Thyrsis: A Monody, to Commemorate the Author's Friend, Arthur Hugh Clough

Original Text: 
Macmillan's Magazine (April 1866). AP 4 M2 ROBA AP M337 MICR mfm
1How changed is here each spot man makes or fills!
2     In the two Hinkseys nothing keeps the same;
3          The village street its haunted mansion lacks,
4     And from the sign is gone Sibylla's name,
5          And from the roofs the twisted chimney-stacks--
6               Are ye too changed, ye hills?
7     See, 'tis no foot of unfamiliar men
8          To-night from Oxford up your pathway strays!
9          Here came I often, often, in old days--
10     Thyrsis and I; we still had Thyrsis then.
11Runs it not here, the track by Childsworth Farm,
12     Past the high wood, to where the elm-tree crowns
13          The hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames?
14     The signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs,
15          The Vale, the three lone weirs, the youthful Thames?--
16               This winter-eve is warm,
17     Humid the air! leafless, yet soft as spring,
18          The tender purple spray on copse and briers!
19          And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
20     She needs not June for beauty's heightening,
21Lovely all times she lies, lovely to-night!--
22     Only, methinks, some loss of habit's power
23          Befalls me wandering through this upland dim.
24     Once pass'd I blindfold here, at any hour;
25          Now seldom come I, since I came with him.
26               That single elm-tree bright
27     Against the west--I miss it! is it goner?
28          We prized it dearly; while it stood, we said,
29          Our friend, the Gipsy-Scholar, was not dead;
30     While the tree lived, he in these fields lived on.
31Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here,
32     But once I knew each field, each flower, each stick;
33          And with the country-folk acquaintance made
34     By barn in threshing-time, by new-built rick.
36               Ah me! this many a year
38          Needs must I lose them, needs with heavy heart
39          Into the world and wave of men depart;
41It irk'd him to be here, he could not rest.
42     He loved each simple joy the country yields,
43          He loved his mates; but yet he could not keep,
44     For that a shadow lour'd on the fields,
45          Here with the shepherds and the silly sheep.
46               Some life of men unblest
47     He knew, which made him droop, and fill'd his head.
48          He went; his piping took a troubled sound
49          Of storms that rage outside our happy ground;
50     He could not wait their passing, he is dead.
51So, some tempestuous morn in early June,
52     When the year's primal burst of bloom is o'er,
53          Before the roses and the longest day--
54     When garden-walks and all the grassy floor
55          With blossoms red and white of fallen May
56               And chestnut-flowers are strewn--
57     So have I heard the cuckoo's parting cry,
58          From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
59          Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze:
60       The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I!
61Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?
62     Soon will the high Midsummer pomps come on,
63          Soon will the musk carnations break and swell,
64     Soon shall we have gold-dusted snapdragon,
65          Sweet-William with his homely cottage-smell,
66               And stocks in fragrant blow;
67     Roses that down the alleys shine afar,
68          And open, jasmine-muffled lattices,
69          And groups under the dreaming garden-trees,
70     And the full moon, and the white evening-star.
71He hearkens not! light comer, he is flown!
73          And we shall have him in the sweet spring-days,
74     With whitening hedges, and uncrumpling fern,
75          And blue-bells trembling by the forest-ways,
76               And scent of hay new-mown.
77     But Thyrsis never more we swains shall see;
78          See him come back, and cut a smoother reed,
79          And blow a strain the world at last shall heed--
81Alack, for Corydon no rival now!--
83          Some good survivor with his flute would go,
84     Piping a ditty sad for Bion's fate;
85          And cross the unpermitted ferry's flow,
86               And relax Pluto's brow,
87     And make leap up with joy the beauteous head
89          Are flowers first open'd on Sicilian air,
91O easy access to the hearer's grace
92     When Dorian shepherds sang to Proserpine!
93          For she herself had trod Sicilian fields,
94     She knew the Dorian water's gush divine,
95          She knew each lily white which Enna yields
96               Each rose with blushing face;
98          But ah, of our poor Thames she never heard!
99          Her foot the Cumner cowslips never stirr'd;
100     And we should tease her with our plaint in vain!
101     Well! wind-dispersed and vain the words will be,
102          Yet, Thyrsis, let me give my grief its hour
103          In the old haunt, and find our tree-topp'd hill!
104     Who, if not I, for questing here hath power?
105          I know the wood which hides the daffodil,
106               I know the Fyfield tree,
107     I know what white, what purple fritillaries
108          The grassy harvest of the river-fields,
109          Above by Ensham, down by Sandford, yields,
110     And what sedged brooks are Thames's tributaries;
111I know these slopes; who knows them if not I?--
112     But many a tingle on the loved hillside,
113          With thorns once studded, old, white-blossom'd trees,
114     Where thick the cowslips grew, and far descried
115          High tower'd the spikes of purple orchises,
116               Hath since our day put by
117     The coronals of that forgotten time;
118          Down each green bank hath gone the ploughboy's team,
119          And only in the hidden brookside gleam
120     Primroses, orphans of the flowery prime.
121Where is the girl, who by the boatman's door,
122     Above the locks, above the boating throng,
123          Unmoor'd our skiff when through the Wytham flats,
124     Red loosestrife and blond meadow-sweet among
125          And darting swallows and light water-gnats,
126               We track'd the shy Thames shore?
127     Where are the mowers, who, as the tiny swell
128          Of our boat passing heaved the river-grass,
129          Stood with suspended scythe to see us pass?--
130     They all are gone, and thou art gone as well!
131Yes, thou art gone! and round me too the night
132     In ever-nearing circle weaves her shade.
133          I see her veil draw soft across the day,
134     I feel her slowly chilling breath invade
135          The cheek grown thin, the brown hair sprent with grey;
136               I feel her finger light
137     Laid pausefully upon life's headlong train; --
138          The foot less prompt to meet the morning dew,
139          The heart less bounding at emotion new,
140     And hope, once crush'd, less quick to spring again.
141And long the way appears, which seem'd so short
142     To the less practised eye of sanguine youth;
143          And high the mountain-tops, in cloudy air,
144     The mountain-tops where is the throne of Truth,
145          Tops in life's morning-sun so bright and bare!
146               Unbreachable the fort
147     Of the long-batter'd world uplifts its wall;
148          And strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows,
149          And near and real the charm of thy repose,
150     And night as welcome as a friend would fall.
151But hush! the upland hath a sudden loss
152     Of quiet!--Look, adown the dusk hill-side,
153          A troop of Oxford hunters going home,
154     As in old days, jovial and talking, ride!
155          From hunting with the Berkshire hounds they come.
156               Quick! let me fly, and cross
157     Into yon farther field!--'Tis done; and see,
158          Back'd by the sunset, which doth glorify
159          The orange and pale violet evening-sky,
160     Bare on its lonely ridge, the Tree! the Tree!
161I take the omen! Eve lets down her veil,
162     The white fog creeps from bush to bush about,
163          The west unflushes, the high stars grow bright,
164     And in the scatter'd farms the lights come out.
165          I cannot reach the signal-tree to-night,
166               Yet, happy omen, hail!
167     Hear it from thy broad lucent Arno-vale
168          (For there thine earth forgetting eyelids keep
169          The morningless and unawakening sleep
170     Under the flowery oleanders pale),
171Hear it, O Thyrsis, still our tree is there!--
172     Ah, vain! These English fields, this upland dim,
173          These brambles pale with mist engarlanded,
174     That lone, sky-pointing tree, are not for him;
176               And now in happier air,
178          (And purer or more subtle soul than thee,
179          I trow, the mighty Mother doth not see)
180     Within a folding of the Apennine,
182     Putting his sickle to the perilous grain
183          In the hot cornfield of the Phrygian king,
184     For thee the Lityerses-song again
185          Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing;
186               Sings his Sicilian fold,
187     His sheep, his hapless love, his blinded eyes--
188          And how a call celestial round him rang,
189          And heavenward from the fountain-brink he sprang,
190     And all the marvel of the golden skies.
191There thou art gone, and me thou leavest here
192     Sole in these fields! yet will I not despair.
193          Despair I will not, while I yet descry
194     'Neath the mild canopy of English air
195          That lonely tree against the western sky.
196               Still, still these slopes, 'tis clear,
197     Our Gipsy-Scholar haunts, outliving thee!
198          Fields where soft sheep from cages pull the hay,
199          Woods with anemonies in flower till May,
200     Know him a wanderer still; then why not me?
201A fugitive and gracious light he seeks,
202     Shy to illumine; and I seek it too.
203          This does not come with houses or with gold,
204     With place, with honour, and a flattering crew;
205          'Tis not in the world's market bought and sold--
206               But the smooth-slipping weeks
207     Drop by, and leave its seeker still untired;
208          Out of the heed of mortals he is gone,
209          He wends unfollow'd, he must house alone;
210     Yet on he fares, by his own heart inspired.
211Thou too, O Thyrsis, on like quest wast bound;
212     Thou wanderedst with me for a little hour!
213          Men gave thee nothing; but this happy quest,
214     If men esteem'd thee feeble, gave thee power,
215          If men procured thee trouble, gave thee rest.
216               And this rude Cumner ground,
217     Its fir-topped Hurst, its farms, its quiet fields,
218          Here cams't thou in thy jocund youthful time,
219          Here was thine height of strength, thy golden prime!
220     And still the haunt beloved a virtue yields.
221What though the music of thy rustic flute
222     Kept not for long its happy, country tone;
223          Lost it too soon, and learnt a stormy note
224     Of men contention-tost, of men who groan,
225          Which task'd thy pipe too sore, and tired thy throat--
226               It fail'd, and thou wage mute!
227     Yet hadst thou always visions of our light,
228          And long with men of care thou couldst not stay,
229          And soon thy foot resumed its wandering way,
230     Left human haunt, and on alone till night.
231Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here!
232     'Mid city-noise, not, as with thee of yore,
233          Thyrsis! in reach of sheep-bells is my home.
234     --Then through the great town's harsh, heart-wearying roar,
235          Let in thy voice a whisper often come,
236               To chase fatigue and fear:
237     Why faintest thou! I wander'd till I died.
238         Roam on! The light we sought is shining still.
239         Dost thou ask proof? Our tree yet crowns the hill,
240    Our Scholar travels yet the loved hill-side.


35] They began to write poetry; the idea is expressed in the conventional pastoral style. Back to Line
37] Arnold had not published a volume of poetry since 1857. Back to Line
40] In 1848 Clough, on account of religious difficulties, resigned his fellowship and tutorship in Oriel and went to London. Back to Line
72] Suggested by a passage in Bion's Adonis: "Ah me! when the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley,and the curled tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again, and spring in another year; but we men, we the great and mighty and wise, when once we have died in hollow earth, we sleep, gone down into silence; a right long, and endless, and unawakening sleep." Back to Line
80] As he calls Clough Thyrsis, he calls himself Corydon. Back to Line
82] Pastoral poetry was specially connected with Sicily where Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus all lived. The passage that follows is suggested by the Epitaph on Bion, 121-43. Back to Line
88] In Sicily was
that Field
Of Enna, where Proserpin gath'ring flow'rs
Herself a fairer Flow'r by gloomy Dis
Was gather'd, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world
(Milton). Back to Line
90] Orpheus, by his music, prevailed upon Hades to free his wife Eurydice. Back to Line
97] The Greeks who colonized Sicily were mainly Dorians; hence, pastoral poetry had Doric characteristics. Back to Line
175] Clough died and is buried at Florence. Back to Line
177] the great Mother: Nature. Back to Line
181] Arnold has a note on this stanza. "Daphnis, the ideal Sicilian shepherd of Greek pastoral poetry, was said to have followed into Phrygia his mistress Piplea, who had been carried off by robbers, and to have found her in the power of the King of Phrygia, Lityerses. Lityerses used to make strangers try a contest with him in reaping corn, and to put them to death if he overcame them. Hercules arrived in time to save Daphnis, took upon him the reaping contest with Lityerses, overcame him and slew him. The Lityerses song connected with the tradition was, like the Linus-song, one of the early plaintive strains of Greek popular poetry, and used to be sung by corn reapers. Other traditions represent Daphnis as beloved by a nymph, who exacted from him an oath to love no one else. He fell in love with a princess and was struck blind by the jealous nymph. Mercury, who was his father, raised him to heaven, and made a fountain spring up in the place from which he ascended. At this fountain the Sicilians offered yearly sacrifices." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
H. Kerpneck
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.247.