Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “Empedocles on Etna”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Matthew Arnold 1822–88

From “Empedocles on Etna”


AND you, ye stars,

Who slowly begin to marshal,

As of old, in the fields of heaven,

Your distant, melancholy lines!

Have you, too, surviv’d yourselves?

Are you, too, what I fear to become?

You, too, once liv’d;

You too mov’d joyfully,

Among august companions,

In an older world, peopled by Gods,

In a mightier order,

The radiant, rejoicing, intelligent Sons of Heaven.

But now, ye kindle

Your lonely, cold-shining lights,

Unwilling lingerers

In the heavenly wilderness,

For a younger, ignoble world;

And renew, by necessity,

Night after night your courses,

In echoing, unnear’d silence,

Above a race you know not—

Uncaring and undelighted,

Without friend and without home;

Weary like us, though not

Weary with our weariness.

No, no, ye stars! there is no death with you,

No languor, no decay! languor and death,

They are with me, not you! ye are alive—

Ye, and the pure dark ether where ye ride

Brilliant above me! And thou, fiery world,

That sapp’st the vitals of this terrible mount

Upon whose charr’d and quaking crust I stand—

Thou, too, brimmest with life!—the sea of cloud,

That heaves its white and billowy vapors up

To moat this isle of ashes from the world,

Lives; and that other fainter sea, far down,

O’er whose lit floor a road of moonbeams leads

To Etna’s Liparëan sister-fires

And the long dusky line of Italy—

That mild and luminous floor of waters lives,

With held-in joy swelling its heart; I only,

Whose spring of hope is dried, whose spirit has fail’d,

I, who have not, like these, in solitude

Maintain’d courage and force, and in myself

Nurs’d an immortal vigor—I alone

Am dead to life and joy, therefore I read

In all things my own deadness.