Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

The Caravan - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

Last in rude bark of a great tree they bear him
Toward the isle of clove and cinnamon,*
Bulbul and orange, and pomegranate flower;
Carrying their dead Leader to the sea,
Who in glad triumph should have brought them there!
A solemn, strange, a holy Caravan!
When was the like thereof beheld by man?
Slow journeying from unconjectured lands,
Behold! they bear him in their rude grey bark,
As though their burden were a holiest ark.
Embalm'd they bear him from the lands of Nile,
As men bore Israel, Abraham, erewhile.
Weary and weak, and faint and fallen ill,
Through desert, jungle, forest wild and still,
By lake, and dismal swamp, and rolling river,
Slowly their dark procession winds forever.
How would the Chief exult at every sight!
Alas! those eagle eyes are seal'd in night.
Behold them winding over hill and plain,
In storm, in sunshine, calm and hurricane!
And if they may not hide what thing they bear,
Men banish them with horror and wild fear,
Far from all human dwelling; nor will feed;
Nor furnish aught to fill their bitter need;
Assailing them with hindering word and deed.
But though their burden may not wake to cheer,
The Hero-Spirit hovers very near:
Upon them rests the holy Master's power:
His soul before them moves, a mighty tower!
They, and the body, rest beneath the stars,
Or mooned ghostly-rainbow'd cloudy bars;
Until at length they hear the sounding sea,
In all the grandeur of Eternity!
A solemn, strange, a holy Caravan!
When was the like thereof beheld by man?

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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