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Best Famous Matthew Arnold Poems

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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.


by Edgar Lee Masters | |

John Horace Burleson

  I won the prize essay at school
Here in the village,
And published a novel before I was twenty-five.
I went to the city for themes and to enrich my art; There married the banker’s daughter, And later became president of the bank— Always looking forward to some leisure To write an epic novel of the war.
Meanwhile friend of the great, and lover of letters, And host to Matthew Arnold and to Emerson.
An after dinner speaker, writing essays For local clubs.
At last brought here— My boyhood home, you know— Not even a little tablet in Chicago To keep my name alive.
How great it is to write the single line: “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!”


by Edwin Arlington Robinson | |

For Some Poems by Matthew Arnold

 Sweeping the chords of Hellas with firm hand, 
He wakes lost echoes from song's classic shore, 
And brings their crystal cadence back once more 
To touch the clouds and sorrows of a land 
Where God's truth, cramped and fettered with a band 
Of iron creeds, he cheers with golden lore 
Of heroes and the men that long before 
Wrought the romance of ages yet unscanned.
Still does a cry through sad Valhalla go For Balder, pierced with Lok's unhappy spray -- For Balder, all but spared by Frea's charms; And still does art's imperial vista show, On the hushed sands of Oxus, far away, Young Sohrab dying in his father's arms.


More great poems below...

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.
[Ed.
note: See Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach"]


by Matthew Arnold | |

Requiescat

 Strew on her roses, roses,
And never a spray of yew!
In quiet she reposes;
Ah, would that I did too!

Her mirth the world required;
She bathed it in smiles of glee.
But her heart was tired, tired, And now they let her be.
Her life was turning, turning, In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning, And now peace laps her round.
Her cabined ample spirit, It fluttered and failed for breath.
Tonight it doth inherit The vasty hall of death.


by Matthew Arnold | |

Cadmus and Harmonia

 Far, far from here,
The Adriatic breaks in a warm bay
Among the green Illyrian hills; and there
The sunshine in the happy glens is fair,
And by the sea, and in the brakes.
The grass is cool, the sea-side air Buoyant and fresh, the mountain flowers More virginal and sweet than ours.
And there, they say, two bright and aged snakes, Who once were Cadmus and Harmonia, Bask in the glens or on the warm sea-shore, In breathless quiet, after all their ills; Nor do they see their country, nor the place Where the Sphinx lived among the frowning hills, Nor the unhappy palace of their race, Nor Thebes, nor the Ismenus, any more.
There those two live, far in the Illyrian brakes! They had stay'd long enough to see, In Thebes, the billow of calamity Over their own dear children roll'd, Curse upon curse, pang upon pang, For years, they sitting helpless in their home, A grey old man and woman; yet of old The Gods had to their marriage come, And at the banquet all the Muses sang.
Therefore they did not end their days In sight of blood, but were rapt, far away, To where the west-wind plays, And murmurs of the Adriatic come To those untrodden mountain-lawns; and there Placed safely in changed forms, the pair Wholly forgot their first sad life, and home, And all that Theban woe, and stray For ever through the glens, placid and dumb.


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.


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.


by Matthew Arnold | |

To a Republican Friend

 God knows it, I am with you.
If to prize Those virtues, priz'd and practis'd by too few, But priz'd, but lov'd, but eminent in you, Man's fundamental life: if to despise The barren optimistic sophistries Of comfortable moles, whom what they do Teaches the limit of the just and true-- And for such doing have no need of eyes: If sadness at teh long heart-wasting show Wherein earth's great ones are disquieted: If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow The armies of the homeless and unfed:-- If these are yours, if this is what you are, Then am I yours, and what you feel, I share.


by Matthew Arnold | |

Self-Dependence

 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!'


by Matthew Arnold | |

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.


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.


by Matthew Arnold | |

From the Hymn of Empedocles

 IS it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

Not much, I know, you prize
What pleasures may be had,
Who look on life with eyes
Estranged, like mine, and sad:
And yet the village churl feels the truth more than you;

Who 's loth to leave this life
Which to him little yields:
His hard-task'd sunburnt wife,
His often-labour'd fields;
The boors with whom he talk'd, the country spots he knew.
But thou, because thou hear'st Men scoff at Heaven and Fate; Because the gods thou fear'st Fail to make blest thy state, Tremblest, and wilt not dare to trust the joys there are.
I say, Fear not! life still Leaves human effort scope.
But, since life teems with ill, Nurse no extravagant hope.
Because thou must not dream, thou need'st not then despair.


by Matthew Arnold | |

Worldly Place

 Even in a palace, life may be led well!
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius.
But the stifling den Of common life, where, crowded up pell-mell, Our freedom for a little bread we sell, And drudge under some foolish master's ken Who rates us if we peer outside our pen-- Match'd with a palace, is not this a hell? Even in a palace! On his truth sincere, Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came; And when my ill-school'd spirit is aflame Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win, I'll stop, and say: 'There were no succour here! The aids to noble life are all within.
'


by Matthew Arnold | |

Song of Callicles The

 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 wrapt 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 praise 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.


by Matthew Arnold | |

The Song of Callicles

 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 wrapt 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 praise 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.


by Matthew Arnold | |

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.


by Matthew Arnold | |

Hayeswater

 A region desolate and wild.
Black, chafing water: and afloat, And lonely as a truant child In a waste wood, a single boat: No mast, no sails are set thereon; It moves, but never moveth on: And welters like a human thing Amid the wild waves weltering.
Behind, a buried vale doth sleep, Far down the torrent cleaves its way: In front the dumb rock rises steep, A fretted wall of blue and grey; Of shooting cliff and crumbled stone With many a wild weed overgrown: All else, black water: and afloat, One rood from shore, that single boat.


by Matthew Arnold | |

The Pagan World

 In his cool hall, with haggard eyes,
The Roman noble lay;
He drove abroad, in furious guise,
Along the Appian way.
He made a feast, drank fierce and fast, And crowned his hair with flowers— No easier nor no quicker passed The impracticable hours.
The brooding East with awe beheld Her impious younger world.
The Roman tempest swelled and swelled, And on her head was hurled.
The East bowed low before the blast In patient, deep disdain; She let the legions thunder past, And plunged in thought again.
So well she mused, a morning broke Across her spirit grey; A conquering, new-born joy awoke, And filled her life with day.
"Poor world," she cried, "so deep accurst That runn'st from pole to pole To seek a draught to slake thy thirst— Go, seek it in thy soul!" She heard it, the victorious West, In crown and sword arrayed! She felt the void which mined her breast, She shivered and obeyed.
She veiled her eagles, snapped her sword, And laid her sceptre down; Her stately purple she abhorred, And her imperial crown.
She broke her flutes, she stopped her sports, Her artists could not please; She tore her books, she shut her courts, She fled her palaces; Lust of the eye and pride of life She left it all behind, And hurried, torn with inward strife, The wilderness to find.
Tears washed the trouble from her face! She changed into a child! Mid weeds and wrecks she stood—a place Of ruin—but she smiled!


by Matthew Arnold | |

Philomela

 Hark! ah, the nightingale— 
The tawny-throated!
Hark, from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
What triumph! hark!—what pain!

O wanderer from a Grecian shore,
Still, after many years, in distant lands,
Still nourishing in thy bewildered brain
That wild, unquenched, deep-sunken, old-world pain— 
Say, will it never heal?
And can this fragrant lawn
With its cool trees, and night,
And the sweet tranquil Thames,
And moonshine, and the dew,
To thy racked heart and brain
Afford no balm?

Dost thou tonight behold,
Here, through the moonlight on this English grass,
The unfriendly palace in the Thracian wild?
Dost thou again peruse
With hot cheeks and seared eyes
The too clear web, and thy dumb sister's shame?
Dost thou once more assay
Thy flight, and feel come over thee,
Poor fugitive, the feathery change
Once more, and once more seem to make resound
With love and hate, triumph and agony,
Lone Daulis, and the high Cephissian vale?
Listen, Eugenia— 
How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
Again—thou hearest?
Eternal passion!
Eternal pain!


by Matthew Arnold | |

To Marguerite

 Yes! in the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow, And then their endless bounds they know.
But when the moon their hollows lights, And they are swept by balms of spring, And in their glens, on starry nights, The nightingales divinely sing; And lovely notes, from shore to shore, Across the sounds and channels pour -- Oh! then a longing like despair Is to their farthest caverns sent; For surely once, they feel, we were Parts of a single continent! Now round us spreads the watery plain -- Oh, might our marges meet again! Who ordered, that their longing's fire Should be, as soon as kindled, cooled? Who renders vain their deep desire? -- A god, a god their severance ruled! And bade betwixt their shores to be The unplumbed, salt, estranging sea.


by Matthew Arnold | |

The Song Of Empedocles

 And you, ye stars,
Who slowly begin to marshal,
As of old, in the fields of heaven,
Your distant, melancholy lines!
Have you, too, survived yourselves?
Are you, too, what I fear to become?
You, too, once lived;
You too moved joyfully
Among august companions,
In an older world, peopled by Gods,
In a mightier order,
The radiant, rejoicing, intelligent Sons of Heaven.
But now, ye kindle Your lonely, cold-shining lights, Unwilling lingerers In the heavenly wilderness, For a younger, ignoble world; And renew, by necessity, Night after night your courses, In echoing, unneared silence, Above a race you know not— Uncaring and undelighted, Without friend and without home; Weary like us, though not Weary with our weariness.


by Matthew Arnold | |

Youth and Calm

 'Tis death! and peace, indeed, is here,
And ease from shame, and rest from fear.
There's nothing can dismarble now The smoothness of that limpid brow.
But is a calm like this, in truth, The crowning end of life and youth, And when this boon rewards the dead, Are all debts paid, has all been said? And is the heart of youth so light, Its step so firm, its eye so bright, Because on its hot brow there blows A wind of promise and repose From the far grave, to which it goes; Because it hath the hope to come, One day, to harbour in the tomb? Ah no, the bliss youth dreams is one For daylight, for the cheerful sun, For feeling nerves and living breath-- Youth dreams a bliss on this side death.
It dreams a rest, if not more deep, More grateful than this marble sleep; It hears a voice within it tell: Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well.
'Tis all perhaps which man acquires, But 'tis not what our youth desires.


by Matthew Arnold | |

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.
'


by Matthew Arnold | |

Bacchanalia

 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.