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

The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems

The Strayed Reveller

  • [First published 1849. Reprinted 1853, ’54, ’57.]
  • The portico of Circe’s Palace.Evening

    FASTER, faster,

    O Circe, Goddess,

    Let the wild, thronging train,

    The bright procession

    Of eddying forms,

    Sweep through my soul!

    Thou standest, smiling

    Down on me; thy right arm,

    Lean’d up against the column there,

    Props thy soft cheek;

    Thy left holds, hanging loosely,

    The deep cup, ivy-cinctur’d,

    I held but now.

    Is it then evening

    So soon? I see, the night dews,

    Cluster’d in thick beads, dim

    The agate brooch-stones

    On thy white shoulder.

    The cool night-wind, too,

    Blows through the portico,

    Stirs thy hair, Goddess,

    Waves thy white robe.

    Whence art thou, sleeper?

    When the white dawn first

    Through the rough fir-planks

    Of my hut, by the chestnuts,

    Up at the valley-head,

    Came breaking, Goddess,

    I sprang up, I threw round me

    My dappled fawn-skin:

    Passing out, from the wet turf,

    Where they lay, by the hut door,

    I snatch’d up my vine-crown, my fir-staff,

    All drench’d in dew:

    Came swift down to join

    The rout early gather’d

    In the town, round the temple,

    Iacchus’ white fane

    On yonder hill.

    Quick I pass’d, following

    The wood-cutters’ cart-track

    Down the dark valley;—I saw

    On my left, through the beeches,

    Thy palace, Goddess,

    Smokeless, empty:

    Trembling, I enter’d; beheld

    The court all silent,

    The lions sleeping;

    On the altar, this bowl.

    I drank, Goddess—

    And sunk down here, sleeping,

    On the steps of thy portico.

    Foolish boy! Why tremblest thou?

    Thou lovest it, then, my wine?

    Wouldst more of it? See, how glows,

    Through the delicate flush’d marble,

    The red creaming liquor,

    Strown with dark seeds!

    Drink, then! I chide thee not,

    Deny thee not my bowl.

    Come, stretch forth thy hand, then—so,—

    Drink, drink again!

    Thanks, gracious One!

    Ah, the sweet fumes again!

    More soft, ah me!

    More subtle-winding

    Than Pan’s flute-music.

    Faint—faint! Ah me!

    Again the sweet sleep.

    Hist! Thou—within there!

    Come forth, Ulysses!

    Art tired with hunting?

    While we range the woodland,

    See what the day brings.

    Ever new magic!

    Hast thou then lur’d hither,

    Wonderful Goddess, by thy art,

    The young, languid-ey’d Ampelus,

    Iacchus’ darling—

    Or some youth belov’d of Pan,

    Of Pan and the Nymphs?

    That he sits, bending downward

    His white, delicate neck

    To the ivy-wreath’d marge

    Of thy cup:—the bright, glancing vine-leaves

    That crown his hair;

    Falling forwards, mingling

    With the dark ivy-plants,

    His fawn-skin, half united,

    Smear’d with red wine-stains? Who is he,

    That he sits, overweigh’d

    By fumes of wine and sleep,

    So late, in thy portico?

    What youth, Goddess,—what guest

    Of Gods or mortals?

    Hist! he wakes!

    I lur’d him not hither, Ulysses.

    Nay, ask him!

    Who speaks? Ah! Who comes forth

    To thy side, Goddess, from within?

    How shall I name him?

    This spare, dark-featur’d,

    Quick-ey’d stranger?

    Ah! and I see too

    His sailor’s bonnet,

    His short coat, travel-tarnish’d,

    With one arm bare.—

    Art thou not he, whom fame

    This long time rumours

    The favour’d guest of Circe, brought by the waves?

    Art thou he, stranger?

    The wise Ulysses,

    Laertes’ son?

    I am Ulysses.

    And thou, too, sleeper?

    Thy voice is sweet.

    It may be thou hast follow’d

    Through the islands some divine bard,

    By age taught many things,

    Age and the Muses;

    And heard him delighting

    The chiefs and people

    In the banquet, and learn’d his songs,

    Of Gods and Heroes,

    Of war and arts,

    And peopled cities

    Inland, or built

    By the grey sea.—If so, then hail!

    I honour and welcome thee.

    The Gods are happy.

    They turn on all sides

    Their shining eyes:

    And see, below them,

    The Earth, and men.

    They see Tiresias

    Sitting, staff in hand,

    On the warm, grassy

    Asopus’ bank:

    His robe drawn over

    His old, sightless head:

    Revolving inly

    The doom of Thebes.

    They see the Centaurs

    In the upper glens

    Of Pelion, in the streams,

    Where red-berried ashes fringe

    The clear-brown shallow pools;

    With streaming flanks, and heads

    Rear’d proudly, snuffing

    The mountain wind.

    They see the Indian

    Drifting, knife in hand,

    His frail boat moor’d to

    A floating isle thick matted

    With large-leav’d, low-creeping melon-plants,

    And the dark cucumber.

    He reaps, and stows them,

    Drifting—drifting:—round him,

    Round his green harvest-plot,

    Flow the cool lake-waves:

    The mountains ring them.

    They see the Scythian

    On the wide Stepp, unharnessing

    His wheel’d house at noon.

    He tethers his beast down, and makes his meal,

    Mares’ milk, and bread

    Bak’d on the embers:—all around

    The boundless waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr’d

    With saffron and the yellow hollyhock

    And flag-leav’d iris flowers.

    Sitting in his cart

    He makes his meal: before him, for long miles,

    Alive with bright green lizards,

    And the springing bustard fowl,

    The track, a straight black line,

    Furrows the rich soil: here and there

    Clusters of lonely mounds

    Topp’d with rough-hewn,

    Grey, rain-blear’d statues, overpeer

    The sunny Waste.

    They see the Ferry

    On the broad, clay-laden

    Lone Chorasmian stream: thereon

    With snort and strain,

    Two horses, strongly swimming, tow

    The ferry-boat, with woven ropes

    To either bow

    Firm-harness’d by the mane:—a Chief,

    With shout and shaken spear

    Stands at the prow, and guides them: but astern,

    The cowering Merchants, in long robes,

    Sit pale beside their wealth

    Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops,

    Of gold and ivory,

    Of turquoise-earth and amethyst,

    Jasper and chalcedony,

    And milk-barr’d onyx stones.

    The loaded boat swings groaning

    In the yellow eddies.

    The Gods behold them.

    They see the Heroes

    Sitting in the dark ship

    On the foamless, long-heaving,

    Violet sea:

    At sunset nearing

    The Happy Islands.

    These things, Ulysses,

    The wise Bards also

    Behold and sing.

    But oh, what labour!

    O Prince, what pain!

    They too can see

    Tiresias:—but the Gods,

    Who give them vision,

    Added this law:

    That they should bear too

    His groping blindness,

    His dark foreboding,

    His scorn’d white hairs;

    Bear Hera’s anger

    Through a life lengthen’d

    To seven ages.

    They see the Centaurs

    On Pelion:—then they feel,

    They too, the maddening wine

    Swell their large veins to bursting: in wild pain

    They feel the biting spears

    Of the grim Lapithae, and Theseus, drive,

    Drive crashing through their bones: they feel

    High on a jutting rock in the red stream

    Alcmena’s dreadful son

    Ply his bow:—such a price

    The Gods exact for song;

    To become what we sing.

    They see the Indian

    On his mountain lake:—but squalls

    Make their skiff reel, and worms

    In the unkind spring have gnaw’d

    Their melon-harvest to the heart: They see

    The Scythian:—but long frosts

    Parch them in winter-time on the bare Stepp,

    Till they too fade like grass: they crawl

    Like shadows forth in spring.

    They see the Merchants

    On the Oxus’ stream:—but care

    Must visit first them too, and make them pale.

    Whether, through whirling sand,

    A cloud of desert robber-horse has burst

    Upon their caravan: or greedy kings,

    In the wall’d cities the way passes through,

    Crush’d them with tolls: or fever-airs,

    On some great river’s marge,

    Mown them down, far from home.

    They see the Heroes

    Near harbour:—but they share

    Their lives, and former violent toil, in Thebes,

    Seven-gated Thebes, or Troy:

    Or where the echoing oars

    Of Argo, first,

    Startled the unknown Sea.

    The old Silenus

    Came, lolling in the sunshine,

    From the dewy forest coverts,

    This way, at noon.

    Sitting by me, while his Fauns

    Down at the water side

    Sprinkled and smooth’d

    His drooping garland,

    He told me these things.

    But I, Ulysses,

    Sitting on the warm steps,

    Looking over the valley,

    All day long, have seen,

    Without pain, without labour,

    Sometimes a wild-hair’d Maenad;

    Sometimes a Faun with torches;

    And sometimes, for a moment,

    Passing through the dark stems

    Flowing-rob’d—the belov’d,

    The desir’d, the divine,

    Belov’d Iacchus.

    Ah cool night-wind, tremulous stars!

    Ah glimmering water—

    Fitful earth-murmur—

    Dreaming woods!

    Ah golden-hair’d, strangely-smiling Goddess,

    And thou, prov’d, much enduring,

    Wave-toss’d Wanderer!

    Who can stand still?

    Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me.

    The cup again!

    Faster, faster,

    O Circe, Goddess,

    Let the wild thronging train,

    The bright procession

    Of eddying forms,

    Sweep through my soul!