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Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

To A Friend

 Who prop, thou ask'st in these bad days, my mind?--
He much, the old man, who, clearest-souled of men,
Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen,
And Tmolus hill, and Smyrna bay, though blind.
Much he, whose friendship I not long since won, That halting slave, who in Nicopolis Taught Arrian, when Vespasian's brutal son Cleared Rome of what most shamed him.
But be his My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul, From first youth tested up to extreme old age, Business could not make dull, nor passion wild; Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole; The mellow glory of the Attic stage, Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land, Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago Heard it on the {AE}gean, and it brought Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.
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A Wish

 I ask not that my bed of death
From bands of greedy heirs be free;
For these besiege the latest breath
Of fortune's favoured sons, not me.
I ask not each kind soul to keep Tearless, when of my death he hears; Let those who will, if any, weep! There are worse plagues on earth than tears.
I ask but that my death may find The freedom to my life denied; Ask but the folly of mankind, Then, at last, to quit my side.
Spare me the whispering, crowded room, The friends who come, and gape, and go; The ceremonious air of gloom— All which makes death a hideous show! Nor bring, to see me cease to live, Some doctor full of phrase and fame, To shake his sapient head and give The ill he cannot cure a name.
Nor fetch, to take the accustomed toll Of the poor sinner bound for death, His brother doctor of the soul, To canvass with official breath The future and its viewless things— That undiscovered mystery Which one who feels death's winnowing wings Must need read clearer, sure, than he! Bring none of these; but let me be, While all around in silence lies, Moved to the window near, and see Once more before my dying eyes Bathed in the sacred dew of morn The wide aerial landscape spread— The world which was ere I was born, The world which lasts when I am dead.
Which never was the friend of one, Nor promised love it could not give, But lit for all its generous sun, And lived itself, and made us live.
There let me gaze, till I become In soul with what I gaze on wed! To feel the universe my home; To have before my mind -instead Of the sick-room, the mortal strife, The turmoil for a little breath— The pure eternal course of life, Not human combatings with death.
Thus feeling, gazing, let me grow Composed, refreshed, ennobled, clear; Then willing let my spirit go To work or wait elsewhere or here!
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The Buried Life

 Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, We know, we know that we can smile! But there's a something in this breast, To which thy light words bring no rest, And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile, And turn those limpid eyes on mine, And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.
Alas! is even love too weak To unlock the heart, and let it speak? Are even lovers powerless to reveal To one another what indeed they feel? I knew the mass of men conceal'd Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd They would by other men be met With blank indifference, or with blame reproved; I knew they lived and moved Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet The same heart beats in every human breast! But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb? Ah! well for us, if even we, Even for a moment, can get free Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd; For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd! Fate, which foresaw How frivolous a baby man would be-- By what distractions he would be possess'd, How he would pour himself in every strife, And well-nigh change his own identity-- That it might keep from his capricious play His genuine self, and force him to obey Even in his own despite his being's law, Bade through the deep recesses of our breast The unregarded river of our life Pursue with indiscernible flow its way; And that we should not see The buried stream, and seem to be Eddying at large in blind uncertainty, Though driving on with it eternally.
But often, in the world's most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There rises an unspeakable desire After the knowledge of our buried life; A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course; A longing to inquire Into the mystery of this heart which beats So wild, so deep in us--to know Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves, But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines, And we have shown, on each, spirit and power; But hardly have we, for one little hour, Been on our own line, have we been ourselves-- Hardly had skill to utter one of all The nameless feelings that course through our breast, But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act Our hidden self, and what we say and do Is eloquent, is well--but 't#is not true! And then we will no more be rack'd With inward striving, and demand Of all the thousand nothings of the hour Their stupefying power; Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call! Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn, From the soul's subterranean depth upborne As from an infinitely distant land, Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey A melancholy into all our day.
Only--but this is rare-- When a belov{'e}d hand is laid in ours, When, jaded with the rush and glare Of the interminable hours, Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, When our world-deafen'd ear Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd-- A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast, And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow, And hears its winding murmur; and he sees The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
And there arrives a lull in the hot race Wherein he doth for ever chase That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face, And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows The hills where his life rose, And the sea where it goes.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Growing Old

 What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.
Is it to feel our strength— Not our bloom only, but our strength—decay? Is it to feel each limb Grow stiffer, every function less exact, Each nerve more weakly strung? Yes, this, and more! but not, Ah, 'tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be! 'Tis not to have our life Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow, A golden day's decline! 'Tis not to see the world As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes, And heart profoundly stirred; And weep, and feel the fulness of the past, The years that are no more! It is to spend long days And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured In the hot prison of the present, month To month with weary pain.
It is to suffer this, And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel: Deep in our hidden heart Festers the dull remembrance of a change, But no emotion—none.
It is—last stage of all— When we are frozen up within, and quite The phantom of ourselves, To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost Which blamed the living man.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Buried Life The

 Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, We know, we know that we can smile! But there's a something in this breast, To which thy light words bring no rest, And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile, And turn those limpid eyes on mine, And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.
Alas! is even love too weak To unlock the heart, and let it speak? Are even lovers powerless to reveal To one another what indeed they feel? I knew the mass of men conceal'd Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd They would by other men be met With blank indifference, or with blame reproved; I knew they lived and moved Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet The same heart beats in every human breast! But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb? Ah! well for us, if even we, Even for a moment, can get free Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd; For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd! Fate, which foresaw How frivolous a baby man would be-- By what distractions he would be possess'd, How he would pour himself in every strife, And well-nigh change his own identity-- That it might keep from his capricious play His genuine self, and force him to obey Even in his own despite his being's law, Bade through the deep recesses of our breast The unregarded river of our life Pursue with indiscernible flow its way; And that we should not see The buried stream, and seem to be Eddying at large in blind uncertainty, Though driving on with it eternally.
But often, in the world's most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There rises an unspeakable desire After the knowledge of our buried life; A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course; A longing to inquire Into the mystery of this heart which beats So wild, so deep in us--to know Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves, But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines, And we have shown, on each, spirit and power; But hardly have we, for one little hour, Been on our own line, have we been ourselves-- Hardly had skill to utter one of all The nameless feelings that course through our breast, But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act Our hidden self, and what we say and do Is eloquent, is well--but 't#is not true! And then we will no more be rack'd With inward striving, and demand Of all the thousand nothings of the hour Their stupefying power; Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call! Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn, From the soul's subterranean depth upborne As from an infinitely distant land, Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey A melancholy into all our day.
Only--but this is rare-- When a belov{'e}d hand is laid in ours, When, jaded with the rush and glare Of the interminable hours, Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, When our world-deafen'd ear Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd-- A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast, And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow, And hears its winding murmur; and he sees The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
And there arrives a lull in the hot race Wherein he doth for ever chase That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face, And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows The hills where his life rose, And the sea where it goes.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Rugby Chapel

 Coldly, sadly descends
The autumn-evening.
The field Strewn with its dank yellow drifts Of wither'd leaves, and the elms, Fade into dimness apace, Silent;--hardly a shout From a few boys late at their play! The lights come out in the street, In the school-room windows;--but cold, Solemn, unlighted, austere, Through the gathering darkness, arise The chapel-walls, in whose bound Thou, my father! art laid.
There thou dost lie, in the gloom Of the autumn evening.
But ah! That word, gloom, to my mind Brings thee back, in the light Of thy radiant vigour, again; In the gloom of November we pass'd Days not dark at thy side; Seasons impair'd not the ray Of thy buoyant cheerfulness clear.
Such thou wast! and I stand In the autumn evening, and think Of bygone autumns with thee.
Fifteen years have gone round Since thou arosest to tread, In the summer-morning, the road Of death, at a call unforeseen, Sudden.
For fifteen years, We who till then in thy shade Rested as under the boughs Of a mighty oak, have endured Sunshine and rain as we might, Bare, unshaded, alone, Lacking the shelter of thee.
O strong soul, by what shore Tarriest thou now? For that force, Surely, has not been left vain! Somewhere, surely afar, In the sounding labour-house vast Of being, is practised that strength, Zealous, beneficent, firm! Yes, in some far-shining sphere, Conscious or not of the past, Still thou performest the word Of the Spirit in whom thou dost live-- Prompt, unwearied, as here! Still thou upraisest with zeal The humble good from the ground, Sternly repressest the bad! Still, like a trumpet, dost rouse Those who with half-open eyes Tread the border-land dim 'Twixt vice and virtue; reviv'st, Succourest!--this was thy work, This was thy life upon earth.
What is the course of the life Of mortal men on the earth?-- Most men eddy about Here and there--eat and drink, Chatter and love and hate, Gather and squander, are raised Aloft, are hurl'd in the dust, Striving blindly, achieving Nothing; and then they die-- Perish;--and no one asks Who or what they have been, More than he asks what waves, In the moonlit solitudes mild Of the midmost Ocean, have swell'd, Foam'd for a moment, and gone.
And there are some, whom a thirst Ardent, unquenchable, fires, Not with the crowd to be spent, Not without aim to go round In an eddy of purposeless dust, Effort unmeaning and vain.
Ah yes! some of us strive Not without action to die Fruitless, but something to snatch From dull oblivion, nor all Glut the devouring grave! We, we have chosen our path-- Path to a clear-purposed goal, Path of advance!--but it leads A long, steep journey, through sunk Gorges, o'er mountains in snow.
Cheerful, with friends, we set forth-- Then on the height, comes the storm.
Thunder crashes from rock To rock, the cataracts reply, Lightnings dazzle our eyes.
Roaring torrents have breach'd The track, the stream-bed descends In the place where the wayfarer once Planted his footstep--the spray Boils o'er its borders! aloft The unseen snow-beds dislodge Their hanging ruin; alas, Havoc is made in our train! Friends, who set forth at our side, Falter, are lost in the storm.
We, we only are left! With frowning foreheads, with lips Sternly compress'd, we strain on, On--and at nightfall at last Come to the end of our way, To the lonely inn 'mid the rocks; Where the gaunt and taciturn host Stands on the threshold, the wind Shaking his thin white hairs-- Holds his lantern to scan Our storm-beat figures, and asks: Whom in our party we bring? Whom we have left in the snow? Sadly we answer: We bring Only ourselves! we lost Sight of the rest in the storm.
Hardly ourselves we fought through, Stripp'd, without friends, as we are.
Friends, companions, and train, The avalanche swept from our side.
But thou woulds't not alone Be saved, my father! alone Conquer and come to thy goal, Leaving the rest in the wild.
We were weary, and we Fearful, and we in our march Fain to drop down and to die.
Still thou turnedst, and still Beckonedst the trembler, and still Gavest the weary thy hand.
If, in the paths of the world, Stones might have wounded thy feet, Toil or dejection have tried Thy spirit, of that we saw Nothing--to us thou wage still Cheerful, and helpful, and firm! Therefore to thee it was given Many to save with thyself; And, at the end of thy day, O faithful shepherd! to come, Bringing thy sheep in thy hand.
And through thee I believe In the noble and great who are gone; Pure souls honour'd and blest By former ages, who else-- Such, so soulless, so poor, Is the race of men whom I see-- Seem'd but a dream of the heart, Seem'd but a cry of desire.
Yes! I believe that there lived Others like thee in the past, Not like the men of the crowd Who all round me to-day Bluster or cringe, and make life Hideous, and arid, and vile; But souls temper'd with fire, Fervent, heroic, and good, Helpers and friends of mankind.
Servants of God!--or sons Shall I not call you? Because Not as servants ye knew Your Father's innermost mind, His, who unwillingly sees One of his little ones lost-- Yours is the praise, if mankind Hath not as yet in its march Fainted, and fallen, and died! See! In the rocks of the world Marches the host of mankind, A feeble, wavering line.
Where are they tending?--A God Marshall'd them, gave them their goal.
Ah, but the way is so long! Years they have been in the wild! Sore thirst plagues them, the rocks Rising all round, overawe; Factions divide them, their host Threatens to break, to dissolve.
--Ah, keep, keep them combined! Else, of the myriads who fill That army, not one shall arrive; Sole they shall stray; in the rocks Stagger for ever in vain, Die one by one in the waste.
Then, in such hour of need Of your fainting, dispirited race, Ye, like angels, appear, Radiant with ardour divine! Beacons of hope, ye appear! Languor is not in your heart, Weakness is not in your word, Weariness not on your brow.
Ye alight in our van! at your voice, Panic, despair, flee away.
Ye move through the ranks, recall The stragglers, refresh the outworn, Praise, re-inspire the brave! Order, courage, return.
Eyes rekindling, and prayers, Follow your steps as ye go.
Ye fill up the gaps in our files, Strengthen the wavering line, Stablish, continue our march, On, to the bound of the waste, On, to the City of God.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Morality

 We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
But tasks in hours of insight will'd Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd.
With aching hands and bleeding feet We dig and heap, lay stone on stone; We bear the burden and the heat Of the long day, and wish 'twere done.
Not till the hours of light return, All we have built do we discern.
Then, when the clouds are off the soul, When thou dost bask in Nature's eye, Ask, how she view'd thy self-control, Thy struggling, task'd morality-- Nature, whose free, light, cheerful air, Oft made thee, in thy gloom, despair.
And she, whose censure thou dost dread, Whose eye thou wast afraid to seek, See, on her face a glow is spread, A strong emotion on her cheek! 'Ah, child!' she cries, 'that strife divine, Whence was it, for it is not mine? 'There is no effort on my brow-- I do not strive, I do not weep; I rush with the swift spheres and glow In joy, and when I will, I sleep.
Yet that severe, that earnest air, I saw, I felt it once--but where? 'I knew not yet the gauge of time, Nor wore the manacles of space; I felt it in some other clime, I saw it in some other place.
'Twas when the heavenly house I trod, And lay upon the breast of God.
'
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Isolation: To Marguerite

 We were apart; yet, day by day,
I bade my heart more constant be.
I bade it keep the world away, And grow a home for only thee; Nor fear'd but thy love likewise grew, Like mine, each day, more tried, more true.
The fault was grave! I might have known, What far too soon, alas! I learn'd— The heart can bind itself alone, And faith may oft be unreturn'd.
Self-sway'd our feelings ebb and swell— Thou lov'st no more;—Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!—and thou, thou lonely heart, Which never yet without remorse Even for a moment didst depart From thy remote and spherèd course To haunt the place where passions reign— Back to thy solitude again! Back! with the conscious thrill of shame Which Luna felt, that summer-night, Flash through her pure immortal frame, When she forsook the starry height To hang over Endymion's sleep Upon the pine-grown Latmian steep.
Yet she, chaste queen, had never proved How vain a thing is mortal love, Wandering in Heaven, far removed.
But thou hast long had place to prove This truth—to prove, and make thine own: "Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone.
" Or, if not quite alone, yet they Which touch thee are unmating things— Ocean and clouds and night and day; Lorn autumns and triumphant springs; And life, and others' joy and pain, And love, if love, of happier men.
Of happier men—for they, at least, Have dream'd two human hearts might blend In one, and were through faith released From isolation without end Prolong'd; nor knew, although not less Alone than thou, their loneliness.
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The Future

 A wanderer is man from his birth.
He was born in a ship On the breast of the river of Time; Brimming with wonder and joy He spreads out his arms to the light, Rivets his gaze on the banks of the stream.
As what he sees is, so have his thoughts been.
Whether he wakes, Where the snowy mountainous pass, Echoing the screams of the eagles, Hems in its gorges the bed Of the new-born clear-flowing stream; Whether he first sees light Where the river in gleaming rings Sluggishly winds through the plain; Whether in sound of the swallowing sea— As is the world on the banks, So is the mind of the man.
Vainly does each, as he glides, Fable and dream Of the lands which the river of Time Had left ere he woke on its breast, Or shall reach when his eyes have been closed.
Only the tract where he sails He wots of; only the thoughts, Raised by the objects he passes, are his.
Who can see the green earth any more As she was by the sources of Time? Who imagines her fields as they lay In the sunshine, unworn by the plough? Who thinks as they thought, The tribes who then roamed on her breast, Her vigorous, primitive sons? What girl Now reads in her bosom as clear As Rebekah read, when she sate At eve by the palm-shaded well? Who guards in her breast As deep, as pellucid a spring Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure? What bard, At the height of his vision, can deem Of God, of the world, of the soul, With a plainness as near, As flashing as Moses felt When he lay in the night by his flock On the starlit Arabian waste? Can rise and obey The beck of the Spirit like him? This tract which the river of Time Now flows through with us, is the plain.
Gone is the calm of its earlier shore.
Bordered by cities and hoarse With a thousand cries is its stream.
And we on its breast, our minds Are confused as the cries which we hear, Changing and shot as the sights which we see.
And we say that repose has fled For ever the course of the river of Time.
That cities will crowd to its edge In a blacker, incessanter line; That the din will be more on its banks, Denser the trade on its stream, Flatter the plain where it flows, Fiercer the sun overhead; That never will those on its breast See an ennobling sight, Drink of the feeling of quiet again.
But what was before us we know not, And we know not what shall succeed.
Haply, the river of Time— As it grows, as the towns on its marge Fling their wavering lights On a wider, statlier stream— May acquire, if not the calm Of its early mountainous shore, Yet a solemn peace of its own.
And the width of the waters, the hush Of the grey expanse where he floats, Freshening its current and spotted with foam As it draws to the Ocean, amy strike Peace to the soul of the man on its breast— As the pale waste widens around him, As the banks fade dimmer away, As the stars come out, and the night-wind Brings up the stream Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

West London

 Crouch'd on the pavement close by Belgrave Square
A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied;
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.
Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there, Pass'd opposite; she touch'd her girl, who hied Across, and begg'd and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.
Thought I: Above her state this spirit towers; She will not ask of aliens, but of friends, Of sharers in a common human fate.
She turns from that cold succour, which attneds The unknown little from the unknowing great, And points us to a better time than ours.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse

 Through Alpine meadows soft-suffused
With rain, where thick the crocus blows,
Past the dark forges long disused,
The mule-track from Saint Laurent goes.
The bridge is cross'd, and slow we ride, Through forest, up the mountain-side.
The autumnal evening darkens round, The wind is up, and drives the rain; While, hark! far down, with strangled sound Doth the Dead Guier's stream complain, Where that wet smoke, among the woods, Over his boiling cauldron broods.
Swift rush the spectral vapours white Past limestone scars with ragged pines, Showing--then blotting from our sight!-- Halt--through the cloud-drift something shines! High in the valley, wet and drear, The huts of Courrerie appear.
Strike leftward! cries our guide; and higher Mounts up the stony forest-way.
At last the encircling trees retire; Look! through the showery twilight grey What pointed roofs are these advance?-- A palace of the Kings of France? Approach, for what we seek is here! Alight, and sparely sup, and wait For rest in this outbuilding near; Then cross the sward and reach that gate.
Knock; pass the wicket! Thou art come To the Carthusians' world-famed home.
The silent courts, where night and day Into their stone-carved basins cold The splashing icy fountains play-- The humid corridors behold! Where, ghostlike in the deepening night, Cowl'd forms brush by in gleaming white.
The chapel, where no organ's peal Invests the stern and naked prayer-- With penitential cries they kneel And wrestle; rising then, with bare And white uplifted faces stand, Passing the Host from hand to hand; Each takes, and then his visage wan Is buried in his cowl once more.
The cells!--the suffering Son of Man Upon the wall--the knee-worn floor-- And where they sleep, that wooden bed, Which shall their coffin be, when dead! The library, where tract and tome Not to feed priestly pride are there, To hymn the conquering march of Rome, Nor yet to amuse, as ours are! They paint of souls the inner strife, Their drops of blood, their death in life.
The garden, overgrown--yet mild, See, fragrant herbs are flowering there! Strong children of the Alpine wild Whose culture is the brethren's care; Of human tasks their only one, And cheerful works beneath the sun.
Those halls, too, destined to contain Each its own pilgrim-host of old, From England, Germany, or Spain-- All are before me! I behold The House, the Brotherhood austere! --And what am I, that I am here? For rigorous teachers seized my youth, And purged its faith, and trimm'd its fire, Show'd me the high, white star of Truth, There bade me gaze, and there aspire.
Even now their whispers pierce the gloom: What dost thou in this living tomb? Forgive me, masters of the mind! At whose behest I long ago So much unlearnt, so much resign'd-- I come not here to be your foe! I seek these anchorites, not in ruth, To curse and to deny your truth; Not as their friend, or child, I speak! But as, on some far northern strand, Thinking of his own Gods, a Greek In pity and mournful awe might stand Before some fallen Runic stone-- For both were faiths, and both are gone.
Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born, With nowhere yet to rest my head, Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.
Their faith, my tears, the world deride-- I come to shed them at their side.
Oh, hide me in your gloom profound, Ye solemn seats of holy pain! Take me, cowl'd forms, and fence me round, Till I possess my soul again; Till free my thoughts before me roll, Not chafed by hourly false control! For the world cries your faith is now But a dead time's exploded dream; My melancholy, sciolists say, Is a pass'd mode, an outworn theme-- As if the world had ever had A faith, or sciolists been sad! Ah, if it be pass'd, take away, At least, the restlessness, the pain; Be man henceforth no more a prey To these out-dated stings again! The nobleness of grief is gone Ah, leave us not the fret alone! But--if you cannot give us ease-- Last of the race of them who grieve Here leave us to die out with these Last of the people who believe! Silent, while years engrave the brow; Silent--the best are silent now.
Achilles ponders in his tent, The kings of modern thought are dumb, Silent they are though not content, And wait to see the future come.
They have the grief men had of yore, But they contend and cry no more.
Our fathers water'd with their tears This sea of time whereon we sail, Their voices were in all men's ears We pass'd within their puissant hail.
Still the same ocean round us raves, But we stand mute, and watch the waves.
For what avail'd it, all the noise And outcry of the former men?-- Say, have their sons achieved more joys, Say, is life lighter now than then? The sufferers died, they left their pain-- The pangs which tortured them remain.
What helps it now, that Byron bore, With haughty scorn which mock'd the smart, Through Europe to the ?tolian shore The pageant of his bleeding heart? That thousands counted every groan, And Europe made his woe her own? What boots it, Shelley! that the breeze Carried thy lovely wail away, Musical through Italian trees Which fringe thy soft blue Spezzian bay? Inheritors of thy distress Have restless hearts one throb the less? Or are we easier, to have read, O Obermann! the sad, stern page, Which tells us how thou hidd'st thy head From the fierce tempest of thine age In the lone brakes of Fontainebleau, Or chalets near the Alpine snow? Ye slumber in your silent grave!-- The world, which for an idle day Grace to your mood of sadness gave, Long since hath flung her weeds away.
The eternal trifler breaks your spell; But we--we learned your lore too well! Years hence, perhaps, may dawn an age, More fortunate, alas! than we, Which without hardness will be sage, And gay without frivolity.
Sons of the world, oh, speed those years; But, while we wait, allow our tears! Allow them! We admire with awe The exulting thunder of your race; You give the universe your law, You triumph over time and space! Your pride of life, your tireless powers, We laud them, but they are not ours.
We are like children rear'd in shade Beneath some old-world abbey wall, Forgotten in a forest-glade, And secret from the eyes of all.
Deep, deep the greenwood round them waves, Their abbey, and its close of graves! But, where the road runs near the stream, Oft through the trees they catch a glance Of passing troops in the sun's beam-- Pennon, and plume, and flashing lance! Forth to the world those soldiers fare, To life, to cities, and to war! And through the wood, another way, Faint bugle-notes from far are borne, Where hunters gather, staghounds bay, Round some fair forest-lodge at morn.
Gay dames are there, in sylvan green; Laughter and cries--those notes between! The banners flashing through the trees Make their blood dance and chain their eyes; That bugle-music on the breeze Arrests them with a charm'd surprise.
Banner by turns and bugle woo: Ye shy recluses, follow too! O children, what do ye reply?-- 'Action and pleasure, will ye roam Through these secluded dells to cry And call us?--but too late ye come! Too late for us your call ye blow, Whose bent was taken long ago.
'Long since we pace this shadow'd nave; We watch those yellow tapers shine, Emblems of hope over the grave, In the high altar's depth divine; The organ carries to our ear Its accents of another sphere.
'Fenced early in this cloistral round Of reverie, of shade, of prayer, How should we grow in other ground? How can we flower in foreign air? --Pass, banners, pass, and bugles, cease; And leave our desert to its peace!'
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

East London

 'Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
In Spitalfields, looked thrice dispirited.
I met a preacher there I knew, and said: "Ill and o'erworked, how fare you in this scene?"— "Bravely!" said he; "for I of late have been Much cheered with thoughts of Christ, the living bread.
" O human soul! as long as thou canst so Set up a mark of everlasting light, Above the howling senses' ebb and flow, To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam— Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night! Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Mycerinus

 'Not by the justice that my father spurn'd,
Not for the thousands whom my father slew,
Altars unfed and temples overturn'd,
Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks are due;
Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie,
Stern sentence of the Powers of Destiny.
'I will unfold my sentence and my crime.
My crime--that, rapt in reverential awe, I sate obedient, in the fiery prime Of youth, self-govern'd, at the feet of Law; Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings, By contemplation of diviner things.
'My father loved injustice, and lived long; Crown'd with grey hairs he died, and full of sway.
I loved the good he scorn'd, and hated wrong-- The Gods declare my recompense to-day.
I look'd for life more lasting, rule more high; And when six years are measured, lo, I die! 'Yet surely, O my people, did I deem Man's justice from the all-just Gods was given; A light that from some upper fount did beam, Some better archetype, whose seat was heaven; A light that, shining from the blest abodes, Did shadow somewhat of the life of Gods.
'Mere phantoms of man's self-tormenting heart, Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed! Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then depart When the duped soul, self-master'd, claims its meed; When, on the strenuous just man, Heaven bestows, Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close! 'Seems it so light a thing, then, austere Powers, To spurn man's common lure, life's pleasant things? Seems there no joy in dances crown'd with flowers, Love, free to range, and regal banquetings? Bend ye on these, indeed, an unmoved eye, Not Gods but ghosts, in frozen apathy? 'Or is it that some Force, too wise, too strong, Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile, Sweeps earth, and heaven, and men, and Gods along, Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile? And the great powers we serve, themselves may be Slaves of a tyrannous necessity? 'Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden cars, Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight, And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars, Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night? Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzling sheen, Drinking deep draughts of joy, ye dwell serene? 'Oh, wherefore cheat our youth, if thus it be, Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream? Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see, Blind divinations of a will supreme; Lost labour! when the circumambient gloom But hides, if Gods, Gods careless of our doom? 'The rest I give to joy.
Even while I speak, My sand runs short; and--as yon star-shot ray, Hemm'd by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak, Now, as the barrier closes, dies away-- Even so do past and future intertwine, Blotting this six years' space, which yet is mine.
'Six years--six little years--six drops of time! Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane, And old men die, and young men pass their prime, And languid pleasure fade and flower again, And the dull Gods behold, ere these are flown, Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.
'Into the silence of the groves and woods I will go forth; though something would I say-- Something--yet what, I know not; for the Gods The doom they pass revoke not, nor delay; And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all, And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.
'Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king! I go, and I return not.
But the will Of the great Gods is plain; and ye must bring Ill deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfil Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise, The praise of Gods, rich boon! and length of days.
' --So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn; And one loud cry of grief and of amaze Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake, And turning, left them there; and with brief pause, Girt with a throng of revellers, bent his way To the cool region of the groves he loved.
There by the river-banks he wander'd on, From palm-grove on to palm-grove, happy trees, Their smooth tops shining sunward, and beneath Burying their unsunn'd stems in grass and flowers; Where in one dream the feverish time of youth Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy Might wander all day long and never tire.
Here came the king, holding high feast, at morn, Rose-crown'd; and ever, when the sun went down, A hundred lamps beam'd in the tranquil gloom, From tree to tree all through the twinkling grove, Revealing all the tumult of the feast-- Flush'd guests, and golden goblets foam'd with wine; While the deep-burnish'd foliage overhead Splinter'd the silver arrows of the moon.
It may be that sometimes his wondering soul From the loud joyful laughter of his lips Might shrink half startled, like a guilty man Who wrestles with his dream; as some pale shape Gliding half hidden through the dusky stems, Would thrust a hand before the lifted bowl, Whispering: A little space, and thou art mine! It may be on that joyless feast his eye Dwelt with mere outward seeming; he, within, Took measure of his soul, and knew its strength, And by that silent knowledge, day by day, Was calm'd, ennobled, comforted, sustain'd.
It may be; but not less his brow was smooth, And his clear laugh fled ringing through the gloom, And his mirth quail'd not at the mild reproof Sigh'd out by winter's sad tranquillity; Nor, pall'd with its own fulness, ebb'd and died In the rich languor of long summer-days; Nor wither'd when the palm-tree plumes, that roof'd With their mild dark his grassy banquet-hall, Bent to the cold winds of the showerless spring; No, nor grew dark when autumn brought the clouds.
So six long years he revell'd, night and day.
And when the mirth wax'd loudest, with dull sound Sometimes from the grove's centre echoes came, To tell his wondering people of their king; In the still night, across the steaming flats, Mix'd with the murmur of the moving Nile.
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Quiet Work

 One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee, 
One lesson which in every wind is blown, 
One lesson of two duties kept at one 
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity-- 

Of toil unsever'd from tranquility! 
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows 
Far noisier schemes, accomplish'd in repose, 
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring, Man's fitful uproar mingling with his toil, Still do thy sleepless ministers move on, Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting; Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil, Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone.