13+ Best Matthew Arnold Poems You Need To Read

Matthew Arnold was an English poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools.

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Famous Matthew Arnold Poems

The Strayed Reveller

The Youth

Faster, faster,
O Circe, Goddess,
Let the wild, thronging train
The bright procession
Of eddying forms,
Sweep through my soul!
Thou standest, smiling
Down on me! thy right arm,
Lean’d up against the column there,
Props thy soft cheek;
Thy left holds, hanging loosely,
The deep cup, ivy-cinctured,
I held but now.
Is it, then, evening
So soon? I see, the night-dews,
Cluster’d in thick beads, dim
The agate brooch-stones
On thy white shoulder;
The cool night-wind, too,
Blows through the portico,
Stirs thy hair, Goddess,
Waves thy white robe!

Circe.

Whence art thou, sleeper?

The Youth.

When the white dawn first
Through the rough fir-planks
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;
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
The rout early gather’d
In the town, round the temple,
Iacchus’ white fane
On yonder hill.
Quick I pass’d, following
The wood-cutters’ cart-track
Down the dark valley;-I saw
On my left, through the beeches,
Thy palace, Goddess,
Smokeless, empty!
Trembling, I enter’d; beheld
The court all silent,
The lions sleeping,
On the altar this bowl.
I drank, Goddess!
And sank down here, sleeping,
On the steps of thy portico.

Circe.

Foolish boy! Why tremblest thou?
Thou lovest it, then, my wine?
Wouldst more of it? See, how glows,
Through the delicate, flush’d marble,
The red, creaming liquor,
Strown with dark seeds!
Drink, thee! I chide thee not,
Deny thee not my bowl.
Come, stretch forth thy hand, thee-so!
Drink-drink again!

The Youth.

Thanks, gracious one!
Ah, the sweet fumes again!
More soft, ah me,
More subtle-winding
Than Pan’s flute-music!
Faint-faint! Ah me,
Again the sweet sleep!

Circe.

Hist! Thou-within there!
Come forth, Ulysses!
Art tired with hunting?
While we range the woodland,
See what the day brings.

Ulysses.

Ever new magic!
Hast thou then lured hither,
Wonderful Goddess, by thy art,
The young, languid-eyed Ampelus,
Iacchus’ darling-
Or some youth beloved of Pan,
Of Pan and the Nymphs?
That he sits, bending downward
His white, delicate neck
To the ivy-wreathed marge
Of thy cup; the bright, glancing vine-leaves
That crown his hair,
Falling forward, mingling
With the dark ivy-plants–
His fawn-skin, half untied,
Smear’d with red wine-stains? Who is he,
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?

Circe.

Hist! he wakes!
I lured him not hither, Ulysses.
Nay, ask him!

The Youth.

Who speaks’ Ah, who comes forth
To thy side, Goddess, from within?
How shall I name him?
This spare, dark-featured,
Quick-eyed stranger?
Ah, and I see too
His sailor’s bonnet,
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?
Art thou he, stranger?
The wise Ulysses,
Laertes’ son?

Ulysses.

I am Ulysses.
And thou, too, sleeper?
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;
And heard him delighting
The chiefs and people
In the banquet, and learn’d his songs.
Of Gods and Heroes,
Of war and arts,
And peopled cities,
Inland, or built
By the gray sea.-If so, then hail!
I honour and welcome thee.

The Youth.

The Gods are happy.
They turn on all sides
Their shining eyes,
And see below them
The earth and men.
They see Tiresias
Sitting, staff in hand,
On the warm, grassy
Asopus bank,
His robe drawn over
His old sightless head,
Revolving inly
The doom of Thebes.
They see the Centaurs
In the upper glens
Of Pelion, in the streams,
Where red-berried ashes fringe
The clear-brown shallow pools,
With streaming flanks, and heads
Rear’d proudly, snuffing
The mountain wind.
They see the Indian
Drifting, knife in hand,
His frail boat moor’d to
A floating isle thick-matted
With large-leaved, low-creeping melon-plants
And the dark cucumber.
He reaps, and stows them,
Drifting–drifting;–round him,
Round his green harvest-plot,
Flow the cool lake-waves,
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–
Mares’ milk, and bread
Baked on the embers;–all around
The boundless, waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr’d
With saffron and the yellow hollyhock
And flag-leaved iris-flowers.
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,
Furrows the rich soil; here and there
Cluster of lonely mounds
Topp’d with rough-hewn,
Gray, rain-blear’d statues, overpeer
The sunny waste.
They see the ferry
On the broad, clay-laden
Lone Chorasmian stream;–thereon,
With snort and strain,
Two horses, strongly swimming, tow
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
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,
Jasper and chalcedony,
And milk-barred onyx-stones.
The loaded boat swings groaning
In the yellow eddies;
The Gods behold him.
They see the Heroes
Sitting in the dark ship
On the foamless, long-heaving
Violet sea.
At sunset nearing
The Happy Islands.
These things, Ulysses,
The wise bards, also
Behold and sing.
But oh, what labour!
O prince, what pain!
They too can see
Tiresias;–but the Gods,
Who give them vision,
Added this law:
That they should bear too
His groping blindness,
His dark foreboding,
His scorn’d white hairs;
Bear Hera’s anger
Through a life lengthen’d
To seven ages.
They see the Centaurs
On Pelion:–then they feel,
They too, the maddening wine
Swell their large veins to bursting; in wild pain
They feel the biting spears
Of the grim Lapithæ, and Theseus, drive,
Drive crashing through their bones; they feel
High on a jutting rock in the red stream
Alcmena’s dreadful son
Ply his bow;–such a price
The Gods exact for song:
To become what we sing.
They see the Indian
On his mountain lake; but squalls
Make their skiff reel, and worms
In the unkind spring have gnawn
Their melon-harvest to the heart.–They see
The Scythian: but long frosts
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
Must visit first them too, and make them pale.
Whether, through whirling sand,
A cloud of desert robber-horse have burst
Upon their caravan; or greedy kings,
In the wall’d cities the way passes through,
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
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.
The old Silenus
Came, lolling in the sunshine,
From the dewy forest-coverts,
This way at noon.
Sitting by me, while his Fauns
Down at the water-side
Sprinkled and smoothed
His drooping garland,
He told me these things.
But I, Ulysses,
Sitting on the warm steps,
Looking over the valley,
All day long, have seen,
Without pain, without labour,
Sometimes a wild-hair’d Mænad–
Sometimes a Faun with torches–
And sometimes, for a moment,
Passing through the dark stems
Flowing-robed, the beloved,
The desired, the divine,
Beloved Iacchus.
Ah, cool night-wind, tremulous stars!
Ah, glimmering water,
Fitful earth-murmur,
Dreaming woods!
Ah, golden-haired, strangely smiling Goddess,
And thou, proved, much enduring,
Wave-toss’d Wanderer!
Who can stand still?
Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me–
The cup again!
Faster, faster,
O Circe, Goddess.
Let the wild, thronging train,
The bright procession
Of eddying forms,
Sweep through my soul!

To A Republican Friend

God knows it, I am with you. If to prize
Those virtues, priz’d and practis’d by too few,
But priz’d, but lov’d, but eminent in you,
Man’s fundamental life: if to despise
The barren optimistic sophistries
Of comfortable moles, whom what they do
Teaches the limit of the just and true–
And for such doing have no need of eyes:
If sadness at teh long heart-wasting show
Wherein earth’s great ones are disquieted:
If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed:–
If these are yours, if this is what you are,
Then am I yours, and what you feel, I share.

The Better Part

Long fed on boundless hopes, O race of man,
How angrily thou spurn’st all simpler fare!
‘Christ,’ some one says, ‘was human as we are;
No judge eyes us from Heaven, our sin to scan;
We live no more when we have done our span.’–
‘Well, then, for Christ,’ thou answerest, ‘who can care?
From sin, which Heaven records not, why forbear?
Live we like brutes our life without a plan!’
So answerest thou; but why not rather say,
‘Hath man no second life?–Pitch this one high!
Sits there no judge in Heaven our sin to see?–
More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!
Was Christ a man like us?–Ah! let us try
If we then, too, can be such men as he!’

Obermann Once More

Glion?–Ah, twenty years, it cuts
All meaning from a name!
White houses prank where once were huts.
Glion, but not the same!

And yet I know not! All unchanged
The turf, the pines, the sky!
The hills in their old order ranged;
The lake, with Chillon by!

And, ‘neath those chestnut-trees, where stiff
And stony mounts the way,
The crackling husk-heaps burn, as if
I left them yesterday!

Across the valley, on that slope,
The huts of Avant shine!
lts pines, under their branches, ope
Ways for the pasturing kine.

Full-foaming milk-pails, Alpine fare,
Sweet heaps of fresh-cut grass,
Invite to rest the traveller there
Before he climb the pass–

The gentian-flower’d pass, its crown
With yellow spires aflame;
Whence drops the path to Allière down,
And walls where Byron came,

By their green river, who doth change
His birth-name just below;
Orchard, and croft, and full-stored grange
Nursed by his pastoral flow.

But stop!–to fetch back thoughts that stray
Beyond this gracious bound,
The cone of Jaman, pale and gray,
See, in the blue profound!

Ah, Jaman! delicately tall
Above his sun-warm’d firs–
What thoughts to me his rocks recall,
What memories he stirs!

And who but thou must be, in truth,
Obermann! with me here?
Thou master of my wandering youth,
But left this many a year!

Yes, I forget the world’s work wrought,
Its warfare waged with pain;
An eremite with thee, in thought
Once more I slip my chain,

And to thy mountain-chalet come,
And lie beside its door,
And hear the wild bee’s Alpine hum,
And thy sad, tranquil lore!

Again I feel the words inspire
Their mournful calm; serene,
Yet tinged with infinite desire
For all that might have been–

The harmony from which man swerved
Made his life’s rule once more!
The universal order served,
Earth happier than before!

–While thus I mused, night gently ran
Down over hill and wood.
Then, still and sudden, Obermann
On the grass near me stood.

Those pensive features well I knew,
On my mind, years before,
Imaged so oft! imaged so true!
–A shepherd’s garb he wore,

A mountain-flower was in his hand,
A book was in his breast.
Bent on my face, with gaze which scann’d
My soul, his eyes did rest.

‘And is it thou,’ he cried, ‘so long
Held by the world which we
Loved not, who turnest from the throng
Back to thy youth and me?

‘And from thy world, with heart opprest,
Choosest thou now to turn?–
Ah me! we anchorites read things best,
Clearest their course discern!

‘Thou fledst me when the ungenial earth,
Man’s work-place, lay in gloom.
Return’st thou in her hour of birth,
Of hopes and hearts in bloom?

‘Perceiv’st thou not the change of day?
Ah! Carry back thy ken,
What, some two thousand years! Survey
The world as it was then!

‘Like ours it look’d in outward air.
Its head was clear and true,
Sumptuous its clothing, rich its fare,
No pause its action knew;

‘Stout was its arm, each thew and bone
Seem’d puissant and alive–
But, ah! its heart, its heart was stone,
And so it could not thrive!

‘On that hard Pagan world disgust
And secret loathing fell.
Deep weariness and sated lust
Made human life a hell.

‘In his cool hall, with haggard eyes,
The Roman noble lay;
He drove abroad, in furious guise,
Along the Appian way.

‘He made a feast, drank fierce and fast,
And crown’d his hair with flowers–
No easier nor no quicker pass’d
The impracticable hours.

‘The brooding East with awe beheld
Her impious younger world.
The Roman tempest swell’d and swell’d,
And on her head was hurl’d.

‘The East bow’d low before the blast
In patient, deep disdain;
She let the legions thunder past,
And plunged in thought again.

‘So well she mused, a morning broke
Across her spirit grey;
A conquering, new-born joy awoke,
And fill’d her life with day.

”Poor world,’ she cried, ‘so deep accurst,
That runn’st from pole to pole
To seek a draught to slake thy thirst–
Go, seek it in thy soul!’

‘She heard it, the victorious West,
In crown and sword array’d!
She felt the void which mined her breast,
She shiver’d and obey’d.

‘She veil’d her eagles, snapp’d her sword,
And laid her sceptre down;
Her stately purple she abhorr’d,
And her imperial crown.

‘She broke her flutes, she stopp’d her sports,
Her artists could not please;
She tore her books, she shut her courts,
She fled her palaces;

‘Lust of the eye and pride of life
She left it all behind,
And hurried, torn with inward strife,
The wilderness to find.

‘Tears wash’d the trouble from her face!
She changed into a child!
‘Mid weeds and wrecks she stood–a place
Of ruin–but she smiled!

‘Oh, had I lived in that great day,
How had its glory new
Fill’d earth and heaven, and caught away
My ravish’d spirit too!

‘No thoughts that to the world belong
Had stood against the wave
Of love which set so deep and strong
From Christ’s then open grave.

‘No cloister-floor of humid stone
Had been too cold for me.
For me no Eastern desert lone
Had been too far to flee.

‘No lonely life had pass’d too slow,
When I could hourly scan
Upon his Cross, with head sunk low,
That nail’d, thorn-crowned Man!

‘Could see the Mother with her Child
Whose tender winning arts
Have to his little arms beguiled
So many wounded hearts!

‘And centuries came and ran their course,
And unspent all that time
Still, still went forth that Child’s dear force,
And still was at its prime.

‘Ay, ages long endured his span
Of life–’tis true received–
That gracious Child, that thorn-crown’d Man!
–He lived while we believed.

‘While we believed, on earth he went,
And open stood his grave.
Men call’d from chamber, church, and tent;
And Christ was by to save.

‘Now he is dead! Far hence he lies
In the lorn Syrian town;
And on his grave, with shining eyes,
The Syrian stars look down.

‘In vain men still, with hoping new,
Regard his death-place dumb,
And say the stone is not yet to,
And wait for words to come.

‘Ah, o’er that silent sacred land,
Of sun, and arid stone,
And crumbling wall, and sultry sand,
Sounds now one word alone!

‘Unduped of fancy, henceforth man
Must labour!–must resign
His all too human creeds, and scan
Simply the way divine!

‘But slow that tide of common thought,
Which bathed our life, retired;
Slow, slow the old world wore to nought,
And pulse by pulse expired.

‘Its frame yet stood without a breach
When blood and warmth were fled;
And still it spake its wonted speech–
But every word was dead.

‘And oh, we cried, that on this corse
Might fall a freshening storm!
Rive its dry bones, and with new force
A new-sprung world inform!

‘–Down came the storm! O’er France it pass’d
In sheets of scathing fire;
All Europe felt that fiery blast,
And shook as it rush’d by her.

‘Down came the storm! In ruins fell
The worn-out world we knew.
It pass’d, that elemental swell!
Again appear’d the blue;

‘The sun shone in the new-wash’d sky,
And what from heaven saw he?
Blocks of the past, like icebergs high,
Float on a rolling sea!

‘Upon them plies the race of man
All it before endeavour’d;
‘Ye live,’ I cried, ‘ye work and plan,
And know not ye are sever’d!

”Poor fragments of a broken world
Whereon men pitch their tent!
Why were ye too to death not hurl’d
When your world’s day was spent?

”That glow of central fire is done
Which with its fusing flame
Knit all your parts, and kept you one–
But ye, ye are the same!

”The past, its mask of union on,
Had ceased to live and thrive.
The past, its mask of union gone,
Say, is it more alive?

”Your creeds are dead, your rites are dead,
Your social order too!
Where tarries he, the Power who said:
See, I make all things new?

”The millions suffer still, and grieve,
And what can helpers heal
With old-world cures men half believe
For woes they wholly feel?

”And yet men have such need of joy!
But joy whose grounds are true;
And joy that should all hearts employ
As when the past was new.

”Ah, not the emotion of that past,
Its common hope, were vain!
Some new such hope must dawn at last,
Or man must toss in pain.

”But now the old is out of date,
The new is not yet born,
And who can be alone elate,
While the world lies forlorn?’

‘Then to the wilderness I fled.–
There among Alpine snows
And pastoral huts I hid my head,
And sought and found repose.

‘It was not yet the appointed hour.
Sad, patient, and resign’d,
I watch’d the crocus fade and flower,
I felt the sun and wind.

‘The day I lived in was not mine,
Man gets no second day.
In dreams I saw the future shine–
But ah! I could not stay!

‘Action I had not, followers, fame;
I pass’d obscure, alone.
The after-world forgets my name,
Nor do I wish it known.

‘Composed to bear, I lived and died,
And knew my life was vain.
With fate I murmur not, nor chide;
At Sèvres by the Seine

‘(If Paris that brief flight allow)
My humble tomb explore!
It bears: Eternity, be thou
My refuge! and no more.

‘But thou, whom fellowship of mood
Did make from haunts of strife
Come to my mountain-solitude,
And learn my frustrate life;

‘O thou, who, ere thy flying span
Was past of cheerful youth,
Didst find the solitary man
And love his cheerless truth–

‘Despair not thou as I despair’d,
Nor be cold gloom thy prison!
Forward the gracious hours have fared,
And see! the sun is risen!

‘He breaks the winter of the past;
A green, new earth appears.
Millions, whose life in ice lay fast,
Have thoughts, and smiles, and tears.

‘What though there still need effort, strife?
Though much be still unwon?
Yet warm it mounts, the hour of life!
Death’s frozen hour is done!

‘The world’s great order dawns in sheen,
After long darkness rude,
Divinelier imaged, clearer seen,
With happier zeal pursued.

‘With hope extinct and brow composed
I mark’d the present die;
Its term of life was nearly closed,
Yet it had more than I.

‘But thou, though to the world’s new hour
Thou come with aspect marr’d,
Shorn of the joy, the bloom, the power,
Which best befits its bard–

‘Though more than half thy years be past,
And spent thy youthful prime;
Though, round thy firmer manhood cast,
Hang weeds of our sad time

‘Whereof thy youth felt all the spell,
And traversed all the shade–
Though late, though dimm’d, though weak, yet tell
Hope to a world new-made!

‘Help it to fill that deep desire,
The want which rack’d our brain,
Consumed our heart with thirst like fire,
Immedicable pain;

‘Which to the wilderness drove out
Our life, to Alpine snow,
And palsied all our word with doubt,
And all our work with woe–

‘What still of strength is left, employ
That end to help attain:
One common wave of thought and joy
Lifting mankind again!’

–The vision ended. I awoke
As out of sleep, and no
Voice moved;–only the torrent broke
The silence, far below.

Soft darkness on the turf did lie.
Solemn, o’er hut and wood,
In the yet star-sown nightly sky,
The peak of Jaman stood.

Still in my soul the voice I heard
Of Obermann!–away
I turn’d; by some vague impulse stirr’d,
Along the rocks of Naye

Past Sonchaud’s piny flanks I gaze
And the blanch’d summit bare
Of Malatrait, to where in haze
The Valais opens fair,

And the domed Velan, with his snows,
Behind the upcrowding hills,
Doth all the heavenly opening close
Which the Rhone’s murmur fills–

And glorious there, without a sound,
Across the glimmering lake,
High in the Valais-depth profound,
I saw the morning break.

Mycerinus

Not by the justice that my father spurn’d,
Not for the thousands whom my father slew,
Altars unfed and temples overturn’d,
Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks are due;
Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie,
Stern sentence of the Powers of Destiny.

‘I will unfold my sentence and my crime.
My crime–that, rapt in reverential awe,
I sate obedient, in the fiery prime
Of youth, self-govern’d, at the feet of Law;
Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings,
By contemplation of diviner things.

‘My father loved injustice, and lived long;
Crown’d with grey hairs he died, and full of sway.
I loved the good he scorn’d, and hated wrong–
The Gods declare my recompense to-day.
I look’d for life more lasting, rule more high;
And when six years are measured, lo, I die!

‘Yet surely, O my people, did I deem
Man’s justice from the all-just Gods was given;
A light that from some upper fount did beam,
Some better archetype, whose seat was heaven;
A light that, shining from the blest abodes,
Did shadow somewhat of the life of Gods.

‘Mere phantoms of man’s self-tormenting heart,
Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed!
Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then depart
When the duped soul, self-master’d, claims its meed;
When, on the strenuous just man, Heaven bestows,
Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close!

‘Seems it so light a thing, then, austere Powers,
To spurn man’s common lure, life’s pleasant things?
Seems there no joy in dances crown’d with flowers,
Love, free to range, and regal banquetings?
Bend ye on these, indeed, an unmoved eye,
Not Gods but ghosts, in frozen apathy?

‘Or is it that some Force, too wise, too strong,
Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile,
Sweeps earth, and heaven, and men, and Gods along,
Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile?
And the great powers we serve, themselves may be
Slaves of a tyrannous necessity?

‘Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden cars,
Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight,
And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars,
Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night?
Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzling sheen,
Drinking deep draughts of joy, ye dwell serene?

‘Oh, wherefore cheat our youth, if thus it be,
Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream?
Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see,
Blind divinations of a will supreme;
Lost labour! when the circumambient gloom
But hides, if Gods, Gods careless of our doom?

‘The rest I give to joy. Even while I speak,
My sand runs short; and–as yon star-shot ray,
Hemm’d by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak,
Now, as the barrier closes, dies away–
Even so do past and future intertwine,
Blotting this six years’ space, which yet is mine.

‘Six years–six little years–six drops of time!
Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane,
And old men die, and young men pass their prime,
And languid pleasure fade and flower again,
And the dull Gods behold, ere these are flown,
Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.

‘Into the silence of the groves and woods
I will go forth; though something would I say–
Something–yet what, I know not; for the Gods
The doom they pass revoke not, nor delay;
And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all,
And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.

‘Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king!
I go, and I return not. But the will
Of the great Gods is plain; and ye must bring
Ill deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfil
Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise,
The praise of Gods, rich boon! and length of days.’

–So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn;
And one loud cry of grief and of amaze
Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake,
And turning, left them there; and with brief pause,
Girt with a throng of revellers, bent his way
To the cool region of the groves he loved.
There by the river-banks he wander’d on,
From palm-grove on to palm-grove, happy trees,
Their smooth tops shining sunward, and beneath
Burying their unsunn’d stems in grass and flowers;
Where in one dream the feverish time of youth
Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy
Might wander all day long and never tire.
Here came the king, holding high feast, at morn,
Rose-crown’d; and ever, when the sun went down,
A hundred lamps beam’d in the tranquil gloom,
From tree to tree all through the twinkling grove,
Revealing all the tumult of the feast–
Flush’d guests, and golden goblets foam’d with wine;
While the deep-burnish’d foliage overhead
Splinter’d the silver arrows of the moon.

It may be that sometimes his wondering soul
From the loud joyful laughter of his lips
Might shrink half startled, like a guilty man
Who wrestles with his dream; as some pale shape
Gliding half hidden through the dusky stems,
Would thrust a hand before the lifted bowl,
Whispering: A little space, and thou art mine!
It may be on that joyless feast his eye
Dwelt with mere outward seeming; he, within,
Took measure of his soul, and knew its strength,
And by that silent knowledge, day by day,
Was calm’d, ennobled, comforted, sustain’d.
It may be; but not less his brow was smooth,
And his clear laugh fled ringing through the gloom,
And his mirth quail’d not at the mild reproof
Sigh’d out by winter’s sad tranquillity;
Nor, pall’d with its own fulness, ebb’d and died
In the rich languor of long summer-days;
Nor wither’d when the palm-tree plumes, that roof’d
With their mild dark his grassy banquet-hall,
Bent to the cold winds of the showerless spring;
No, nor grew dark when autumn brought the clouds.

So six long years he revell’d, night and day.
And when the mirth wax’d loudest, with dull sound
Sometimes from the grove’s centre echoes came,
To tell his wondering people of their king;
In the still night, across the steaming flats,
Mix’d with the murmur of the moving Nile.

Kaiser Dead

What, Kaiser dead? The heavy news
Post-haste to Cobham calls the Muse,
From where in Farringford she brews
The ode sublime,
Or with Pen-bryn’s bold bard pursues
A rival rhyme.

Kai’s bracelet tail, Kai’s busy feet,
Were known to all the village-street.
‘What, poor Kai dead?’ say all I meet;
‘A loss indeed!’
O for the croon pathetic, sweet,
Of Robin’s reed !

Six years ago I brought him down,
A baby dog, from London town;
Round his small throat of black and brown
A ribbon blue,
And vouch’d by glorious renown
A dachshound true.

His mother, most majestic dame,
Of blood-unmix’d, from Potsdam came;
And Kaiser’s race we deem’d the same–
No lineage higher.
And so he bore the imperial name.
But ah, his sire!

Soon, soon the days conviction bring.
The collie hair, the collie swing,
The tail’s indomitable ring,
The eye’s unrest–
The case was clear; a mongrel thing
Kai stood confest.

But all those virtues, which commend
The humbler sort who serve and tend,
Were thine in store, thou faithful friend.
What sense, what cheer!
To us, declining tow’rds our end,
A mate how dear!

For Max, thy brother-dog, began
To flag, and feel his narrowing span.
And cold, besides, his blue blood ran,
Since, ‘gainst the classes,
He heard, of late, the Grand Old Man
Incite the masses.

Yes, Max and we grew slow and sad;
But Kai, a tireless shepherd-lad,
Teeming with plans, alert, and glad
In work or play,
Like sunshine went and came, and bade
Live out the day!

Still, still I see the figure smart–
Trophy in mouth, agog to start,
Then, home return’d, once more depart;
Or prest together
Against thy mistress, loving heart,
In winter weather.

I see the tail, like bracelet twirl’d,
In moments of disgrace uncurl’d,
Then at a pardoning word re-furl’d,
A conquering sign;
Crying, ‘Come on, and range the world,
And never pine.’

Thine eye was bright, thy coat it shone;
Thou hast thine errands, off and on;
In joy thy last morn flew; anon,
A fit! All’s over;
And thou art gone where Geist hath gone,
And Toss, and Rover.

Poor Max, with downcast, reverent head,
Regards his brother’s form outspread;
Full well Max knows the friend is dead
Whose cordial talk,
And jokes in doggish language said,
Beguiled his walk.

And Glory, stretch’d at Burwood gate,
Thy passing by doth vainly wait;
And jealous Jock, thy only hate,
The chiel from Skye,
Lets from his shaggy Highland pate
Thy memory die.

Well, fetch his graven collar fine,
And rub the steel, and make it shine,
And leave it round thy neck to twine,
Kai, in thy grave.
There of thy master keep that sign,
And this plain stave.

Youth’s Agitations

When I shall be divorced, some ten years hence,
From this poor present self which I am now;
When youth has done its tedious vain expense
Of passions that for ever ebb and flow;

Shall I not joy youth’s heats are left behind,
And breathe more happy in an even clime ?–
Ah no, for then I shall begin to find
A thousand virtues in this hated time!

Then I shall wish its agitations back,
And all its thwarting currents of desire;
Then I shall praise the heat which then I lack,
And call this hurrying fever, generous fire;

And sigh that one thing only has been lent
To youth and age in common–discontent.

When I shall be divorced, some ten years hence,
From this poor present self which I am now;
When youth has done its tedious vain expense
Of passions that for ever ebb and flow;

Shall I not joy youth’s heats are left behind,
And breathe more happy in an even clime ?–
Ah no, for then I shall begin to find
A thousand virtues in this hated time!

Then I shall wish its agitations back,
And all its thwarting currents of desire;
Then I shall praise the heat which then I lack,
And call this hurrying fever, generous fire;

And sigh that one thing only has been lent
To youth and age in common–discontent.

Saint Brandan

Saint Brandan sails the northern main;
The brotherhood of saints are glad.
He greets them once, he sails again;
So late!—such storms!—The Saint is mad!

He heard, across the howling seas,
Chime convent-bells on wintry nights;
He saw, on spray-swept Hebrides,
Twinkle the monastery-lights;

But north, still north, Saint Brandan steer’d—
And now no bells, no convents more!
The hurtling Polar lights are near’d,
The sea without a human shore.

At last—(it was the Christmas night;
Stars shone after a day of storm)—
He sees float past an iceberg white,
And on it—Christ!—a living form.

That furtive mien, that scowling eye,
Of hair that red and tufted fell—
It is—Oh, where shall Brandan fly?—
The traitor Judas, out of hell!

Palsied with terror, Brandan sate;
The moon was bright, the iceberg near.
He hears a voice sigh humbly: ‘Wait!
By high permission I am here.

‘One moment wait, thou holy man
On earth my crime, my death, they knew;
My name is under all men’s ban—
Ah, tell them of my respite too!

‘Tell them, one blessed Christmas-night—
(It was the first after I came,
Breathing self-murder, frenzy, spite,
To rue my guilt in endless flame)—

‘I felt, as I in torment lay
‘Mid the souls plagued by heavenly power,
An angel touch my arm, and say:
Go hence, and cool thyself an hour!

”Ah, whence this mercy, Lord?’ I said.
The Leper recollect, said he,
Who ask’d the passers-by for aid,
In Joppa, and thy charity.

‘Then I remember’d how I went,
In Joppa, through the public street,
One morn when the sirocco spent
Its storms of dust with burning heat;

‘And in the street a leper sate,
Shivering with fever, naked, old;
Sand raked his sores from heel to pate,
The hot wind fever’d him five-fold.

‘He gazed upon me as I pass’d
And murmur’d: Help me, or I die!—
To the poor wretch my cloak I cast,
Saw him look eased, and hurried by.

‘Oh, Brandan, think what grace divine,
What blessing must full goodness shower,
When fragment of it small, like mine,
Hath such inestimable power!

‘Well-fed, well-clothed, well-friended, I
Did that chance act of good, that one!
Then went my way to kill and lie—
Forgot my good as soon as done.

‘That germ of kindness, in the womb
Of mercy caught, did not expire;
Outlives my guilt, outlives my doom,
And friends me in the pit of fire.

‘Once every year, when carols wake,
On earth, the Christmas-night’s repose,
Arising from the sinner’s lake,
I journey to these healing snows.

‘I stanch with ice my burning breast,
With silence balm my whirling brain.
Oh, Brandan! to this hour of rest
That Joppan leper’s ease was pain.’—

Tears started to Saint Brandan’s eyes;
He bow’d his head, he breathed a prayer—
Then look’d, and lo, the frosty skies!
The iceberg, and no Judas there!

The Church Of Brou

THE CASTLE

Down the Savoy valleys sounding,
Echoing round this castle old,
‘Mid the distant mountain-chalets
Hark! what bell for church is toll’d?

In the bright October morning
Savoy’s Duke had left his bride.
From the castle, past the drawbridge,
Flow’d the hunters’ merry tide.

Steeds are neighing, gallants glittering;
Gay, her smiling lord to greet,
From her mullion’d chamber-casement
Smiles the Duchess Marguerite.

From Vienna, by the Danube,
Here she came, a bride, in spring.
Now the autumn crisps the forest;
Hunters gather, bugles ring.

Hounds are pulling, prickers swearing,
Horses fret, and boar-spears glance.
Off!—They sweep the marshy forests.
Westward, on the side of France.

Hark! the game’s on foot; they scatter!—
Down the forest-ridings lone,
Furious, single horsemen gallop——
Hark! a shout—a crash—a groan!

Pale and breathless, came the hunters;
On the turf dead lies the boar—
God! the Duke lies stretch’d beside him,
Senseless, weltering in his gore.

In the dull October evening,
Down the leaf-strewn forest-road,
To the castle, past the drawbridge,
Came the hunters with their load.

In the hall, with sconces blazing,
Ladies waiting round her seat,
Clothed in smiles, beneath the dais
Sate the Duchess Marguerite.

Hark! below the gates unbarring!
Tramp of men and quick commands!
‘—’Tis my lord come back from hunting—’
And the Duchess claps her hands.

Slow and tired, came the hunters—
Stopp’d in darkness in the court.
‘—Ho, this way, ye laggard hunters!
To the hall! What sport? What sport?’—

Slow they enter’d with their master;
In the hall they laid him down.
On his coat were leaves and blood-stains,
On his brow an angry frown.

Dead her princely youthful husband
Lay before his youthful wife,
Bloody, ‘neath the flaring sconces—
And the sight froze all her life.

In Vienna, by the Danube,
Kings hold revel, gallants meet.
Gay of old amid the gayest
Was the Duchess Marguerite.

In Vienna, by the Danube,
Feast and dance her youth beguiled.
Till that hour she never sorrow’d;
But from then she never smiled.

‘Mid the Savoy mountain valleys
Far from town or haunt of man,
Stands a lonely church, unfinish’d,
Which the Duchess Maud began;

Old, that Duchess stern began it,
In grey age, with palsied hands;
But she died while it was building,
And the Church unfinish’d stands—

Stands as erst the builders left it,
When she sank into her grave;
Mountain greensward paves the chancel,
Harebells flower in the nave.

‘—In my castle all is sorrow,’
Said the Duchess Marguerite then;
‘Guide me, some one, to the mountain!
We will build the Church again.’—

Sandall’d palmers, faring homeward,
Austrian knights from Syria came.
‘—Austrian wanderers bring, O warders!
Homage to your Austrian dame.’—

From the gate the warders answer’d:
‘—Gone, O knights, is she you knew!
Dead our Duke, and gone his Duchess;
Seek her at the Church of Brou!’—

Austrian knights and march-worn palmers
Climb the winding mountain-way.—
Reach the valley, where the Fabric
Rises higher day by day.

Stones are sawing, hammers ringing;
On the work the bright sun shines,
In the Savoy mountain-meadows,
By the stream, below the pines.

On her palfry white the Duchess
Sate and watch’d her working train—
Flemish carvers, Lombard gilders,
German masons, smiths from Spain.

Clad in black, on her white palfrey,
Her old architect beside—
There they found her in the mountains,
Morn and noon and eventide.

There she sate, and watch’d the builders,
Till the Church was roof’d and done.
Last of all, the builders rear’d her
In the nave a tomb of stone.

On the tomb two forms they sculptured,
Lifelike in the marble pale—
One, the Duke in helm and armour;
One, the Duchess in her veil.

Round the tomb the carved stone fretwork
Was at Easter-tide put on.
Then the Duchess closed her labours;
And she died at the St. John.

II
THE CHURCH

Upon the glistening leaden roof
Of the new Pile, the sunlight shines;
The stream goes leaping by.
The hills are clothed with pines sun-proof;
‘Mid bright green fields, below the pines,
Stands the Church on high.
What Church is this, from men aloof?—
‘Tis the Church of Brou.

At sunrise, from their dewy lair
Crossing the stream, the kine are seen
Round the wall to stray—
The churchyard wall that clips the square
Of open hill-sward fresh and green
Where last year they lay.
But all things now are order’d fair
Round the Church of Brou.

On Sundays, at the matin-chime,
The Alpine peasants, two and three,
Climb up here to pray;
Burghers and dames, at summer’s prime,
Ride out to church from Chambery,
Dight with mantles gay.
But else it is a lonely time
Round the Church of Brou.

On Sundays, too, a priest doth come
From the wall’d town beyond the pass,
Down the mountain-way;
And then you hear the organ’s hum,
You hear the white-robed priest say mass,
And the people pray.
But else the woods and fields are dumb
Round the Church of Brou.

And after church, when mass is done,
The people to the nave repair
Round the tomb to stray;
And marvel at the Forms of stone,
And praise the chisell’d broideries rare—
Then they drop away.
The princely Pair are left alone
In the Church of Brou.

III
THE TOMB

So rest, for ever rest, O princely Pair!
In your high church, ‘mid the still mountain-air,
Where horn, and hound, and vassals never come.
Only the blessed Saints are smiling dumb,
From the rich painted windows of the nave,
On aisle, and transept, and your marble grave;
Where thou, young Prince! shalt never more arise
From the fringed mattress where thy Duchess lies,
On autumn-mornings, when the bugle sounds,
And ride across the drawbridge with thy hounds
To hunt the boar in the crisp woods till eve;
And thou, O Princess! shalt no more receive,
Thou and thy ladies, in the hall of state,
The jaded hunters with their bloody freight,
Coming benighted to the castle-gate.

So sleep, for ever sleep, O marble Pair!
Or, if ye wake, let it be then, when fair
On the carved western front a flood of light
Streams from the setting sun, and colours bright
Prophets, transfigured Saints, and Martyrs brave,
In the vast western window of the nave,
And on the pavement round the Tomb there glints
A chequer-work of glowing sapphire-tints,
And amethyst, and ruby—then unclose
Your eyelids on the stone where ye repose,
And from your broider’d pillows lift your heads,
And rise upon your cold white marble beds;
And, looking down on the warm rosy tints,
Which chequer, at your feet, the illumined flints,
Say: What is this? we are in bliss—forgiven—
Behold the pavement of the courts of Heaven!
Or let it be on autumn nights, when rain
Doth rustlingly above your heads complain
On the smooth leaden roof, and on the walls
Shedding her pensive light at intervals
The moon through the clere-story windows shines,
And the wind washes through the mountain-pines.
Then, gazing up ‘mid the dim pillars high,
The foliaged marble forest where ye lie,
Hush, ye will say, it is eternity!
This is the glimmering verge of Heaven, and these
The columns of the heavenly palaces!
And, in the sweeping of the wind, your ear
The passage of the Angels’ wings will hear,
And on the lichen-crusted leads above
The rustle of the eternal rain of love.

Tristram And Iseult

I
TRISTRAM

Tristram. Is she not come? The messenger was sure—
Prop me upon the pillows once again—
Raise me, my page! this cannot long endure.
—Christ, what a night! how the sleet whips the pane!
What lights will those out to the northward be?

The Page. The lanterns of the fishing-boats at sea.

Tristram. Soft—who is that, stands by the dying fire?

The Page. Iseult.

Tristram. Ah! not the Iseult I desire.

What Knight is this so weak and pale,
Though the locks are yet brown on his noble head,
Propt on pillows in his bed,
Gazing seaward for the light
Of some ship that fights the gale
On this wild December night?
Over the sick man’s feet is spread
A dark green forest-dress;
A gold harp leans against the bed,
Ruddy in the fire’s light.
I know him by his harp of gold,
Famous in Arthur’s court of old;
I know him by his forest-dress—
The peerless hunter, harper, knight,
Tristram of Lyoness.
What Lady is this, whose silk attire
Gleams so rich in the light of the fire?
The ringlets on her shoulders lying
In their flitting lustre vying
With the clasp of burnish’d gold
Which her heavy robe doth hold.
Her looks are mild, her fingers slight
As the driven snow are white;
But her cheeks are sunk and pale.
Is it that the bleak sea-gale
Beating from the Atlantic sea
On this coast of Brittany,
Nips too keenly the sweet flower?
Is it that a deep fatigue
Hath come on her, a chilly fear,
Passing all her youthful hour
Spinning with her maidens here,
Listlessly through the window-bars
Gazing seawards many a league,
From her lonely shore-built tower,
While the knights are at the wars?
Or, perhaps, has her young heart
Felt already some deeper smart,
Of those that in secret the heart-strings rive,
Leaving her sunk and pale, though fair?
Who is this snowdrop by the sea?—
I know her by her mildness rare,
Her snow-white hands, her golden hair;
I know her by her rich silk dress,
And her fragile loveliness—
The sweetest Christian soul alive,
Iseult of Brittany.
Iseult of Brittany?—but where
Is that other Iseult fair,
That proud, first Iseult, Cornwall’s queen?
She, whom Tristram’s ship of yore
From Ireland to Cornwall bore,
To Tyntagel, to the side
Of King Marc, to be his bride?
She who, as they voyaged, quaff’d
With Tristram that spiced magic draught,
Which since then for ever rolls
Through their blood, and binds their souls,
Working love, but working teen?—.
There were two Iseults who did sway
Each her hour of Tristram’s day;
But one possess’d his waning time,
The other his resplendent prime.
Behold her here, the patient flower,
Who possess’d his darker hour!
Iseult of the Snow-White Hand
Watches pale by Tristram’s bed.
She is here who had his gloom,
Where art thou who hadst his bloom?
One such kiss as those of yore
Might thy dying knight restore!
Does the love-draught work no more?
Art thou cold, or false, or dead,
Iseult of Ireland?

Loud howls the wind, sharp patters the rain,
And the knight sinks back on his pillows again.
He is weak with fever and pain;
And his spirit is not clear.
Hark! he mutters in his sleep,
As he wanders far from here,
Changes place and time of year,
And his closéd eye doth sweep
O’er some fair unwintry sea,
Not this fierce Atlantic deep,
While he mutters brokenly:—
Tristram. The calm sea shines, loose hang the vessel’s sails;
Before us are the sweet green fields of Wales,
And overhead the cloudless sky of May.—
‘Ah, would I were in those green fields at play,
Not pent on ship-board this delicious day!
Tristram, I pray thee, of thy courtesy,
Reach me my golden phial stands by thee,
But pledge me in it first for courtesy.’—
Ha! dost thou start? are thy lips blanch’d like mine?
Child, ’tis no true draught this, ’tis poison’d wine!
Iseult!…

Ah, sweet angels, let him dream!
Keep his eyelids! let him seem
Not this fever-wasted wight
Thinn’d and paled before his time,
But the brilliant youthful knight
In the glory of his prime,
Sitting in the gilded barge,
At thy side, thou lovely charge,
Bending gaily o’er thy hand,
Iseult of Ireland!
And she too, that princess fair,
If her bloom be now less rare,
Let her have her youth again—
Let her be as she was then!
Let her have her proud dark eyes,
And her petulant quick replies—
Let her sweep her dazzling hand
With its gesture of command,
And shake back her raven hair
With the old imperious air!
As of old, so let her be,
That first Iseult, princess bright,
Chatting with her youthful knight
As he steers her o’er the sea,
Quitting at her father’s will
The green isle where she was bred,
And her bower in Ireland,
For the surge-beat Cornish strand
Where the prince whom she must wed
Dwells on loud Tyntagel’s hill,
High above the sounding sea.
And that potion rare her mother
Gave her, that her future lord,
Gave her, that King Marc and she,
Might drink it on their marriage-day,
And for ever love each other—
Let her, as she sits on board,
Ah, sweet saints, unwittingly!
See it shine, and take it up,
And to Tristram laughing say:
‘Sir Tristram, of thy courtesy,
Pledge me in my golden cup!’
Let them drink it—let their hands
Tremble, and their cheeks be flame,
As they feel the fatal bands
Of a love they dare not name,
With a wild delicious pain,
Twine about their hearts again!
Let the early summer be
Once more round them, and the sea
Blue, and o’er its mirror kind
Let the breath of the May-wind,
Wandering through their drooping sails,
Die on the green fields of Wales!
Let a dream like this restore
What his eye must see no more!
Tristram. Chill blows the wind, the pleasaunce-walks are drear—
Madcap, what jest was this, to meet me here?
Were feet like those made for so wild a way?
The southern winter-parlour, by my fay,
Had been the likeliest trysting-place to-day!
‘Tristram!—nay, nay—thou must not take my hand!—
Tristram!—sweet love!—we are betray’d—out-plann’d.
Fly—save thyself—save me!—I dare not stay.’—
One last kiss first!—”Tis vain—to horse—away!’

Ah! sweet saints, his dream doth move
Faster surely than it should,
From the fever in his blood!
All the spring-time of his love
Is already gone and past,

And instead thereof is seen
Its winter, which endureth still—
Tyntagel on its surge-beat hill,
The pleasaunce-walks, the weeping queen,
The flying leaves, the straining blast,
And that long, wild kiss—their last.
And this rough December-night,
And his burning fever-pain,
Mingle with his hurrying dream,
Till they rule it, till he seem
The press’d fugitive again,
The love-desperate banish’d knight
With a fire in his brain
Flying o’er the stormy main.
—Whither does he wander now?
Haply in his dreams the wind
Wafts him here, and lets him find
The lovely orphan child again
In her castle by the coast;
The youngest, fairest chatelaine,
Whom this realm of France can boast,
Our snowdrop by the Atlantic sea,
Iseult of Brittany.
And—for through the haggard air,
The stain’d arms, the matted hair
Of that stranger-knight ill-starr’d,
There gleam’d something, which recall’d
The Tristram who in better days
Was Launcelot’s guest at Joyous Gard—
Welcomed here, and here install’d,
Tended of his fever here,
Haply he seems again to move
His young guardian’s heart with love
In his exiled loneliness,
In his stately, deep distress,
Without a word, without a tear.
—Ah! ’tis well he should retrace
His tranquil life in this lone place;
His gentle bearing at the side
Of his timid youthful bride;
His long rambles by the shore
On winter-evenings, when the roar
Of the near waves came, sadly grand,
Through the dark, up the drown’d sand,
Or his endless reveries
In the woods, where the gleams play
On the grass under the trees,
Passing the long summer’s day
Idle as a mossy stone
In the forest-depths alone,
The chase neglected, and his hound
Couch’d beside him on the ground.
—Ah! what trouble’s on his brow?
Hither let him wander now;
Hither, to the quiet hours
Pass’d among these heaths of ours.
By the grey Atlantic sea;
Hours, if not of ecstasy,
From violent anguish surely free!

Tristram. All red with blood the whirling river flows,
The wide plain rings, the dazed air throbs with blows.
Upon us are the chivalry of Rome—
Their spears are down, their steeds are bathed in foam.
‘Up, Tristram, up,’ men cry, ‘thou moonstruck knight!
What foul fiend rides thee? On into the fight!’
—Above the din her voice is in my ears;
I see her form glide through the crossing spears.—
Iseult!…

Ah! he wanders forth again;
We cannot keep him; now, as then,
There’s a secret in his breast
Which will never let him rest.
These musing fits in the green wood
They cloud the brain, they dull the blood!
—His sword is sharp, his horse is good;
Beyond the mountains will he see
The famous towns of Italy,
And label with the blessed sign
The heathen Saxons on the Rhine.
At Arthur’s side he fights once more
With the Roman Emperor.
There’s many a gay knight where he goes
Will help him to forget his care;
The march, the leaguer, Heaven’s blithe air,
The neighing steeds, the ringing blows—
Sick pining comes not where these are.
Ah! what boots it, that the jest
Lightens every other brow,
What, that every other breast
Dances as the trumpets blow,
If one’s own heart beats not light
On the waves of the toss’d fight,
If oneself cannot get free
From the clog of misery?
Thy lovely youthful wife grows pale
Watching by the salt sea-tide
With her children at her side
For the gleam of thy white sail.
Home, Tristram, to thy halls again!
To our lonely sea complain,
To our forests tell thy pain!
Tristram. All round the forest sweeps off, black in shade,
But it is moonlight in the open glade;
And in the bottom of the glade shine clear
The forest-chapel and the fountain near.
—I think, I have a fever in my blood;
Come, let me leave the shadow of this wood,
Ride down, and bathe my hot brow in the flood.
—Mild shines the cold spring in the moon’s clear light;
God! ’tis her face plays in the waters bright.
‘Fair love,’ she says, ‘canst thou forget so soon,
At this soft hour under this sweet moon?’—
Iseult!…

Ah, poor soul! if this be so,
Only death can balm thy woe.
The solitudes of the green wood
Had no medicine for thy mood;
The rushing battle clear’d thy blood
As little as did solitude.
—Ah! his eyelids slowly break
Their hot seals, and let him wake;
What new change shall we now see?
A happier? Worse it cannot be.

Tristram. Is my page here? Come, turn me to the fire!
Upon the window-panes the moon shines bright;
The wind is down—but she’ll not come to-night.
Ah no! she is asleep in Cornwall now,
Far hence; her dreams are fair—smooth is her brow
Of me she recks not, nor my vain desire.

—I have had dreams, I have had dreams, my page,
Would take a score years from a strong man’s age;
And with a blood like mine, will leave, I fear,
Scant leisure for a second messenger.

—My princess, art thou there? Sweet, do not wait!
To bed, and sleep! my fever is gone by;
To-night my page shall keep me company.
Where do the children sleep? kiss them for me!
Poor child, thou art almost as pale as I;
This comes of nursing long and watching late.
To bed—good night!

She left the gleam-lit fireplace,
She came to the bed-side;
She took his hands in hers—her tears
Down on his wasted fingers rain’d.
She raised her eyes upon his face—
Not with a look of wounded pride,
A look as if the heart complained—
Her look was like a sad embrace;
The gaze of one who can divine
A grief, and sympathise.
Sweet flower! thy children’s eyes
Are not more innocent than thine.
But they sleep in shelter’d rest,
Like helpless birds in the warm nest,
On the castle’s southern side;
Where feebly comes the mournful roar
Of buffeting wind and surging tide
Through many a room and corridor.
—Full on their window the moon’s ray
Makes their chamber as bright as day.
It shines upon the blank white walls,
And on the snowy pillow falls,
And on two angel-heads doth play
Turn’d to each other—the eyes closed,
The lashes on the cheeks reposed.
Round each sweet brow the cap close-set
Hardly lets peep the golden hair;
Through the soft-open’d lips the air
Scarcely moves the coverlet.
One little wandering arm is thrown
At random on the counterpane,
And often the fingers close in haste
As if their baby-owner chased
The butterflies again.
This stir they have, and this alone;
But else they are so still!
—Ah, tired madcaps! you lie still;
But were you at the window now,
To look forth on the fairy sight
Of your illumined haunts by night,
To see the park-glades where you play
Far lovelier than they are by day,
To see the sparkle on the eaves,
And upon every giant-bough
Of those old oaks, whose wet red leaves
Are jewell’d with bright drops of rain—
How would your voices run again!
And far beyond the sparkling trees
Of the castle-park one sees
The bare heaths spreading, clear as day,
Moor behind moor, far, far away,
Into the heart of Brittany.
And here and there, lock’d by the land,
Long inlets of smooth glittering sea,
And many a stretch of watery sand
All shining in the white moon-beams—
But you see fairer in your dreams!

What voices are these on the clear night-air?
What lights in the court—what steps on the stair?

II
ISEULT OF IRELAND
Tristram. Raise the light, my page! that I may see her.—
Thou art come at last, then, haughty Queen!
Long I’ve waited, long I’ve fought my fever;
Late thou comest, cruel thou hast been.

Iseult. Blame me not, poor sufferer! that I tarried;
Bound I was, I could not break the band.
Chide not with the past, but feel the present!
I am here—we meet—I hold thy hand.

Tristram. Thou art come, indeed—thou hast rejoin’d me;
Thou hast dared it—but too late to save.
Fear not now that men should tax thine honour!
I am dying: build—(thou may’st)—my grave!

Iseult. Tristram, ah, for love of Heaven, speak kindly!
What, I hear these bitter words from thee?
Sick with grief I am, and faint with travel—
Take my hand—dear Tristram, look on me!

Tristram. I forgot, thou comest from thy voyage—
Yes, the spray is on thy cloak and hair.
But thy dark eyes are not dimm’d, proud Iseult!
And thy beauty never was more fair.

Iseult. Ah, harsh flatterer! let alone my beauty!
I, like thee, have left my youth afar.
Take my hand, and touch these wasted fingers—
See my cheek and lips, how white they are!

Tristram. Thou art paler—but thy sweet charm, Iseult!
Would not fade with the dull years away.
Ah, how fair thou standest in the moonlight!
I forgive thee, Iseult!—thou wilt stay?

Iseult. Fear me not, I will be always with thee;
I will watch thee, tend thee, soothe thy pain;
Sing thee tales of true, long-parted lovers,
Join’d at evening of their days again.

Tristram. No, thou shalt not speak! I should be finding
Something alter’d in thy courtly tone.
Sit—sit by me! I will think, we’ve lived so
In the green wood, all our lives, alone.

Iseult. Alter’d, Tristram? Not in courts, believe me,
Love like mine is alter’d in the breast;
Courtly life is light and cannot reach it—
Ah! it lives, because so deep-suppress’d!

What, thou think’st men speak in courtly chambers
Words by which the wretched are consoled?
What, thou think’st this aching brow was cooler,
Circled, Tristram, by a band of gold?

Royal state with Marc, my deep-wrong’d husband—
That was bliss to make my sorrows flee!
Silken courtiers whispering honied nothings—
Those were friends to make me false to thee!

Ah, on which, if both our lots were balanced,
Was indeed the heaviest burden thrown—
Thee, a pining exile in thy forest,
Me, a smiling queen upon my throne?

Vain and strange debate, where both have suffer’d,
Both have pass’d a youth consumed and sad,
Both have brought their anxious day to evening,
And have now short space for being glad!

Join’d we are henceforth; nor will thy people,
Nor thy younger Iseult take it ill,
That a former rival shares her office,
When she sees her humbled, pale, and still.

I, a faded watcher by thy pillow,
I, a statue on thy chapel-floor,
Pour’d in prayer before the Virgin-Mother,
Rouse no anger, make no rivals more.

She will cry: ‘Is this the foe I dreaded?
This his idol? this that royal bride?
Ah, an hour of health would purge his eyesight!
Stay, pale queen! for ever by my side.’

Hush, no words! that smile, I see, forgives me.
I am now thy nurse, I bid thee sleep.
Close thine eyes—this flooding moonlight blinds them!—
Nay, all’s well again! thou must not weep.

Tristram. I am happy! yet I feel, there’s something
Swells my heart, and takes my breath away.
Through a mist I see thee; near—come nearer!
Bend—bend down!—I yet have much to say.

Iseult. Heaven! his head sinks back upon the pillow—
Tristram! Tristram! let thy heart not fail!
Call on God and on the holy angels!
What, love, courage!—Christ! he is so pale.

Tristram. Hush, ’tis vain, I feel my end approaching!
This is what my mother said should be,
When the fierce pains took her in the forest,
The deep draughts of death, in bearing me.

‘Son,’ she said, ‘thy name shall be of sorrow;
Tristram art thou call’d for my death’s sake.’
So she said, and died in the drear forest.
Grief since then his home with me doth make.

I am dying.—Start not, nor look wildly!
Me, thy living friend, thou canst not save.
But, since living we were ununited,
Go not far, O Iseult! from my grave.

Close mine eyes, then seek the princess Iseult;
Speak her fair, she is of royal blood!
Say, I will’d so, that thou stay beside me—
She will grant it; she is kind and good.

Now to sail the seas of death I leave thee—
One last kiss upon the living shore!

Iseult. Tristram!—Tristram!—stay—receive me with thee!
Iseult leaves thee, Tristram! never more.

You see them clear—the moon shines bright.
Slow, slow and softly, where she stood,
She sinks upon the ground;—her hood
Has fallen back; her arms outspread
Still hold her lover’s hand; her head
Is bow’d, half-buried, on the bed.
O’er the blanch’d sheet her raven hair
Lies in disorder’d streams; and there,
Strung like white stars, the pearls still are,
And the golden bracelets, heavy and rare,
Flash on her white arms still.
The very same which yesternight
Flash’d in the silver sconces’ light,
When the feast was gay and the laughter loud
In Tyntagel’s palace proud.
But then they deck’d a restless ghost
With hot-flush’d cheeks and brilliant eyes,
And quivering lips on which the tide
Of courtly speech abruptly died,
And a glance which over the crowded floor,
The dancers, and the festive host,
Flew ever to the door.
That the knights eyed her in surprise,
And the dames whispered scoffingly:
‘Her moods, good lack, they pass like showers!
But yesternight and she would be
As pale and still as wither’d flowers,
And now to-night she laughs and speaks
And has a colour in her cheeks;
Christ keep us from such fantasy!’—
Yes, now the longing is o’erpast,
Which, dogg’d by fear and fought by shame,
Shook her weak bosom day and night,
Consumed her beauty like a flame,
And dimm’d it like the desert-blast.
And though the bed-clothes hide her face,
Yet were it lifted to the light,
The sweet expression of her brow
Would charm the gazer, till his thought
Erased the ravages of time,
Fill’d up the hollow cheek, and brought
A freshness back as of her prime—
So healing is her quiet now.
So perfectly the lines express
A tranquil, settled loveliness,
Her younger rival’s purest grace.

The air of the December-night
Steals coldly around the chamber bright,
Where those lifeless lovers be;
Swinging with it, in the light
Flaps the ghostlike tapestry.
And on the arras wrought you see
A stately Huntsman, clad in green,
And round him a fresh forest-scene.
On that clear forest-knoll he stays,
With his pack round him, and delays.
He stares and stares, with troubled face,
At this huge, gleam-lit fireplace,
At that bright, iron-figured door,
And those blown rushes on the floor.
He gazes down into the room
With heated cheeks and flurried air,
And to himself he seems to say:
‘What place is this, and who are they?
Who is that kneeling Lady fair?
And on his pillows that pale Knight
Who seems of marble on a tomb?
How comes it here, this chamber bright,
Through whose mullion’d windows clear
The castle-court all wet with rain,
The drawbridge and the moat appear,
And then the beach, and, mark’d with spray,
The sunken reefs, and far away
The unquiet bright Atlantic plain?
—What, has some glamour made me sleep,
And sent me with my dogs to sweep,
By night, with boisterous bugle-peal,
Through some old, sea-side, knightly hall,
Not in the free green wood at all?
That Knight’s asleep, and at her prayer
That Lady by the bed doth kneel—
Then hush, thou boisterous bugle-peal!’
—The wild boar rustles in his lair;
The fierce hounds snuff the tainted air;
But lord and hounds keep rooted there.

Cheer, cheer thy dogs into the brake,
O Hunter! and without a fear
Thy golden-tassell’d bugle blow,
And through the glades thy pastime take—
For thou wilt rouse no sleepers here!
For these thou seest are unmoved;
Cold, cold as those who lived and loved
A thousand years ago.

III

ISEULT OF BRITTANY
A year had flown, and o’er the sea away,
In Cornwall, Tristram and Queen Iseult lay;
In King Marc’s chapel, in Tyntagel old—
There in a ship they bore those lovers cold.

The young surviving Iseult, one bright day,
Had wander’d forth. Her children were at play
In a green circular hollow in the heath
Which borders the sea-shore—a country path
Creeps over it from the till’d fields behind.
The hollow’s grassy banks are soft-inclined,
And to one standing on them, far and near
The lone unbroken view spreads bright and clear
Over the waste. This cirque of open ground
Is light and green; the heather, which all round
Creeps thickly, grows not here; but the pale grass
Is strewn with rocks, and many a shiver’d mass
Of vein’d white-gleaming quartz, and here and there
Dotted with holly-trees and juniper.
In the smooth centre of the opening stood
Three hollies side by side, and made a screen,
Warm with the winter-sun, of burnish’d green
With scarlet berries gemm’d, the fell-fare’s food.
Under the glittering hollies Iseult stands,
Watching her children play; their little hands
Are busy gathering spars of quartz, and streams
Of stagshorn for their hats; anon, with screams
Of mad delight they drop their spoils, and bound
Among the holly-clumps and broken ground,
Racing full speed, and startling in their rush
The fell-fares and the speckled missel-thrush
Out of their glossy coverts;—but when now
Their cheeks were flush’d, and over each hot brow,
Under the feather’d hats of the sweet pair,
In blinding masses shower’d the golden hair—
Then Iseult call’d them to her, and the three
Cluster’d under the holly-screen, and she
Told them an old-world Breton history.

Warm in their mantles wrapt the three stood there,
Under the hollies, in the clear still air—
Mantles with those rich furs deep glistering
Which Venice ships do from swart Egypt bring.
Long they stay’d still—then, pacing at their ease,
Moved up and down under the glossy trees.
But still, as they pursued their warm dry road,
From Iseult’s lips the unbroken story flow’d,
And still the children listen’d, their blue eyes
Fix’d on their mother’s face in wide surprise;
Nor did their looks stray once to the sea-side,
Nor to the brown heaths round them, bright and wide,
Nor to the snow, which, though ’twas all away
From the open heath, still by the hedgerows lay,
Nor to the shining sea-fowl, that with screams
Bore up from where the bright Atlantic gleams,
Swooping to landward; nor to where, quite clear,
The fell-fares settled on the thickets near.
And they would still have listen’d, till dark night
Came keen and chill down on the heather bright;
But, when the red glow on the sea grew cold,
And the grey turrets of the castle old
Look’d sternly through the frosty evening-air,
Then Iseult took by the hand those children fair,
And brought her tale to an end, and found the path,
And led them home over the darkening heath.

And is she happy? Does she see unmoved
The days in which she might have lived and loved
Slip without bringing bliss slowly away,
One after one, to-morrow like to-day?
Joy has not found her yet, nor ever will—
Is it this thought which, makes her mien so still,
Her features so fatigued, her eyes, though sweet,
So sunk, so rarely lifted save to meet
Her children’s? She moves slow; her voice alone
Hath yet an infantine and silver tone,
But even that comes languidly; in truth,
She seems one dying in a mask of youth.
And now she will go home, and softly lay
Her laughing children in their beds, and play
Awhile with them before they sleep; and then
She’ll light her silver lamp, which fishermen
Dragging their nets through the rough waves, afar,
Along this iron coast, know like a star,
And take her broidery-frame, and there she’ll sit
Hour after hour, her gold curls sweeping it;
Lifting her soft-bent head only to mind
Her children, or to listen to the wind.
And when the clock peals midnight, she will move
Her work away, and let her fingers rove
Across the shaggy brows of Tristram’s hound
Who lies, guarding her feet, along the ground;
Or else she will fall musing, her blue eyes
Fixt, her slight hands clasp’d on her lap; then rise,
And at her prie-dieu kneel, until she have told
Her rosary-beads of ebony tipp’d with gold,
Then to her soft sleep—and to-morrow’ll be
To-day’s exact repeated effigy.

Yes, it is lonely for her in her hall.
The children, and the grey-hair’d seneschal,
Her women, and Sir Tristram’s aged hound,
Are there the sole companions to be found.
But these she loves; and noiser life than this
She would find ill to bear, weak as she is.
She has her children, too, and night and day
Is with them; and the wide heaths where they play,
The hollies, and the cliff, and the sea-shore,
The sand, the sea-birds, and the distant sails,
These are to her dear as to them; the tales
With which this day the children she beguiled
She gleaned from Breton grandames, when a child,
In every hut along this sea-coast wild.
She herself loves them still, and, when they are told,
Can forget all to hear them, as of old.

Dear saints, it is not sorrow, as I hear,
Not suffering, which shuts up eye and ear
To all that has delighted them before,
And lets us be what we were once no more.
No, we may suffer deeply, yet retain
Power to be moved and soothed, for all our pain,
By what of old pleased us, and will again.
No, ’tis the gradual furnace of the world,
In whose hot air our spirits are upcurl’d
Until they crumble, or else grow like steel—
Which kills in us the bloom, the youth, the spring—
Which leaves the fierce necessity to feel,
But takes away the power—this can avail,
By drying up our joy in everything,
To make our former pleasures all seem stale.
This, or some tyrannous single thought, some fit
Of passion, which subdues our souls to it,
Till for its sake alone we live and move—
Call it ambition, or remorse, or love—
This too can change us wholly, and make seem
All which we did before, shadow and dream.

And yet, I swear, it angers me to see
How this fool passion gulls men potently;
Being, in truth, but a diseased unrest,
And an unnatural overheat at best.
How they are full of languor and distress
Not having it; which when they do possess,
They straightway are burnt up with fume and care,
And spend their lives in posting here and there
Where this plague drives them; and have little ease,
Are furious with themselves, and hard to please.
Like that bold Cæsar, the famed Roman wight,
Who wept at reading of a Grecian knight
Who made a name at younger years than he;
Or that renown’d mirror of chivalry,
Prince Alexander, Philip’s peerless son,
Who carried the great war from Macedon
Into the Soudan’s realm, and thundered on
To die at thirty-five in Babylon.

What tale did Iseult to the children say,
Under the hollies, that bright-winter’s day?
She told them of the fairy-haunted land
Away the other side of Brittany,
Beyond the heaths, edged by the lonely sea;
Of the deep forest-glades of Broce-liande,
Through whose green boughs the golden sunshine creeps
Where Merlin by the enchanted thorn-tree sleeps.
For here he came with the fay Vivian,
One April, when the warm days first began.
He was on foot, and that false fay, his friend,
On her white palfrey; here he met his end,
In these lone sylvan glades, that April-day.
This tale of Merlin and the lovely fay
Was the one Iseult chose, and she brought clear
Before the children’s fancy him and her.

Blowing between the stems, the forest-air
Had loosen’d the brown locks of Vivian’s hair,
Which play’d on her flush’d cheek, and her blue eyes
Sparkled with mocking glee and exercise.
Her palfrey’s flanks were mired and bathed in sweat,
For they had travell’d far and not stopp’d yet.
A brier in that tangled wilderness
Had scored her white right hand, which she allows
To rest ungloved on her green riding-dress;
The other warded off the drooping boughs.
But still she chatted on, with her blue eyes
Fix’d full on Merlin’s face, her stately prize.
Her ‘haviour had the morning’s fresh clear grace,
The spirit of the woods was in her face.
She look’d so witching fair, that learned wight
Forgot his craft, and his best wits took flight;
And he grew fond, and eager to obey
His mistress, use her empire as she may.
They came to where the brushwood ceased, and day
Peer’d ‘twixt the stems; and the ground broke away,
In a sloped sward down to a brawling brook;
And up as high as where they stood to look
On the brook’s farther side was clear, but then
The underwood and trees began again.
This open glen was studded thick with thorns
Then white with blossom; and you saw the horns,
Through last year’s fern, of the shy fallow-deer
Who come at noon down to the water here.
You saw the bright-eyed squirrels dart along
Under the thorns on the green sward; and strong
The blackbird whistled from the dingles near,
And the weird chipping of the woodpecker
Rang lonelily and sharp; the sky was fair,
And a fresh breath of spring stirr’d everywhere.
Merlin and Vivian stopp’d on the slope’s brow,
To gaze on the light sea of leaf and bough
Which glistering plays all round them, lone and mild.
As if to itself the quiet forest smiled.
Upon the brow-top grew a thorn, and here
The grass was dry and moss’d, and you saw clear
Across the hollow; white anemones
Starr’d the cool turf, and clumps of primroses
Ran out from the dark underwood behind.
No fairer resting-place a man could find.
‘Here let us halt,’ said Merlin then; and she
Nodded, and tied her palfrey to a tree.

They sate them down together, and a sleep
Fell upon Merlin, more like death, so deep.
Her finger on her lips, then Vivian rose
And from her brown-lock’d head the wimple throws,
And takes it in her hand, and waves it over
The blossom’d thorn-tree and her sleeping lover.
Nine times she waved the fluttering wimple round,
And made a little plot of magic ground.
And in that daised circle, as men say,
Is Merlin prisoner till the judgment-day;
But she herself whither she will can rove—
For she was passing weary of his love.

The Good Shepherd With The Kid

He saves the sheep, the goats he doth not save.
So rang Tertullian’s sentence, on the side
Of that unpitying Phrygian Sect which cried:
‘Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,

Who sins, once washed by the baptismal wave.’–
So spake the fierce Tertullian. But she sighed,
The infant Church! of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord’s yet recent grave.

And then she smiled; and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true,
On those walls subterranean, where she hid

Her head in ignominy, death, and tombs,
She her good Shepherd’s hasty image drew–
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.

The Charge

They outtalked thee, hissed thee, tore thee?
Better men fared thus before thee;
Fired their ringing shot and pass’d,
Hotly charged- and sank at last.
Charge once more, then, and be dumb!
Let the victors, when they come,
When the forts of folly fall,
Find thy body by the wall!

Too Late

Each on his own strict line we move,
And some find death ere they find love;
So far apart their lives are thrown
From the twin soul which halves their own.

And sometimes, by harder fate,
The lovers meet, but meet too late.

Thy heart is mine! – True, true! ah, true!

Then, love, thy hand! – Ah no! adieu!

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