Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Stanzas in Memory of the Author of ‘Obermann’
By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

(See full text.)

IN front the awful Alpine track
  Crawls up its rocky stair;
The autumn storm-winds drive the rack,
  Close o’er it, in the air.
Behind are the abandoned baths        5
  Mute in their meadows lone;
The leaves are on the valley-paths,
  The mists are on the Rhone—
The white mists rolling like a sea!
  I hear the torrents roar.        10
—Yes, Obermann, all speaks of thee;
  I feel thee near once more.
I turn thy leaves! I feel their breath
  Once more upon me roll;
That air of languor, cold, and death,        15
  Which brooded o’er thy soul.
Fly hence, poor wretch, whoe’er thou art,
  Condemned to cast about,
All shipwreck in thy own weak heart,
  For comfort from without!        20
A fever in these pages burns
  Beneath the calm they feign;
A wounded human spirit turns,
  Here, on its bed of pain.
Yes, though the virgin mountain-air        25
  Fresh through these pages blows;
Though to these leaves the glaciers spare
  The soul of their mute snows;
Though here a mountain-murmur swells
  Of many a dark-boughed pine;        30
Though, as you read, you hear the bells
  Of the high-pasturing kine—
Yet, through the hum of torrent lone,
  And brooding mountain-bee,
There sobs I know not what ground-tone        35
  Of human agony.
Is it for this, because the sound
  Is fraught too deep with pain,
That, Obermann! the world around
  So little loves thy strain?
*        *        *        *        *
And then we turn, thou sadder sage,
  To thee! we feel thy spell!
—The hopeless tangle of our age,
  Thou too hast scanned it well!
Immovable thou sittest, still        45
  As death, composed to bear!
Thy head is clear, thy feeling chill,
  And icy thy despair.
*        *        *        *        *
He who hath watched, not shared, the strife,
  Knows how the day hath gone.        50
He only lives with the world’s life
  Who hath renounced his own.
To thee we come, then! Clouds are rolled
  Where thou, O seer! art set;
Thy realm of thought is drear and cold—        55
  The world is colder yet!
And thou hast pleasures, too, to share
  With those who come to thee—
Balms floating on thy mountain-air,
  And healing sights to see.        60
How often, where the slopes are green
  On Jaman, hast thou sate
By some high chalet-door, and seen
  The summer-day grow late;
And darkness steal o’er the wet grass        65
  With the pale crocus starr’d,
And reach that glimmering sheet of glass
  Beneath the piny sward,
Lake Leman’s waters, far below!
  And watched the rosy light        70
Fade from the distant peaks of snow;
  And on the air of night
Heard accents of the eternal tongue
  Through the pine branches play—
Listened and felt thyself grow young!        75
  Listened, and wept—Away!
Away the dreams that but deceive!
  And thou, sad guide, adieu!
I go, fate drives me; but I leave
  Half of my life with you.        80
We, in some unknown Power’s employ,
  Move on a rigorous line;
Can neither, when we will, enjoy,
  Nor, when we will, resign.
I in the world must live;—but thou,        85
  Thou melancholy shade!
Wilt not, if thou can’st see me now,
  Condemn me, nor upbraid.
For thou art gone away from earth,
  And place with those dost claim,        90
The Children of the Second Birth,
  Whom the world could not tame.
*        *        *        *        *
Farewell!—Whether thou now liest near
  That much-loved inland sea,
The ripples of whose blue waves cheer        95
  Vevey and Meillerie;
And in that gracious region bland,
  Where with clear-rustling wave
The scented pines of Switzerland
  Stand dark round thy green grave,        100
Between the dusty vineyard-walls
  Issuing on that green place,
The early peasant still recalls
  The pensive stranger’s face,
And stoops to clear thy moss-grown date        105
  Ere he plods on again;—
Or whether, by maligner fate,
  Among the swarms of men,
Where between granite terraces
  The blue Seine rolls her wave,        110
The Capital of Pleasures sees
  Thy hardly-heard-of grave;—
Farewell! Under the sky we part,
  In this stern Alpine dell.
O unstrung will! O broken heart!        115
  A last, a last farewell!

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