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

The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems

The Hayswater Boat

[First published 1849. Not reprinted by the author.]

A REGION desolate and wild,

Black, chafing water: and afloat,

And lonely as a truant child

In a waste wood, a single boat:

No mast, no sails are set thereon;

It moves, but never moveth on:

And welters like a human thing

Amid the wild waves weltering.

Behind, a buried vale doth sleep,

Far down the torrent cleaves its way:

In front the dumb rock rises steep,

A fretted wall of blue and grey;

Of shooting cliff and crumbled stone

With many a wild weed overgrown:

All else, black water: and afloat,

One rood from shore, that single boat.

Last night the wind was up and strong;

The grey-streak’d waters labour still:

The strong blast brought a pigmy throng

From that mild hollow in the hill;

From those twin brooks, that beachèd strand

So featly strewn with drifted sand;

From those weird domes of mounded green

That spot the solitary scene.

This boat they found against the shore:

The glossy rushes nodded by.

One rood from land they push’d, no more;

Then rested, listening silently.

The loud rains lash’d the mountain’s crown,

The grating shingle straggled down;

All night they sate; then stole away,

And left it rocking in the bay.

Last night?—I look’d, the sky was clear.

The boat was old, a batter’d boat.

In sooth, it seems a hundred year

Since that strange crew did ride afloat.

The boat hath drifted in the bay—

The oars have moulder’d as they lay—

The rudder swings—yet none doth steer.

What living hand hath brought it here?