The Strayed Reveller

Original Text: 
Matthew Arnold, The Strayed Reveller, and other Poems (London: B. Fellowes, 1849). B-11 2382 (Fisher Library).
The Youth.
2O Circe, Goddess,
3Let the wild, thronging train
4The bright procession
5Of eddying forms,
6Sweep through my soul!
7Thou standest, smiling
8Down on me! thy right arm,
9Lean'd up against the column there,
10Props thy soft cheek;
11Thy left holds, hanging loosely,
12The deep cup, ivy-cinctured,
13I held but now.
14Is it, then, evening
15So soon? I see, the night-dews,
16Cluster'd in thick beads, dim
17The agate brooch-stones
18On thy white shoulder;
19The cool night-wind, too,
20Blows through the portico,
21Stirs thy hair, Goddess,
22Waves thy white robe!
23Whence art thou, sleeper?
The Youth.
24When the white dawn first
25Through the rough fir-planks
26Of my hut, by the chestnuts,
27Up at the valley-head,
28Came breaking, Goddess!
29I sprang up, I threw round me
30My dappled fawn-skin;
31Passing out, from the wet turf,
32Where they lay, by the hut door,
33I snatch'd up my vine-crown, my fir-staff,
34All drench'd in dew-
35Came swift down to join
36The rout early gather'd
37In the town, round the temple,
39On yonder hill.
40Quick I pass'd, following
41The wood-cutters' cart-track
42Down the dark valley;-I saw
43On my left, through the beeches,
44Thy palace, Goddess,
45Smokeless, empty!
46Trembling, I enter'd; beheld
47The court all silent,
48The lions sleeping,
49On the altar this bowl.
50I drank, Goddess!
51And sank down here, sleeping,
52On the steps of thy portico.
53Foolish boy! Why tremblest thou?
54Thou lovest it, then, my wine?
55Wouldst more of it? See, how glows,
56Through the delicate, flush'd marble,
57The red, creaming liquor,
58Strown with dark seeds!
59Drink, thee! I chide thee not,
60Deny thee not my bowl.
61Come, stretch forth thy hand, thee-so!
62Drink-drink again!
The Youth.
63Thanks, gracious one!
64Ah, the sweet fumes again!
65More soft, ah me,
66More subtle-winding
67Than Pan's flute-music!
68Faint-faint! Ah me,
69Again the sweet sleep!
70Hist! Thou-within there!
71Come forth, Ulysses!
72Art tired with hunting?
73While we range the woodland,
74See what the day brings.
75Ever new magic!
76Hast thou then lured hither,
77Wonderful Goddess, by thy art,
78The young, languid-eyed Ampelus,
79Iacchus' darling-
80Or some youth beloved of Pan,
81Of Pan and the Nymphs?
82That he sits, bending downward
83His white, delicate neck
84To the ivy-wreathed marge
85Of thy cup; the bright, glancing vine-leaves
86That crown his hair,
87Falling forward, mingling
88With the dark ivy-plants--
89His fawn-skin, half untied,
90Smear'd with red wine-stains? Who is he,
91That he sits, overweigh'd
92By fumes of wine and sleep,
93So late, in thy portico?
94What youth, Goddess,-what guest
95Of Gods or mortals?
96Hist! he wakes!
97I lured him not hither, Ulysses.
98Nay, ask him!
The Youth.
99Who speaks' Ah, who comes forth
100To thy side, Goddess, from within?
101How shall I name him?
102This spare, dark-featured,
103Quick-eyed stranger?
104Ah, and I see too
105His sailor's bonnet,
106His short coat, travel-tarnish'd,
107With one arm bare!--
108Art thou not he, whom fame
109This long time rumours
110The favour'd guest of Circe, brought by the waves?
111Art thou he, stranger?
112The wise Ulysses,
113Laertes' son?
114I am Ulysses.
115And thou, too, sleeper?
116Thy voice is sweet.
117It may be thou hast follow'd
118Through the islands some divine bard,
119By age taught many things,
120Age and the Muses;
121And heard him delighting
122The chiefs and people
123In the banquet, and learn'd his songs.
124Of Gods and Heroes,
125Of war and arts,
126And peopled cities,
127Inland, or built
128By the gray sea.-If so, then hail!
129I honour and welcome thee.
The Youth.
130The Gods are happy.
131They turn on all sides
132Their shining eyes,
133And see below them
134The earth and men.
136Sitting, staff in hand,
137On the warm, grassy
138Asopus bank,
139His robe drawn over
140His old sightless head,
141Revolving inly
142The doom of Thebes.
143They see the Centaurs
144In the upper glens
146Where red-berried ashes fringe
147The clear-brown shallow pools,
148With streaming flanks, and heads
149Rear'd proudly, snuffing
150The mountain wind.
151They see the Indian
152Drifting, knife in hand,
153His frail boat moor'd to
154A floating isle thick-matted
155With large-leaved, low-creeping melon-plants
156And the dark cucumber.
157He reaps, and stows them,
158Drifting--drifting;--round him,
159Round his green harvest-plot,
160Flow the cool lake-waves,
161The mountains ring them.
162They see the Scythian
163On the wide stepp, unharnessing
164His wheel'd house at noon.
165He tethers his beast down, and makes his meal--
166Mares' milk, and bread
167Baked on the embers;--all around
168The boundless, waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr'd
169With saffron and the yellow hollyhock
170And flag-leaved iris-flowers.
171Sitting in his cart
172He makes his meal; before him, for long miles,
173Alive with bright green lizards,
174And the springing bustard-fowl,
175The track, a straight black line,
176Furrows the rich soil; here and there
177Cluster of lonely mounds
178Topp'd with rough-hewn,
179Gray, rain-blear'd statues, overpeer
180The sunny waste.
181They see the ferry
182On the broad, clay-laden
184With snort and strain,
185Two horses, strongly swimming, tow
186The ferry-boat, with woven ropes
187To either bow
188Firm harness'd by the mane; a chief
189With shout and shaken spear,
190Stands at the prow, and guides them; but astern
191The cowering merchants, in long robes,
192Sit pale beside their wealth
193Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops,
194Of gold and ivory,
195Of turquoise-earth and amethyst,
196Jasper and chalcedony,
197And milk-barred onyx-stones.
198The loaded boat swings groaning
199In the yellow eddies;
200The Gods behold him.
201They see the Heroes
202Sitting in the dark ship
203On the foamless, long-heaving
204Violet sea.
205At sunset nearing
206The Happy Islands.
207These things, Ulysses,
208The wise bards, also
209Behold and sing.
210But oh, what labour!
211O prince, what pain!
212They too can see
213Tiresias;--but the Gods,
214Who give them vision,
215Added this law:
216That they should bear too
217His groping blindness,
218His dark foreboding,
219His scorn'd white hairs;
221Through a life lengthen'd
222To seven ages.
223They see the Centaurs
224On Pelion:--then they feel,
225They too, the maddening wine
226Swell their large veins to bursting; in wild pain
227They feel the biting spears
229Drive crashing through their bones; they feel
230High on a jutting rock in the red stream
232Ply his bow;--such a price
233The Gods exact for song:
234To become what we sing.
235They see the Indian
236On his mountain lake; but squalls
237Make their skiff reel, and worms
238In the unkind spring have gnawn
239Their melon-harvest to the heart.--They see
240The Scythian: but long frosts
241Parch them in winter-time on the bare stepp,
242Till they too fade like grass; they crawl
243Like shadows forth in spring.
244They see the merchants
245On the Oxus stream;--but care
246Must visit first them too, and make them pale.
247Whether, through whirling sand,
248A cloud of desert robber-horse have burst
249Upon their caravan; or greedy kings,
250In the wall'd cities the way passes through,
251Crush'd them with tolls; or fever-airs,
252On some great river's marge,
253Mown them down, far from home.
254They see the Heroes
255Near harbour;--but they share
256Their lives, and former violent toil in Thebes,
257Seven-gated Thebes, or Troy;
258Or where the echoing oars
260Startled the unknown sea.
262Came, lolling in the sunshine,
263From the dewy forest-coverts,
264This way at noon.
265Sitting by me, while his Fauns
266Down at the water-side
267Sprinkled and smoothed
268His drooping garland,
269He told me these things.
270But I, Ulysses,
271Sitting on the warm steps,
272Looking over the valley,
273All day long, have seen,
274Without pain, without labour,
276Sometimes a Faun with torches--
277And sometimes, for a moment,
278Passing through the dark stems
279Flowing-robed, the beloved,
280The desired, the divine,
281Beloved Iacchus.
282Ah, cool night-wind, tremulous stars!
283Ah, glimmering water,
284Fitful earth-murmur,
285Dreaming woods!
286Ah, golden-haired, strangely smiling Goddess,
287And thou, proved, much enduring,
288Wave-toss'd Wanderer!
289Who can stand still?
290Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me--
291The cup again!
292Faster, faster,
293O Circe, Goddess.
294Let the wild, thronging train,
295The bright procession
296Of eddying forms,
297Sweep through my soul!


1] Published 1849. The story of Circe, enchantress, daughter of Helios (the sun) is told in the Odyssey x. 33. The vine-crown and fir-staff mark him a follower of Dionysus (Bacchus). Back to Line
38] Iacchus. Bacchus. Back to Line
135] Tiresias. The blind soothsayer of Thebes. Back to Line
145] Pelion. A mountain range in Thessaly, where dwelt the Centaurs with bodies half-man, half-horse. Back to Line
183] Chorasmian stream. The Oxus river in Asia. Back to Line
220] According to one story the blindness of Tiresias was caused by the anger of Hera (Juno). Back to Line
228] The Lapithae, a Thessalian people, defeated the Centaurs with the assistance of the Athenian hero Theseus. Back to Line
231] Alcmena's son. Hercules, one of whose labours was to conquer the Centaurs. Back to Line
259] Argo. The mythical ship which carried Jason in his quest of the Golden Fleece. Back to Line
261] Silenus. A satyr, companion of Bacchus Back to Line
275] Mænad. A frenzied follower of Bacchus. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1916), pp. 399-91; RPO 1997.