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Matthew Arnold (1822–88). The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867. 1909.

The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems

A Modern Sappho

[First published 1849. Reprinted 1853.]

THEY are gone: all is still: Foolish heart, dost thou quiver?

Nothing moves on the lawn but the quick lilac shade.

Far up gleams the house, and beneath flows the river.

Here lean, my head, on this cool balustrade.

Ere he come: ere the boat, by the shining-branch’d border

Of dark elms come round, dropping down the proud stream;

Let me pause, let me strive, in myself find some order,

Ere their boat-music sound, ere their broider’d flags gleam.

Is it hope makes me linger? the dim thought, that sorrow

Means parting? that only in absence lies pain?

It was well with me once if I saw him: to-morrow

May bring one of the old happy moments again.

Last night we stood earnestly talking together—

She enter’d—that moment his eyes turn’d from me.

Fasten’d on her dark hair and her wreath of white heather—

As yesterday was, so to-morrow will be.

Their love, let me know, must grow strong and yet stronger,

Their passion burn more, ere it ceases to burn:

They must love—while they must: But the hearts that love longer

Are rare: ah! most loves but flow once, and return.

I shall suffer; but they will outlive their affection:

I shall weep; but their love will be cooling: and he,

As he drifts to fatigue, discontent, and dejection,

Will be brought, thou poor heart! how much nearer to thee!

For cold is his eye to mere beauty, who, breaking

The strong band which beauty around him hath furl’d,

Disenchanted by habit, and newly awaking,

Looks languidly round on a gloom-buried world.

Through that gloom he will see but a shadow appearing,

Perceive but a voice as I come to his side:

But deeper their voice grows, and nobler their bearing,

Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died.

Then—to wait. But what notes down the wind, hark! are driving?

’Tis he! ’tis the boat, shooting round by the trees!

Let my turn, if it will come, be swift in arriving!

Ah! hope cannot long lighten torments like these.

Hast thou yet dealt him, O Life, thy full measure?

World, have thy children yet bow’d at his knee?

Hast thou with myrtle-leaf crown’d him, O Pleasure?

Crown, crown him quickly, and leave him for me.