Verse > Matthew Arnold > Poems
Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems
To Marguerite, in Returning a Volume of the Letters of Ortis
[First published 1852. Reprinted 1853, ’54, ’57.]

YES: 1 in the sea of life enisl’d,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone.
  The islands feel the enclasping flow,        5
And then their endless bounds they know.
But when the moon their hollows lights
And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
The nightingales divinely sing;        10
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour;
Oh then a longing like despair
Is to their farthest caverns sent;
For surely once, they feel, we were        15
Parts of a single continent.
Now round us spreads the watery plain—
Oh might our marges meet again!
Who order’d, that their longing’s fire
Should be, as soon as kindled, cool’d?        20
Who renders vain their deep desire?—
  A God, a God their severance rul’d;
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.
Note 1. To Marguerite Title] Switzerland. V. To Marguerite 1853. Switzerland. VI. To Marguerite 1854. Switzerland. VII. Isolation 1857. [back]

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