Poem of the day

A Modern Sappho
by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

They are gone—all is still! Foolish heart, dost thou quiver?
⁠      Nothing stirs on the lawn but the quick lilac-shade.
Far up shines the house, and beneath flows the river:
⁠      Here lean, my head, on this cold balustrade!

Ere he come,—ere the boat by the shining-branched border
⁠      Of dark elms shoot round, dropping down the proud stream,—
Let me pause, let me strive, in myself make some order,
⁠      Ere their boat-music sound, ere their broidered flags gleam.

Last night we stood earnestly talking together:
⁠      She entered—that moment his eyes turned from me!
Fastened on her dark hair, and her wreath of white heather.
⁠      As yesterday was, so to-morrow will be.

Their love, let me know, must grow strong and yet stronger,
⁠      Their passion burn more, ere it ceases to burn.
They must love—while they must! but the hearts that love longer
⁠      Are rare—ah! most loves but flow once, and return.

I shall suffer—but they will outlive their affection;
⁠      I shall weep—but their love will be cooling; and he,
As he drifts to fatigue, discontent, and dejection,
⁠      Will be brought, thou poor heart, how much nearer to thee!

For cold is his eye to mere beauty, who, breaking
⁠      The strong band which passion around him hath furled,
Disenchanted by habit, and newly awaking,
⁠      Looks languidly round on a gloom-buried world.

Through that gloom he will see but a shadow appearing,
⁠      Perceive but a voice as I come to his side;
—But deeper their voice grows, and nobler their bearing,
⁠      Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died.

So, to wait! But what notes down the wind, hark! are driving?
⁠      ’Tis he! ’tis their flag, shooting round by the trees!
—Let my turn, if it will come, be swift in arriving!
⁠      Ah! hope cannot long lighten torments like these.

Hast thou yet dealt him, O life, thy full measure?
⁠      World, have thy children yet bowed at his knee?
Hast thou with myrtle-leaf crowned him, O pleasure?
⁠      —Crown, crown him quickly, and leave him for me.

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