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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 1853, ’54, ’57.]

YE storm-winds of Autumn

Who rush by, who shake

The window, and ruffle

The gleam-lighted lake;

Who cross to the hill-side

Thin-sprinkled with farms,

Where the high woods strip sadly

Their yellowing arms;—

Ye are bound for the mountains—

Ah, with you let me go

Where your cold distant barrier,

The vast range of snow,

Through the loose clouds lifts dimly

Its white peaks in air—

How deep is their stillness!

Ah! would I were there!

But on the stairs what voice is this I hear,

Buoyant as morning, and as morning clear?

Say, has some wet bird-haunted English lawn

Lent it the music of its trees at dawn?

Or was it from some sun-fleck’d mountain-brook

That the sweet voice its upland clearness took?

Ah! it comes nearer—

Sweet notes, this way!

Hark! fast by the window

The rushing winds go,

To the ice-cumber’d gorges,

The vast seas of snow.

There the torrents drive upward

Their rock-strangled hum,

There the avalanche thunders

The hoarse torrent dumb.

—I come, O ye mountains!

Ye torrents, I come!

But who is this, by the half-open’d door,

Whose figure casts a shadow on the floor?

The sweet blue eyes—the soft, ash-colour’d hair—

The cheeks that still their gentle paleness wear—

The lovely lips, with their arch smile, that tells

The unconquer’d joy in which her spirit dwells—

Ah! they bend nearer—

Sweet lips, this way!

Hark! the wind rushes past us—

Ah! with that let me go

To the clear waning hill-side

Unspotted by snow,

There to watch, o’er the sunk vale,

The frore mountain wall,

Where the nich’d snow-bed sprays down

Its powdery fall.

There its dusky blue clusters

The aconite spreads;

There the pines slope, the cloud-strips

Hung soft in their heads.

No life but, at moments,

The mountain-bee’s hum.

—I come, O ye mountains!

Ye pine-woods, I come!

Forgive me! forgive me!

Ah, Marguerite, fain

Would these arms reach to clasp thee:—

But see! ’tis in vain.

In the void air towards thee

My strain’d arms are cast.

But a sea rolls between us—

Our different past.

To the lips, ah! of others,

Those lips have been prest,

And others, ere I was,

Were clasp’d to that breast;

Far, far from each other

Our spirits have grown.

And what heart knows another?

Ah! who knows his own?

Blow, ye winds! lift me with you!

I come to the wild.

Fold closely, O Nature!

Thine arms round thy child.

To thee only God granted

A heart ever new:

To all always open;

To all always true.

Ah, calm me! restore me!

And dry up my tears

On thy high mountain platforms,

Where Morn first appears,

Where the white mists, for ever,

Are spread and upfurl’d;

In the stir of the forces

Whence issued the world.