A Modern Sappho
by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
They are gone—all is still! Foolish heart, dost thou quiver?
Nothing stirs on the lawn but the quick lilac-shade.
Far up shines the house, and beneath flows the river:
Here lean, my head, on this cold balustrade!
Ere he come,—ere the boat by the shining-branched border
Of dark elms shoot round, dropping down the proud stream,—
Let me pause, let me strive, in myself make some order,
Ere their boat-music sound, ere their broidered flags gleam.
Last night we stood earnestly talking together:
She entered—that moment his eyes turned from me!
Fastened on her dark hair, and her wreath of white heather.
As yesterday was, so to-morrow will be.
Their love, let me know, must grow strong and yet stronger,
Their passion burn more, ere it ceases to burn.
They must love—while they must! but the hearts that love longer
Are rare—ah! most loves but flow once, and return.
I shall suffer—but they will outlive their affection;
I shall weep—but their love will be cooling; and he,
As he drifts to fatigue, discontent, and dejection,
Will be brought, thou poor heart, how much nearer to thee!
For cold is his eye to mere beauty, who, breaking
The strong band which passion around him hath furled,
Disenchanted by habit, and newly awaking,
Looks languidly round on a gloom-buried world.
Through that gloom he will see but a shadow appearing,
Perceive but a voice as I come to his side;
—But deeper their voice grows, and nobler their bearing,
Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died.
So, to wait! But what notes down the wind, hark! are driving?
’Tis he! ’tis their flag, shooting round by the trees!
—Let my turn, if it will come, be swift in arriving!
Ah! hope cannot long lighten torments like these.
Hast thou yet dealt him, O life, thy full measure?
World, have thy children yet bowed at his knee?
Hast thou with myrtle-leaf crowned him, O pleasure?
—Crown, crown him quickly, and leave him for me.