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

New Poems, 1867

Heine’s Grave

[First published 1867.]

‘HENRI HEINE’——’tis here!

The black tombstone, the name

Carved there—no more! and the smooth,

Swarded alleys, the limes

Touch’d with yellow by hot

Summer, but under them still

In September’s bright afternoon

Shadow, and verdure, and cool!

Trim Montmartre! the faint

Murmur of Paris outside;

Crisp everlasting-flowers,

Yellow and black, on the graves.

Half blind, palsied, in pain,

Hither to come, from the streets’

Uproar, surely not loath

Wast thou, Heine!—to lie

Quiet! to ask for closed

Shutters, and darken’d room,

And cool drinks, and an eased

Posture, and opium, no more!

Hither to come, and to sleep

Under the wings of Renown.

Ah! not little, when pain

Is most quelling, and man

Easily quell’d, and the fine

Temper of genius alive

Quickest to ill, is the praise

Not to have yielded to pain!

No small boast, for a weak

Son of mankind, to the earth

Pinn’d by the thunder, to rear

His bolt-scathed front to the stars;

And, undaunted, retort

’Gainst thick-crashing, insane,

Tyrannous tempests of bale,

Arrowy lightnings of soul!

Hark! through the alley resounds

Mocking laughter! A film

Creeps o’er the sunshine; a breeze

Ruffles the warm afternoon,

Saddens my soul with its chill.

Gibing of spirits in scorn

Shakes every leaf of the grove,

Mars the benignant repose

Of this amiable home of the dead.

Bitter spirits! ye claim

Heine?—Alas, he is yours!

Only a moment I long’d

Here in the quiet to snatch

From such mates the outworn

Poet, and steep him in calm.

Only a moment! I knew

Whose he was who is here

Buried, I knew he was yours!

Ah, I knew that I saw

Here no sepulchre built

In the laurell’d rock, o’er the blue

Naples bay, for a sweet

Tender Virgil! no tomb

On Ravenna sands, in the shade

Of Ravenna pines, for a high

Austere Dante! no grave

By the Avon side, in the bright

Stratford meadows, for thee,

Shakespeare! loveliest of souls,

Peerless in radiance, in joy.

What so harsh and malign,

Heine! distils from thy life,

Poisons the peace of thy grave?

I chide with thee not, that thy sharp

Upbraidings often assail’d

England, my country; for we,

Fearful and sad, for her sons,

Long since, deep in our hearts,

Echo the blame of her foes.

We, too, sigh that she flags;

We, too, say that she now,

Scarce comprehending the voice

Of her greatest, golden-mouth’d sons

Of a former age any more,

Stupidly travels her round

Of mechanic business, and lets

Slow die out of her life

Glory, and genius, and joy.

So thou arraign’st her, her foe;

So we arraign her, her sons.

Yes, we arraign her! but she,

The weary Titan! with deaf

Ears, and labour-dimm’d eyes,

Regarding neither to right

Nor left, goes passively by,

Staggering on to her goal;

Bearing on shoulders immense,

Atlanteän, the load,

Wellnigh not to be borne,

Of the too vast orb of her fate.

But was it thou—I think

Surely it was—that bard

Unnamed, who, Goethe said,

Had every other gift, but wanted love;

Love, without which the tongue

Even of angels sounds amiss?

Charm is the glory which makes

Song of the poet divine;

Love is the fountain of charm.

How without charm wilt thou draw,

Poet! the world to thy way?

Not by the lightnings of wit!

Not by the thunder of scorn!

These to the world, too, are given;

Wit it possesses, and scorn—

Charm is the poet’s alone.

Hollow and dull are the great,

And artists envious, and the mob profane.

We know all this, we know!

Cam’st thou from heaven, O child

Of light! but this to declare?

Alas! to help us forget

Such barren knowledge awhile,

God gave the poet his song.

Therefore a secret unrest

Tortured thee, brilliant and bold!

Therefore triumph itself

Tasted amiss to thy soul.

Therefore, with blood of thy foes,

Trickled in silence thine own.

Therefore the victor’s heart

Broke on the field of his fame.

Ah! as of old, from the pomp

Of Italian Milan, the fair

Flower of marble of white

Southern palaces—steps

Border’d by statues, and walks

Terraced, and orange bowers

Heavy with fragrance—the blond

German Kaiser full oft

Long’d himself back to the fields,

Rivers, and high-roof’d towns

Of his native Germany; so,

So, how often! from hot

Paris drawing-rooms, and lamps

Blazing, and brilliant crowds,

Starr’d and jewell’d, of men

Famous, of women the queens

Of dazzling converse, and fumes

Of praise—hot, heady fumes, to the poor brain

That mount, that madden!—how oft

Heine’s spirit outworn

Long’d itself out of the din

Back to the tranquil, the cool

Far German home of his youth!

See! in the May afternoon,

O’er the fresh short turf of the Hartz,

A youth, with the foot of youth,

Heine! thou climbest again.

Up, through the tall dark firs

Warming their heads in the sun,

Chequering the grass with their shade—

Up, by the stream with its huge

Moss-hung boulders and thin

Musical water half-hid—

Up, o’er the rock-strewn slope,

With the sinking sun, and the air

Chill, and the shadows now

Long on the grey hill-side—

To the stone-roof’d hut at the top.

Or, yet later, in watch

On the roof of the Brocken tower

Thou standest, gazing! to see

The broad red sun, over field

Forest and city and spire

And mist-track’d stream of the wide

Wide German land, going down

In a bank of vapours—again

Standest! at nightfall, alone.

Or, next morning, with limbs

Rested by slumber, and heart

Freshen’d and light with the May,

O’er the gracious spurs coming down

Of the Lower Hartz, among oaks,

And beechen coverts, and copse

Of hazels green in whose depth

Ilse, the fairy transform’d,

In a thousand water-breaks light

Pours her petulant youth—

Climbing the rock which juts

O’er the valley, the dizzily perch’d

Rock! to its Iron Cross

Once more thou cling’st; to the Cross

Clingest! with smiles, with a sigh.

Goethe, too, had been there.

In the long-past winter he came

To the frozen Hartz, with his soul

Passionate, eager, his youth

All in ferment;—but he

Destined to work and to live

Left it, and thou, alas!

Only to laugh and to die.

But something prompts me: Not thus

Take leave of Heine, not thus

Speak the last word at his grave!

Not in pity and not

With half censure—with awe

Hail, as it passes from earth

Scattering lightnings, that soul!

The spirit of the world

Beholding the absurdity of men—

Their vaunts, their feats—let a sardonic smile

For one short moment wander o’er his lips.

That smile was Heine! for its earthly hour

The strange guest sparkled; now ’tis pass’d away.

That was Heine! and we,

Myriads who live, who have lived,

What are we all, but a mood,

A single mood, of the life

Of the Being in whom we exist,

Who alone is all things in one.

Spirit, who fillest us all!

Spirit who utterest in each

New-coming son of mankind

Such of thy thoughts as thou wilt!

O thou, one of whose moods,

Bitter and strange, was the life

Of Heine—his strange, alas!

His bitter life—may a life

Other and milder be mine!

May’st thou a mood more serene,

Happier, have utter’d in mine!

May’st thou the rapture of peace

Deep have embreathed at its core!

Made it a ray of thy thought!

Made it a beat of thy joy!