Empedocles on Etna


Matthew Arnold

WE cannot kindle when we will
The fire that in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;—
    But tasks, in hours of insight willed,
Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled.

With aching hands and bleeding feet
We dig and heap, lay stone on stone;
We bear the burden and the heat
Of the long day, and wish ’t were done.
    Not till the hours of light return,
All we have built do we discern.

Then when the clouds are off the soul,
When thou dost look in Nature’s eye,
Ask how she viewed thy self-control,
Thy struggling tasked morality—
    Nature whose free, light, cheerful air,
Oft made thee, in thy gloom, despair.

And she, whose censure thou dost dread,
Whose eye thou wert afraid to seek,—
See, on her face a glow is spread,
A strong emotion on her cheek.
    ‘Ah child,’ she cries, ‘that strife divine,
Whence was it, for it is not mine?

There is no effort on my brow—
I do not strive, I do not weep;
I rush with the swift spheres, and glow
In joy, and when I will, I sleep,—
    Yet that severe, that earnest air,
I saw, I felt it once, but where?

I knew not yet the gauge of Time,
Nor wore the manacles of space,—
I felt it in some other clime,
I saw it in some other place.
    ’T was when the heavenly house I trod,
And lay upon the breast of God.

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