Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet, Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet! I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll. Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, We know, we know that we can smile; But there 's a something in this breast, To which thy light words bring no rest, And thy gay smiles no anodyne; Give me thy hand, and hush awhile, And turn those limpid eyes on mine, And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul. Alas! is even love too weak To unlock the heart, and let it speak? Are even lovers powerless to reveal To one another what indeed they feel? I knew the mass of men conceal'd Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd They would by other men be met With blank indifference, or with blame reprov'd; I knew they liv'd and mov'd Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest Of men, and alien to themselves—and yet The same heart beats in every human breast. But we, my love—does a like spell benumb Our hearts—our voices?—must we too be dumb? Ah, well for us, if even we, Even for a moment, can get free Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd; For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd! Fate, which foresaw How frivolous a baby man would be, By what distractions he would be possess'd, How he would pour himself in every strife, And well-nigh change his own identity; That it might keep from his capricious play His genuine self, and force him to obey, Even in his own despite his being's law, Bade through the deep recesses of our breast The unregarded River of our Life Pursue with indiscernible flow its way; And that we should not see The buried stream, and seem to be Eddying at large in blind uncertainty, Though driving on with it eternally. But often, in the world's most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There rises an unspeakable desire After the knowledge of our buried life, A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course; A longing to inquire Into the mystery of this heart which beats So wild, so deep in us, to know Whence our lives come and where they go. And many a man in his own breast then delves, But deep enough, alas, none ever mines! And we have been on many thousand lines, And we have shown, on each, spirit and power, But hardly have we, for one little hour, Been on our own line, have we been ourselves; Hardly had skill to utter one of all The nameless feelings that course through our breast, But they course on for ever unexpress'd. And long we try in vain to speak and act Our hidden self, and what we say and do Is eloquent, is well—but 'tis not true! And then we will no more be rack'd With inward striving, and demand Of all the thousand nothings of the hour Their stupefying power; Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call! Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn, From the soul's subterranean depth upborne As from an infinitely distant land, Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey A melancholy into all our day. Only—but this is rare— When a belovèd hand is laid in ours, When, jaded with the rush and glare Of the interminable hours, Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, When our world-deafen'd ear Is by the tones of a lov'd voice caress'd— A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again! The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know, A man becomes aware of his life's flow, And hears its winding murmur, and he sees The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze. And there arrives a lull in the hot race Wherein he doth for ever chase The flying and elusive shadow, Rest. An air of coolness plays upon his face, And an unwonted calm pervades his breast. And then he thinks he knows The hills where his life rose, And the Sea where it goes.
Matthew Arnold - 1822-1888
The sea is calm tonight. The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land, Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in. Sophocles long ago Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea. The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world. Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.