Obermann Once More

Original Text: 
Matthew Arnold, New Poems (London: Macmillan, 1867). B-10 2583 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
Savez-vous quelque bien qui console du
regret d'un monde?--OBERMANN.
1  Glion?--Ah, twenty years, it cuts
2All meaning from a name!
3White houses prank where once were huts.
4Glion, but not the same!
5  And yet I know not! All unchanged
6The turf, the pines, the sky!
7The hills in their old order ranged;
8The lake, with Chillon by!
9  And, 'neath those chestnut-trees, where stiff
10And stony mounts the way,
11The crackling husk-heaps burn, as if
12I left them yesterday!
13  Across the valley, on that slope,
14The huts of Avant shine!
15lts pines, under their branches, ope
16Ways for the pasturing kine.
17  Full-foaming milk-pails, Alpine fare,
18Sweet heaps of fresh-cut grass,
19Invite to rest the traveller there
20Before he climb the pass--
21  The gentian-flower'd pass, its crown
22With yellow spires aflame;
23Whence drops the path to Allière down,
24And walls where Byron came,
25  By their green river, who doth change
26His birth-name just below;
27Orchard, and croft, and full-stored grange
28Nursed by his pastoral flow.
29  But stop!--to fetch back thoughts that stray
30Beyond this gracious bound,
31The cone of Jaman, pale and gray,
32See, in the blue profound!
33  Ah, Jaman! delicately tall
34Above his sun-warm'd firs--
35What thoughts to me his rocks recall,
36What memories he stirs!
37  And who but thou must be, in truth,
38Obermann! with me here?
39Thou master of my wandering youth,
40But left this many a year!
41  Yes, I forget the world's work wrought,
42Its warfare waged with pain;
43An eremite with thee, in thought
44Once more I slip my chain,
45  And to thy mountain-chalet come,
46And lie beside its door,
47And hear the wild bee's Alpine hum,
48And thy sad, tranquil lore!
49  Again I feel the words inspire
50Their mournful calm; serene,
51Yet tinged with infinite desire
52For all that might have been--
53  The harmony from which man swerved
54Made his life's rule once more!
55The universal order served,
56Earth happier than before!
57  --While thus I mused, night gently ran
58Down over hill and wood.
59Then, still and sudden, Obermann
60On the grass near me stood.
61  Those pensive features well I knew,
62On my mind, years before,
63Imaged so oft! imaged so true!
64--A shepherd's garb he wore,
65  A mountain-flower was in his hand,
66A book was in his breast.
67Bent on my face, with gaze which scann'd
68My soul, his eyes did rest.
69  "And is it thou," he cried, "so long
70Held by the world which we
71Loved not, who turnest from the throng
72Back to thy youth and me?
73  "And from thy world, with heart opprest,
74Choosest thou now to turn?--
75Ah me! we anchorites read things best,
76Clearest their course discern!
77  "Thou fledst me when the ungenial earth,
78Man's work-place, lay in gloom.
79Return'st thou in her hour of birth,
80Of hopes and hearts in bloom?
81  "Perceiv'st thou not the change of day?
82Ah! Carry back thy ken,
83What, some two thousand years! Survey
84The world as it was then!
85  "Like ours it look'd in outward air.
86Its head was clear and true,
87Sumptuous its clothing, rich its fare,
88No pause its action knew;
89  "Stout was its arm, each thew and bone
90Seem'd puissant and alive--
91But, ah! its heart, its heart was stone,
92And so it could not thrive!
93  "On that hard Pagan world disgust
94And secret loathing fell.
95Deep weariness and sated lust
96Made human life a hell.
97  "In his cool hall, with haggard eyes,
98The Roman noble lay;
99He drove abroad, in furious guise,
100Along the Appian way.
101  "He made a feast, drank fierce and fast,
102And crown'd his hair with flowers--
103No easier nor no quicker pass'd
104The impracticable hours.
105  "The brooding East with awe beheld
106Her impious younger world.
107The Roman tempest swell'd and swell'd,
108And on her head was hurl'd.
109  "The East bow'd low before the blast
110In patient, deep disdain;
111She let the legions thunder past,
112And plunged in thought again.
113  "So well she mused, a morning broke
114Across her spirit grey;
115A conquering, new-born joy awoke,
116And fill'd her life with day.
117  "'Poor world,' she cried, 'so deep accurst,
118That runn'st from pole to pole
119To seek a draught to slake thy thirst--
120Go, seek it in thy soul!'
121  "She heard it, the victorious West,
122In crown and sword array'd!
123She felt the void which mined her breast,
124She shiver'd and obey'd.
125  "She veil'd her eagles, snapp'd her sword,
126And laid her sceptre down;
127Her stately purple she abhorr'd,
128And her imperial crown.
129  "She broke her flutes, she stopp'd her sports,
130Her artists could not please;
131She tore her books, she shut her courts,
132She fled her palaces;
133  "Lust of the eye and pride of life
134She left it all behind,
135And hurried, torn with inward strife,
136The wilderness to find.
137  "Tears wash'd the trouble from her face!
138She changed into a child!
139'Mid weeds and wrecks she stood--a place
140Of ruin--but she smiled!
141  "Oh, had I lived in that great day,
142How had its glory new
143Fill'd earth and heaven, and caught away
144My ravish'd spirit too!
145  "No thoughts that to the world belong
146Had stood against the wave
147Of love which set so deep and strong
148From Christ's then open grave.
149  "No cloister-floor of humid stone
150Had been too cold for me.
151For me no Eastern desert lone
152Had been too far to flee.
153  "No lonely life had pass'd too slow,
154When I could hourly scan
155Upon his Cross, with head sunk low,
156That nail'd, thorn-crowned Man!
157  "Could see the Mother with her Child
158Whose tender winning arts
159Have to his little arms beguiled
160So many wounded hearts!
161  "And centuries came and ran their course,
162And unspent all that time
163Still, still went forth that Child's dear force,
164And still was at its prime.
165  "Ay, ages long endured his span
166Of life--'tis true received--
167That gracious Child, that thorn-crown'd Man!
168--He lived while we believed.
169  "While we believed, on earth he went,
170And open stood his grave.
171Men call'd from chamber, church, and tent;
172And Christ was by to save.
173  "Now he is dead! Far hence he lies
174In the lorn Syrian town;
175And on his grave, with shining eyes,
176The Syrian stars look down.
177  "In vain men still, with hoping new,
178Regard his death-place dumb,
179And say the stone is not yet to,
180And wait for words to come.
181  "Ah, o'er that silent sacred land,
182Of sun, and arid stone,
183And crumbling wall, and sultry sand,
184Sounds now one word alone!
185  "Unduped of fancy, henceforth man
186Must labour!--must resign
187His all too human creeds, and scan
188Simply the way divine!
189  "But slow that tide of common thought,
190Which bathed our life, retired;
191Slow, slow the old world wore to nought,
192And pulse by pulse expired.
193  "Its frame yet stood without a breach
194When blood and warmth were fled;
195And still it spake its wonted speech--
196But every word was dead.
197  "And oh, we cried, that on this corse
198Might fall a freshening storm!
199Rive its dry bones, and with new force
200A new-sprung world inform!
201  "--Down came the storm! O'er France it pass'd
202In sheets of scathing fire;
203All Europe felt that fiery blast,
204And shook as it rush'd by her.
205  "Down came the storm! In ruins fell
206The worn-out world we knew.
207It pass'd, that elemental swell!
208Again appear'd the blue;
209  "The sun shone in the new-wash'd sky,
210And what from heaven saw he?
211Blocks of the past, like icebergs high,
212Float on a rolling sea!
213  "Upon them plies the race of man
214All it before endeavour'd;
215'Ye live,' I cried, 'ye work and plan,
216And know not ye are sever'd!
217  "'Poor fragments of a broken world
218Whereon men pitch their tent!
219Why were ye too to death not hurl'd
220When your world's day was spent?
221  "'That glow of central fire is done
222Which with its fusing flame
223Knit all your parts, and kept you one--
224But ye, ye are the same!
225  "'The past, its mask of union on,
226Had ceased to live and thrive.
227The past, its mask of union gone,
228Say, is it more alive?
229  "'Your creeds are dead, your rites are dead,
230Your social order too!
231Where tarries he, the Power who said:
232See, I make all things new?
233  "'The millions suffer still, and grieve,
234And what can helpers heal
235With old-world cures men half believe
236For woes they wholly feel?
237  "'And yet men have such need of joy!
238But joy whose grounds are true;
239And joy that should all hearts employ
240As when the past was new.
241  "'Ah, not the emotion of that past,
242Its common hope, were vain!
243Some new such hope must dawn at last,
244Or man must toss in pain.
245  "'But now the old is out of date,
246The new is not yet born,
247And who can be alone elate,
248While the world lies forlorn?'
249  "Then to the wilderness I fled.--
250There among Alpine snows
251And pastoral huts I hid my head,
252And sought and found repose.
253  "It was not yet the appointed hour.
254Sad, patient, and resign'd,
255I watch'd the crocus fade and flower,
256I felt the sun and wind.
257  "The day I lived in was not mine,
258Man gets no second day.
259In dreams I saw the future shine--
260But ah! I could not stay!
261  "Action I had not, followers, fame;
262I pass'd obscure, alone.
263The after-world forgets my name,
264Nor do I wish it known.
265  "Composed to bear, I lived and died,
266And knew my life was vain.
267With fate I murmur not, nor chide;
268At Sèvres by the Seine
269  "(If Paris that brief flight allow)
270My humble tomb explore!
271It bears: Eternity, be thou
272My refuge! and no more.
273  "But thou, whom fellowship of mood
274Did make from haunts of strife
275Come to my mountain-solitude,
276And learn my frustrate life;
277  "O thou, who, ere thy flying span
278Was past of cheerful youth,
279Didst find the solitary man
280And love his cheerless truth--
281  "Despair not thou as I despair'd,
282Nor be cold gloom thy prison!
283Forward the gracious hours have fared,
284And see! the sun is risen!
285  "He breaks the winter of the past;
286A green, new earth appears.
287Millions, whose life in ice lay fast,
288Have thoughts, and smiles, and tears.
289  "What though there still need effort, strife?
290Though much be still unwon?
291Yet warm it mounts, the hour of life!
292Death's frozen hour is done!
293  "The world's great order dawns in sheen,
294After long darkness rude,
295Divinelier imaged, clearer seen,
296With happier zeal pursued.
297  "With hope extinct and brow composed
298I mark'd the present die;
299Its term of life was nearly closed,
300Yet it had more than I.
301  "But thou, though to the world's new hour
302Thou come with aspect marr'd,
303Shorn of the joy, the bloom, the power,
304Which best befits its bard--
305  "Though more than half thy years be past,
306And spent thy youthful prime;
307Though, round thy firmer manhood cast,
308Hang weeds of our sad time
309  "Whereof thy youth felt all the spell,
310And traversed all the shade--
311Though late, though dimm'd, though weak, yet tell
312Hope to a world new-made!
313  "Help it to fill that deep desire,
314The want which rack'd our brain,
315Consumed our heart with thirst like fire,
316Immedicable pain;
317  "Which to the wilderness drove out
318Our life, to Alpine snow,
319And palsied all our word with doubt,
320And all our work with woe--
321  "What still of strength is left, employ
322That end to help attain:
323One common wave of thought and joy
324Lifting mankind again!"
325  --The vision ended. I awoke
326As out of sleep, and no
327Voice moved;--only the torrent broke
328The silence, far below.
329  Soft darkness on the turf did lie.
330Solemn, o'er hut and wood,
331In the yet star-sown nightly sky,
332The peak of Jaman stood.
333  Still in my soul the voice I heard
334Of Obermann!--away
335I turn'd; by some vague impulse stirr'd,
336Along the rocks of Naye
337  Past Sonchaud's piny flanks I gaze
338And the blanch'd summit bare
339Of Malatrait, to where in haze
340The Valais opens fair,
341  And the domed Velan, with his snows,
342Behind the upcrowding hills,
343Doth all the heavenly opening close
344Which the Rhone's murmur fills--
345  And glorious there, without a sound,
346Across the glimmering lake,
347High in the Valais-depth profound,
348I saw the morning break.
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
J. D. Robins
RPO Edition: 
2RP 2.547.