Matthew Arnold (1822–88). The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867. 1909.Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems
Crawls up its rocky stair;
The autumn storm-winds drive the rack
Close o’er it, in the air.
Mute in their meadows lone;
The leaves are on the valley paths;
The mists are on the Rhone—
I hear the torrents roar.
—Yes, Obermann, all speaks of thee!
I feel thee near once more.
Once more upon me roll;
That air of languor, cold, and death,
Which brooded o’er thy soul.
Condemn’d to cast about,
All shipwreck in thy own weak heart,
For comfort from without:
Beneath the calm they feign;
A wounded human spirit turns
Here, on its bed of pain.
Fresh through these pages blows,
Though to these leaves the glaciers spare
The soul of their white snows,
Of many a dark-bough’d pine,
Though, as you read, you hear the bells
Of the high-pasturing kine—
And brooding mountain bee,
There sobs I know not what ground tone
Of human agony.
Is fraught too deep with pain,
That, Obermann! the world around
So little loves thy strain?
For the world loves new ways.
To tell too deep ones is not well;
It knows not what he says.
In this our troubled day,
I know but two, who have attain’d,
Save thee, to see their way.
His quiet home one keeps;
And one, the strong much-toiling Sage,
In German Weimar sleeps.
From half of human fate;
And Goethe’s course few sons of men
May think to emulate.
His eyes on Nature’s plan;
Neither made man too much a God,
Nor God too much a man.
From mists, and sane, and clear;
Clearer, how much! than ours: yet we
Have a worse course to steer.
Of Europe’s stormiest time,
Yet in a tranquil world was pass’d
His tenderer youthful prime.
Of change, alarm, surprise—
What shelter to grow ripe is ours?
What leisure to grow wise?
Buried a wave beneath,
The second wave succeeds, before
We have had time to breathe.
Too harass’d, to attain
Wordsworth’s sweet calm, or Goethe’s wide
And luminous view to gain.
To thee: we feel thy spell.
The hopeless tangle of our age—
Thou too hast scann’d it well.
As death; compos’d to bear.
Thy head is clear, thy feeling chill—
And icy thy despair.
One hears thee saying now—
Greater by far than thou are dead:
Strive not: die also thou.—
The poet’s feverish blood.
One drives him to the world without,
And one to solitude.
Where, where do these abound?—
Not in the world, not in the strife
Of men, shall they be found.
Knows how the day hath gone;
He only lives with the world’s life
Who hath renounc’d his own.
Where thou, O Seer, art set;
Thy realm of thought is drear and cold—
The world is colder yet!
With those who come to thee:
Balms floating on thy mountain air,
And healing sights to see.
On Jaman, hast thou sate
By some high chalet door, and seen
The summer day grow late,
With the pale crocus starr’d,
And reach that glimmering sheet of glass
Beneath the piny sward,
And watch’d the rosy light
Fade from the distant peaks of snow:
And on the air of night
Through the pine branches play:
Listen’d, and felt thyself grow young;
Listen’d, and wept——Away!
And thou, sad Guide, adieu!
I go; Fate drives me: but I leave
Half of my life with you.
Move on a rigorous line:
Can neither, when we will, enjoy;
Nor, when we will, resign.
Thou melancholy Shade!
Wilt not, if thou canst see me now,
Condemn me, nor upbraid.
And place with those dost claim,
The Children of the Second Birth
Whom the world could not tame;
Whom many a different way
Conducted to their common land,
Thou learn’st to think as they.
Soldier and anchorite,
Distinctions we esteem so grave,
Are nothing in their sight.
Who was on action hurl’d,
Whose one bond is that all have been
Unspotted by the world.
Him who obeys thy spell
No more, so he but rest, like thee,
Unsoil’d:—and so, Farewell!
That much-lov’d inland sea,
The ripples of whose blue waves cheer
Vevey and Meillerie,
Where with clear-rustling wave
The scented pines of Switzerland
Stand dark round thy green grave,
Issuing on that green place
The early peasant still recalls
The pensive stranger’s face,
Ere he plods on again;—
Or whether, by maligner Fate,
Among the swarms of men,
The blue Seine rolls her wave,
The Capital of Pleasure sees
Thy hardly-heard-of grave—
In this stern Alpine dell.
O unstrung will! O broken heart!
A last, a last farewell!