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

Stanzas in Memory of the Author of ‘Obermann’

By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)


(See full text.)

IN front the awful Alpine track

Crawls up its rocky stair;

The autumn storm-winds drive the rack,

Close o’er it, in the air.

Behind are the abandoned baths

Mute in their meadows lone;

The leaves are on the valley-paths,

The mists are on the Rhone—

The white mists rolling like a sea!

I hear the torrents roar.

—Yes, Obermann, all speaks of thee;

I feel thee near once more.

I turn thy leaves! I feel their breath

Once more upon me roll;

That air of languor, cold, and death,

Which brooded o’er thy soul.

Fly hence, poor wretch, whoe’er thou art,

Condemned to cast about,

All shipwreck in thy own weak heart,

For comfort from without!

A fever in these pages burns

Beneath the calm they feign;

A wounded human spirit turns,

Here, on its bed of pain.

Yes, though the virgin mountain-air

Fresh through these pages blows;

Though to these leaves the glaciers spare

The soul of their mute snows;

Though here a mountain-murmur swells

Of many a dark-boughed pine;

Though, as you read, you hear the bells

Of the high-pasturing kine—

Yet, through the hum of torrent lone,

And brooding mountain-bee,

There sobs I know not what ground-tone

Of human agony.

Is it for this, because the sound

Is fraught too deep with pain,

That, Obermann! the world around

So little loves thy strain?


And then we turn, thou sadder sage,

To thee! we feel thy spell!

—The hopeless tangle of our age,

Thou too hast scanned it well!

Immovable thou sittest, still

As death, composed to bear!

Thy head is clear, thy feeling chill,

And icy thy despair.


He who hath watched, not shared, the strife,

Knows how the day hath gone.

He only lives with the world’s life

Who hath renounced his own.

To thee we come, then! Clouds are rolled

Where thou, O seer! art set;

Thy realm of thought is drear and cold—

The world is colder yet!

And thou hast pleasures, too, to share

With those who come to thee—

Balms floating on thy mountain-air,

And healing sights to see.

How often, where the slopes are green

On Jaman, hast thou sate

By some high chalet-door, and seen

The summer-day grow late;

And darkness steal o’er the wet grass

With the pale crocus starr’d,

And reach that glimmering sheet of glass

Beneath the piny sward,

Lake Leman’s waters, far below!

And watched the rosy light

Fade from the distant peaks of snow;

And on the air of night

Heard accents of the eternal tongue

Through the pine branches play—

Listened and felt thyself grow young!

Listened, and wept—Away!

Away the dreams that but deceive!

And thou, sad guide, adieu!

I go, fate drives me; but I leave

Half of my life with you.

We, in some unknown Power’s employ,

Move on a rigorous line;

Can neither, when we will, enjoy,

Nor, when we will, resign.

I in the world must live;—but thou,

Thou melancholy shade!

Wilt not, if thou can’st see me now,

Condemn me, nor upbraid.

For thou art gone away from earth,

And place with those dost claim,

The Children of the Second Birth,

Whom the world could not tame.


Farewell!—Whether thou now liest near

That much-loved inland sea,

The ripples of whose blue waves cheer

Vevey and Meillerie;

And in that gracious region bland,

Where with clear-rustling wave

The scented pines of Switzerland

Stand dark round thy green grave,

Between the dusty vineyard-walls

Issuing on that green place,

The early peasant still recalls

The pensive stranger’s face,

And stoops to clear thy moss-grown date

Ere he plods on again;—

Or whether, by maligner fate,

Among the swarms of men,

Where between granite terraces

The blue Seine rolls her wave,

The Capital of Pleasures sees

Thy hardly-heard-of grave;—

Farewell! Under the sky we part,

In this stern Alpine dell.

O unstrung will! O broken heart!

A last, a last farewell!