Verse > Matthew Arnold > Poems
Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems
[First published 1852. Reprinted 1853, ’54, ’57.]

MIST 1 clogs the sunshine,
Smoky dwarf houses
Hem me round everywhere.
  A vague dejection
Weighs down my soul.        5
Yet, while I languish,
Everywhere, countless
Prospects unroll themselves,
  And countless beings
Pass countless moods.        10
Far hence, in Asia,
On the smooth convent-roofs,
On the gold terraces
  Of holy Lassa,
Bright shines the sun.        15
Grey time-worn marbles
Hold the pure Muses.
In their cool gallery,
  By yellow Tiber,
They still look fair.        20
Strange unlov’d uproar 2
Shrills round their portal.
Yet not on Helicon
  Kept they more cloudless
Their noble calm.        25
Through sun-proof alleys
In a lone, sand-hemm’d
City of Africa,
  A blind, led beggar,
Age-bow’d, asks alms.        30
No bolder Robber
Erst abode ambush’d
Deep in the sandy waste:
  No clearer eyesight
Spied prey afar.        35
Saharan sand-winds
Sear’d his keen eyeballs.
Spent is the spoil he won.
  For him the present
Holds only pain.        40
Two young, fair lovers,
Where the warm June wind,
Fresh from the summer fields,
  Plays fondly round them,
Stand, tranc’d in joy.        45
With sweet, join’d voices,
And with eyes brimming—
‘Ah,’ they cry, ‘Destiny!
  Prolong the present!
Time! stand still here!’        50
The prompt stern Goddess
Shakes her head, frowning.
Time gives his hour-glass
  Its due reversal.
Their hour is gone.        55
With weak indulgence
Did the just Goddess
Lengthen their happiness,
  She lengthen’d also
Distress elsewhere.        60
The hour, whose happy
Unalloy’d moments
I would eternalize,
  Ten thousand mourners
Well pleas’d see end.        65
The bleak stern hour,
Whose severe moments
I would annihilate,
  Is pass’d by others
In warmth, light, joy.        70
Time, so complain’d of,
Who to no one man
Shows partiality,
  Brings round to all men
Some undimm’d hours.        75
Note 1. Consolation] In 1853 and 1854 the following lines are printed as a motto to the poem:
            The wide earth is still
Wider than one man’s passion: there’s no mood,
No meditation, no delight, no sorrow,
Cas’d in one man’s dimensions, can distil
Such pregnant and infectious quality,
Six yards round shall not ring it.—
Note 2. Written during the siege of Rome by the French [1849]. [back]

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