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

Matthew Arnold 1822–88

The World and the Quietist


“WHY, when the world’s great mind

Hath finally inclin’d,

Why,” you say, Critias, “be debating still?

Why, with these mournful rhymes

Learn’d in more languid climes,

Blame our activity

Who, with such passionate will,

Are what we mean to be?”

Critias, long since, I know

(For Fate decreed it so),

Long since the world hath set its heart to live;

Long since, with credulous zeal

It turns life’s mighty wheel,

Still doth for laborers send

Who still their labor give,

And still expects an end.

Yet, as the wheel flies round,

With no ungrateful sound

Do adverse voices fall on the world’s ear.

Deafen’d by his own stir

The rugged laborer

Caught not till then a sense

So glowing and so near

Of his omnipotence.

So, when the feast grew loud

In Susa’s palace proud,

A white-rob’d slave stole to the Great King’s side.

He spake—the Great King heard;

Felt the slow-rolling word

Swell his attentive soul;

Breath’d deeply as it died,

And drain’d his mighty bowl.