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

Two Poems from Magazines, 1855

Haworth Churchyard, April, 1855

[First published in Fraser’s Magazine, May, 1855.]

WHERE, under Loughrigg, the stream

Of Rotha sparkles, the fields

Are green, in the house of one

Friendly and gentle, now dead,

Wordsworth’s son-in-law, friend—

Four years since, on a mark’d

Evening, a meeting I saw.

Two friends met there, two fam’d

Gifted women. The one,

Brilliant with recent renown,

Young, unpractis’d, had told

With a Master’s accent her feign’d

Story of passionate life:

The other, maturer in fame,

Earning, she too, her praise

First in Fiction, had since

Widen’d her sweep, and survey’d

History, Politics, Mind.

They met, held converse: they wrote

In a book which of glorious souls

Held memorial: Bard,

Warrior, Statesman, had left

Their names:—chief treasure of all,

Scott had consign’d there his last

Breathings of song, with a pen

Tottering, a death-stricken hand.

I beheld; the obscure

Saw the famous. Alas!

Years in number, it seem’d

Lay before both, and a fame

Heighten’d, and multiplied power.

Behold! The elder, to-day,

Lies expecting from Death,

In mortal weakness, a last

Summons: the younger is dead.

First to the living we pay

Mournful homage: the Muse

Gains not an earth-deafen’d ear.

Hail to the steadfast soul,

Which, unflinching and keen,

Wrought to erase from its depth

Mist, and illusion, and fear!

Hail to the spirit which dar’d

Trust its own thoughts, before yet

Echoed her back by the crowd!

Hail to the courage which gave

Voice to its creed, ere the creed

Won consecration from Time!

Turn, O Death, on the vile,

Turn on the foolish the stroke

Hanging now o’er a head

Active, beneficent, pure!

But, if the prayer be in vain—

But, if the stroke must fall—

Her, whom we cannot save,

What might we say to console?

She will not see her country lose

Its greatness, nor the reign of fools prolong’d.

She will behold no more

This ignominious spectacle,

Power dropping from the hand

of paralytic factions, and no soul

To snatch and wield it: will not see

Her fellow people sit

Helplessly gazing on their own decline.

Myrtle and rose fit the young,

Laurel and oak the mature.

Private affections, for these,

Have run their circle, and left

Space for things far from themselves,

Thoughts of the general weal,

Country, and public cares:

Public cares, which move

Seldom and faintly the depth

Of younger passionate souls

Plung’d in themselves, who demand

Only to live by the heart,

Only to love and be lov’d.

How shall we honour the young,

The ardent, the gifted? how mourn?

Console we cannot; her ear

Is deaf. Far northward from here,

In a churchyard high mid the moors

Of Yorkshire, a little earth

Stops it for ever to praise.

Where, behind Keighley, the road

Up to the heart of the moors

Between heath-clad showery hills

Runs, and colliers’ carts

Poach the deep ways coming down,

And a rough, grim’d race have their homes—

There, on its slope, is built

The moorland town. But the church

Stands on the crest of the hill,

Lonely and bleak; at its side

The parsonage-house and the graves.

See! in the desolate house

The childless father! Alas—

Age, whom the most of us chide,

Chide, and put back, and delay—

Come, unupbraided for once!

Lay thy benumbing hand,

Gratefully cold, on this brow!

Shut out the grief, the despair!

Weaken the sense of his loss!

Deaden the infinite pain!

Another grief I see,

Younger: but this the Muse,

In pity and silent awe

Revering what she cannot soothe,

With veil’d face and bow’d head,

Salutes, and passes by.

Strew with roses the grave

Of the early-dying. Alas!

Early she goes on the path

To the Silent Country, and leaves

Half her laurels unwon,

Dying too soon: yet green

Laurels she had, and a course

Short, but redoubled by Fame.

For him who must live many years

That life is best which slips away

Out of the light, and mutely; which avoids

Fame, and her less-fair followers, Envy, Strife,

Stupid Detraction, Jealousy, Cabal,

Insincere Praises:—which descends

The mossy quiet track to Age.

But, when immature Death

Beckons too early the guest

From the half-tried Banquet of Life,

Young, in the bloom of his days;

Leaves no leisure to press,

Slow and surely, the sweet

Of a tranquil life in the shade—

Fuller for him be the hours!

Give him emotion, though pain!

Let him live, let him feel, I have liv’d.

Heap up his moments with life!

Quicken his pulses with Fame!

And not friendless, nor yet

Only with strangers to meet,

Faces ungreeting and cold,

Thou, O Mourn’d One, to-day

Enterest the House of the Grave.

Those of thy blood, whom thou lov’dst,

Have preceded thee; young,

Loving, a sisterly band:

Some in gift, some in art

Inferior; all in fame.

They, like friends, shall receive

This comer, greet her with joy;

Welcome the Sister, the Friend;

Hear with delight of thy fame.

Round thee they lie; the grass

Blows from their graves toward thine.

She, whose genius, though not

Puissant like thine, was yet

Sweet and graceful: and She—

(How shall I sing her?)—whose soul

Knew no fellow for might,

Passion, vehemence, grief,

Daring, since Byron died,

That world-fam’d Son of Fire; She, who sank

Baffled, unknown, self-consum’d;

Whose too bold dying song

Shook, like a clarion-blast, my soul.

Of one too I have heard,

A Brother—sleeps he here?—

Of all his gifted race

Not the least gifted; young,

Unhappy, beautiful; the cause

Of many hopes, of many tears.

O Boy, if here thou sleep’st, sleep well!

On thee too did the Muse

Bright in thy cradle smile:

But some dark Shadow came

(I know not what) and interpos’d.

Sleep, O cluster of friends,

Sleep! or only, when May,

Brought by the West Wind, returns

Back to your native heaths,

And the plover is heard on the moors,

Yearly awake, to behold

The opening summer, the sky,

The shining moorland; to hear

The drowsy bee, as of old,

Hum o’er the thyme, the grouse

Call from the heather in bloom:

Sleep; or only for this

Break your united repose.