heaven.
As one estranged
Who watches, watches from the shore,
Till the white speck is seen no more,
The ship that bears his plighted maid,
Then turns and sighs as fears invade;
See here the student, repossessed
By thoughts of Ruth, with eyes late pressed
Whither lay Salem, close and wynd —
The mist before him, mist behind,
While intercepting memories ran
Of chant and bier Armenian.
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