Matthew Arnold (1822–88). The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867. 1909.New Poems, 1867
Obermann once more
All meaning from a name!
White houses prank where once were huts!
Glion! but not the same,
The turf, the pines, the sky!
The hills in their old order ranged!
The lake, with Chillon by!
And stony mounts the way,
Their crackling husk-heaps burn, as if
I left them yesterday.
The huts of Avant shine—
Its pines under their branches ope
Ways for the tinkling kine.
Sweet heaps of fresh-cut grass,
Invite to rest the traveller there
Before he climb the pass—
With yellow spires aflame,
Whence drops the path to Alliere down
And walls where Byron came,
His birth-name just below—
Orchard, and croft, and full-stored grange
Nursed by his pastoral flow.
Beyond this gracious bound,
The cone of Jaman, pale and grey,
See, in the blue profound!
Above his sun-warm’d firs—
What thoughts to me his rocks recall!
What memories he stirs!
Obermann! with me here?
Thou master of my wandering youth,
But left this many a year!
Its warfare waged with pain!
An eremite with thee, in thought
Once more I slip my chain
And lie beside its door
And hear the wild bee’s Alpine hum
And thy sad, tranquil lore.
Their mournful calm—serene,
Yet tinged with infinite desire
For all that might have been,
Made his life’s rule once more!
The universal order served!
Earth happier than before!
Down over hill and wood.
Then, still and sudden, Obermann
On the grass near me stood.
On my mind, years before,
Imaged so oft, imaged so true!
A shepherd’s garb he wore,
A book was in his breast;
Bent on my face, with gaze that scann’d
My soul, his eyes did rest.
Held by the world which we
Loved not, who turnest from the throng
Back to thy youth and me?
Choosest thou now to turn?—
Ah me, we anchorites knew it best!
Best can its course discern!
Thou soughtest, lay in gloom.
Return’st thou in her hour of birth,
Of hopes and hearts in bloom?
Their load, and gone away,
Since last on earth there lived and wrought
A world like ours to-day.
Its head was clear and true,
Sumptuous its clothing, rich its fare,
No pause its action knew;
Seem’d puissant and alive—
But, ah, its heart, its heart was stone,
And so it could not thrive!
And secret loathing fell.
Deep weariness and sated lust
Made human life a hell.
The Roman noble lay;
He drove abroad, in furious guise.
Along the Appian way;
And crown’d his hair with flowers—
No easier nor no quicker pass’d
The impracticable hours.
Her impious younger world;
The Roman tempest swell’d and swell’d,
And on her head was hurl’d.
In patient, deep disdain.
She let the legions thunder past.
And plunged in thought again.
Across her spirit grey.
A conquering, new-born joy awoke,
And fill’d her life with day.
That runn’st from pole to pole
To seek a draught to slake thy thirst—
Go, seek it in thy soul!”
In crown and sword array’d.
She felt the void which mined her breast,
She shiver’d and obey’d.
And laid her sceptre down;
Her stately purple she abhorr’d,
And her imperial crown;
Her artists could not please;
She tore her books, she shut her courts,
She fled her palaces;
She left it all behind,
And hurried, torn with inward strife,
The wilderness to find.
She changed into a child.
’Mid weeds and wrecks she stood—a place
Of ruin—but she smiled!
How had its glory new
Fill’d earth and heaven, and caught away
My ravish’d spirit too!
Had been too cold for me;
For me no Eastern desert lone
Had been too far to flee.
Had stood against the wave
Of love which set so deep and strong
From Christ’s then open grave.
When I could hourly see
That wan, nail’d Form, with head droop’d low,
Upon the bitter tree;
Whose tender winning arts
Have to his little arms beguiled
So many wounded hearts!
And unspent all that time
Still, still went forth that Child’s dear force,
And still was at its prime.
Of life, ’tis true received,
That gracious Child, that thorn-crown’d Man!
He lived while we believed.
And open stood his grave.
Men call’d from chamber, church, and tent,
And Christ was by to save.
In the lorn Syrian town,
And on his grave, with shining eyes,
The Syrian stars look down.
Regard his death-place dumb,
And say the stone is not yet to,
And wait for words to come.
Of sun, and arid stone,
And crumbling wall, and sultry sand,
Comes now one word alone!
’Tis true and living yet:
No man can save his brother’s soul,
Nor pay his brother’s debt.
Must labour; must resign
His all too human creeds, and scan
Simply the way divine.
Which bathed our life, retired.
Slow, slow the old world wore to naught,
And pulse by pulse expired.
When blood and warmth were fled;
And still it spake its wonted speech—
But every word was dead.
Might fall a freshening storm!
Rive its dry bones, and with new force
A new-sprung world inform!
The outworn world we knew.
It pass’d, that elemental swell!
Again appear’d the blue.
And what from heaven saw he?
Blocks of the past, like icebergs high,
Float in a rolling sea.
All they before endeavour’d;
They come and go, they work and plan,
And know not they are sever’d.
Whereon we pitch our tent!
Why were ye too to death not hurl’d
When your world’s day was spent?
Which with its fusing flame
Knit all your parts, and kept you one;—
But ye, ye are the same!
Had ceased to live and thrive.
The past, its mask of union gone,
Say, is it more alive?
Your social order too.
Where tarries he, the power who said:
See, I make all things new?
And what can helpers heal
With old-world cures men half believe
For woes they wholly feel?
And joy whose grounds are true!
And joy that should all hearts employ
As when the past was new!
Its common hope, were vain!
A new such hope must dawn at last,
Or man must toss in pain.
The future not yet born—
And who can be alone elate,
While the world lies forlorn?
There among Alpine snows
And pastoral huts I hid my head,
And sought and found repose.
Sad, patient, and resign’d,
I watch’d the crocus fade and flower,
I felt the sun and wind.
Man gets no second day.
In dreams I saw the future shine,
But ah, I could not stay!
I pass’d obscure, alone.
The after-world forgets my name,
Nor do I wish it known.
And knew my life was vain.
With fate I murmur not, nor chide;
At Sèvres by the Seine
My humble tomb explore;
It bears: Eternity, be thou
My refuge! and no more.
Did make from haunts of strife
Come to my mountain solitude
And learn my frustrate life;
Was past of cheerful youth,
Didst seek the solitary man
And love his cheerless truth—
Nor be cold gloom thy prison!
Forward the gracious hours have fared,
And see! the sun is risen.
A green, new earth appears.
Millions, whose life in ice lay fast,
Have thoughts, and smiles, and tears.
After long darkness rude,
Divinelier imaged, clearer seen,
With happier zeal pursued.
I mark’d the present die;
Its term of life was nearly closed,
Yet it had more than I.
Thou come with aspect marr’d,
Shorn of the joy, the bloom, the power,
Which best beseem its bard;
And spent thy youthful prime;
Though, round thy firmer manhood cast,
Hang weeds of our sad time,
And traversed all the shade—
Though late, though dimm’d, though weak, yet tell
Hope to a world new-made!
The dream which fill’d our brain,
Fix’d in our soul a thirst like fire
Our life, to Alpine snow;
And palsied all our deed with doubt
And all our word with woe—
That end to help men gain:
One mighty wave of thought and joy
Lifting mankind amain!
As out of sleep, and no
Voice moved—only the torrent broke
The silence, far below.
Solemn, o’er hut and wood,
In the yet star-sown nightly sky,
The peak of Jaman stood.
I turn’d; by some vague impulse stirr’d,
Along the rocks of Naye
And the blanch’d summit bare
Of Malatrait, to where in haze
The Valais opens fair,
Behind the upcrowding hills
Doth all the heavenly opening close
Which the Rhone’s murmur fills—
Across the glimmering lake,
High in the Valais depth profound,
I saw the morning break.