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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.]

WEARY of myself, and sick of asking

What I am, and what I ought to be,

At the vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me

Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire

O’er the sea and to the stars I send:

‘Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,

Calm me, ah, compose me to the end.

‘Ah, once more,’ I cried, ‘ye Stars, ye Waters,

On my heart your mighty charm renew:

Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,

Feel my soul becoming vast like you.’

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,

Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,

In the rustling night-air came the answer—

‘Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

‘Unaffrighted by the silence round them,

Undistracted by the sights they see,

These demand not that the things without them

Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

‘And with joy the stars perform their shining,

And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll.

For alone they live, nor pine with noting

All the fever of some differing soul.

‘Bounded by themselves, and unobservant

In what state God’s other works may be,

In their own tasks all their powers pouring,

These attain the mighty life you see.’

O air-born Voice! long since, severely clear,

A cry like thine in my own heart I hear.

‘Resolve to be thyself: and know, that he

Who finds himself, loses his misery.’