TO A GIPSY CHILD BY THE SEASHORE
by: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
- ho taught this pleading to unpractised eyes?
- Who hid such import in an infant's gloom?
- Who lent thee, child, this meditative guise?
- Who mass'd, round that slight brow, these clouds of doom?
- Lo! sails that gleam a moment and are gone;
- The swinging waters, and the cluster'd pier.
- Not idly Earth and Ocean labour on,
- Nor idly do these sea-birds hover near.
- But thou, whom superfluity of joy
- Wafts not from thine own thoughts, nor longings vain,
- Nor weariness, the full-fed soul's annoy--
- Remaining in thy hunger and thy pain;
- Thou, drugging pain by patience; half averse
- From thine own mother's breast, that knows not thee;
- With eyes which sought thine eyes thou didst converse,
- And that soul-searching vision fell on me.
- Glooms that go deep as thine I have not known:
- Moods of fantastic sadness, nothing worth.
- Thy sorrow and thy calmness are thine own:
- Glooms that enhance and glorify this earth.
- What mood wears like complexion to thy woe?
- His, who in mountain glens, at noon of day,
- Sits rapt, and hears the battle break below?
- --Ah! thine was not the shelter, but the fray
- Some exile's, mindful how the past was glad?
- Some angel's, in an alien planet born?
- --No exile's dream was ever half so sad,
- Nor any angel's sorrow so forlorn.
- Is the calm thine of stoic souls, who weigh
- Life well, and find it wanting, nor deplore;
- But in disdainful silence turn away,
- Stand mute, self-centred, stern, and dream no more?
- Or do I wait, to hear some gray-hair'd king
- Unravel all his many-colour'd lore;
- Whose mind hath known all arts of governing,
- Mused much, loved life a little, loathed it more?
- Down the pale cheek long lines of shadow slope,
- Which years, and curious thought, and suffering give.
- --Thou hast foreknown the vanity of hope,
- Foreseen thy harvest -- yet proceed'st to live.
- O meek anticipant of that sure pain
- Whose sureness gray-hair'd scholars hardly learn!
- What wonder shall time breed, to swell thy strain?
- What heavens, what earth, what sun shalt thou discern?
- Ere the long night, whose stillness brooks no star,
- Match that funereal aspect with her pall,
- I think, thou wilt have fathom'd life too far,
- Have known too much -- or else forgotten all.
- The Guide of our dark steps a triple veil
- Betwixt our senses and our sorrow keeps;
- Hath sown with cloudless passages the tale
- Of grief, and eased us with a thousand sleeps.
- Ah! not the nectarous poppy lovers use,
- Not daily labour's dull, Lethaean spring,
- Oblivion in lost angels can infuse
- Of the soil'd glory, and the trailing wing.
- And though thou glean, what strenuous gleaners may,
- In the throng'd fields where winning comes by strife;
- And though the just sun gild, as mortals pray,
- Some reaches of thy storm-vext stream of life;
- Though that blank sunshine blind thee; though the cloud
- That sever'd the world's march and thine, be gone;
- Though ease dulls grace, and Wisdom be too proud
- To halve a lodging that was all her own--
- Once, ere the day decline, thou shalt discern,
- Oh once, ere night, in thy success, thy chain!
- Ere the long evening close, thou shalt return,
- And wear this majesty of grief again.
POEMS BY MATTHEW ARNOLD
|"To a Gipsy Child by the Seashore" is reprinted from Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold. London: Macmillan and Co., 1905.