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

The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems

The World and the Quietist

[First published 1849. Reprinted 1855.]

Why, when the World’s great mind

Hath finally inclin’d,

Why, you say, Critias, be debating still?

Why, with these mournful rhymes

Learn’d in more languid climes,

Blame our activity,

Who, with such passionate will,

Arc, what we mean to be?

Critias, long since, I know,

(For Fate decreed it so,)

Long since the World hath set its heart to live.

Long since with credulous zeal

It turns Life’s mighty wheel;

Still doth for labourers send,

Who still their labour give;

And still expects an end.

Yet, as the wheel flies round,

With no ungrateful sound

Do adverse voices fall on the World’s ear.

Deafen’d by his own stir

The rugged Labourer

Caught not till then a sense

So glowing and so near

Of his omnipotence.

So, when the feast grew loud

In Susa’s palace proud,

A white-rob’d slave stole to the Monarch’s side.

He spoke: the Monarch heard:

Felt the slow-rolling word

Swell his attentive soul.

Breath’d deeply as it died,

And drain’d his mighty bowl.