Matthew Arnold On hearing him read his Poems in Boston

Original Text: 
Katharine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful (New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1911): 70-71. PS 1077 B4A5 1911 University of Iowa Libraries.
2    He stept before the curious throng;
3His path into our waiting hearts
4    Already paved by song.
5Full well we knew his choristers,
6    Whose plaintive voices haunt our rest,
7Those sable-vested harbingers
8    Of melancholy guest.
9We smiled on him for love of these,
10    With eyes that swift grew dim to scan
11Beneath the veil of courteous ease
12    The faith-forsaken man.
13To his wan gaze the weary shows
14    And fashions of our vain estate,
15Our shallow pain and false repose,
16    Our barren love and hate,
17Are shadows in a land of graves,
18    Where creeds, the bubbles of a dream,
19Flash each and fade, like melting waves
20    Upon a moonlight stream.
21Yet loyal to his own despair,
22    Erect beneath a darkened sky,
23He deems the austerest truth more fair
24    Than any gracious lie;
25And stands, heroic, patient, sage,
26    With hopeless hands that bind the sheaf,
27Claiming God's work with His wage,
28    The bard of unbelief.


1] Although an eloquent defender of a classical education against attacks by scientists, Matthew Arnold was deeply skeptical about traditional Christian dogma, as in his perhaps best-known poem, "Dover Beach." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.