Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
The Strayed Reveller (from Empedocles on Etna)
By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)
The Portico of Circe’s Palace. Evening

A Youth.  Circe

The Youth
FASTER, faster,
O Circe, Goddess,
Let the wild, thronging train,
The bright procession
Of eddying forms,        5
Sweep through my soul!
Thou standest, smiling
Down on me! thy right arm,
Lean’d up against the column there,
Props thy soft cheek;        10
Thy left holds, hanging loosely,
The deep cup, ivy-cinctured,
I held but now.
Is it, then, evening
So soon? I see the night-dews,        15
Cluster’d in thick beads, dim
The agate brooch-stones
On thy white shoulder;
The cool night-wind, too,
Blows through the portico,        20
Stirs thy hair, Goddess,
Waves thy white robe!
Whence art thou, sleeper?
The Youth
When the white dawn first
Through the rough fir-planks        25
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;        30
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        35
The rout early gather’d
In the town, round the temple,
Iacchus’ white fane
On yonder hill.
Quick I pass’d, following        40
The wood-cutters’ cart-track
Down the dark valley;—I saw
On my left, through the beeches,
Thy palace, Goddess,
Smokeless, empty!        45
Trembling, I enter’d; beheld
The court all silent,
The lions sleeping,
On the altar this bowl.
I drank, Goddess!        50
And sank 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,        55
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.        60
Come, stretch forth thy hand, then—so!
Drink—drink again!
The Youth
Thanks, gracious one!
Ah, the sweet fumes again!
More soft, ah me,        65
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 lured hither,
Wonderful Goddess, by thy art,
The young, languid-eyed Ampelus,
Iacchus’ darling—
Or some youth beloved of Pan,        80
Of Pan and the Nymphs?
That he sits, bending downward
His white, delicate neck
To the ivy-wreathed marge
Of thy cup; the bright, glancing vine-leaves        85
That crown his hair,
Falling forward, mingling
With the dark ivy-plants—
His fawn-skin, half untied,
Smear’d with red wine-stains? Who is he,        90
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?        95
Hist! he wakes!
I lured him not hither, Ulysses.
Nay, ask him!
The Youth
Who speaks? Ah, who comes forth
To thy side, Goddess, from within?        100
How shall I name him?
This spare, dark-featured,
Quick-eyed stranger?
Ah, and I see too
His sailor’s bonnet,        105
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?        110
Art thou he, stranger?
The wise Ulysses,
Laertes’ son?
I am Ulysses.
And thou, too, sleeper?        115
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;        120
And heard him delighting
The chiefs and people
In the banquet, and learn’d his songs,
Of Gods and Heroes,
Of war and arts,        125
And peopled cities,
Inland, or built
By the grey sea.—If so, then hail!
I honour and welcome thee.
The Youth
The Gods are happy.
They turn on all sides
Their shining eyes,
And see below them
The earth and men.
They see Tiresias        135
Sitting, staff in hand,
On the warm, grassy
Asopus bank,
His robe drawn over
His old, sightless head,        140
Revolving inly
The doom of Thebes.
They see the Centaurs
In the upper glens
Of Pelion, in the streams,        145
Where red-berried ashes fringe
The clear-brown shallow pools,
With streaming flanks, and heads
Rear’d proudly, snuffing
The mountain wind.        150
They see the Indian
Drifting, knife in hand,
His frail boat moor’d to
A floating isle thick-matted
With large-leaved, low-creeping melon-plants,        155
And the dark cucumber.
He reaps, and stows them,
Drifting—drifting;—round him,
Round his green harvest-plot,
Flow the cool lake-waves,        160
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—        165
Mares’ milk, and bread
Baked on the embers;—all around
The boundless, waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr’d
With saffron and the yellow hollyhock
And flag-leaved iris-flowers.        170
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,        175
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.        180
They see the ferry
On the broad, clay-laden
Lone Chorasmian stream;—thereon,
With snort and strain,
Two horses, strongly swimming, tow        185
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        190
The cowering merchants, in long robes,
Sit pale beside their weal
Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops,
Of gold and ivory,
Of turquoise-earth and amethyst,        195
Jasper and chalcedony,
And milk-barr’d onyx-stones.
The loaded boat swings groaning
In the yellow eddies;
The Gods behold them.        200
They see the Heroes
Sitting in the dark ship
On the foamless, long-heaving
Violet sea,
At sunset nearing        205
The Happy Islands.
These things, Ulysses,
The wise bards also
Behold and sing.
But oh, what labour!        210
O prince, what pain!
They too can see
Tiresias;—but the Gods,
Who give them vision,
Added this law:        215
That they should bear too
His groping blindness,
His dark foreboding,
His scorn’d white hairs;
Bear Hera’s anger        220
Through a life lengthen’d
To seven ages.
They see the Centaurs
On Pelion;—then they feel,
They too, the maddening wine        225
Swell their large veins to bursting; in wild pain
They feel the biting spears
Of the grim Lapithæ, and Theseus, drive,
Drive crashing through their bones; they feel
High on a jutting rock in the red stream        230
Alcmena’s dreadful son
Ply his bow;—such a price
The Gods exact for song:
To become what we sing.
They see the Indian        235
On his mountain lake; but squalls
Make their skiff reel, and worms
In the unkind spring have gnawn
Their melon-harvest to the heart.—They see
The Scythian; but long frosts        240
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        245
Must visit first them too, and make them pale.
Whether, through whirling sand,
A cloud of desert robber-horse have burst
Upon their caravan; or greedy kings,
In the wall’d cities the way passes through,        250
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        255
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.        260
The old Silenus
Came, lolling in the sunshine,
From the dewy forest-coverts
This way, at noon.
Sitting by me, while his Fauns        265
Down at the water-side
Sprinkled and smoothed
His drooping garland,
He told me these things.
But I, Ulysses,        270
Sitting on the warm steps,
Looking over the valley,
All day long, have seen,
Without pain, without labour,
Sometimes a wild-hair’d Mænad—        275
Sometimes a Faun with torches—
And sometimes, for a moment,
Passing through the dark stems
Flowing-robed, the beloved,
The desired, the divine,        280
Beloved Iacchus.
Ah, cool night-wind, tremulous stars!
Ah, glimmering water,
Fitful earth-murmur,
Dreaming woods!        285
Ah, golden-hair’d, strangely smiling Goddess,
And thou, proved, much enduring,
Wave-toss’d Wanderer!
Who can stand still?
Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me—        290
The cup again!
Faster, faster,
O Circe, Goddess,
Let the wild, thronging train,
The bright procession        295
Of eddying forms,
Sweep through my soul!

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