Herman Melville

1819 - 1891




Part II.  The Wilderness






Canto xxxv



In Piranezi's rarer prints,

Interiors measurelessly strange,

Where the distrustful thought may range

Misgiving still—what mean the hints?


Stairs upon stairs which dim ascend

In series from plunged Bastiles drear—

Pit under pit; long tier on tier

Of shadowed galleries which impend

Over cloisters, cloisters without end;


The hight, the depth—the far, the near;

Ring-bolts to pillars in vaulted lanes,

And dragging Rhadamanthine chains;

These less of wizard influence lend

Than some allusive chambers closed.


Those wards of hush are not disposed

In gibe of goblin fantasy—

Grimace—unclean diablery:

Thy wings, Imagination, span

Ideal truth in fable's seat:


The thing implied is one with man,

His penetralia of retreat—

The heart, with labyrinths replete:

In freaks of intimation see

Paul's "mystery of iniquity:"


Involved indeed, a blur of dream;

As, awed by scruple and restricted

In first design, or interdicted

By fate and warnings as might seem;

The inventor miraged all the maze,


Obscured it with prudential haze;

Nor less, if subject unto question,

The egg left, egg of the suggestion.

Dwell on those etchings in the night,

Those touches bitten in the steel


By aqua-fortis, till ye feel

The Pauline text in gray of light;

Turn hither then and read aright.


For ye who green or gray retain

Childhood's illusion, or but feign;


As bride and suit[e] let pass a bier—

So pass the coming canto here.