Verse > Matthew Arnold > Poems
Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems
The Strayed Reveller
[First published 1849. Reprinted 1853, ’54, ’57.]
The portico of Circe’s Palace.    Evening 1

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-cinctur’d,
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?
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 sunk 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!
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 lur’d hither,
Wonderful Goddess, by thy art,
The young, languid-ey’d Ampelus,
Iacchus’ darling—
Or some youth belov’d of Pan,        80
Of Pan and the Nymphs?
That he sits, bending downward
His white, delicate neck
To the ivy-wreath’d marge
Of thy cup:—the bright, glancing vine-leaves        85
That crown his hair;
Falling forwards, mingling
With the dark ivy-plants,
His fawn-skin, half united,
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 lur’d him not hither, Ulysses.
Nay, ask him!
Who speaks? Ah! Who comes forth
To thy side, Goddess, from within?        100
How shall I name him?
This spare, dark-featur’d,
Quick-ey’d 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 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-leav’d, 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
Bak’d on the embers:—all around
The boundless waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr’d
With saffron and the yellow hollyhock
And flag-leav’d 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 wealth
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 Lapithae, and Theseus, drive,
Drive crashing through their bones: they feel
High on a jutting rock in the red stream        230
Alcmena’s dreadful son 2
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 3 the unkind spring have gnaw’d
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 has 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 smooth’d
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 Maenad;        275
Sometimes a Faun with torches;
And sometimes, for a moment,
Passing through the dark stems
Flowing-rob’d—the belov’d,
The desir’d, the divine,        280
Belov’d 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, prov’d, 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!
Note 1. The portico of Circe’s Palace. Evening] First inserted in 1853. [back]
Note 2. Hercules. [back]
Note 3. In] I’ 1849. [back]

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