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Best Famous Matthew Arnold Poems

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Written by Matthew Arnold |

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.

Written by Matthew Arnold |

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 |

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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Written by Matthew Arnold |

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 |


 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 |

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 |


 The evening comes, the fields are still.
The tinkle of the thirsty rill, Unheard all day, ascends again; Deserted is the half-mown plain, Silent the swaths! the ringing wain, The mower's cry, the dog's alarms, All housed within the sleeping farms! The business of the day is done, The last-left haymaker is gone.
And from the thyme upon the height, And from the elder-blossom white And pale dog-roses in the hedge, And from the mint-plant in the sedge, In puffs of balm the night-air blows The perfume which the day forgoes.
And on the pure horizon far, See, pulsing with the first-born star, The liquid sky above the hill! The evening comes, the fields are still.

Written by Matthew Arnold |

Apollo Musagetes

 Through the black, rushing smoke-bursts,
Thick breaks the red flame;
All Etna heaves fiercely
Her forest-clothed frame.
Not here, O Apollo! Are haunts meet for thee.
But, where Helicon breaks down In cliff to the sea, Where the moon-silver'd inlets Send far their light voice Up the still vale of Thisbe, O speed, and rejoice! On the sward at the cliff-top Lie strewn the white flocks, On the cliff-side the pigeons Roost deep in the rocks.
In the moonlight the shepherds, Soft lull'd by the rills, Lie wrapped in their blankets Asleep on the hills.
--What forms are these coming So white through the gloom? What garments out-glistening The gold-flower'd broom? What sweet-breathing presence Out-perfumes the thyme? What voices enrapture The night's balmy prime? 'Tis Apollo comes leading His choir, the Nine.
--The leader is fairest, But all are divine.
They are lost in the hollows! They stream up again! What seeks on this mountain The glorified train?-- They bathe on this mountain, In the spring by their road; Then on to Olympus, Their endless abode.
--Whose proase do they mention? Of what is it told?-- What will be for ever; What was from of old.
First hymn they the Father Of all things; and then, The rest of immortals, The action of men.
The day in his hotness, The strife with the palm; The night in her silence, The stars in their calm.

Written by Matthew Arnold |


 The Master stood upon the mount, and taught.
He saw a fire in his disciples’ eyes; ‘The old law’, they said, ‘is wholly come to naught! Behold the new world rise!’ ‘Was it’, the Lord then said, ‘with scorn ye saw The old law observed by Scribes and Pharisees? I say unto you, see ye keep that law More faithfully than these! ‘Too hasty heads for ordering worlds, alas! Think not that I to annul the law have will’d; No jot, no tittle from the law shall pass, Till all hath been fulfill’d.
’ So Christ said eighteen hundred years ago.
And what then shall be said to those to-day, Who cry aloud to lay the old world low To clear the new world’s way? ‘Religious fervours! ardour misapplied! Hence, hence,’ they cry, ’ye do but keep man blind! But keep him self-immersed, preoccupied, And lame the active mind!’ Ah! from the old world let some one answer give: ‘Scorn ye this world, their tears, their inward cares? I say unto you, see that your souls live A deeper life than theirs! ‘Say ye: The spirit of man has found new roads, And we must leave the old faiths, and walk therein?— Leave then the Cross as ye have left carved gods, But guard the fire within! ‘Bright, else, and fast the stream of life may roll, And no man may the other’s hurt behold; Yet each will have one anguish—his own soul Which perishes of cold.
’ Here let that voice make end; then let a strain, From a far lonelier distance, like the wind Be heard, floating through heaven, and fill again These men’s profoundest mind: ‘Children of men! the unseen Power, whose eye For ever doth accompany mankind, Hath looked on no religion scornfully That men did ever find.
‘Which has not taught weak wills how much they can? Which has not fall’n on the dry heart like rain? Which has not cried to sunk, self-weary man: Thou must be born again! ‘Children of men! not that your age excel In pride of life the ages of your sires, But that you think clear, feel deep, bear fruit well, The Friend of man desires.

Written by Matthew Arnold |


 Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
Come, as thou cam'st a thousand times, A messenger from radiant climes, And smile on thy new world, and be As kind to others as to me! Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth, Come now, and let me dream it truth, And part my hair, and kiss my brow, And say, My love why sufferest thou? Come to me in my dreams, and then By day I shall be well again! For so the night will more than pay The hopeless longing of the day.

Written by Matthew Arnold |

The Last Word

 Creep into thy narrow bed,
Creep, and let no more be said!
Vain thy onset! all stands fast.
Thou thyself must break at last! Let the long contention cease! Geese are swans, and swans are geese.
Let them have it how they will! Thou art tired; best be still! They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee? Better men fared thus before thee; Fired their ringing shot and passed, Hotly charged —and sank at last.
Charge once more, then, and be dumb! Let the victors, when they come, When thy forts of folly fail, Find thy body by the wall!

Written by Matthew Arnold |


 Weary of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel's prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards, o'er the starlit sea.
And a look of passionate desire O'er the sea and to the stars I send: 'Ye who from my childhood up have calm'd me, Calm me, ah, compose me to the end! 'Ah, once more,' I cried, 'ye stars, ye waters, On my heart your mighty charm renew; Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you, Feel my soul becoming vast like you!' From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven, Over the lit sea's unquiet way, In the rustling night-air came the answer: 'Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.
'Unaffrighted by the silence round them, Undistracted by the sights they see, These demand not that the things without them Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.
'And with joy the stars perform their shining, And the sea its long moon-silver'd roll; For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting All the fever of some differing soul.
'Bounded by themselves, and unregardful In what state God's other works may be, In their own tasks all their powers pouring, These attain the mighty life you see.
' O air-born voice! long since, severely clear, A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear: 'Resolve to be thyself; and know that he, Who finds himself, loses his misery!'

Written by Matthew Arnold |

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.

Written by Matthew Arnold |

Lines Written in Kensington Gardens

 In this lone, open glade I lie,
Screen'd by deep boughs on either hand;
And at its end, to stay the eye,
Those black-crown'd, red-boled pine-trees stand!

Birds here make song, each bird has his,
Across the girdling city's hum.
How green under the boughs it is! How thick the tremulous sheep-cries come! Sometimes a child will cross the glade To take his nurse his broken toy; Sometimes a thrush flit overhead Deep in her unknown day's employ.
Here at my feet what wonders pass, What endless, active life is here! What blowing daisies, fragrant grass! An air-stirr'd forest, fresh and clear.
Scarce fresher is the mountain-sod Where the tired angler lies, stretch'd out, And, eased of basket and of rod, Counts his day's spoil, the spotted trout.
In the huge world, which roars hard by, Be others happy if they can! But in my helpless cradle I Was breathed on by the rural Pan.
I, on men's impious uproar hurl'd, Think often, as I hear them rave, That peace has left the upper world And now keeps only in the grave.
Yet here is peace for ever new! When I who watch them am away, Still all things in this glade go through The changes of their quiet day.
Then to their happy rest they pass! The flowers upclose, the birds are fed, The night comes down upon the grass, The child sleeps warmly in his bed.
Calm soul of all things! make it mine To feel, amid the city's jar, That there abides a peace of thine, Man did not make, and cannot mar.
The will to neither strive nor cry, The power to feel with others give! Calm, calm me more! nor let me die Before I have begun to live.

Written by Anthony Hecht |

The Dover Bitch: A Criticism Of Life

 So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, "Try to be true to me,
And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc.
, etc.
" Well now, I knew this girl.
It's true she had read Sophocles in a fairly good translation And caught that bitter allusion to the sea, But all the time he was talking she had in mind the notion of what his whiskers would feel like On the back of her neck.
She told me later on That after a while she got to looking out At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad, Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
And then she got really angry.
To have been brought All the way down from London, and then be addressed As sort of a mournful cosmic last resort Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
Anyway, she watched him pace the room and finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit, And then she said one or two unprintable things.
But you mustn't judge her by that.
What I mean to say is, She's really all right.
I still see her once in a while And she always treats me right.
We have a drink And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year Before I see her again, but there she is, Running to fat, but dependable as they come, And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d'Amour.
note: See Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach"]