Matthew Arnold (1822–88). The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867. 1909.Poems from Magazines, 18601866
A Southern Night
Melt into open, moonlit sea;
The soft Mediterranean breaks
At my feet, free.
Like ghosts, the huge, gnarl’d olives stand;
Behind, that lovely mountain-line!
While by the strand
Curves with the curving beach away
To where the lighthouse beacons bright
Far in the bay.
So moonlit, saw me once of yore
Wander unquiet, and my own
Vext heart deplore!
Thy memory, thy pain, to-night,
My brother! and thine early lot,
Possess me quite.
Is heard to-night around thy grave
There where Gibraltar’s cannon’d steep
O’erfrowns the wave.
With Indian heats at last fordone,
With public toil and private teen,
Thou sank’st, alone.
I see the smoke-crown’d vessel come;
Slow round her paddles dies away
The seething foam.
Ah, gently place him on the bench!
That spirit—if all have not yet died—
A breath might quench.
The mien of youth we used to see,
Poor, gallant boy!—for such thou wast,
Still art, to me.
The eyes are glazed, thou canst not speak;
And whiter than thy white burnous
That wasted check!
Unto its haven coming nigh,
Touches, and on Gibraltar’s rock
Lands thee, to die.
But farther yet across the brine
Thy dear wife’s ashes buried are,
Remote from thine.
Its golden rain on earth confers,
The snowy Himalayan Mount
Which for two jaded English saves,
When from their dusty life they pass,
Such peaceful graves!
Where cries are rising ever new,
And men’s incessant stream goes by;
We who pursue
Traverse in troops, with care-fill’d breast,
The soft Mediterranean side,
The Nile, the East,
And glance, and nod, and bustle by;
And never once possess our soul
Before we die.
Not by this gracious Midland sea
Whose floor to-night sweet moonshine fills,
Should our graves be!
And men were specks, and life a play;
Who made the roots of trees his bed,
And once a day
To villages and homes of man,
For food to keep him till he end
His mortal span,
Grey-headed, wrinkled, clad in white,
Without companion, without speech,
By day and night
And tranquil as the glacier snows—
He by those Indian mountains old
Might well repose!
Who bore Saint Louis company
And came home hurt to death and here
Landed to die;
Fill’d Europe once with his love-pain,
Who here outwearied sunk, and sung
His dying strain;
With furtive step and cheek of flame,
’Twixt myrtle-hedges all in flower
By moonlight came
And from the wave-kiss’d marble stair
Beckon’d him on, with quivering lip
And unbound hair,
Then learnt his death, and pined away—
Such by these waters of romance
’Twas meet to lay!
Romantic, solitary, still,
O spent ones of a work-day age!
Befits you ill.
Down to the brimm’d moon-charmed main
Comes softly through the olive-trees,
And checks my strain.
All plaint in her own cause controll’d;
Of thee I think, my brother! young
In heart, high-soul’d;
That cordial hand, that bearing free,
I see them still, I see them now,
Shall always see!
And what but noble feeling warm,
Wherever shown, howe’er attired,
Is grace, is charm?
What else is steep’d in lucid sheen,
What else is bright, what else is fair,
What else serene?
Gently by his, ye waters, glide!
To that in you which is divine
They were allied.