from Clarel [The Medallion]
In Saba, as by one consent,
Frequent the pilgrims single went;
So, parting with his young compeer,
And breaking fast without delay,
For more restorative and cheer,
Good Derwent lightly strolled away
Within this monkish capital.
Chapels and oratories all,
And shrines in coves of gilded gloom;
The kitchen, too, and pantler's room —
Naught came amiss.
Anear the church
He drew unto a kind of porch
Such as next some old minsters be,
An inner porch (named Galilee
In parlance of the times gone by),
A place for discipline and grief.
And here his tarry had been brief
But for a shield of marble nigh,
Set in the living rock: a stone
In low relief, where well was shown,
Before an altar under sky,
A man in armor, visor down,
Enlocked complete in panoply,
Uplifting reverent a crown
This armed man
In corselet showed the dented plate,
And dread streaks down the thigh-piece ran;
But the bright helm inviolate
Seemed raised above the battle-zone—
Cherubic with a rare device;
Perch for the bird-of-paradise.
A victor seemed he, without pride
Of victory, or joy in fame:
'Twas reverence, and naught beside,
Unless it might that shadow claim
Which comes of trial. Yes, the art
So cunning was, that it in part
By fair expressiveness of grace
Atoned even for the visored face.
Long time becharmed here Derwent stood,
Charmed by the marble's quiet mood
Of beauty, more than by its tone
Of earnestness, though these were one
In that good piece. Yes, long he fed
Ere yet the eye was lower led
To trace the inscription underrun:
" O fair and friendly manifested Spirit!
Before thine altar dear
Let me recount the marvel of the story
Fulfilled in tribute here.
In battle waged where all was fraudful silence,
Foul battle against odds,
Disarmed, I, fall'n and trampled, prayed: Death, succor!
Come, Death: thy hand is God's!
" A pale hand noiseless from the turf responded,
Riving the turf and stone:
It raised, rearmed me, sword and golden armor,
And waved me warring on.
" O fairest, friendliest, and ever holy—
O Love, dissuading fate—
To thee, to thee the rescuer, thee sainted,
The crown I dedicate:
" To thee I dedicate the crown, a guerdon
The winner may not wear;
His wound reopens, and he goes to haven:
Spirit! befriend him there."
"A hero, and shall he repine?
'Tis not Achilles;" and straightway
He felt the charm in sort decline;
And, turning, saw a votary gray:
"Good brother, tell: make this thing clear:
Who set this up?" " 'Twas long ago,
Yes, long before I harbored here,
Long centuries, they say." "Why, no!
So bright it looks, 'tis recent, sure.
Who set it up?" "A count turned monk."
"What count?" " His name he did abjure
For Lazarus, and ever shrunk
From aught of his life's history:
Yon slab tells all or nothing, see.
But this I 've heard; that when the stone
Hither was brought from Cyprus fair
(Some happy sculptors flourished there
When Venice ruled), he said to one:
"They 've made the knight too rich appear —
Too rich in helm." He set it here
In Saba as securest place,
For a memorial of grace
To outlast him, and many a year."
From Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. This poem is in the public domain.