Verse > Matthew Arnold > Poems
Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
Poems; A New Edition. 1853
[First published 1853. Reprinted 1854, ’57.]

HARK! 1 ah, the Nightingale!
The tawny-throated!
Hark! from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
What triumph! hark—what pain!
O Wanderer from a Grecian shore,        5
Still, after many years, in distant lands,
Still nourishing in thy bewilder’d brain
That wild, unquench’d, deep-sunken, old-world pain—
  Say, will it never heal?
And can this fragrant lawn        10
With its cool trees, and night,
And the sweet, tranquil Thames,
And moonshine, and the dew,
To thy rack’d heart and brain
  Afford no balm?        15
  Dost thou to-night behold
Here, through the moonlight on this English grass,
The unfriendly palace in the Thracian wild?
  Dost thou again peruse
With hot cheeks and sear’d eyes        20
The too clear web, and thy dumb Sister’s shame?
  Dost thou once more assay
Thy flight, and feel come over thee,
Poor Fugitive, the feathery change
Once more, and once more seem to make resound        25
With love and hate, triumph and agony,
Lone Daulis, and the high Cephissian vale?
  Listen, Eugenia—
How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
  Again—hearest!        30
Eternal Passion!
Eternal Pain!
Note 1. PHILOMELA: one of the two daughters of Pandion, king of Attica; Tereus seduced her, feigning that her sister Procne, whom he had married, was dead. The dumb sister (l. 21) is Procne, whose tongue Tereus had cut out. The two sisters revenged themselves by killing Tereus’s son Itys; they then fled and, being overtaken, were changed by the gods into birds, Procne becoming a swallow, Philomela a nightingale. (This is the form of the story chosen by Arnold; another version changes the parts assigned to the two sisters.) [back]

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