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

New Poems, 1867

The Terrace at Berne

[First published 1867.]

TEN years!—and to my waking eye

Once more the roofs of Berne appear;

The rocky banks, the terrace high,

The stream—and do I linger here?

The clouds are on the Oberland,

The Jungfrau snows look faint and far;

But bright are those green fields at hand,

And through those fields comes down the Aar,

And from the blue twin lakes it comes,

Flows by the town, the church-yard fair,

And ’neath the garden-walk it hums,

The house—and is my Marguerite there?

Ah, shall I see thee, while a flush

Of startled pleasure floods thy brow,

Quick through the oleanders brush,

And clap thy hands, and cry: ’Tis thou!

Or hast thou long since wander’d back,

Daughter of France! to France, thy home;

And flitted down the flowery track

Where feet like thine too lightly come?

Doth riotous laughter now replace

Thy smile, and rouge, with stony glare,

Thy cheek’s soft hue, and fluttering lace

The kerchief that enwound thy hair?

Or is it over?—art thou dead?—

Dead?—and no warning shiver ran

Across my heart, to say thy thread

Of life was cut, and closed thy span!

Could from earth’s ways that figure slight

Be lost, and I not feel ’twas so?

Of that fresh voice the gay delight

Fail from earth’s air, and I not know?

Or shall I find thee still, but changed,

But not the Marguerite of thy prime?

With all thy being re-arranged,

Pass’d through the crucible of time;

With spirit vanish’d, beauty waned,

And hardly yet a glance, a tone,

A gesture—anything—retain’d

Of all that was my Marguerite’s own?

I will not know!—for wherefore try

To things by mortal course that live

A shadowy durability

For which they were not meant, to give?

Like driftwood spars which meet and pass

Upon the boundless ocean-plain,

So on the sea of life, alas!

Man nears man, meets, and leaves again.

I knew it when my life was young,

I feel it still, now youth is o’er!

The mists are on the mountains hung,

And Marguerite I shall see no more.