Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

The Music of the World and of the Soul

Arthur Hugh Clough

WHY should I say I see the things I see not?
                Why be and be not?
Show love for that I love not, and fear for what I fear not?
And dance about to music that I hear not?
                Who standeth still i’ the street
                Shall be hustled and justled about;
And he that stops i’ the dance shall be spurned by the dancers’ feet,—
Shall be shoved and be twisted by all he shall meet,
                And shall raise up an outcry and rout;
                    And the partner, too,—
                    What ’s the partner to do?
While all the while ’tis but, perchance, an humming in mine ear,
                That yet anon shall hear,
                And I anon, the music in my soul,
                In a moment read the whole;
                The music in my heart,
                Joyously take my part,
And hand in hand, and heart with heart, with these retreat, advance;
                And borne on wings of wavy sound,
                Whirl with these around, around,
            Who here are living in the living dance
                Why forfeit that fair chance?
                Till that arrive, till thou awake,
                Of these, my soul, thy music make,
                And keep amid the throng,
And turn as they shall turn, and bound as they are bounding,—
Alas! alas! alas! and what if all along
                The music is not sounding?

Are there not, then, two musics unto men?—
                One loud and bold and coarse,
                And overpowering still perforce
                All tone and tune beside;
                Yet in despite its pride
Only of fumes of foolish fancy bred,
And sounding solely in the sounding head
                The other, soft and low,
                Stealing whence we not know,
Painfully heard, and easily forgot,
With pauses oft and many a silence strange
(And silent oft it seems, when silent it is not),
Revivals too of unexpected change
Haply thou think’st ’twill never be begun,
Or that ’t has come, and been, and passed away
                Yet turn to other none,—
                Turn not, oh, turn not thou!
But listen, listen, listen,—if haply be heard it may;
Listen, listen, listen,—is it not sounding now?

Yea, and as thought of some departed friend
By death or distance parted will descend,
Severing, in crowded rooms ablaze with light,
As by a magic screen, the seer from the sight
(Palsying the nerves that intervene
The eye and central sense between);
                So may the ear,
                Hearing not hear,
Though drums do roll, and pipes and cymbals ring;
So the bare conscience of the better thing
Unfelt, unseen, unimaged, all unknown,
May fix the entrancèd soul ’mid multitudes alone.

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

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