by Matthew Arnold
For rigorous teachers seized my youth,
And purged its faith, and trimm’d its fire,
Show’d me the high, white star of Truth,
There bade me gaze, and there aspire.
Even now their whispers pierce the gloom:
What dost thou in this living tomb?
Forgive me, masters of the mind!
At whose behest I long ago
So much unlearnt, so much resign’d—
I come not here to be your foe!
I seek these anchorites, not in ruth,
To curse and to deny your truth;
Not as their friend, or child, I speak!
But as, on some far northern strand,
Thinking of his own Gods, a Greek
In pity and mournful awe might stand
Before some fallen Runic stone—
For both were faiths, and both are gone.
Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born,
With nowhere yet to rest my head,
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.
Their faith, my tears, the world deride—
I come to shed them at their side.
Oh, hide me in your gloom profound,
Ye solemn seats of holy pain!
Take me, cowl’d forms, and fence me round,
Till I possess my soul again;
Till free my thoughts before me roll,
Not chafed by hourly false control!
For the world cries your faith is now
But a dead time’s exploded dream;
My melancholy, sciolists say,
Is a pass’d mode, an outworn theme—
As if the world had ever had
A faith, or sciolists been sad!
Ah, if it be pass’d, take away,
At least, the restlessness, the pain;
Be man henceforth no more a prey
To these out-dated stings again!
The nobleness of grief is gone
Ah, leave us not the fret alone!
But—if you cannot give us ease—
Last of the race of them who grieve
Here leave us to die out with these
Last of the people who believe!
Silent, while years engrave the brow;
Silent—the best are silent now.
Achilles ponders in his tent,
The kings of modern thought are dumb,
Silent they are though not content,
And wait to see the future come.
They have the grief men had of yore,
But they contend and cry no more.
Our fathers water’d with their tears
This sea of time whereon we sail,
Their voices were in all men’s ears
We pass’d within their puissant hail.
Still the same ocean round us raves,
But we stand mute, and watch the waves.
For what avail’d it, all the noise
And outcry of the former men?—
Say, have their sons achieved more joys,
Say, is life lighter now than then?
The sufferers died, they left their pain—
The pangs which tortured them remain.
What helps it now, that Byron bore,
With haughty scorn which mock’d the smart,
Through Europe to the Ætolian shore
The pageant of his bleeding heart?
That thousands counted every groan,
And Europe made his woe her own?
What boots it, Shelley! that the breeze
Carried thy lovely wail away,
Musical through Italian trees
Which fringe thy soft blue Spezzian bay?
Inheritors of thy distress
Have restless hearts one throb the less?
Or are we easier, to have read,
O Obermann! the sad, stern page,
Which tells us how thou hidd’st thy head
From the fierce tempest of thine age
In the lone brakes of Fontainebleau,
Or chalets near the Alpine snow?
Ye slumber in your silent grave!—
The world, which for an idle day
Grace to your mood of sadness gave,
Long since hath flung her weeds away.
The eternal trifler breaks your spell;
But we—we learned your lore too well!
…..to be continued