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

Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems


[First published 1852. Not reprinted by the author.]

TRUE, we must tame our rebel will:

True, we must bow to Nature’s law:

Must bear in silence many an ill;

Must learn to wait, renounce, withdraw.

Yet now, when boldest wills give place,

When Fate and Circumstance are strong,

And in their rush the human race

Are swept, like huddling sheep, along;

Those sterner spirits let me prize,

Who, though the tendence of the whole

They less than us might recognize,

Kept, more than us, their strength of soul.

Yes, be the second Cato prais’d!

Not that he took the course to die—

But that, when ’gainst himself he rais’d

His arm, he rais’d it dauntlessly.

And, Byron! let us dare admire,

If not thy fierce and turbid song,

Yet that, in anguish, doubt, desire,

Thy fiery courage still was strong.

The sun that on thy tossing pain

Did with such cold derision shine,

He crush’d thee not with his disdain—

He had his glow, and thou hadst thine.

Our bane, disguise it as we may,

Is weakness, is a faltering course.

Oh that past times could give our day,

Join’d to its clearness, of their force!