SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
AND OTHER POEMS
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
JUSTUS COLLINS CASTLEMAN
HEAD OF ENGLISH DEPARTMENT, SOUTH DIVISION HIGH SCHOOL, MILWAUKEE
INTRODUCTION A Short Life of Arnold Arnold the Poet Arnold the Critic Chronological List of Arnold's Works Contemporary Authors Bibliography
SELECTIONS FROM ARNOLD'S POETICAL WORKS
Sohrab and Rustum Saint Brandan The Forsaken Merman Tristram and Iseult
The Church of Brou Requiescat Consolation A Dream Lines written in Kensington Gardens The Strayed Reveller Morality Dover Beach Philomela Human Life Isolation—To Marguerite Kaiser Dead The Last Word Palladium Revolutions Self-Dependence A Summer Night Geist's Grave Epilogue—To Lessing's Laocooen
Quiet Work Shakespeare Youth's Agitations Austerity of Poetry Worldly Place East London West London
Memorial Verses The Scholar-Gipsy Thyrsis Rugby Chapel
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A SHORT LIFE OF ARNOLD
Matthew Arnold, poet and critic, was born in the village of Laleham, Middlesex County, England, December 24, 1822. He was the son of Dr. Thomas Arnold, best remembered as the great Head Master at Rugby and in later years distinguished also as a historian of Rome, and of Mary Penrose Arnold, a woman of remarkable character and intellect.
Devoid of stirring incident, and, on the whole, free from the eccentricities so common to men of genius, the story of Arnold's life is soon told. As a boy he lived the life of the normal English lad, with its healthy routine of task and play. He was at school at both Laleham and Winchester, then at Rugby, where he attracted attention as a student and won a prize for poetry. In 1840 he was elected to an open scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, and the next year matriculated for his university work. Arnold's career at Oxford was a memorable one. While here he was associated with such men as John Duke Coleridge, John Shairp, Dean Fraser, Dean Church, John Henry Newman, Thomas Hughes, the Froudes, and, closest of all, with Arthur Hugh Clough, whose early death he lamented in his exquisite elegiac poem—Thyrsis. Among this brilliant company Arnold moved with ease, the recognized favorite. Having taken the Newdigate prize for English verse, and also having won a scholarship, he was graduated with honors in 1844, and in March of the following year had the additional distinction of being elected a Fellow of Oriel, the crowning glory of an Oxford graduate. He afterward taught classics for a short time at Rugby, then in 1847 accepted the post of private secretary to the Marquis of Lansdowne, Lord President of the Council, which position he occupied until 1851, when he was appointed Lay Inspector of Schools by the Committee on Education. The same year he married Frances Lucy Wightman, daughter of Sir William Wightman, judge of the Court of the Queen's Bench.
Arnold's record as an educator is unparalleled in the history of England's public schools. For more than thirty-five years he served as inspector and commissioner, which offices he filled with efficiency. As inspector he was earnest, conscientious, versatile; beloved alike by teachers and pupils. The Dean of Salisbury likened his appearance to inspect the school at Kiddermaster, to the admission of a ray of light when a shutter is suddenly opened in a darkened room. All-in-all, he valued happy-appearing children, and kindly sympathetic teachers, more than excellence in grade reports. In connection with the duties of his office as commissioner, he travelled frequently on the Continent to inquire into foreign methods of primary and secondary education. Here he found much that was worth while, and often carried back to London larger suggestions and ideas than the national mind was ready to accept. Under his supervision, however, the school system of England was extensively revised and improved. He resigned his position under the Committee of Council on Education, in 1886, two years before his death.
In the meantime Arnold's pen had not been idle. His first volume of verse, The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems, appeared (1848), and although quietly received, slowly won its way into public favor. The next year the narrative poem, The Sick King in Bokhara, came out, and was followed in turn by a third volume in 1853, under the title of Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems. By this time Arnold's reputation as a poet was established, and in 1857 he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford, where he began his career as a lecturer, in which capacity he twice visited America. Merope, a Tragedy (1856) and a volume under the title of New Poems (1869) finish the list of his poetical works, with the exception of occasional verses.
Arnold's prose works, aside from his letters, consist wholly of critical essays, in which he has dealt fearlessly with the greater issues of his day. As will be seen by their titles (see page xxxviii of this volume), the subject-matter of these essays is of very great scope, embracing in theme literature, politics, social conduct, and popular religion. By them Arnold has exerted a remarkable influence on public thought and stamped himself as one of the ablest critics and reformers of the last century. Arnold's life was thus one of many widely diverse activities and was at all times deeply concerned with practical as well as with literary affairs; and on no side was it deficient in human sympathies and relations. He won respect and reputation while he lived, and his works continue to attract men's minds, although with much unevenness. It has been said of him that, of all the modern poets, except Goethe, he was the best critic, and of all the modern critics, with the same exception, he was the best poet. He died at Liverpool, where he had gone to meet his daughter returning from America, April 15, 1888. By his death the world lost an acute and cultured critic, a refined writer, an earnest educational reformer, and a noble man. He was buried in his native town, Laleham.
Agreeably to his own request, Arnold has never been made the subject for a biography. By means of his letters, his official reports, and statements of his friends, however, one is able to trace the successive stages of his career, as he steadily grew in honor and public usefulness. Though somewhat inadequate, the picture thus presented is singularly pleasing and attractive. The subjoined appreciations have been selected with a view of giving the student a glimpse of Arnold as he appeared to unprejudiced minds.
One who knew him at Oxford wrote of him as follows: "His perfect self-possession, the sallies of his ready wit, the humorous turn which he could give to any subject that he handled, his gaiety, audacity, and unfailing command of words, made him one of the most popular and successful undergraduates that Oxford has ever known."
"He was beautiful as a young man, strong and manly, yet full of dreams and schemes. His Olympian manners began even at Oxford: there was no harm in them: they were natural, not put on. The very sound of his voice and wave of his arm were Jove-like."—PROFESSOR MAX MUeLLER.
"He was most distinctly on the side of human enjoyment. He conspired and contrived to make things pleasant. Pedantry he abhorred. He was a man of this life and this world. A severe critic of this world he indeed was; but, finding himself in it, and not precisely knowing what is beyond it, like a brave and true-hearted man, he set himself to make the best of it. Its sights and sounds were dear to him. The 'uncrumpling fern, the eternal moonlit snow,' the red grouse springing at our sound, the tinkling bells of the 'high-pasturing kine,' the vagaries of men, of women, and dogs, their odd ways and tricks, whether of mind or manner, all delighted, amused, tickled him.
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"In a sense of the word which is noble and blessed, he was of the earth earthy.... His mind was based on the plainest possible things. What he hated most was the fantastic—the far-fetched, all-elaborated fancies and strained interpretations. He stuck to the beaten track of human experience, and the broader the better. He was a plain-sailing man. This is his true note."—MR. AUGUSTINE BIRRELL.
"He was incapable of sacrificing the smallest interest of anybody to his own; he had not a spark of envy or jealousy; he stood well aloof from all the bustlings and jostlings by which selfish men push on; he bore life's disappointments—and he was disappointed in some reasonable hopes—with good nature and fortitude; he cast no burden upon others, and never shrank from bearing his own share of the daily load to the last ounce of it; he took the deepest, sincerest, and most active interest in the well-being of his country and his countrymen."—MR. JOHN MORLEY.
In his essay on Arnold, George E. Woodberry speaks of the poet's personality as revealed by his letters in the following beautiful manner: "Few who did not know Arnold could have been prepared for the revelation of a nature so true, so amiable, so dutiful. In every relation of private life he is shown to have been a man of exceptional constancy and plainness.... Every one must take delight in the mental association with Arnold in the scenes of his existence ... and in his family affections. A nature warm to its own, kindly to all, cheerful, fond of sport and fun, and always fed from pure fountains, and with it a character so founded upon the rock, so humbly serviceable, so continuing in power and grace, must wake in all the responses of happy appreciation and leave the charm of memory.
"He did his duty as naturally as if it required neither resolve nor effort, nor thought of any kind for the morrow, and he never failed, seemingly, in act or word of sympathy, in little or great things; and when to this one adds the clear ether of the intellectual life where he habitually moved in his own life apart, and the humanity of his home, the gift that these letters bring may be appreciated. That gift is the man himself, but set in the atmosphere of home, with sonship and fatherhood, sisters and brothers, with the bereavements of years fully accomplished, and those of babyhood and boyhood—a sweet and wholesome English home, with all the cloud and sunshine of the English world drifting over its roof-trees, and the soil of England beneath its stones, and English duties for the breath of its being. To add such a home to the household rights of English Literature is perhaps something from which Arnold would have shrunk, but it endears his memory."
"It may be overmuch He shunned the common stain and smutch, From soilure of ignoble touch Too grandly free, Too loftily secure in such Cold purity; But he preserved from chance control The fortress of his established soul, In all things sought to see the whole; Brooked no disguise, And set his heart upon the goal, Not on the prize."
—MR. WILLIAM WATSON, In Laleham Churchyard.
ARNOLD THE POET
Matthew Arnold was essentially a man of the intellect. No other author of modern times, perhaps no other English author of any time, appeals so directly as he to the educated classes. Even a cursory reading of his pages, prose or verse, reveals the scholar and the critic. He is always thinking, always brilliant, never lacks for a word or phrase; and on the whole, his judgments are good. Between his prose and verse, however, there is a marked difference, both in tone and spiritual quality. True, each possesses the note of a lofty, though stoical courage; reveals the same grace of finish and exactness of phrase and manner; and is, in equal degree, the output of a singularly sane and noble nature; but here the comparison ends; for, while his prose is often stormy and contentious, his poetry has always about it an atmosphere of entire repose. The cause of this difference is not far to seek. His poetry, written in early manhood, reflects his inner self, the more lovable side of his nature; while his prose presents the critic and the reformer, pointing out the good and bad, and permitting at times a spirit of bitterness to creep in, as he endeavors to arouse men out of their easy contentment with themselves and their surroundings.
With the exception of occasional verses, Arnold's poetical career began and ended inside of twenty years. The reason for this can only be conjectured, and need not be dwelt upon here. But although his poetic life was brief, it was of a very high order, his poems ranking well up among the literary productions of the last century. As a popular poet, however, he will probably never class with Tennyson or Longfellow. His poems are too coldly classical and too unattractive in subject to appeal to the casual reader, who is, generally speaking, inclined toward poetry of the emotions rather than of the intellect—Arnold's usual kind. That he recognized this himself, witness the following quiet statements made in letters to his friends: "My poems are making their way, I think, though slowly, and are perhaps never to make way very far. There must always be some people, however, to whom the literalness and sincerity of them has a charm.... They represent, on the whole, the main movement of mind of the last quarter of a century, and thus they will probably have their day, as people become conscious to themselves of what that movement of mind is, and interested in the literary productions which reflect it." Time has verified the accuracy of this judgment. In short, Arnold has made a profound rather than a wide impression. To a few, however, of each generation, he will continue to be a "voice oracular,"—a poet with a purpose and a message.
Arnold's Poetic Culture.—Obviously, the sources of Arnold's culture were classical. As one critic has tersely said, "He turned over his Greek models by day and by night." Here he found his ideal standards, and here he brought for comparison all questions that engrossed his thoughts. Homer (he replied to an inquirer) and Epictetus (of mood congenial with his own) were props of his mind, as were Sophocles, "who saw life steadily and saw it whole," and Marcus Aurelius, whom he called the purest of men. These like natures afforded him repose and consolation. Greek epic and dramatic poetry and Greek philosophy appealed profoundly to him. Of the Greek poets he wrote: "No other poets have lived so much by the imaginative reason; no other poets have made their works so well balanced; no other poets have so well satisfied the thinking power; have so well satisfied the religious sense." More than any other English poet he prized the qualities of measure, proportion, and restraint; and to him lucidity, austerity, and high seriousness, conspicuous elements of classic verse, were the substance of true poetry. In explaining his own position as to his art, he says: "In the sincere endeavor to learn and practise, amid the bewildering confusion of our times, what is sound and true in poetic art, I seem, to myself to find the only sure guidance, the only solid footing, among the ancients. They, at any rate, knew what they wanted in Art, and we do not. It is this uncertainty which is disheartening, and not hostile criticism." And again: "The radical difference between the poetic theory of the Greeks and our own is this: that with them, the poetical character of the action in itself, and the conduct of it, was the first consideration; with us, attention is fixed mainly on the value of separate thoughts and images which occur in the treatment of an action. They regard the whole; we regard the parts. We have poems which seem to exist merely for the sake of single lines and passages, and not for the sake of producing any total impression. We have critics who seem to direct their attention merely to detached expressions, to the language about the action, not the action itself. I verily believe that the majority of them do not believe that there is such a thing as a total impression to be derived from a poem at all, or to be demanded from a poet. They will permit the poet to select any action he pleases, and to suffer that action to go as it will, provided he gratifies them with occasional bursts of fine writing, and with a show of isolated thoughts and images; that is, they permit him to leave their poetic sense ungratified, provided that he gratifies their rhetorical sense and their curiosity."
Arnold has illustrated, with remarkable success, his ideas of that unity which gratifies the poetical sense, and has approached very close to his Greek models in numerous instances; most notably so in his great epic or narrative poem, Sohrab and Rustum, which is dealt with elsewhere in this introduction. Perhaps we could not do better than to quote for our consideration at this time, a fine synthesis of Mr. Arthur Galton. He says: "In Matthew Arnold's style and in his manner, he seems to me to recall the great masters, and this in a striking and in an abiding way.... To recall them at all is a rare gift, but to recall them naturally, and with no strained sense nor jarring note of imitation, is a gift so exceedingly rare that it is almost enough in itself to place a writer among the great masters; to proclaim that he is one of them. To recall them at all is a rare gift, though not a unique gift; a few other modern poets recall them too; but with these, with every one of them, it is the exception when they resemble the great masters. They have their own styles, which abide with them; it is only now and then, by a flash of genius, that they break through their own styles, and attain the one immortal style. Just the contrary of this is true of Matthew Arnold. It is his own, his usual, and his most natural style which recalls the great masters; and only when he does not write like himself, does he cease to resemble them.... No man who attains to this great style can fail to have a distinguished function; and Matthew Arnold, like Milton, will be 'a leaven and a power,' because he, too, has made the great style current in English. With his desire for culture and for perfection, there is no destiny he would prefer to this, for which his nature, his training, and his sympathies, all prepared him. To convey the message of those ancients whom he loved so well, in that English tongue which he was taught by them to use so perfectly;—to serve as an eternal protest against charlatanism and vulgarity;—is exactly the mission he would have chosen for himself.... The few writers of our language, therefore, who give us 'an ideal of excellence, the most high and the most rare,' have an important function; we should study their works continually, and it should be a matter of passionate concern with us, that the 'ideals,' that is, the definite and perfect models, should abide with us forever." The Greeks recognized three kinds of poetry,—Lyric, Dramatic, and Epic. Arnold tried all three. First, then, as a lyricist.
Arnold as a Lyricist.—Lyric poetry is the artistic expression of the poet's individual sentiments and emotions, hence it is subjective. The action is usually vapid, the verse musical, the time quick. Unlike the Epic and Drama, it has no preferred verse or meter, but leaves the poet free to choose or invent appropriate forms. In this species of verse Arnold was not wholly at ease. As has been said, one searches in vain through the whole course of his poetry for a blithe, musical, gay or serious, offhand poem, the true lyric kind. The reason for this is soon discovered. Obviously, it lies in the fundamental qualities of the poet's mind and temperament. Though by no means lacking in emotional sensibility, Arnold was too intellectually self-conscious to be carried away by the impulsiveness common to the lyrical moods. With him the intellect was always master; the emotions, subordinate. With the lyricist, the order is, in the main, at least, reversed. The poet throws off intellectual restraint, and "lets his illumined being o'errun" with music and song. This Arnold could not or would not do. Then, too, Arnold's lyrics are often at fault metrically. This, combined with frequent questionable rhymes, argues a not too discriminating poetical ear. He also lacked genius in inventing verse forms, and hence found himself under the necessity of employing or adapting those already in use. In this respect he was notably inferior to Tennyson, many of whose measures are wholly his own. Again, considerable portions of his lyric verse consist merely of prose, cut into lines of different length, in imitation of the unrhymed measures of the Greek poet, Pindar. The Bishop of Derry, commenting on these rhythmic novelties, likens them to the sound of a stick drawn by a city gamin sharply across the area railings,—a not inapt comparison. That they were not always successful, witness the following stanza from Merope:—
"Thou confessest the prize In the rushing, blundering, mad, Cloud-enveloped, obscure, Unapplauded, unsung Race of Calamity, mine!"
Surely this is but the baldest prose. At intervals, however, Arnold was nobly lyrical, and strangely, too, at times, in those same uneven measures in which are found his most signal failures—the unrhymed Pindaric. Philomela written in this style is one of the most exquisite bits of verse in the language. As one critic has put it, "It ought to be written in silver and bound in gold." In urbanity of phrase and in depth of genuine pathos it is unsurpassed and shows Arnold at his best. Rugby Chapel, The Youth of Nature, The Youth of Man, and A Dream are good examples of his longer efforts in this verse form. In the more common lyric measures, Arnold was, at times, equally successful. Saintsbury, commenting on Requiescat, says that the poet has "here achieved the triple union of simplicity, pathos, and (in the best sense) elegance"; and adds that there is not a false note in the poem. He also speaks enthusiastically of the "honey-dropping trochees" of the New Sirens, and of the "chiselled and classic perfection" of the lines of Resignation. Herbert W. Paul, writing of Mycerinus, declares that no such verse has been written in England since Wordsworth's Laodamia; and continues, "The poem abounds in single lines of haunting charm." Among his more successful longer lyrics are The Sick King in Bokhara, Switzerland, Faded Leaves, and Tristram and Iseult, and Epilogue to Lessing's Laocooen, included in this volume.
Arnold as a Dramatist.—The drama is imitated human action, and is intended to exhibit a picture of human life by means of dialogue, acting, and stage accessories. In nature, it partakes of both lyric and epic, thus uniting sentiment and action with narration. Characters live and act before us, and speak in our presence, the interest being kept up by constantly shifting situations tending toward some striking result. As a dramatist, Arnold achieved no great success. Again the fundamental qualities of his mind stood in the way. An author so subjective, so absorbed in self-scrutiny and introspection as he, is seldom able to project himself into the minds of others to any considerable extent. His dramas are brilliant with beautiful phrases, his pictures of landscapes and of nature in her various aspects approach perfection; but in the main, he fails to handle his plots in a dramatic manner and, as a result, does not secure the totality of impression so vital to the drama. Frequently, too, his characters are tedious, and in their dialogue manage to be provokingly unnatural or insipid. They also lack in individuality and independence in speech and action. Many of his situations, likewise, are at fault. For instance, one can scarcely conceive of such characters as Ulysses and Circe playing the subordinate roles assigned to them in The Strayed Reveller. A true dramatist would hardly have committed so flagrant a blunder. Merope is written in imitation of the Greek tragedians. It has dignity of subject, nobility of sentiment, and a classic brevity of style; but it is frigid and artificial, and fails in the most essential function of drama—to stir the reader's emotions. Empedocles on Etna, a half-autobiographical drama, is in some respects a striking poem. It is replete with brilliant passages, and contains some of Arnold's best lyric verses and most beautiful nature pictures; but the dialogue is colorless, the rhymes poor, the plot, such as it contains, but indifferently handled, and even Empedocles, the principal character, is frequently tedious and unnatural. Arnold's dramas show that his forte was not in character-drawing nor in dialogue.
Arnold as a Writer of Epic and Elegy.—Epic poetry narrates in grand style the achievements of heroes—the poet telling the story as if present. It is simple in construction and uniform in meter, yet it admits of the dialogue and the episode, and though not enforcing a moral it may hold one in solution. Elegiac poetry is plaintive in tone and expresses sorrow or lamentation. Both epic and elegy are inevitably serious in mood, and slow and stately in action. In these two forms of verse Arnold was at his best. Stockton pronounced Sohrab and Rustum the noblest poem in the English language. Another critic has said that "it is the nearest analogue in English to the rapidity of action, plainness of thought, plainness of diction, and nobleness of Homer." Combining, as it does, classic purity of style with romantic ardor of feeling, it stands a direct exemplification of Arnold's poetic theories, as set forth in the preface of his volume of 1853. Especially is it successful in emphasizing his idea of unity of impression; "while the truth of its oriental color, the deep pathos of the situation, the fire and intensity of the action, the strong conception of character, and the full, solemn music of the verse, make it unquestionably the masterpiece of Arnold's longer poems, among which it is the largest in bulk and also the most ambitious in scheme." Balder Dead, a characteristic Arnoldian production, founded upon the Norse legend of Balder, Lok, and Hader, though not so great as Sohrab and Rustum, has much poetic worth and ranks high among its kind; and Tristram and Iseult, with its infinite tragedy, and The Sick King in Bokhara, gorgeous in oriental color, are rare examples of the lyrical epic. The Forsaken Merman and Saint Brandan, which are dealt with elsewhere in this volume, are good examples of his shorter narrative poems. In Thyrsis, the beautiful threnody in which he celebrated his dead friend, Clough, Arnold gave to the world one of its greatest elegies. One finds in this poem and its companion piece, The Scholar-Gipsy, the same unity of classic form with romantic feeling present in Sohrab and Rustum. Both are crystal-clear without coldness, and restrained without loss of a full volume of power. Mr. Saintsbury, writing of The Scholar-Gipsy, says: "It has everything—a sufficient scheme, a definite meaning and purpose, a sustained and adequate command of poetical presentation, and passages and phrases of the most exquisite beauty;" and no less praise is due Thyrsis. Other of his elegiac poems are Heine's Grave, Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse, Stanzas in Memory of the Author of "Obermann," Obermann Once More, Rugby Chapel, and Memorial Verses, the two last named being included in this volume. In such measures as are used in these poems, in the long, stately, swelling measures, whose graver movements accord with a serious and elevated purpose, Arnold was most at ease.
Greek Spirit in Arnold.—But it is not alone in the fact that he selects classic subjects, and writes after the manner of the great masters, that Arnold's affinity with the Greeks is manifested. His poems in spirit, as in form, reflect the moods common to the ancient Hellenes, "One feels the (Greek) quality," writes George E. Woodberry, "not as a source, but as a presence. In Tennyson, Keats, and Shelley there was Greek influence, but in them the result was modern. In Arnold the antiquity remains—remains in mood, just as in Landor it remains in form. The Greek twilight broods over all his poetry. It is pagan in philosophic spirit, not Attic, but of later and stoical time; with the patience, endurance, suffering, not in the Christian types, but as they now seem to a post-Christian imagination, looking back to the past." Even when his poems treat of modern or romantic subjects, one is impressed with the feeling that he presents them with the same quality of imagination as would the Greek masters themselves: and in the same form.
Arnold's Attitude toward Nature.—In his attitude toward Nature Arnold is often compared to Wordsworth. A close study, however, reveals a wide difference, both in the way Nature appealed to them and in their mood in her presence. To Arnold she offered a temporary refuge from the doubts and distractions of our modern life,—a soothing, consoling, uplifting power; to Wordsworth she was an inspiration,—a presence that disturbed him "with the joy of elevated thoughts." Conscious of the help he found in her association, Arnold urged all men to follow Nature's example; to possess their souls in quietude, despite the storm and turmoil without. Pancoast says: "He delights in leading us to contemplate the infinite calm of Nature, beside which man's transitory woes are reduced to a mere fretful insignificance. All the beautiful poem of Tristram and Iseult is built upon the skilful alternation of two themes. We pass from the feverish, wasting, and ephemeral struggle of human passions and desire, into an atmosphere that shames its heat and fume by an immemorial coolness and repose;" and the same comparison constitutes the theme for a considerable portion of his poetical work. In his method of approaching Nature, Arnold also differed widely from Wordsworth, in that he saw with the outward eye, that is objectively; while Wordsworth saw rather with the inward eye, or subjectively. In this Arnold is essentially Greek and more Tennysonian than Wordsworthian. Many of his poems, in full or in part, are mere nature pictures, and are artistic in the extreme. The pictures of the Oxus stream at the close of Sohrab and Rustum; the English garden in Thyrsis; and the hunter on the arras, in Tristram and Iseult, are all notable examples. This pictorial method Wordsworth seldom used. In spirit, too, the poets differed widely. To Wordsworth, Nature was, first of all, the abiding place of God; but Arnold "finds in the wood and field no streaming forth of beauty and wisdom from the fountainhead of beauty," no habitancy of Nature's God.
Arnold's Attitude toward Life.—Arnold's attitude toward life has been dwelt upon in the appreciations under the biographical sketch in this volume and need only briefly be summed up here. To him, human life in its higher developments presented itself as a stern and strenuous affair; but he never faltered nor sought to escape from his share of the burden. "On the contrary, the prevailing note of his poetry is self-reliance; help must come from the soul itself, for
"The fountains of life are all within."
He preaches fortitude and courage in the face of the mysterious and the inevitable—a courage, indeed, forlorn and pathetic in the eyes of many—and he constantly takes refuge from the choking cares of life, in a kind of stoical resignation." As a reformer, his function was especially to stir people up, to make them dissatisfied with themselves and their institutions, and to force them to think, to become individual. Everywhere in his works one is confronted by his unvarying insistence upon the supremacy of conduct and duty. The modern tendency to drift away from the old, established religious faith was a matter of serious thought to him and led him to give to the world a rational creed that would satisfy the sceptics and attract the indifferent. We cannot do better than quote for our closing thought the following pregnant lines from the author's sonnet entitled The Better Part:—
"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!"
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ARNOLD THE CRITIC
The following extracts on Arnold as a critic are quoted from well-known authorities.
"Arnold's prose has little trace of the wistful melancholy of his verse. It is almost always urbane, vivacious, light-hearted. The classical bent of his mind shows itself here, unmixed with the inheritance of romantic feeling which colors his poetry. Not only is his prose classical in quality, by virtue of its restraint, of its definite aim, and of the dry white light of intellect which suffuses it; but the doctrine which he spent his life in preaching is based upon a classical ideal, the ideal of symmetry, wholeness, or, as he daringly called it, perfection.... Wherever, in religion, politics, education, or literature, he saw his countrymen under the domination of narrow ideals, he came speaking the mystic word of deliverance, 'Culture.' Culture, acquaintance with the best which has been thought and done in the world, is his panacea for all ills.... In almost all of his prose writing he attacks some form of 'Philistinism,' by which word he characterized the narrow-mindedness and self-satisfaction of the British middle class.
"Arnold's tone is admirably fitted to the peculiar task he had to perform.... In Culture and Anarchy and many successive works, he made his plea for the gospel of ideas with urbanity and playful grace, as befitted the Hellenic spirit, bringing 'sweetness and light' into the dark places of British prejudice. Sometimes, as in Literature and Dogma, where he pleads for a more liberal and literary reading of the Bible, his manner is quiet, suave, and gently persuasive. At other times, as in Friendship's Garland, he shoots the arrows of his sarcasm into the ranks of the Philistines with a delicate raillery and scorn, all the more exasperating to his foes, because it is veiled by a mock humility, and is scrupulously polite.
"Of Arnold's literary criticism, the most notable single piece is the famous essay On Translating Homer, which deserves careful study for the enlightenment it offers concerning many of the fundamental questions of style. The essays on Wordsworth and on Byron from Essays in Criticism, and that on Emerson, from Discourses in America, furnish good examples of Arnold's charm of manner and weight of matter in this province.
"The total impression which Arnold makes in his prose may be described as that of a spiritual man-of-the-world. In comparison with Carlyle, Buskin, and Newman, he is worldly. For the romantic passion and mystic vision of these men he substitutes an ideal of balanced cultivation, the ideal of the trained, sympathetic, cosmopolitan gentleman. He marks a return to the conventions of life after the storm and stress of the romantic age. Yet in his own way he also was a prophet and a preacher, striving whole-heartedly to release his countrymen from bondage to mean things, and pointing their gaze to that symmetry and balance of character which has seemed to many noble minds the true goal of human endeavor."—MOODY AND LOVETT, A History of English Literature.
"As a literary critic, his taste, his temper, his judgment were pretty nearly infallible. He combined a loyal and reasonable submission to literary authority, with a free and even daring use of private judgment. His admiration for the acknowledged masters of human utterance—Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe—was genuine and enthusiastic, and incomparably better informed than that of some more conventional critics. Yet this cordial submission to recognized authority, this honest loyalty to established reputation, did not blind him to defects; did not seduce him into indiscriminating praise; did not deter him from exposing the tendency to verbiage in Burke and Jeremy Taylor, the excess blankness of much of Wordsworth's blank verse, the undercurrent of mediocrity in Macaulay, the absurdities of Mr. Ruskin's etymology. And as in great matters, so in small. Whatever literary production was brought under Matthew Arnold's notice, his judgment was clear, sympathetic, and independent. He had the readiest appreciation of true excellence, a quick intolerance of turgidity and inflation—of what he called endeavors to render platitude endurable by making it pompous, and lively horror of affectation and unreality."—Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL.
"In his work as literary critic Arnold has occupied a high place among the foremost prose writers of the time. His style is in marked contrast to the dithyrambic eloquence of Carlyle, or to Ruskin's pure and radiant coloring. It is a quiet style, restrained, clear, discriminating, incisive, with little glow of ardor or passion. Notwithstanding its scrupulous assumption of urbanity, it is often a merciless style, indescribably irritating to an opponent by its undercurrent of sarcastic humor, and its calm air of assured superiority. By his insistence on a high standard of technical excellence, and by his admirable presentation of certain principles of literary judgment, Arnold performed a great work for literature. On the other hand, we miss here, as in his poetry, the human element, the comprehensive sympathy that we recognize in the criticism of Carlyle. Yet Carlyle could not have written the essay On Translating Homer, with all its scholarly discrimination in style and technique, any more than Arnold could have produced Carlyle's large-hearted essay on Burns. Arnold's varied energy and highly trained intelligence have been felt in many different fields. He has won a peculiar and honorable place in the poetry of the century; he has excelled as literary critic, he has labored in the cause of education, and finally, in his Culture and Anarchy, he has set forth his scheme of social reform, and in certain later books has made His contribution to contemporary thought."—PANCOAST, Introduction to English Literature.
* * * * *
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF ARNOLD'S WORKS
1840. Alaric at Rome. (Prize poem at Rugby.) 1843. Cromwell. (Prize poem at Oxford.) 1849. The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems. Mycerinus. The Strayed Reveller. Fragment of an Antigone. The Sick King in Bokhara. Religious Isolation. To my Friends. A Modern Sappho. The New Sirens. The Voice. To Fausta. Stagyrus. To a Gipsy Child. The Hayswater Boat. The Forsaken Merman. The World and the Quietist. In Utrumque Paratus. Resignation. Sonnets. Quiet Work. To a Friend. Shakespeare. To the Duke of Wellington. Written in Butler's Sermons. Written in Emerson's Essays. To an Independent Preacher. To George Cruikshank. To a Republican Friend.
1852. Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems. Empedocles on Etna. The River. Excuse. Indifference. Too Late. On the Rhine. Longing. The Lake. Parting. Absence. Destiny. (Not reprinted.) To Marguerite. Human Life. Despondency. Youth's Agitations—A Sonnet. Self-Deception. Lines written by a Death-bed. (Afterward, Youth and Calm.) Tristram and Iseult. Memorial Verses. (Previously published in Fraser's Magazine.) Courage. (Not reprinted.) Self-Dependence. A Summer Night. The Buried Life. A Farewell. Stanzas in Memory of the Author of Obermann. Consolation. Lines written in Kensington Gardens. The World's Triumphs—A Sonnet. The Second Best. Revolutions. The Youth of Nature. The Youth of Man. Morality. Progress. The Future. 1853. Poems. Sohrab and Rustum. Cadmus and Harmonia. (A fragment of Empedocles on Etna.) Philomela. Thekla's Answer. The Church of Brou. The Neckan. Switzerland. Richmond Hill. (A fragment of The Youth of Man.) Requiescat. The Scholar-Gipsy. Stanzas in Memory of the Late Edward Quillman. Power of Youth. (A fragment of The Youth of Man.) 1854. A Farewell. 1855. Poems. Balder Dead Separation. 1858. Merope: A Tragedy. 1867. New Poems. Persistency of Poetry. Saint Brandan. (Fraser's Magazine, July, 1860.) Sonnets. A Picture of Newstead. Rachel. (Three Sonnets.) East London. West London. Anti-Desperation. Immorality. Worldly Place. The Divinity. The Good Shepherd with the Kid. Austerity of Poetry. East and West. Monica's Last Prayer. Calais Sands. Dover Beach. The Terrace at Berne. Stanzas composed at Carnae. A Southern Night. (Previously published in the Victoria Regia, 1861.) Fragment of Chorus of a "Dejaneira." Palladium. Early Death and Fame. Growing Old. The Progress of Poesy. A Nameless Epitaph. The Last Word. A Wish. A Caution to Poets. Pis-Aller. Epilogue to Lessing's Laocooen. Bacchanalia. Rugby Chapel. Heine's Grave. Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse. 1860. The Lord's Messengers. (Cornhill Magazine, July.) 1866. Thyrsis. (Macmillan's Magazine, April.) 1868. Obermann Once More. 1873. New Rome. (Cornhill Magazine, June.) 1877. Haworth Churchyard with Epilogue. (Fraser's Magazine, May.) 1881. Geist's Grave. (Fortnightly Review, January.) 1882. Westminster Abbey. (Nineteenth Century Magazine, January.) Poor Matthais. (Macmillan's Magazine, December.) 1887. Horatian Echo. (The Century Guild Hobby Horse, July.) Kaiser Dead. (Fortnightly Review, July.)
1859. England and the Italian Question. 1861. Popular Education in France. On Translating Homer. 1864. A French Eton. 1865. Essays in Criticism. 1867. On Study of Celtic Literature. 1868. Schools and Universities on the Continent. 1869. Culture and Anarchy. 1870. St. Paul and Protestantism. 1871. Friendship's Garland. 1873. Literature and Dogma. 1874. Higher Schools and Universities in Germany. 1875. God and the Bible. 1877. Last Essays on Church and Religion. 1879. Mixed Essays. 1882. Irish Essays. 1885. Discourses in America. 1888. Essays in Criticism, Second Series. Special Report on Elementary Education Abroad. Civilization in the United States.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859). Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882). William M. Thackeray (1811-1863). Robert Browning (1812-1889). Charles Dickens (1812-1870). George Eliot (1819-1880). John Ruskin (1819-1900). Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). John G. Whittier (1807-1892). Henry W. Longfellow (1807-1882). Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894). James Russell Lowell (1819-1891).
The Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold (The Macmillan Company, one volume). The English Poets, Vol. I, by T.H. Ward. Matthew Arnold and the Spirit of the Age, edited by the English Club of Sewanee, Tennessee. Matthew Arnold, by Sir J.G. Fitch. Tennyson, Ruskin, and Other Literary Estimates, by Frederic Harrison. Studies in Interpretation, by W.H. Hudson. Corrected Impressions on Matthew Arnold, by G.E.B. Saintsbury. Matthew Arnold, by Herbert W. Paul. Matthew Arnold, by G.E.B. Saintsbury. Arnold's Letters, collected and arranged by G.W.E. Russell. The Bibliography of Matthew Arnold, edited by T.B. Smart. Matthew Arnold, by Andrew Lang, in Century Magazine, 1881-1882, p. 849.
The Poetry of Matthew Arnold, by R.H. Hutton, in Essays Theological and Literary, Vol. II. Religion and Culture, by John Shairp. Arnold, in Victorian Poets, by Stedman. Matthew Arnold, New Poems, in Essays and Studies, by A.C. Swinburne. Arnold, in Our Living Poets, by Forman.
* * * * *
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
AND OTHER POEMS
* * * * *
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM deg.
And the first grey of morning fill'd the east, deg. deg.1 And the fog rose out of the Oxus deg. stream. deg.2 But all the Tartar camp deg. along the stream deg.3 Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep; Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long 5 He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed; But when the grey dawn stole into his tent, He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword, And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent, And went abroad into the cold wet fog, 10 Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa's deg. tent. deg.11
Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand Of Oxus, where the summer-floods o'erflow When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere deg. deg.15 Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand, And to a hillock came, a little back From the stream's brink—the spot where first a boat, Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land. The men of former times had crown'd the top 20 With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent, A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread. And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent, 25 And found the old man sleeping on his bed Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms. And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep; And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:— 30
"Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn. Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?"
But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:— "Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I. The sun is not yet risen, and the foe 35 Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee. For so did King Afrasiab deg. bid me seek deg.38 Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son, In Samarcand, deg. before the army march'd; deg.40 And I will tell thee what my heart desires. Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan deg. first deg.42 I came among the Tartars and bore arms, I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown, At my boy's years, deg. the courage of a man. deg.45 This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world, And beat the Persians back on every field, I seek one man, one man, and one alone— Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet, 50 Should one day greet, upon some well-fought field, His not unworthy, not inglorious son. So I long hoped, but him I never find. Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask. Let the two armies rest to-day; but I 55 Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords To meet me, man to man; if I prevail, Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall— Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin. Dim is the rumour of a common fight, deg. deg.60 Where host meets host, and many names are sunk deg.; deg.61 But of a single combat fame speaks clear."
He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said:—
"O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine! 65 Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs, And share the battle's common chance deg. with us deg.67 Who love thee, but must press for ever first, In single fight incurring single risk, To find a father thou hast never seen deg.? deg.70 That were far best, my son, to stay with us Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war, And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns. But, if this one desire indeed rules all, To seek out Rustum—seek him not through fight! 75 Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms, O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son! But far hence seek him, for he is not here. For now it is not as when I was young, When Rustum was in front of every fray; 80 But now he keeps apart, and sits at home, In Seistan, deg. with Zal, his father old. deg.82 Whether that his own mighty strength at last Peels the abhorr'd approaches of old age, Or in some quarrel deg. with the Persian King. deg. deg.85 There go deg.!—Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes deg.86 Danger or death awaits thee on this field. Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace To seek thy father, not seek single fights 90 In vain;—but who can keep the lion's cub From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son? Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires."
So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay; 95 And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet, And threw a white cloak round him, and he took In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword deg.; deg.99 And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap, 100 Black, glossy, curl'd, the fleece of Kara-Kul deg.; deg.101 And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd His herald to his side, and went abroad.
The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands. 105 And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed Into the open plain; so Haman deg. bade— deg.107 Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled The host, and still was in his lusty prime. From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream'd; As when some grey November morn the files, 111 In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes Stream over Casbin deg. and the southern slopes deg.113 Of Elburz, deg. from the Aralian estuaries, deg.114 Or some frore deg. Caspian reed-bed, southward bound deg.115 For the warm Persian sea-board—so they stream'd. The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard, First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears; Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara deg. come deg.119 And Khiva, deg. and ferment the milk of mares. deg. deg.120 Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns deg. of the south, deg.121 The Tukas, deg. and the lances of Salore, deg.122 And those from Attruck deg. and the Caspian sands; deg.123 Light men and on light steeds, who only drink The acrid milk of camels, and their wells. 125 And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came From far, and a more doubtful service own'd; The Tartars of Ferghana, deg. from the banks deg.128 Of the Jaxartes, deg. men with scanty beards deg.129 And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes 130 Who roam o'er Kipchak deg. and the northern waste, deg.131 Kalmucks deg. and unkempt Kuzzaks, deg. tribes who stray deg.132 Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes, deg. deg.133 Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere; These all filed out from camp into the plain. 135 And on the other side the Persians form'd;— First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd. The Ilyats of Khorassan deg.; and behind, deg.138 The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot, Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel. 140 But Peran-Wisa with his herald came, Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front, And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks. And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back, 145 He took his spear, and to the front he came, And check'd his ranks, and fix'd deg. them where they stood. deg.147 And the old Tartar came upon the sand Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:—
"Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear! 150 Let there be truce between the hosts to-day. But choose a champion from the Persian lords To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man."
As, in the country, on a morn in June, When the dew glistens on the pearled ears, 155 A shiver runs through the deep corn deg. for joy— deg.156 So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said, A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved.
But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool, deg. deg.160 Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus, deg. deg.161 That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow; Crossing so high, that, as they mount, they pass Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow, Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves 165 Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries— In single file they move, and stop their breath, For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging snows— So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.
And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up 170 To counsel; Gudurz and Zoarrah came, And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host Second, and was the uncle of the King deg.; deg.173 These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz said:—
"Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up, 175 Yet champion have we none to match this youth. He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart. deg. deg.177 But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits deg. deg.178 And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart. Him will I seek, and carry to his ear 180 The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name. Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight. Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up."
So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and cried:— "Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said! 185 Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man." He spake: and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode Back through the opening squadrons to his tent. But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran, And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and reach'd, 190 Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents. Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay, Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around. And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found 195 Rustum; his morning meal was done, but still The table stood before him, charged with food— A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread; And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate deg. deg.199 Listless, and held a falcon deg. on his wrist, deg.200 And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand, And with a cry sprang up and dropp'd the bird, And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:—
"Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight. 205 What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink."
But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said:— "Not now! a time will come to eat and drink, But not to-day; to-day has other needs. The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze; 210 For from the Tartars is a challenge brought To pick a champion from the Persian lords To fight their champion—and thou know'st his name— Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid. O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's! 215 He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart; And he is young, and Iran's deg. chiefs are old, deg.217 Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee. Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose!"
He spoke; but Rustum answer'd with, a smile:— 220 "Go to deg.! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I deg.221 Am older; if the young are weak, the King Errs strangely; for the King, for Kai Khosroo, deg. deg.223 Himself is young, and honours younger men, And lets the aged moulder to their graves. 225 Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young— The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I. For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame? For would that I myself had such a son, And not that one slight helpless girl deg. I have— deg.230 A son so famed, so brave, to send to war, And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal, deg. deg.232 My father, whom the robber Afghans vex, And clip his borders short, and drive his herds, And he has none to guard his weak old age. 235 There would I go, and hang my armour up, And with my great name fence that weak old man, And spend the goodly treasures I have got, And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame, And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings, 240 And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more."
He spoke, and smiled; and Gudurz made reply:— "What then, O Rustum, will men say to this, When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks, 245 Hidest thy face? Take heed lest men should say: Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame, And shuns to peril it with younger men." deg. deg.248
And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply:— "O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words? 250 Thou knowest better words than this to say. What is one more, one less, obscure or famed, Valiant or craven, young or old, to me? Are not they mortal, am not I myself? But who for men of nought would do great deeds? 255 Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame! But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms deg.; deg.257 Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd In single fight with any mortal man."
He spoke, and frown'd; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran 260 Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy— Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came. But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd His followers in, and bade them bring his arms, And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose 265 Were plain, and on his shield was no device, deg. deg.266 Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold, And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume. So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse, 270 Follow'd him like a faithful hound at heel— Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the earth, The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once Did in Bokhara by the river find A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home, 275 And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest, Dight deg. with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green deg.277 Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know. So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd 280 The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd. And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts Hail'd; but the Tartars knew not who he was. And dear as the wet diver to the eyes Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore, 285 By sandy Bahrein, deg. in the Persian Gulf, deg.286 Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night, Having made up his tale deg. of precious pearls, deg.288 Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands— So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came. 290
And Rustum to the Persian front advanced, And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came. And as afield the reapers cut a swath Down through the middle of a rich man's corn, And on each side are squares of standing corn, 295 And in the midst a stubble, short and bare— So on each side were squares of men, with spears Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand. And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw 300 Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came.
As some rich woman, on a winter's morn, Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire— At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn, 305 When the frost flowers deg. the whiten'd window-panes— And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed The unknown adventurous youth, who from afar Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth 310 All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused deg. deg.311 His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was. For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd; Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight, Which in a queen's secluded garden throws 315 Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf, By midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound— So slender Sohrab seem'd, deg. so softly rear'd. deg.318 And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul As he beheld him coming; and he stood, 320 And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said:—
"O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft, And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold! Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave. Behold me! I am vast, deg. and clad in iron, deg.325 And tried deg.; and I have stood on many a field Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe— Never was that field lost, or that foe saved. deg. deg.327 O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death? Be govern'd deg.! quit the Tartar host, and come deg.330 To Iran, and be as my son to me, And fight beneath my banner till I die! There are no youths in Iran brave as thou."
So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice, The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw 335 His giant figure planted on the sand, Sole, like some single tower, which a chief Hath builded on the waste in former years Against the robbers; and he saw that head, Streak'd with its first grey hairs;—hope filled his soul, 340 And he ran forward and embraced his knees, And clasp'd his hand within his own, and said:—
"O, by thy father's head deg.! by thine own soul! deg.343 Art thou not Rustum deg.? speak! art thou not he?" deg.344
But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth, 345 And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul:—
"Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean! False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys. For if I now confess this thing he asks, And hide it not, but say: Rustum is here! 350 He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes, But he will find some pretext not to fight, And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way. And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall, 355 In Samarcand, he will arise and cry: 'I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords To cope with me in single fight; but they Shrank, only Rustum dared; then he and I 360 Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away.' So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud; Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me."
And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud:— "Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus 365 Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call'd By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, deg. or yield! deg.367 Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight? Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee! For well I know, that did great Rustum stand 370 Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd, There would be then no talk of fighting more. But being what I am, I tell thee this— Do thou record it in thine inmost soul: Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield, 375 Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods, Oxus in summer wash them all away."
He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet:— "Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so deg.! deg.380 I am no girl to be made pale by words. Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand Here on this field, there were no fighting then. But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here. Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I, 385 And thou art proved, I know, and I am young— But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven. And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know. For we are all, like swimmers in the sea, 390 Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate, Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall. And whether it will heave us up to land, Or whether it will roll us out to sea, Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death, 395 We know not, and no search will make us know; Only the event will teach us in its hour."
He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came, As on some partridge, in the corn a hawk, 400 That long has tower'd deg. in the airy clouds, deg.401 Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come, And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand, Which it sent flying wide;—then Sohrab threw 405 In turn, and full struck deg. Rustum's shield; sharp rang, deg.406 The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear. And Rustum seized his club, which none but he Could wield; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge, Still rough—like those which men in treeless plains 410 To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers, Hyphasis deg. or Hydaspes, deg. when, high up deg.412 By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack, deg. deg.414 And strewn the channels with torn boughs—so huge 415 The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside, Lithe as the glancing deg. snake, and the club came deg.418 Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's hand. And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell 420 To his knees, and with his fingers clutch'd the sand; And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword, And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand; But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword, 425 But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:—
"Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones. But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I; No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul. 430 Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so! Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul? Boy as I am, I have seen battles too— Have waded foremost in their bloody waves, And heard their hollow deg. roar of dying men; deg.435 But never was my heart thus touch'd before. Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart? O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven! Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears, And make a truce, and sit upon this sand, 440 And pledge each other in red wine, like friends, And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds. There are enough foes in the Persian host, Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang; Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou 445 Mayst fight; fight them, when they confront thy spear! But oh, let there be peace 'twixt thee and me!"
He ceased, but while he spake, Rustum had risen, And stood erect, trembling with rage; his club He left to lie, but had regain'd his spear, 450 Whose fiery point now in his mail'd right-hand Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumn-star, deg. deg.452 The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soil'd His stately crest, deg. and dimm'd his glittering arms. deg.454 His breast heaved, his lips foam'd, and twice his voice 455 Was choked with rage; at last these words broke way:—
"Girl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands! Curl'd minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words! Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more! Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now 460 With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to dance; But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance Of battle, and with me, who make no play Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand. Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine! 465 Remember all thy valour deg.; try thy feints deg.466 And cunning! all the pity I had is gone; Because thou hast shamed me before both the hosts With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles. deg." deg.468
He spoke, and Sohrab kindled deg. at his taunts, deg.470 And he too drew his sword; at once they rush'd Together, as two eagles on one prey Come rushing down together from the clouds, One from the east, one from the west; their shields Bash'd with a clang together, and a din. 475 Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters Make often in the forest's heart at morn, Of hewing axes, crashing trees—such blows Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd. And you would say that sun and stars took part 480 In that unnatural deg. conflict; for a cloud deg. deg.481 Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark'd the sun Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain, And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp'd the pair. 485 In gloom they twain were wrapp'd, and they alone; For both the on-looking hosts on either hand Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure, And the sun sparkled deg. on the Oxus stream. deg.489 But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes 490 And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield Which Sohrab held stiff out; the steel-spiked spear Rent the tough plates, but fail'd to reach the skin, And Rustum pluck'd it back with angry groan. Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm, deg. deg.495 Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest He shore deg. away, and that proud horsehair plume, deg.497 Never till now defiled, sank to the dust; And Rustum bow'd his head deg.; but then the gloom deg.499 Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air, 500 And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the horse, Who stood at hand, utter'd a dreadful cry;— No horse's cry was that, most like the roar Of some pain'd desert-lion, who all day Hath trail'd the hunter's javelin in his side, 505 And comes at night to die upon the sand. The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for fear, And Oxus curdled deg. as it cross'd his stream. deg.508 But Sohrab heard, and quail'd not, but rush'd on, And struck again; and again Rustum bow'd 510 His head; but this time all the blade, like glass, Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm, And in the hand the hilt remain'd alone. Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful eyes Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear, 515 And shouted: Rustum deg.!—Sohrab heard that shout, deg.516 And shrank amazed; back he recoil'd one step, And scann'd with blinking eyes the advancing form; And then he stood bewilder'd; and he dropp'd His covering shield, and the spear pierced his side. 520 He reel'd, and staggering back, sank to the ground; And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell, And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair— Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet, 525 And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.
Then, with a bitter smile, deg. Rustum began:— deg.527 "Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse, And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent. 530 Or else that the great Rustum would come down Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move His heart to take a gift, and let thee go. And then all the Tartar host would praise Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame, 535 To glad deg. thy father in his weak old age. deg.536 Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man! Dearer to the red jackals deg. shalt thou be deg.538 Than to thy friends, and to thy father old."
And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:— 540 "Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man! No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart. For were I match'd with ten such men as thee, And I were that which till to-day I was, 545 They should be lying here, I standing there But that beloved name unnerved my arm— That name, and something, I confess, in thee, Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe. 550 And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate. But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death! My father, whom I seek through all the world, He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!" 555
As when some hunter deg. in the spring hath found deg.556 A breeding eagle sitting on her nest, Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake, And pierced her with an arrow as she rose, And follow'd her to find her where she fell 560 Far off;—anon her mate comes winging back From hunting, and a great way off descries His huddling young left sole deg.; at that, he checks deg.563 His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps Circles above his eyry, with loud screams 565 Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she Lies dying, with the arrow in her side, In some far stony gorge out of his ken, A heap of fluttering feathers—never more Shall the lake glass deg. her, flying over it; deg.570 Never the black and dripping precipices Echo her stormy scream as she sails by— As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss, So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood Over his dying son, and knew him not. 575
But, with a cold incredulous voice, he said:— "What prate is this of fathers and revenge? The mighty Rustum never had a son."
And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:— "Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I. 580 Surely the news will one day reach his ear, Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long, Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here; And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee. 585 Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son! What will that grief, what will that vengeance be? Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen! Yet him I pity not so much, but her, My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells 590 With that old king, her father, who grows grey With age, and rules over the valiant Koords. Her most I pity, who no more will see Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp, With spoils and honour, when the war is done. 595 But a dark rumour will be bruited up, deg. deg.596 From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear; And then will that defenceless woman learn That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more, But that in battle with a nameless foe, 600 By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain."
He spoke; and as he ceased, he wept aloud, Thinking of her he left, and his own death. He spoke; but Rustum listen'd, plunged in thought. Nor did he yet believe it was his son 605 Who spoke, although he call'd back names he knew; For he had had sure tidings that the babe, Which was in Ader-baijan born to him, Had been a puny girl, no boy at all— So that sad mother sent him word, for fear 610 Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms— And so he deem'd that either Sohrab took, By a false boast, the style deg. of Rustum's son; deg.613 Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame. So deem'd he; yet he listen'd, plunged in thought 615 And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore At the full moon; tears gather'd in his eyes; For he remember'd his own early youth, And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn, 620 The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries A far, bright city, smitten by the sun, Through many rolling clouds—so Rustum saw His youth; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom; And that old king, deg. her father, who loved well deg.625 His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child With joy; and all the pleasant life they led, They three, in that long-distant summer-time— The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt And hound, and morn on those delightful hills 630 In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth, Of age and looks deg. to be his own dear son, deg.632 Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand; Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe Of an unskilful gardener has been cut, 635 Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed, And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom, On the mown, dying grass—so Sohrab lay, Lovely in death, upon the common sand. And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and said:— 640
"O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have loved. Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men Have told thee false—thou art not Rustum's son. For Rustum had no son; one child he had— 645 But one—a girl; who with her mother now Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us— Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war."
But Sohrab answer'd him in wrath; for now The anguish of the deep-fix'd spear grew fierce, 650 And he desired to draw forth the steel, And let the blood flow free, and so to die— But first he would convince his stubborn foe; And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:—
"Man, who art thou who dost deny my words? 655 Truth sits upon the lips of dying men, And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine. I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm deg. I bear deg.658 That seal which Rustum to my mother gave, That she might prick it on the babe she bore." 660
He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's cheeks, And his knees totter'd, and he smote his hand Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand, That the hard iron corslet deg. clank'd aloud; deg.663 And to his heart he press'd the other hand, 665 And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:—
"Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie! If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's son."
Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm, 670 And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points Prick'd; as a cunning deg. workman, in Pekin, deg.672 Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase, An emperor's gift—at early morn he paints, And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp 675 Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands— So delicately prick'd the sign appear'd On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal. It was that griffin, deg. which of old rear'd Zal, deg.679 Rustum's great father, whom they left to die, 680 A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks; Him that kind creature found, and rear'd, and loved— Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign. And Sohrab bared that image on his arm, And himself scann'd it long with mournful eyes, 685 And then he touch'd it with his hand and said:—
"How say'st thou? Is that sign the proper sign Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?"
He spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood Speechless; and then he utter'd one sharp cry: 690 O boy—thy father!—and his voice choked there. And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes, And his head swam, and he sank down to earth. But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips, 695 And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks, Trying to call him back to life; and life Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes, And they stood wide with horror; and he seized In both his hands the dust which lay around, 700 And threw it on his head, and smirch'd his hair,— His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms; And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast, And his sobs choked him; and he clutch'd his sword, To draw it, and for ever let life out. 705 But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hands, And with a soothing voice he spake, and said:—
"Father, forbear! for I but meet to-day The doom which at my birth was written down In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand. deg. deg.710 Surely my heart cried out that it was thou, When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too, I know it! but fate trod those promptings down Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged The strife, and hurl'd me on my father's spear. 715 But let us speak no more of this! I find My father; let me feel that I have found! deg. deg.717 Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks, And wash them with thy tears, and say: My son! 720 Quick! quick! for number'd are my sands of life, And swift; for like the lightning to this field I came, and like the wind I go away— Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind. deg. deg.724 But it was writ in Heaven that this should be." 725
So said he, and his voice released the heart Of Rustum, and his tears brake forth; he cast His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud, And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts, When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh, the horse, 730 With his head bowing to the ground and mane Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe First to the one then to the other moved His head, as if inquiring what their grief Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate eyes, 735 The big warm tears roll'd down, and caked deg. the sand. deg.736 But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said:—
"Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Ruksh, thy feet Should first have rotted on their nimble joints, Or ere they brought thy master to this field!" 740
But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said:— "Is this, then, Ruksh? How often, in past days, My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed, My terrible father's terrible horse! and said, That I should one day find thy lord and thee. 745 Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane! O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I; For thou hast gone where I shall never go, And snuff'd the breezes of my father's home. And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan, 750 And seen the River of Helmund, deg. and the Lake deg.751 Of Zirrah deg.; and the aged Zal himself deg.752 Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee food, Corn in a golden platter soak'd with wine, And said: O Ruksh! bear Rustum well!—but I 755 Have never known my grandsire's furrow'd face, Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan, Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund stream; But lodged among my father's foes, and seen Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand, 760 Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste, And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk The desert rivers, Moorghab deg. and Tejend, deg. deg.763 Kohik, deg. and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep, The northern Sir deg.; and this great Oxus stream, deg.765 The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die."
Then, with a heavy groan, Rustum bewail'd:— "Oh, that its waves were flowing over me! Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt Roll tumbling in the current o'er my head!" 770
But, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:— "Desire not that, my father! thou must live. For some are born to do great deeds, and live, As some are born to be obscured, and die. Do thou the deeds I die too young to do, 775 And reap a second glory in thine age; Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine. But come! thou seest this great host of men Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these! Let me entreat for them; what have they done? 780 They follow'd me, my hope, my fame, my star. Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace. But me thou must bear hence, not send with them, But carry me with thee to Seistan, And place me on a bed, and mourn for me, 785 Thou, and the snow-hair'd Zal, and all thy friends. And thou must lay me in that lovely earth, And heap a stately mound deg. above my bones, deg.788 And plant a far-seen pillar over all. That so the passing horseman on the waste 790 May see my tomb a great way off, and cry: Sohrab, the mighty Rustum's son, lies there, Whom his great father did in ignorance kill! And I be not forgotten in my grave."
And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied:— 795 "Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son, So shall it be; for I will burn my tents, And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me, And carry thee away to Seistan, And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee, 800 With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends. And I will lay thee in that lovely earth, And heap a stately mound above thy bones, And plant a far-seen pillar over all, And men shall not forget thee in thy grave. 805 And I will spare thy host; yea, let them go! Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace! What should I do with slaying any more? For would that all that I have ever slain Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes, 810 And they who were call'd champions in their time, And through whose death I won that fame I have— And I were nothing but a common man, A poor, mean soldier, and without renown, So thou mightest live too, my son, my son! 815 Or rather would that I, even I myself, Might now be lying on this bloody sand, Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine, Not thou of mine! and I might die, not thou; And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan; 820 And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine; And say: O son, I weep thee not too sore, For willingly, I know, thou met'st thine end! But now in blood and battles was my youth, And full of blood and battles is my age, 825 And I shall never end this life of blood."
Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied:— "A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful man! But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now, Not yet! but thou shalt have it on that day, deg. deg.830 When thou shalt sail in a high-masted ship, Thou and the other peers of Kai Khosroo, Returning home over the salt blue sea, From laying thy dear master in his grave."
And Rustum gazed in Sohrab's face, and said:— 835 "Soon be that day, my son, and deep that sea! Till then, if fate so wills, let me endure."
He spoke; and Sohrab smiled on him, and took The spear, and drew it from his side, and eased His wound's imperious anguish; but the blood 840 Came welling from the open gash, and life Flow'd with the stream;—all down his cold white side The crimson torrent ran, dim now and soil'd, Like the soil'd tissue of white violets Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank, 845 By children whom their nurses call with haste. Indoors from the sun's eye; his head droop'd low, His limbs grew slack; motionless, white, he lay— White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps, Deep heavy gasps quivering through all his frame, 850 Convulsed him back to life, he open'd them, And fix'd them feebly on his father's face; Till now all strength was ebb'd, and from his limbs Unwillingly the spirit fled away, Regretting the warm mansion which it left, 855 And youth, and bloom, and this delightful world.
So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead; And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak Down o'er his face, and sate by his dead son. As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd 860 By Jemshid in Persepolis, deg. to bear deg.861 His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side— So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.
And night came down over the solemn waste, 865 And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair, And darken'd all; and a cold fog, with night, Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose, As of a great assembly loosed, and fires Began to twinkle through the fog; for now 870 Both armies moved to camp, and took their meal; The Persians took it on the open sands Southward, the Tartars by the river marge; And Rustum and his son were left alone.
But the majestic river floated on, 875 Out of the mist and hum of that low land, Into the frosty starlight, and there moved, Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian deg. waste, deg.878 Under the solitary moon;—he flow'd Right for the polar star, deg. past Orgunje, deg. deg.880 Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin To hem his watery march, and dam his streams, And split his currents; that for many a league The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles— 885 Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere, A foil'd circuitous wanderer—till at last The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide His luminous home deg. of waters opens, bright deg.890 And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars deg. deg.891 Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
SAINT BRANDAN deg.
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, 5 Chime convent-bells on wintry nights; He saw, on spray-swept Hebrides, deg. deg.7 Twinkle the monastery-lights;
But north, still north, Saint Brandan steer'd— And now no bells, no convents more! 10 The hurtling Polar lights deg. are near'd, deg.11 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, 15 And on it—Christ!—a living form.
That furtive mien, that scowling eye, Of hair that red deg. and tufted fell— deg.18 It is—Oh, where shall Brandan fly?— The traitor Judas, out of hell! 20
Palsied with terror, Brandan sate deg.; deg.21 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 25 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, 30 Breathing self-murder, deg. frenzy, spite, deg.31 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: 35 Go hence, and cool thyself an hour!
"'Ah, whence this mercy, Lord?' I said. The Leper recollect, deg. said he, deg.38 Who ask'd the passers-by for aid, In Joppa, deg. and thy charity. deg.40
"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, 45 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!— 50 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, 55 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. 60
"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, 65 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. 70 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! 75 The iceberg, and no Judas there!
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN deg.
Come, dear children, let us away; Down and away below! Now my brothers call from the bay, Now the great winds shoreward blow, Now the salt tides seaward flow; 5 Now the wild white horses deg. play, deg.6 Champ and chafe and toss in the spray. Children dear, let us away! This way, this way!
Call her once before you go— 10 Call once yet! In a voice that she will know: "Margaret deg.! Margaret!" deg.13 Children's voices should be dear (Call once more) to a mother's ear; 15 Children's voices, wild with pain— Surely she will come again! Call her once and come away; This way, this way! "Mother dear, we cannot stay! 20 The wild white horses foam and fret." Margaret! Margaret!
Come, dear children, come away down; Call no more! One last look at the white-wall'd town, 25 And the little grey church on the windy shore; Then come down! She will not come though you call all day; Come away, come away!
Children dear, was it yesterday 30 We heard the sweet bells over the bay? In the caverns where we lay, Through the surf and through the swell, The far-off sound of a silver bell? Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep, 35 Where the winds are all asleep; Where the spent lights quiver and gleam, Where the salt weed sways in the stream, Where the sea-beasts, ranged deg. all round, deg.39 Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground; 40 Where the sea-snakes coil and twine, Dry their mail deg. and bask in the brine; deg.42 Where great whales come sailing by, Sail and sail, with unshut eye, Round the world for ever and aye? 45 When did music come this way? Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, was it yesterday (Call yet once) that she went away? Once she sate with you and me, 50 On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea, And the youngest sate on her knee. She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well, When down swung the sound of a far-off bell. deg. deg.54 She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea; 55 She said: "I must go, for my kinsfolk pray In the little grey church on the shore to-day. 'Twill be Easter-time in the world—ah me! And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee." I said: "Go up, dear heart, through the waves; 60 Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves!" She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay. Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, were we long alone? "The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan; 65 Long prayers," I said, "in the world they say; Come!" I said; and we rose through the surf in the bay. We went up the beach, by the sandy down Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd town; Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still, 70 To the little grey church on the windy hill. From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers, But we stood without in the cold blowing airs. We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn with rains, And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes. 75 She sate by the pillar; we saw her clear: "Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here! Dear heart," I said, "we are long alone; The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan." But, ah, she gave me never a look, 80 For her eyes were seal'd deg. to the holy book! deg.81 Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door. Come away, children, call no more! Come away, come down, call no more!
Down, down, down! 85 Down to the depths of the sea! She sits at her wheel in the humming town, Singing most joyfully. Hark what she sings: "O joy, O joy, For the humming street, and the child with its toy! 90 For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well; For the wheel where I spun, And the blessed light of the sun deg.!" deg.93 And so she sings her fill, Singing most joyfully, 95 Till the spindle drops from her hand, And the whizzing wheel stands still. She steals to the window, and looks at the sand, And over the sand at the sea; And her eyes are set in a stare; 100 And anon there breaks a sigh, And anon there drops a tear, From a sorrow-clouded eye, And a heart sorrow-laden, A long, long sigh; 105 For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden And the gleam of her golden hair.
Come away, away, children; Come children, come down! The hoarse wind blows coldly; 110 Lights shine in the town. She will start from her slumber When gusts shake the door; She will hear the winds howling, Will hear the waves roar. 115 We shall see, while above us The waves roar and whirl, A ceiling of amber, A pavement of pearl. Singing: "Here came a mortal, 120 But faithless was she! And alone dwell for ever The kings of the sea."
But, children, at midnight, When soft the winds blow, 125 When clear falls the moonlight, When spring-tides are low; When sweet airs come seaward From heaths starr'd with broom, deg. deg.129 And high rocks throw mildly 130 On the blanch'd sands a gloom; Up the still, glistening beaches, Up the creeks we will hie, Over banks of bright seaweed The ebb-tide leaves dry. 135 We will gaze, from the sand-hills, At the white, sleeping town; At the church on the hill-side— And then come back down. Singing: "There dwells a loved one, 140 But cruel is she! She left lonely for ever The kings of the sea."
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT deg.
Tristram. Is she not come deg.? 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 deg.? deg.5
The Page. The lanterns of the fishing-boats at sea.
Tristram. Soft—who is that, stands by the dying fire?
The Page. Iseult. deg. deg.8
Tristram. Ah! not the Iseult I desire.
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What Knight is this so weak and pale, Though the locks are yet brown on his noble head, 10 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 15 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 deg. of old; deg.20 I know him by his forest-dress— The peerless hunter, harper, knight, Tristram of Lyoness. deg. deg.23 What Lady is this, whose silk attire Gleams so rich in the light of the fire? 25 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 30 As the driven snow are white deg.; deg.31 But her cheeks are sunk and pale. Is it that the bleak sea-gale Beating from the Atlantic sea On this coast of Brittany, 35 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, 40 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 45 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, 50 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. 55