Bacchanalia

Original Text: 
Matthew Arnold, New Poems (London: Macmillan, 1867). B-10 2583 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2The tinkle of the thirsty rill,
3Unheard all day, ascends again;
4Deserted is the half-mown plain,
5Silent the swaths! the ringing wain,
6The mower's cry, the dog's alarms,
7All housed within the sleeping farms!
8The business of the day is done,
9The last-left haymaker is gone.
10And from the thyme upon the height,
11And from the elder-blossom white
12And pale dog-roses in the hedge,
13And from the mint-plant in the sedge,
14In puffs of balm the night-air blows
15The perfume which the day forgoes.
16And on the pure horizon far,
17See, pulsing with the first-born star,
18The liquid sky above the hill!
19The evening comes, the fields are still.
20     Loitering and leaping,
21     With saunter, with bounds--
22     Flickering and circling
23     In files and in rounds--
24     Gaily their pine-staff green
25     Tossing in air,
26     Loose o'er their shoulders white
27     Showering their hair--
29     Break from the wood,
31     Maddening their blood.
32     See! through the quiet land
33     Rioting they pass--
34     Fling the fresh heaps about,
35     Trample the grass.
36     Tear from the rifled hedge
37     Garlands, their prize;
38     Fill with their sports the field,
39     Fill with their cries.
40     Shepherd, what ails thee, then?
41     Shepherd, why mute?
42     Forth with thy joyous song!
43     Forth with thy flute!
44     Tempts not the revel blithe?
45     Lure not their cries?
46     Glow not their shoulders smooth?
47     Melt not their eyes?
48     Is not, on cheeks like those,
49     Lovely the flush?
50     --Ah, so the quiet was!
51     So was the hush!
II
52The epoch ends, the world is still.
53The age has talk'd and work'd its fill--
54The famous orators have shone,
55The famous poets sung and gone,
56The famous men of war have fought,
57The famous speculators thought,
58The famous players, sculptors, wrought,
59The famous painters fill'd their wall,
60The famous critics judged it all.
61The combatants are parted now--
62Uphung the spear, unbent the bow,
63The puissant crown'd, the weak laid low.
64And in the after-silence sweet,
65Now strifes are hush'd, our ears doth meet,
66Ascending pure, the bell-like fame
67Of this or that down-trodden name,
68Delicate spirits, push'd away
69In the hot press of the noon-day.
70And o'er the plain, where the dead age
71Did its now silent warfare wage--
72O'er that wide plain, now wrapt in gloom,
73Where many a splendour finds its tomb,
74Many spent fames and fallen mights--
75The one or two immortal lights
76Rise slowly up into the sky
77To shine there everlastingly,
78Like stars over the bounding hill.
79The epoch ends, the world is still.
80     Thundering and bursting
81     In torrents, in waves--
82     Carolling and shouting
83     Over tombs, amid graves--
84     See! on the cumber'd plain
85     Clearing a stage,
86     Scattering the past about,
87     Comes the new age.
88     Bards make new poems,
89     Thinkers new schools,
90     Statesmen new systems,
91     Critics new rules.
92     All things begin again;
93     Life is their prize;
94     Earth with their deeds they fill,
95     Fill with their cries.
96     Poet, what ails thee, then?
97     Say, why so mute?
98     Forth with thy praising voice!
99     Forth with thy flute!
100     Loiterer! why sittest thou
101     Sunk in thy dream?
102     Tempts not the bright new age?
103     Shines not its stream?
104     Look, ah, what genius,
105     Art, science, wit!
106     Soldiers like Caesar,
107     Statesmen like Pitt!
108     Sculptors like Phidias,
109     Raphaels in shoals,
110     Poets like Shakespeare--
111     Beautiful souls!
112     See, on their glowing cheeks
113     Heavenly the flush!
114      --Ah, so the silence was!
115     So was the hush!
116The world but feels the present's spell,
117The poet feels the past as well;
118Whatever men have done, might do,
119Whatever thought, might think it too.

Notes

1] Bacchanalia were festivals in honour of Bacchus at Rome, equivalent to the Dionysia of Greece. "The Dionysia observed at Brauron in Attica were a scene of lewdness, extravagance, and debauchery" (Lemprière). Back to Line
28] Maenads: Bacchantes, or priestesses of Bacchus, whose name derives from their behaviour at the festivals. Back to Line
30] Iacchus: surname of Bacchus, derived from the noise the Bacchantes raised at their festivals. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1867
RPO poem Editors: 
H. Kerpneck
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.243.
Form: