Empedocles on Etna

A Farewell

Matthew Arnold

MY HORSE’S feet beside the lake,
Where sweet the unbroken moonbeams lay,
Sent echoes through the night to wake,
Each glistening strand, each heath-fringed bay.

The poplar avenue was pass’d,
And the roofed bridge that spans the stream,
Up the steep street I hurried fast,
Led by thy taper’s starlike beam.

I came! I saw thee rise:—the blood
Poured flushing to thy languid cheek.
Locked in each other’s arms we stood,
In tears, with hearts too full to speak.

Days flew; ah, soon I could discern
A trouble in thine altered air.
Thy hand lay languidly in mine—
Thy cheek was grave, thy speech grew rare.

I blame thee not:—This heart, I know,
To be long lov’d was never fram’d,
For something in its depths doth glow
Too strange, too restless, too untam’d.

And women—things that live and move
Mined by the fever of the soul—
They seek to find in those they love
Stern strength, and promise of control.

They ask not kindness, gentle ways;
These they themselves have tried and known:
They ask a soul which never sways
With the blind gusts that shake their own.

I too have felt the load I bore
In a too strong emotion’s sway;
I too have wish’d, no woman more,
This starting, feverish heart away:

I too have long’d for trenchant force,
And will like a dividing spear;
Have prais’d the keen, unscrupulous course,
Which knows no doubt, which feels no fear.

But in the world I learnt, what there
Thou too wilt surely one day prove,
That will, that energy, though rare,
Are yet far, far less rare than love.

Go, then! till time and fate impress
This truth on thee, be mine no more!
They will: for thou, I feel, not less
Than I, wast destined to this lore.

We school our manners, act our parts:
But He, who sees us through and through
Knows that the bent of both our hearts
Was to be gentle, tranquil, true.

And though we wear out life, alas,
Distracted as a homeless wind,
In beating where we must not pass,
In seeking what we shall not find;

Yet we shall one day gain, life past,
Clear prospect o’er our being’s whole;
Shall see ourselves, and learn at last
Our true affinities of soul.

We shall not then deny a course
To every thought the mass ignore;
We shall not then call hardness force,
Nor lightness wisdom any more.

Then, in the eternal Father’s smile,
Our soothed, encouraged souls will dare
To seem as free from pride and guile,
As good, as generous, as they are.

Then we shall know our friends: though much
Will have been lost—the help in strife;
The thousand sweet, still joys of such
As hand in hand face earthly life;—

Though these be lost, there will be yet
A sympathy august and pure;
Ennobled by a vast regret,
And by contrition sealed thrice sure.

And we, whose ways were unlike here,
May then more neighbouring courses ply;
May to each other be brought near,
And greet across infinity.

How sweet, unreached by earthly jars,
My sister! to maintain with thee
The hush among the shining stars,
The calm upon the moonlit sea.

How sweet to feel, on the boon air,
All our unquiet pulses cease;
To feel that nothing can impair,
The gentleness, the thirst for peace—

The gentleness too rudely hurl’d
On this wild earth of hate and fear:
The thirst for peace a raving world
Would never let us satiate here.

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