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

New Poems, 1867

Calais Sands

[First published 1867.]

A THOUSAND knights have rein’d their steeds

To watch this line of sand-hills run,

Along the never silent Strait,

To Calais glittering in the sun:

To look toward Ardres’ Golden Field

Across this wide aërial plain,

Which glows as if the Middle Age

Were gorgeous upon earth again.

Oh, that to share this famous scene

I saw, upon the open sand,

Thy lovely presence at my side,

Thy shawl, thy look, thy smile, thy hand!

How exquisite thy voice would come,

My darling, on this lonely air!

How sweetly would the fresh sea-breeze

Shake loose some lock of soft brown hair!

But now my glance but once hath royed

O’er Calais and its famous plain;

To England’s cliffs my gaze is turn’d,

O’er the blue Strait mine eyes I strain.

Thou comest! Yes, the vessel’s cloud

Hangs dark upon the rolling sea!—

Oh that yon seabird’s wings were mine

To win one instant’s glimpse of thee!

I must not spring to grasp thy hand,

To woo thy smile, to seek thine eye;

But I may stand far off, and gaze,

And watch thee pass unconscious by,

And spell thy looks, and guess thy thoughts,

Mixt with the idlers on the pier.—

Ah, might I always rest unseen,

So I might have thee always near!

To-morrow hurry through the fields

Of Flanders to the storied Rhine!

To-night those soft-fringed eyes shall close

Beneath one roof, my queen! with mine.