Cadmus and Harmonia

Original Text: 
Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna (London: B. Fellowes, 1852). B-11 2384 (Fisher Library).
2The Adriatic breaks in a warm bay
4The sunshine in the happy glens is fair,
5And by the sea, and in the brakes.
6The grass is cool, the sea-side air
7Buoyant and fresh, the mountain flowers
8More virginal and sweet than ours.
9And there, they say, two bright and aged snakes,
10Who once were Cadmus and Harmonia,
11Bask in the glens or on the warm sea-shore,
12In breathless quiet, after all their ills;
13Nor do they see their country, nor the place
14Where the Sphinx lived among the frowning hills,
15Nor the unhappy palace of their race,
18They had stay'd long enough to see,
19In Thebes, the billow of calamity
20Over their own dear children roll'd,
21Curse upon curse, pang upon pang,
22For years, they sitting helpless in their home,
23A grey old man and woman; yet of old
24The Gods had to their marriage come,
25And at the banquet all the Muses sang.
26Therefore they did not end their days
27In sight of blood, but were rapt, far away,
28To where the west-wind plays,
29And murmurs of the Adriatic come
30To those untrodden mountain-lawns; and there
31Placed safely in changed forms, the pair
32Wholly forgot their first sad life, and home,
33And all that Theban woe, and stray
34For ever through the glens, placid and dumb.


1] Another extract from "Empedocles in Etna ", inserted by Arnold in his "Selections". Cadmus was the mythical founder of Thebes. Back to Line
3] Illyria. On the east coast of the Adriatic. Back to Line
16] Ismenus. A river in Boeotia. Back to Line
17] the Sphinx. The monster who dwelt beside Thebes and devoured those who could not solve his riddle. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1916), ed. W. J. Alexander and W. H. Clawson, pp. 391-92; RPO 1997.