Morality

By Matthew Arnold 1822–1888 Matthew Arnold
    We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
       But tasks in hours of insight will'd
       Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd.

    With aching hands and bleeding feet
We dig and heap, lay stone on stone;
We bear the burden and the heat
Of the long day, and wish 'twere done.
       Not till the hours of light return,
       All we have built do we discern.

    Then, when the clouds are off the soul,
When thou dost bask in Nature's eye,
Ask, how she view'd thy self-control,
Thy struggling, task'd morality—
       Nature, whose free, light, cheerful air,
       Oft made thee, in thy gloom, despair.

    And she, whose censure thou dost dread,
Whose eye thou wast afraid to seek,
See, on her face a glow is spread,
A strong emotion on her cheek!
       "Ah, child!" she cries, "that strife divine,
       Whence was it, for it is not mine?

    "There is no effort on my brow—
I do not strive, I do not weep;
I rush with the swift spheres and glow
In joy, and when I will, I sleep.
       Yet that severe, that earnest air,
       I saw, I felt it once—but where?

    "I knew not yet the gauge of time,
Nor wore the manacles of space;
I felt it in some other clime,
I saw it in some other place.
       'Twas when the heavenly house I trod,
       And lay upon the breast of God."

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Poet Matthew Arnold 1822–1888

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Time & Brevity, Religion, Living, Jobs & Working, Activities, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Allusion, Rhymed Stanza

 Matthew  Arnold

Biography

Among the major Victorian writers sharing in a revival of interest and respect in the second half of the twentieth century, Matthew Arnold is unique in that his reputation rests equally upon his poetry and his prose. Only a quarter of his productive life was given to writing poetry, but many of the same values, attitudes, and feelings that are expressed in his poems achieve a fuller or more balanced formulation in his prose. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Religion, Living, Jobs & Working, Activities, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Allusion, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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