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.
Matthew Arnold - 1822-1888
Isolation: To Marguerite
We were apart; yet, day by day, I bade my heart more constant be. I bade it keep the world away, And grow a home for only thee; Nor fear'd but thy love likewise grew, Like mine, each day, more tried, more true. The fault was grave! I might have known, What far too soon, alas! I learn'd— The heart can bind itself alone, And faith may oft be unreturn'd. Self-sway'd our feelings ebb and swell— Thou lov'st no more;—Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!—and thou, thou lonely heart, Which never yet without remorse Even for a moment didst depart From thy remote and spherèd course To haunt the place where passions reign— Back to thy solitude again! Back! with the conscious thrill of shame Which Luna felt, that summer-night, Flash through her pure immortal frame, When she forsook the starry height To hang over Endymion's sleep Upon the pine-grown Latmian steep. Yet she, chaste queen, had never proved How vain a thing is mortal love, Wandering in Heaven, far removed. But thou hast long had place to prove This truth—to prove, and make thine own: "Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone." Or, if not quite alone, yet they Which touch thee are unmating things— Ocean and clouds and night and day; Lorn autumns and triumphant springs; And life, and others' joy and pain, And love, if love, of happier men. Of happier men—for they, at least, Have dream'd two human hearts might blend In one, and were through faith released From isolation without end Prolong'd; nor knew, although not less Alone than thou, their loneliness.