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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. Reprinted 1855.]

I MUST not say that thou wert true,

Yet let me say that thou wert fair.

And they that lovely face who view,

They will not ask if truth be there.

Truth—what is truth? Two bleeding hearts

Wounded by men, by Fortune tried,

Outwearied with their lonely parts,

Vow to beat henceforth side by side.

The world to them was stern and drear;

Their lot was but to weep and moan.

Ah, let them keep their faith sincere,

For neither could subsist alone!

But souls whom some benignant breath

Has charm’d at birth from gloom and care,

These ask no love—these plight no faith,

For they are happy as they are.

The world to them may homage make,

And garlands for their forehead weave.

And what the world can give, they take:

But they bring more than they receive.

They smile upon the world: their ears

To one demand alone are coy.

They will not give us love and tears—

They bring us light, and warmth, and joy.

It was not love that heav’d thy breast,

Fair child! it was the bliss within.

Adieu! and say that one, at least,

Was just to what he did not win.