from Clarel [The Pillow]
When rule and era passed away
With old Sylvanus (stories say),
The oracles adrift were hurled,
And ocean moaned about the world,
And wandering voices without name
At sea to sailors did proclaim,
Pan, Pan is dead!
Such fables old—
From man's deep nature are they rolled,
Pained and perplexed—awed, overawed
By sense of change? But never word
Aërial by mortal heard,
Rumors that vast eclipse, if slow,
Whose passage yet we undergo,
Emerging on an age untried.
If not all oracles be dead,
The upstart ones the old deride:
Parrots replace the sibyls fled—
By rote repeat in lilting pride:
Lodged in power, enlarged in all,
Man achieves his last exemption—
Hopes no heaven, but fears no fall,
King in time, nor needs redemption.
They hymn. But these who cloistral dwell
In Bethlehem here, and share faith's spell
Meekly, and keep her tenor mild—
What know they of a world beguiled?
Or, knowing, they but know too well.
Buzzed thoughts! To Rolfe they came in doze
(His brain like ocean's murmuring shell)
Between the dream and slumber's light repose.
From Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. This poem is in the public domain.