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Memorial Verses - a poem by Matthew Arnold

Goethe in Weimar sleeps, and Greece, 
Long since, saw Byron's struggle cease. 
But one such death remain'd to come; 
The last poetic voice is dumb 
We stand to-day by Wordsworth's tomb. 

When Byron's eyes were shut in death, 
We bow'd our head and held our breath. 
He taught us little; but our soul 
Had felt him like the thunder's roll. 
With shivering heart the strife we saw 
Of passion with eternal law; 
And yet with reverential awe 
We watch'd the fount of fiery life 
Which served for that Titanic strife. 

When Goethe's death was told, we said: 
Sunk, then, is Europe's sagest head. 
Physician of the iron age, 
Goethe has done his pilgrimage. 
He took the suffering human race, 
He read each wound, each weakness clear; 
And struck his finger on the place, 
And said: Thou ailest here, and here! 

He look'd on Europe's dying hour 
Of fitful dream and feverish power; 
His eye plunged down the weltering strife, 
The turmoil of expiring life 
He said: The end is everywhere, 
Art still has truth, take refuge there! 
And he was happy, if to know 
Causes of things, and far below 
His feet to see the lurid flow 
Of terror, and insane distress, 
And headlong fate, be happiness. 

And Wordsworth! Ah, pale ghosts, rejoice! 
For never has such soothing voice 
Been to your shadowy world convey'd, 
Since erst, at morn, some wandering shade 
Heard the clear song of Orpheus come 
Through Hades, and the mournful gloom. 
Wordsworth has gone from us and ye, 
Ah, may ye feel his voice as we! 
He too upon a wintry clime 
Had fallen on this iron time 
Of doubts, disputes, distractions, fears. 
He found us when the age had bound 
Our souls in its benumbing round; 
He spoke, and loosed our heart in tears. 
He laid us as we lay at birth 
On the cool flowery lap of earth, 
Smiles broke from us and we had ease; 

The hills were round us, and the breeze 
Went o'er the sun-lit fields again; 
Our foreheads felt the wind and rain. 
Our youth return'd; for there was shed 
On spirits that had long been dead, 
Spirits dried up and closely furl'd, 
The freshness of the early world. 

Ah! since dark days still bring to light 
Man's prudence and man's fiery might, 
Time may restore us in his course 
Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force; 
But where will Europe's latter hour 
Again find Wordsworth's healing power? 
Others will teach us how to dare, 
And against fear our breast to steel; 
Others will strengthen us to bear-- 
But who, ah! who, will make us feel? 
The cloud of mortal destiny, 
Others will front it fearlessly 
But who, like him, will put it by?

Keep fresh the grass upon his grave, 
O Rotha, with thy living wave! 
Sing him thy best! for few or none 
Hears thy voice right, now he is gone.
 


Memorial Verses
a poem by Matthew Arnold
 

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