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

New Poems, 1867


[First published 1867.]

IN Paris all look’d hot and like to fade.

Brown in the garden of the Tuileries,

Brown with September, droop’d the chestnut-trees.

’Twas dawn; a brougham roll’d through the streets, and made

Halt at the white and silent colonnade

Of the French Theatre. Worn with disease,

Rachel, with eyes no gazing can appease,

Sate in the brougham, and those blank walls survey’d.

She follows the gay world, whose swarms have fled

To Switzerland, to Baden, to the Rhine;

Why stops she by this empty play-house drear?

Ah, where the spirit its highest life hath led,

All spots, match’d with that spot, are less divine;

And Rachel’s Switzerland, her Rhine, is here!

UNTO a lonely villa in a dell

Above the fragrant warm Provençal shore

The dying Rachel in a chair they bore

Up the steep pine-plumed paths of the Estrelle,

And laid her in a stately room, where fell

The shadow of a marble Muse of yore—

The rose-crown’d queen of legendary lore,

Polymnia—full on her death-bed. ’Twas well!

The fret and misery of our northern towns,

In this her life’s last day, our poor, our pain,

Our jangle of false wits, our climate’s frowns,

Do for this radiant Greek-soul’d artist cease;

Sole object of her dying eyes remain

The beauty and the glorious art of Greece.

SPRUNG from the blood of Israel’s scatter’d race,

At a mean inn in German Aarau born,

To forms from antique Greece and Rome uptorn,

Trick’d out with a Parisian speech and face,

Imparting life renew’d, old classic grace;

Then soothing with thy Christian strain forlorn,

A-Kempis! her departing soul outworn,

While by her bedside Hebrew rites have place—

Ah, not the radiant spirit of Greece alone

She had—one power, which made her breast its home!

In her, like us, there clash’d, contending powers,

Germany, France, Christ, Moses, Athens, Rome.

The strife, the mixture in her soul, are ours;

Her genius and her glory are her own.