Empedocles on Etna


Matthew Arnold

            YE storm-winds of Autumn
        Who rush by, who shake
        The window, and ruffle
        The gleam-lighted lake;
        Who cross to the hill-side
        Thin-sprinkled with farms,
        Where the high woods strip sadly
        Their yellowing arms;—
            Ye are bound for the mountains—
        Ah, with you let me go
        Where your cold distant barrier,
        The vast range of snow,
        Through the loose clouds lifts dimly
        Its white peaks in air—
        How deep is their stillness!
        Ah! would I were there!

    But on the stairs what voice is this I hear,
Buoyant as morning, and as morning clear?
Say, has some wet bird-haunted English lawn
Lent it the music of its trees at dawn?
Or was it from some sun-fleck’d mountain-brook
That the sweet voice its upland clearness took?
            Ah! it comes nearer—
            Sweet notes, this way!

        Hark! fast by the window
        The rushing winds go,
        To the ice-cumber’d gorges,
        The vast seas of snow.
        There the torrents drive upward
        Their rock-strangled hum,
        There the avalanche thunders
        The hoarse torrent dumb.
        —I come, O ye mountains!
        Ye torrents, I come!

But who is this, by the half-open’d door,
Whose figure casts a shadow on the floor
The sweet blue eyes—the soft, ash-colour’d hair—
The cheeks that still their gentle paleness wear—
The lovely lips, with their arch smile, that tells
The unconquer’d joy in which her spirit dwells—
            Ah! they bend nearer—
            Sweet lips, this way!

        Hark! the wind rushes past us—
        Ah! with that let me go
        To the clear waning hill-side
        Unspotted by snow,
        There to watch, o’er the sunk vale,
        The frore mountain wall,
        Where the nich’d snow-bed sprays down
        Its powdery fall.
        There its dusky blue clusters
        The aconite spreads;
        There the pines slope, the cloud-strips
        Hung soft in their heads.
        No life but, at moments,
        The mountain-bee’s hum.
        —I come, O ye mountains
        Ye pine-woods, I come!

        Forgive me! forgive me
            Ah, Marguerite, fain
        Would these arms reach to clasp thee:—
            But see! ’tis in vain.

        In the void air towards thee
            My strain’d arms are cast.
        But a sea rolls between us—
            Our different past.

        To the lips, ah! of others,
            Those lips have been prest,
        And others, ere I was,
            Were clasp’d to that breast;

        Far, far from each other
            Our spirits have grown.
        And what heart knows another?
            Ah! who knows his own?

        Blow, ye winds! lift me with you
            I come to the wild.
        Fold closely, O Nature!
            Thine arms round thy child.

        To thee only God granted
            A heart ever new:
        To all always open;
            To all always true.

        Ah, calm me! restore me
            And dry up my tears
        On thy high mountain platforms,
            Where Morn first appears,

        Where the white mists, for ever,
            Are spread and upfurl’d;
        In the stir of the forces
            Whence issued the world.

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