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The Forsaken Merman

By Arnold, Matthew

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Book Id: WPLBN0000701647
Format Type: PDF eBook
File Size: 130,507 KB.
Reproduction Date: 2007
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Title: The Forsaken Merman  
Author: Arnold, Matthew
Language: English
Subject: Fiction, Poetry, Verse drama
Collections: Poetry Collection
Publication Date:
Publisher: World Public Library Association


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Arnold, M. (n.d.). The Forsaken Merman. Retrieved from


Excerpt: COME, dear children, let us away; // Down and away below! // Now my brothers call from the bay, // Now the great winds shoreward blow, // Now the salt tides seaward flow; // Now the wild white horses play, // Champ and chafe and toss in the spray. // Children dear, let us away! // This way, this way! // Call her once before you go- // Call once yet! // In a voice that she will know: // Margaret! Margaret! // Children's voices should be dear // (Call once more) to a mother's ear; // Children's voices, wild with pain- // Surely she will come again! // Call her once and come away; // This way, this way! // Mother dear, we cannot stay! // The wild white horses foam and fret. // Margaret! Margaret! // Come, dear children, come away down; // Call no more! // One last look at the white-wall'd town // And the little grey church on the windy shore, // Then come down! // She will not come though you call all day; // Come away, come away! // Children dear, was it yesterday // We heard the sweet bells over the bay? // In the caverns where we lay, // Through the surf and through the swell, // The far-off sound of a silver bell? // Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep, // Where the winds are all asleep; // Where the spent lights quiver and gleam, // Where the salt weed sways in the stream, // Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round, // Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground; // Where the sea-snakes coil and twine, // Dry their mail and bask in the brine; // Where great whales come sailing by, // Sail and sail, with unshut eye, // Round the world for ever and aye? // When did music come this way? // Children dear, was it yesterday? // Children dear, was it yesterday // (Call yet once) that she went away? // Once she sate with you and me, // On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea, // And the youngest sate on her knee. // She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well, // When down swung the sound of a far-off bell. // She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea; // She said: I must go, for my kinsfolk pray // In the little grey church on the shore to-day. // 'T will be Easter-time in the world-ah me! // And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee. // I said: Go up, dear heart, through the waves; // Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves! // She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay. // Children dear, was it yesterday? // Children dear, were we long alone? // The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan; // Long prayers, I said, in the world they say; // Come! I said; and we rose through the surf in the bay. // We went up the beach, by the sandy down // Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd town; // Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still, // To the little grey church on the windy hill. // From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers, // But we stood without in the cold blowing airs. // We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn with rains, // And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes. // She sate by the pillar; we saw her clear: // Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here! // Dear heart, I said, we are long alone; // The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan. // But, ah, she gave me never a look, // For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book! // Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door. // Come away, children, call no more! // Come away, come down, call no more! // Down, down, down! // Down to the depths of the sea! // She sits at her wheel in the humming town, // 2 // Singing most joyfully. // Hark what she sings: O joy, O joy, // For the humming street, and the child with its toy! // For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well; // For the wheel where I spun, // And the blessed light of the sun! // And so she sings her fill, // Singing most joyfully, // Till the spindle drops from her hand, // And the whizzing wheel stands still. // She steals to the window, and looks at the sand, // And over the sand at the sea; // And her eyes are set in a stare; // And anon there breaks a sigh, // And anon there drops a tear, // From a sorrow-clouded eye, // And a heart sorrow-laden, // A long, long sigh; // For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden // And the gleam of her golden hair. // Come away, away children // Come children, come down! // The hoarse wind blows coldly; // Lights shine in the town. // She will start from her slumber // When gusts shake the door; // She will hear the winds howling, // Will hear the waves roar. // We shall see, while above us // The waves roar and whirl, // A ceiling of amber, // A pavement of pearl. // Singing: Here came a mortal, // But faithless was she! // And alone dwell for ever // The kings of the sea. // But, children, at midnight, // When soft the winds blow, // When clear falls the moonlight, // When spring-tides are low; // When sweet airs come seaward // From heaths starr'd with broom, // And high rocks throw mildly // On the blanch'd sands a gloom; // Up the still, glistening beaches, // Up the creeks we will hie, // Over banks of bright seaweed // The ebb-tide leaves dry. // We will gaze, from the sand-hills, // At the white, sleeping town; // 3 // At the church on the hill-side- // And then come back down. // Singing: There dwells a loved one, // But cruel is she! // She left lonely for ever // The kings of the sea. // Matthew Arnold // Quiet Work // ONE lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee, // One lesson which in every wind is blown, // One lesson of two duties kept at one // Though the loud world proclaim their enmity- // Of toil unsever'd from tranquility! // Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows // Far noisier schemes, accomplish'd in repose, // Too great for haste, too high for rivalry. // Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring, // Man's fitful uproar mingling with his toil, // Still do thy sleepless ministers move on, // Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting; // Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil, // Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone. // Matthew Arnold // Shakespeare // OTHERS abide our question. Thou art free. // We ask and ask - Thou smilest and art still, // Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill, // Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty, // Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea, // Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling place, // Spares but the cloudy border of his base // To the foiled searching of mortality; // And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know, // Self-schooled, self-scanned, self-honored, self-secure, // Didst tread on earth unguessed at. - Better so. // All pains the immortal spirit must endure, // All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow, // Find their sole speech in that victorious brow. // Matthew Arnold // The Buried Life // LIGHT flows our war of mocking words and yet // Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet! // I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll, // Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, // We know, we know that we can smile! // But there's a something in this breast, // 4 // To which thy light words bring no rest. // And thy gay smiles no anodyne. // Give me thy hand and hush awhile, // And turn those limpid eyes on mine, // And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul. // Alas! is even love too weak // To unlock the heart, and let it speak? // Are even lovers powerless to reveal // To one another what indeed they feel? // I knew the mass of men concealed // Their thoughts, for fear that if revealed // They would by other men be met // With blank indifference, or with blame reproved; // I knew they lived and moved // Tricked in disguises, alien to the rest // Of men, and alien to themselves - and yet // The same heart beats in every human breast! // But we my love! - doth a like spell benumb // Our hearts, our voices? - must we too be dumb? // Ah! well for us, if even we, // Even for a moment, can get free // Our heart, and have our lips unchained; // For that which seals them hath been deep-ordained! // Fate, which foresaw // How frivolous a baby man would be - // By what distractions he would be possessed, // How he would pour himself in every strife, // And well-nigh change his own identity - // That it might keep him from his capricious play // His genuine self, and force him to obey // Even in his own despite his being's law, // Bade through the deep recesses of our breast // The unregarded river of our life // Pursue with indiscernible flow its way; // And that we should not see // The buried stream, and seem to be // Eddying at large in blind uncertainty, // Though driving on with it eternally. // But often, in the world's most crowded streets, // But often, in the din of strife, // There rises an unspeakable desire // After the knowledge of our buried life; // A thirst to spend our fire and restless force // In tracking out our true, original course; // A longing to inquire // Into the mystery of this heart which beats // So wild, so deep in us - to know // Whence our lives come and where they go. // And many a man in his own breast then delves, // But deep enough, alas! none ever mines. // 5 // And we have been on many thousand lines, // And we have shown, on each, spirit and power; // But hardly have we, for one little hour, // Been on our own line, have we been ourselves - // Hardly had skill to utter one of all // The nameless feelings that course through our breast, // But they course on for ever unexpressed. // And long we try in vain to speak and act // Our hidden self, and what we say and do // Is eloquent, is well - but 'tis not true! // And then we will no more be racked // With inward striving, and demand // Of all the thousand nothings of the hour // Their stupefying power; // Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call! // Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn, // From the soul's subterranean depth upborne // As from an infinitely distant land, // Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey // A melancholy into all our day. // Only - but this is rare - // When a beloved hand is laid in ours, // When, jaded with the rush and glare // Of the interminable hours, // Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, // When our world-deafened ear // Is by the tones of a loved voice caressed - // A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast, // And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again. // The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, // And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know. // A man becomes aware of his life's flow, // And hears its winding murmur; and he sees // The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze. // And there arrives a lull in the hot race // Wherein he doth for ever chase // That flying and elusive shadow, rest. // An air of coolness plays upon his face, // And an unwonted calm pervades his breast. // And then he thinks he knows // The hills where his life rose // And the sea where it goes. // Matthew Arnold // The Last Word // CREEP into thy narrow bed, // Creep, and let no more be said! // Vain thy onset! all stands fast. // Thou thyself must break at last. // Let the long contention cease! // 6 // Geese are swans, and swans are geese. // Let them have it how they will! // Thou art tired: best be still. // They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee? // Better men fared thus before thee; // Fired their ringing shot and passed, // Hotly charged - and sank at last. // Charge once more, then, and be dumb! // Let the victors, when they come, // When the forts of folly fall, // Find thy body by the wall! // Matthew Arnold // Memorial Verses // GOEThe in Weimar sleeps, and Greece, // Long since, saw Byron's struggle cease. // But one such death remain'd to come; // The last poetic voice is dumb- // We stand to-day by Wordsworth's tomb. // When Byron's eyes were shut in death, // We bow'd our head and held our breath. // He taught us little; but our soul // Had felt him like the thunder's roll. // With shivering heart the strife we saw // Of passion with eternal law; // And yet with reverential awe // We watch'd the fount of fiery life // Which served for that Titanic strife. // When Goethe's death was told, we said: // Sunk, then, is Europe's sagest head. // Physician of the iron age, // Goethe has done his pilgrimage. // He took the suffering human race, // He read each wound, each weakness clear; // And struck his finger on the place, // And said: Thou ailest here, and here! // He look'd on Europe's dying hour // Of fitful dream and feverish power; // His eye plunged down the weltering strife, // The turmoil of expiring life- // He said: The end is everywhere, // Art still has truth, take refuge there! // And he was happy, if to know // Causes of things, and far below // His feet to see the lurid flow // Of terror, and insane distress, // And headlong fate, be happiness. // And Wordsworth!-Ah, pale ghosts, rejoice! // For never has such soothing voice // Been to your shadowy world convey'd, // 7 // Since erst, at morn, some wandering shade // Heard the clear song of Orpheus come // Through Hades, and the mournful gloom. // Wordsworth has gone from us-and ye, // Ah, may ye feel his voice as we! // He too upon a wintry clime // Had fallen-on this iron time // Of doubts, disputes, distractions, fears. // He found us when the age had bound // Our souls in its benumbing round; // He spoke, and loosed our heart in tears. // He laid us as we lay at birth // On the cool flowery lap of earth, // Smiles broke from us and we had ease; // The hills were round us, and the breeze // Went o'er the sun-lit fields again; // Our foreheads felt the wind and rain. // Our youth return'd; for there was shed // On spirits that had long been dead, // Spirits dried up and closely furl'd, // The freshness of the early world. // Ah! since dark days still bring to light // Man's prudence and man's fiery might, // Time may restore us in his course // Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force; // But where will Europe's latter hour // Again find Wordsworth's healing power? // Others will teach us how to dare, // And against fear our breast to steel; // Others will strengthen us to bear- // But who, ah! who, will make us feel? // The cloud of mortal destiny, // Others will front it fearlessly- // But who, like him, will put it by? // Keep fresh the grass upon his grave, // O Rotha, with thy living wave! // Sing him thy best! for few or none // Hears thy voice right, now he is gone. // Matthew Arnold // Rugby Chapel // November, 1857 // COLDLY, sadly descends // The autumn evening. The Field // Strewn with its dank yellow-drifts // Of wither'd leaves, and the elms // Fade into dimness apace, // Silent; - hardly a shout // From a few boys late at their play! // The lights come out in the street, // 8 // In the school-room windows; but cold, // Solemn, unlighted, austere, // Through the gathering darkness, arise // The Chapel walls, in whose bound // Thou, my father! art laid. // There thou dost lie, in the gloom // Of the autumn evening. But ah! // That word, gloom, to my mind // Brings thee back in the light // Of thy radiant vigour again! // In the gloom of November we pass'd // Days not of gloom at thy side; // Seasons' impair'd not the ray // Of thine even cheerfulness clear. // Such thou wast; and I stand // In the autumn evening, and think // Of bygone autumns with thee. // Fifteen years have gone round // Since thou arosest to tread, // In the summer morning, the road // Of death, at a call unforeseen, // Sudden. For fifteen years, // We who till then in thy shade // Rested as under the boughs // Of a mighty oak, have endured // Sunshine and rain as we might, // Bare, unshaded, alone, // Lacking the shelter of thee. // O strong soul, by what shore // Tarriest thou now? For that force, // Surely, has not bee left vain! // Somewhere, surely, afar, // In the sounding labour-house vast // Of being, is practised that strength, // Zealous, beneficint, firm! // Yes, in some far-shining sphere, // Conscious or not of the past, // Still thou performest the word // Of the Spirit in whom thou dost live, // Prompt, unwearied, as here! // Still thou upraisest with zeal // The humble good from the ground, // Sternly repressest the bad. // Still, like a trumpet, dost rouse // Those who with half-open eyes // Tread the border-land dim // 'Twixt vice and virtue; reviv'st, // Succourest; - this was thy work, // This was thy life upon earth. // What is the course of the life // 9 // Of mortal men on the earth? - // Most men eddy about // Here and there - eat and drink, // Chatter and love and hate, // Gather and squander, are raised // Aloft, are hurl'd in the dust, // Striving blindly, achieving // Nothing; and, then they die - // Perish; and no one asks // Who or what they have been, // More than he asks what waves // In the moonlit solitudes mild // Of the midmost Ocean, have swell'd, // Foam'd for a moment, and gone. // And there are some, whom a thirst // Ardent, unquenchable, fires, // Not with the crowd to be spent, // Not without aim to go around // In an eddy of purposeless dust, // Effort unmeaning and vain. // Ah, yes, some of us strive // Not without action to die // Fruitless, but something to snatch // From dull oblivion, nor all // Glut the devouring grave! // We, we have chosen our path - // Path to a clear-purposed goal, // Path of advance! but it leads, // A long, steep journey, through sunk // Gorges, o'er mountains in snow! // Cheerful, with friends, we set forth; // Then, on the height, comes the storm! // Thunder crashes from rock // To rock, the cataracts reply; // Lightnings dazzle our eyes; // Roaring torrents have breach'd // The track, the stream-bed descends // In the place where the wayfarer once // Planted his footstep - the spray // Boils o'er its borders; aloft, // The unseen snow-beds dislodge // Their hanging ruin; - alas, // Havoc is made in our train! // Friends who set forth at our side // Falter, are lost in the storm! // We, we only, are left! // With frowning foreheads, with lips // Sternly compress'd, we strain on, // On - and at nightfall, at last, // Come to the end of our way, // 10 // To the lonely inn 'mid the rocks; // Where the gaunt and taciturn Host // Stands on the threshold, the wind // Shaking his thin white hairs - // Holds his lantern to scan // Our storm-beat figures, and asks: // Whom in our party we bring? // Whom we have left in the snow? // Sadly we answer: We bring // Only ourselves; we lost // Sight of the rest in the storm. // Hardly ourselves we fought through, // Stripp'd, without friends, as we are. // Friends. companions, and train // The avalanche swept from our side. // But thou would'st not alone // Be saved, my father! alone // Conquer and come to thy goal, // Leaving the rest in the wild. // We were weary, and we // Fearful and we, in our march, // Fain to drop down and to die. // Still thou turnedst, and still // Beckonedst the trembler, and still // Gavest the weary thy hand! // If, in the paths of the world, // Stones might have wounded thy feet, // Toil or dejection have tried // Thy spirit, of that we saw // Nothing! to us thou wert still // Cheerful, and helpful, and firm. // Therefore to thee it was given // Many to save with thyself; // And, at the end of thy day, // O faithful shepherd! to come // Bringing thy sheep in thy hand. // And through thee I believe // In the noble and great who are gone; // Pure souls honour'd and blest // By former ages, who else - // Such, so soulless, so poor, // Is the race of men whom I see - // Seem'd but a dream of the heart, // Seem'd but a cry of desire. // Yes! I believe that there lived // Others like thee in the past, // Not like the men of the crowd // Who all round me to-day // Bluster or cringe, and make life // Hideous, and arid, and vile; // 11 // But souls temper'd with fire, // Fervent, heroic, and good, // Helpers and friends of mankind. // Servants of God! - or sons // Shall I not call you? because // Not as servants ye knew // Your Father's innermost mind, // His, who unwillingly sees // One of his little ones lost - // Yours is the praise, if mankind // Hath not as yet in its march // Fainted, and fallen, and died! // See! in the rocks of the world // Marches the host of mankind, // A feeble, wavering line. // Where are they tending? - A God // Marshall'd them, gave them their goal. - // Ah, but the way is so long! // Years they have been in the wild! // Sore thirst plagues them; the rocks, // Rising all round, overawe. // Factions divide them; their host // Threatens to break, to dissolve. // Ah, keep, keep them combined! // Else, of the myriads who fill // That army, not one shall arrive! // Sole they shall stray; in the rocks // Labour for ever in vain, // Die one by one in the waste. // Then, in such hour of need // Of your fainting, dispirited race, // Ye, like angels, appear, // Radiant with ardour divine. // Beacons of hope, ye appear! // Languor is not in your heart, // Weakness is not in your word, // Weariness not in your brow. // Ye alight in our van; at your voice // Panic, depair, flee away. // Ye move through the ranks, recall // The stragglers, refresh the outworn, // Praise, re-inspire the brave. // Order, courage, return. // Eyes rekindling, and prayers, // Follow your steps as ye go. // Ye fill up the gaps in our files, // Strengthen the wavering line, // Stablish, continue our march, // On, to the bound of the waste, // On, to the City of God. // 12 // Matthew Arnold // Requiescat // STREW on her roses, roses, // And never a spray of yew! // In quiet she reposes; // Ah, would that I did, too! // Her mirth the world required; // She bathed it in smiles of glee. // But her heart was tired, tired, // And now they let her be. // Her life was turning, turning, // In mazes of heat and sound. // But for peace her soul was yearning, // And now peace laps her round. // Her cabined, ample spirit, // It fluttered, and failed for breath. // Tonight it doth inherit // The vasty hall of death. // Matthew Arnold...


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