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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Isolation—To Marguerite

By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

WE were apart; yet, day by day,

I bade my heart more constant be.

I bade it keep the world away,

And grow a home for only thee;

Nor feared but thy love likewise grew,

Like mine, each day, more tried, more true.

The fault was grave! I might have known,

What far too soon, alas! I learned—

The heart can bind itself alone,

And faith may oft be unreturned.

Self-swayed our feelings ebb and swell—

Thou lov’st no more;—Farewell! Farewell!

Farewell!—and thou, thou lonely heart,

Which never yet without remorse

Even for a moment didst depart

From thy remote and spherèd course

To haunt the place where passions reign—

Back to thy solitude again!

Back! with the conscious thrill of shame

Which Luna felt, that summer-night,

Flash through her pure immortal frame,

When she forsook the starry height

To hang over Endymion’s sleep

Upon the pine-grown Latmian steep.

Yet she, chaste queen, had never proved

How vain a thing is mortal love,

Wandering in Heaven, far removed;

But thou hast long had place to prove

This truth—to prove, and make thine own:

“Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone.”

Or, if not quite alone, yet they

Which touch thee are unmating things—

Ocean and clouds and night and day;

Lorn autumns and triumphant springs;

And life, and others’ joy and pain,

And love, if love, of happier men.

Of happier men—for they, at least,

Have dreamed two human hearts might blend

In one, and were through faith released

From isolation without end

Prolonged; nor knew, although not less

Alone than thou, their loneliness.

Yes! in the sea of life enisled,

With echoing straits between us thrown,

Dotting the shoreless watery wild,

We mortal millions live alone.

The islands feel the enclasping flow,

And then their endless bounds they know.

But when the moon their hollow lights,

And they are swept by balms of spring,

And in their glens, on starry nights,

The nightingales divinely sing;

And lovely notes, from shore to shore,

Across the sounds and channels pour—

Oh! then a longing like despair

Is to their farthest caverns sent;

For surely once, they feel, we were

Parts of a single continent!

Now round us spreads the watery plain—

Oh, might our marges meet again!

Who ordered that their longing’s fire

Should be, as soon as kindled, cooled?

Who renders vain their deep desire?—

A God, a God their severance ruled!

And bade betwixt their shores to be

The unplumbed, salt, estranging sea.