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Sonnets from Matthew Arnold

Worldly Place

Even in a palace, life may be led well!
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den
Of common life, where, crowded up pell-mell,

Our freedom for a little bread we sell,
And drudge under some foolish master's ken
Who rates us if we peer outside our pen--
Match'd with a palace, is not this a hell?

Even in a palace! On his truth sincere,
Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came;
And when my ill-school'd spirit is aflame

Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win,
I'll stop, and say: "There were no succour here!
The aids to noble life are all within."

poem by Matthew Arnold from Sonnets (1867)Report problemRelated quotes
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Written in Butler's Sermons

Affections, Instincts, Principles, and Powers,
Impulse and Reason, Freedom and Control--
So men, unravelling God's harmonious whole,
Rend in a thousand shreds this life of ours.
Vain labour! Deep and broad, where none may see,
Spring the foundations of the shadowy throne
Where man's one Nature, queen-like, sits alone,
Centred in a majestic unity;
And rays her powers, like sister islands, seen
Linking their coral arms under the sea:
Or cluster'd peaks, with plunging gulfs between
Spann'd by aërial arches, all of gold;
Whereo'er the chariot wheels of Life are roll'd
In cloudy circles, to eternity.

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Religious Isolation

Children (as such forgive them) have I known,
Ever in their own eager pastime bent
To make the incurious bystander, intent
On his own swarming thoughts, an interest own;
Too fearful or too fond to play alone.
Do thou, whom light in thine own inmost soul
(Not less thy boast) illuminates, control
Wishes unworthy of a man full-grown.
What though the holy secret which moulds thee
Moulds not; the solid Earth? though never Winds
Have whisper'd it to the complaining Sea,
Nature's great law, and law of all men's minds?
To its own impulse every creature stirs:
Live by thy light, and Earth will live by hers.

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Quiet Work

One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity--

Of toil unsever'd from tranquility!
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish'd in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.

Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man's fitful uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,

Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone.

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Monica’s Last Prayer

'Oh could thy grave at home, at Carthage, be!' —
Care not for that, and lay me where I fall.
Everywhere heard will be the judgment-call.
But at God's altar, oh! remember me.
Thus Monica, and died in Italy.
Yet fervent had her longing been, through all
Her course, for home at last, and burial
With her own husband, by the Libyan sea.
Had been; but at the end, to her pure soul
All tie with all beside seem'd vain and cheap, 10
And union before God the only care.
Creeds pass, rites change, no altar standeth whole;
Yet we her memory, as she pray'd, will keep,
Keep by this: Life in God, and union there!

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Rachel II

Unto a lonely villa, in a dell
Above the fragrant warm Provencal shore,
The dying Rachel in a chair they bore
Up the steep pine-plumed paths of the Estrelle,

And laid her in a stately room, where fell
The shadow of a marble Muse of yore,
The rose-crown'd queen of legendary lore,
Polymnia, full on her death-bed.--'Twas well!

The fret and misery of our northern towns,
In this her life's last day, our poor, our pain,
Our jangle of false wits, our climate's frowns,

Do for this radiant Greek-soul'd artist cease;
Sole object of her dying eyes remain
The beauty and the glorious art of Greece.

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To the Duke of Wellington

Because thou hast believ'd, the wheels of life
Stand never idle, but go always round:
Not by their hands, who vex the patient ground,
Mov'd only; but by genius, in the strife
Of all its chafing torrents after thaw,
Urg'd; and to feed whose movement, spinning sand,
The feeble sons of pleasure set their hand:
And, in this vision of the general law,
Hast labour'd with the foremost, hast become
Laborious, persevering, serious, firm;
For this, thy track, across the fretful foam
Of vehement actions without scope or term,
Call'd History, keeps a splendour: due to wit,
Which saw one clue to life, and follow'd it.

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A Picture at Newstead

What made my heart, at Newstead, fullest swel? --
'Twas not the thought of Byron, of his cry
Stormily sweet, his Titan agony;
It was the sight of that Lord Arundelv
Who struck, in heat, the child he loved so well,
And the child's reason flickered, and did die.
Painted (he will'd it) in the gallery
They hang; the picture doth the story tell.
Behold the stern, mail'd father, staff in hand!
The little fair-hair'd son, with vacant gaze, 10
Where no more lights of sense or knowledge are!
Methinks the woe which made that father stand
Baring his dumb remorse to future days,
Was woe than Byron's woe more tragic far.

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Immortality

Foil'd by our fellow-men, depress'd, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say
The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne.

And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world's poor, routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail'd under the heat of this life's day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?

No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg'd not in the earthly strife,

From strength to strength advancing--only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.

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The Good Shepherd with the Kid

He saves the sheep, the goats he doth not save.
So rang Tertullian's sentence, on the side
Of that unpitying Phrygian Sect which cried:
"Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,

Who sins, once washed by the baptismal wave."
So spake the fierce Tertullian. But she sighed,
The infant Church! of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord's yet recent grave.

And then she smiled; and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true,
On those walls subterranean, where she hid

Her head in ignominy, death, and tombs,
She her good Shepherd's hasty image drew
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.

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