Matthew Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum and Other Poems
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, Lesley Halamek and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
AND OTHER POEMS
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
JUSTUS COLLINS CASTLEMAN
HEAD OF ENGLISH DEPARTMENT, SOUTH DIVISION
HIGH SCHOOL, MILWAUKEE
A Short Life of Arnold
Arnold the Poet
Arnold the Critic
Chronological List of Arnold's Works
SELECTIONS FROM ARNOLD'S POETICAL WORKS
Sohrab and Rustum
The Forsaken Merman
Tristram and Iseult
The Church of Brou
Lines written in Kensington Gardens
The Strayed Reveller
The Last Word
A Summer Night
Epilogue--To Lessing's Laocooen
Austerity of Poetry
* * * * *
A SHORT LIFE OF ARNOLD
Matthew Arnold, poet and critic, was born in the village of Laleham,
Middlesex County, England, December 24, 1822. He was the son of Dr.
Thomas Arnold, best remembered as the great Head Master at Rugby and
in later years distinguished also as a historian of Rome, and of Mary
Penrose Arnold, a woman of remarkable character and intellect.
Devoid of stirring incident, and, on the whole, free from the
eccentricities so common to men of genius, the story of Arnold's life
is soon told. As a boy he lived the life of the normal English lad,
with its healthy routine of task and play. He was at school at both
Laleham and Winchester, then at Rugby, where he attracted attention
as a student and won a prize for poetry. In 1840 he was elected to
an open scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, and the next year
matriculated for his university work. Arnold's career at Oxford was a
memorable one. While here he was associated with such men as John Duke
Coleridge, John Shairp, Dean Fraser, Dean Church, John Henry Newman,
Thomas Hughes, the Froudes, and, closest of all, with Arthur Hugh
Clough, whose early death he lamented in his exquisite elegiac
poem--_Thyrsis_. Among this brilliant company Arnold moved with ease,
the recognized favorite. Having taken the Newdigate prize for English
verse, and also having won a scholarship, he was graduated with
honors in 1844, and in March of the following year had the additional
distinction of being elected a Fellow of Oriel, the crowning glory of
an Oxford graduate. He afterward taught classics for a short time at
Rugby, then in 1847 accepted the post of private secretary to the
Marquis of Lansdowne, Lord President of the Council, which position he
occupied until 1851, when he was appointed Lay Inspector of Schools
by the Committee on Education. The same year he married Frances Lucy
Wightman, daughter of Sir William Wightman, judge of the Court of the
Arnold's record as an educator is unparalleled in the history of
England's public schools. For more than thirty-five years he served as
inspector and commissioner, which offices he filled with efficiency.
As inspector he was earnest, conscientious, versatile; beloved alike
by teachers and pupils. The Dean of Salisbury likened his appearance
to inspect the school at Kiddermaster, to the admission of a ray
of light when a shutter is suddenly opened in a darkened room.
All-in-all, he valued happy-appearing children, and kindly sympathetic
teachers, more than excellence in grade reports. In connection with
the duties of his office as commissioner, he travelled frequently on
the Continent to inquire into foreign methods of primary and secondary
education. Here he found much that was worth while, and often carried
back to London larger suggestions and ideas than the national mind was
ready to accept. Under his supervision, however, the school system of
England was extensively revised and improved. He resigned his position
under the Committee of Council on Education, in 1886, two years before
In the meantime Arnold's pen had not been idle. His first volume of
verse, _The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems_, appeared (1848), and
although quietly received, slowly won its way into public favor. The
next year the narrative poem, _The Sick King in Bokhara_, came out,
and was followed in turn by a third volume in 1853, under the title of
_Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems_. By this time Arnold's reputation
as a poet was established, and in 1857 he was elected Professor of
Poetry at Oxford, where he began his career as a lecturer, in which
capacity he twice visited America. _Merope, a Tragedy_ (1856) and a
volume under the title of _New Poems_ (1869) finish the list of his
poetical works, with the exception of occasional verses.
Arnold's prose works, aside from his letters, consist wholly of
critical essays, in which he has dealt fearlessly with the greater
issues of his day. As will be seen by their titles (see page xxxviii
of this volume), the subject-matter of these essays is of very great
scope, embracing in theme literature, politics, social conduct, and
popular religion. By them Arnold has exerted a remarkable influence on
public thought and stamped himself as one of the ablest critics and
reformers of the last century. Arnold's life was thus one of many
widely diverse activities and was at all times deeply concerned with
practical as well as with literary affairs; and on no side was it
deficient in human sympathies and relations. He won respect and
reputation while he lived, and his works continue to attract men's
minds, although with much unevenness. It has been said of him that, of
all the modern poets, except Goethe, he was the best critic, and of
all the modern critics, with the same exception, he was the best poet.
He died at Liverpool, where he had gone to meet his daughter returning
from America, April 15, 1888. By his death the world lost an acute and
cultured critic, a refined writer, an earnest educational reformer,
and a noble man. He was buried in his native town, Laleham.
Agreeably to his own request, Arnold has never been made the subject
for a biography. By means of his letters, his official reports,
and statements of his friends, however, one is able to trace the
successive stages of his career, as he steadily grew in honor and
public usefulness. Though somewhat inadequate, the picture thus
presented is singularly pleasing and attractive. The subjoined
appreciations have been selected with a view of giving the student a
glimpse of Arnold as he appeared to unprejudiced minds.
One who knew him at Oxford wrote of him as follows: "His perfect
self-possession, the sallies of his ready wit, the humorous turn which
he could give to any subject that he handled, his gaiety, audacity,
and unfailing command of words, made him one of the most popular and
successful undergraduates that Oxford has ever known."
"He was beautiful as a young man, strong and manly, yet full of dreams
and schemes. His Olympian manners began even at Oxford: there was no
harm in them: they were natural, not put on. The very sound of his
voice and wave of his arm were Jove-like."--PROFESSOR MAX MUeLLER.
"He was most distinctly on the side of human enjoyment. He conspired
and contrived to make things pleasant. Pedantry he abhorred. He was
a man of this life and this world. A severe critic of this world he
indeed was; but, finding himself in it, and not precisely knowing what
is beyond it, like a brave and true-hearted man, he set himself to
make the best of it. Its sights and sounds were dear to him. The
'uncrumpling fern, the eternal moonlit snow,' the red grouse springing
at our sound, the tinkling bells of the 'high-pasturing kine,' the
vagaries of men, of women, and dogs, their odd ways and tricks,
whether of mind or manner, all delighted, amused, tickled him.
* * * * *
"In a sense of the word which is noble and blessed, he was of the
earth earthy.... His mind was based on the plainest possible things.
What he hated most was the fantastic--the far-fetched, all-elaborated
fancies and strained interpretations. He stuck to the beaten track of
human experience, and the broader the better. He was a plain-sailing
man. This is his true note."--MR. AUGUSTINE BIRRELL.
"He was incapable of sacrificing the smallest interest of anybody to
his own; he had not a spark of envy or jealousy; he stood well aloof
from all the bustlings and jostlings by which selfish men push on;
he bore life's disappointments--and he was disappointed in some
reasonable hopes--with good nature and fortitude; he cast no burden
upon others, and never shrank from bearing his own share of the daily
load to the last ounce of it; he took the deepest, sincerest, and
most active interest in the well-being of his country and his
countrymen."--MR. JOHN MORLEY.
In his essay on Arnold, George E. Woodberry speaks of the poet's
personality as revealed by his letters in the following beautiful
manner: "Few who did not know Arnold could have been prepared for
the revelation of a nature so true, so amiable, so dutiful. In every
relation of private life he is shown to have been a man of exceptional
constancy and plainness.... Every one must take delight in the mental
association with Arnold in the scenes of his existence ... and in his
family affections. A nature warm to its own, kindly to all, cheerful,
fond of sport and fun, and always fed from pure fountains, and with
it a character so founded upon the rock, so humbly serviceable, so
continuing in power and grace, must wake in all the responses of happy
appreciation and leave the charm of memory.
"He did his duty as naturally as if it required neither resolve nor
effort, nor thought of any kind for the morrow, and he never failed,
seemingly, in act or word of sympathy, in little or great things; and
when to this one adds the clear ether of the intellectual life where
he habitually moved in his own life apart, and the humanity of his
home, the gift that these letters bring may be appreciated. That gift
is the man himself, but set in the atmosphere of home, with sonship
and fatherhood, sisters and brothers, with the bereavements of years
fully accomplished, and those of babyhood and boyhood--a sweet and
wholesome English home, with all the cloud and sunshine of the English
world drifting over its roof-trees, and the soil of England beneath
its stones, and English duties for the breath of its being. To add
such a home to the household rights of English Literature is perhaps
something from which Arnold would have shrunk, but it endears his
"It may be overmuch
He shunned the common stain and smutch,
From soilure of ignoble touch
Too grandly free,
Too loftily secure in such
But he preserved from chance control
The fortress of his established soul,
In all things sought to see the whole;
Brooked no disguise,
And set his heart upon the goal,
Not on the prize."
--MR. WILLIAM WATSON, _In Laleham Churchyard_.
ARNOLD THE POET
Matthew Arnold was essentially a man of the intellect. No other author
of modern times, perhaps no other English author of any time, appeals
so directly as he to the educated classes. Even a cursory reading of
his pages, prose or verse, reveals the scholar and the critic. He is
always thinking, always brilliant, never lacks for a word or phrase;
and on the whole, his judgments are good. Between his prose and verse,
however, there is a marked difference, both in tone and spiritual
quality. True, each possesses the note of a lofty, though stoical
courage; reveals the same grace of finish and exactness of phrase and
manner; and is, in equal degree, the output of a singularly sane and
noble nature; but here the comparison ends; for, while his prose
is often stormy and contentious, his poetry has always about it an
atmosphere of entire repose. The cause of this difference is not far
to seek. His poetry, written in early manhood, reflects his inner
self, the more lovable side of his nature; while his prose presents
the critic and the reformer, pointing out the good and bad, and
permitting at times a spirit of bitterness to creep in, as he
endeavors to arouse men out of their easy contentment with themselves
and their surroundings.
With the exception of occasional verses, Arnold's poetical career
began and ended inside of twenty years. The reason for this can only
be conjectured, and need not be dwelt upon here. But although his
poetic life was brief, it was of a very high order, his poems ranking
well up among the literary productions of the last century. As a
popular poet, however, he will probably never class with Tennyson or
Longfellow. His poems are too coldly classical and too unattractive in
subject to appeal to the casual reader, who is, generally speaking,
inclined toward poetry of the emotions rather than of the
intellect--Arnold's usual kind. That he recognized this himself,
witness the following quiet statements made in letters to his friends:
"My poems are making their way, I think, though slowly, and are
perhaps never to make way very far. There must always be some people,
however, to whom the literalness and sincerity of them has a charm....
They represent, on the whole, the main movement of mind of the last
quarter of a century, and thus they will probably have their day, as
people become conscious to themselves of what that movement of mind
is, and interested in the literary productions which reflect it." Time
has verified the accuracy of this judgment. In short, Arnold has made
a profound rather than a wide impression. To a few, however, of each
generation, he will continue to be a "voice oracular,"--a poet with a
purpose and a message.
=Arnold's Poetic Culture=.--Obviously, the sources of Arnold's culture
were classical. As one critic has tersely said, "He turned over his
Greek models by day and by night." Here he found his ideal standards,
and here he brought for comparison all questions that engrossed his
thoughts. Homer (he replied to an inquirer) and Epictetus (of mood
congenial with his own) were props of his mind, as were Sophocles,
"who saw life steadily and saw it whole," and Marcus Aurelius, whom he
called the purest of men. These like natures afforded him repose and
consolation. Greek epic and dramatic poetry and Greek philosophy
appealed profoundly to him. Of the Greek poets he wrote: "No other
poets have lived so much by the imaginative reason; no other poets
have made their works so well balanced; no other poets have so well
satisfied the thinking power; have so well satisfied the religious
sense." More than any other English poet he prized the qualities of
measure, proportion, and restraint; and to him lucidity, austerity,
and high seriousness, conspicuous elements of classic verse, were the
substance of true poetry. In explaining his own position as to his
art, he says: "In the sincere endeavor to learn and practise, amid the
bewildering confusion of our times, what is sound and true in poetic
art, I seem, to myself to find the only sure guidance, the only solid
footing, among the ancients. They, at any rate, knew what they wanted
in Art, and we do not. It is this uncertainty which is disheartening,
and not hostile criticism." And again: "The radical difference between
the poetic theory of the Greeks and our own is this: that with them,
the poetical character of the action in itself, and the conduct of it,
was the first consideration; with us, attention is fixed mainly on the
value of separate thoughts and images which occur in the treatment of
an action. They regard the whole; we regard the parts. We have poems
which seem to exist merely for the sake of single lines and passages,
and not for the sake of producing any total impression. We have
critics who seem to direct their attention merely to detached
expressions, to the language about the action, not the action itself.
I verily believe that the majority of them do not believe that there
is such a thing as a total impression to be derived from a poem at
all, or to be demanded from a poet. They will permit the poet to
select any action he pleases, and to suffer that action to go as
it will, provided he gratifies them with occasional bursts of fine
writing, and with a show of isolated thoughts and images; that is,
they permit him to leave their poetic sense ungratified, provided that
he gratifies their rhetorical sense and their curiosity."
Arnold has illustrated, with remarkable success, his ideas of that
unity which gratifies the poetical sense, and has approached very
close to his Greek models in numerous instances; most notably so in
his great epic or narrative poem, _Sohrab and Rustum_, which is dealt
with elsewhere in this introduction. Perhaps we could not do better
than to quote for our consideration at this time, a fine synthesis
of Mr. Arthur Galton. He says: "In Matthew Arnold's style and in his
manner, he seems to me to recall the great masters, and this in a
striking and in an abiding way.... To recall them at all is a rare
gift, but to recall them naturally, and with no strained sense nor
jarring note of imitation, is a gift so exceedingly rare that it is
almost enough in itself to place a writer among the great masters; to
proclaim that he is one of them. To recall them at all is a rare gift,
though not a unique gift; a few other modern poets recall them too;
but with these, with every one of them, it is the exception when they
resemble the great masters. They have their own styles, which abide
with them; it is only now and then, by a flash of genius, that they
break through their own styles, and attain the one immortal style.
Just the contrary of this is true of Matthew Arnold. It is his own,
his usual, and his most natural style which recalls the great masters;
and only when he does not write like himself, does he cease to
resemble them.... No man who attains to this great style can fail to
have a distinguished function; and Matthew Arnold, like Milton, will
be 'a leaven and a power,' because he, too, has made the great style
current in English. With his desire for culture and for perfection,
there is no destiny he would prefer to this, for which his nature, his
training, and his sympathies, all prepared him. To convey the message
of those ancients whom he loved so well, in that English tongue which
he was taught by them to use so perfectly;--to serve as an eternal
protest against charlatanism and vulgarity;--is exactly the mission
he would have chosen for himself.... The few writers of our language,
therefore, who give us 'an ideal of excellence, the most high and the
most rare,' have an important function; we should study their works
continually, and it should be a matter of passionate concern with us,
that the 'ideals,' that is, the definite and perfect models, should
abide with us forever." The Greeks recognized three kinds of
poetry,--Lyric, Dramatic, and Epic. Arnold tried all three. First,
then, as a lyricist.
=Arnold as a Lyricist=.--Lyric poetry is the artistic expression of
the poet's individual sentiments and emotions, hence it is subjective.
The action is usually vapid, the verse musical, the time quick. Unlike
the Epic and Drama, it has no preferred verse or meter, but leaves the
poet free to choose or invent appropriate forms. In this species of
verse Arnold was not wholly at ease. As has been said, one searches in
vain through the whole course of his poetry for a blithe, musical, gay
or serious, offhand poem, the true lyric kind. The reason for this is
soon discovered. Obviously, it lies in the fundamental qualities
of the poet's mind and temperament. Though by no means lacking in
emotional sensibility, Arnold was too intellectually self-conscious to
be carried away by the impulsiveness common to the lyrical moods. With
him the intellect was always master; the emotions, subordinate. With
the lyricist, the order is, in the main, at least, reversed. The poet
throws off intellectual restraint, and "lets his illumined being
o'errun" with music and song. This Arnold could not or would not
do. Then, too, Arnold's lyrics are often at fault metrically.
This, combined with frequent questionable rhymes, argues a not too
discriminating poetical ear. He also lacked genius in inventing verse
forms, and hence found himself under the necessity of employing or
adapting those already in use. In this respect he was notably inferior
to Tennyson, many of whose measures are wholly his own. Again,
considerable portions of his lyric verse consist merely of prose, cut
into lines of different length, in imitation of the unrhymed measures
of the Greek poet, Pindar. The Bishop of Derry, commenting on these
rhythmic novelties, likens them to the sound of a stick drawn by a
city gamin sharply across the area railings,--a not inapt comparison.
That they were not always successful, witness the following stanza
"Thou confessest the prize
In the rushing, blundering, mad,
Race of Calamity, mine!"
Surely this is but the baldest prose. At intervals, however, Arnold
was nobly lyrical, and strangely, too, at times, in those same uneven
measures in which are found his most signal failures--the unrhymed
Pindaric. _Philomela_ written in this style is one of the most
exquisite bits of verse in the language. As one critic has put it,
"It ought to be written in silver and bound in gold." In urbanity of
phrase and in depth of genuine pathos it is unsurpassed and shows
Arnold at his best. _Rugby Chapel, The Youth of Nature, The Youth of
Man_, and _A Dream_ are good examples of his longer efforts in this
verse form. In the more common lyric measures, Arnold was, at times,
equally successful. Saintsbury, commenting on _Requiescat_, says that
the poet has "here achieved the triple union of simplicity, pathos,
and (in the best sense) elegance"; and adds that there is not a
false note in the poem. He also speaks enthusiastically of the
"honey-dropping trochees" of the _New Sirens_, and of the "chiselled
and classic perfection" of the lines of _Resignation_. Herbert W.
Paul, writing of _Mycerinus_, declares that no such verse has been
written in England since Wordsworth's _Laodamia_; and continues,
"The poem abounds in single lines of haunting charm." Among his more
successful longer lyrics are _The Sick King in Bokhara, Switzerland,
Faded Leaves_, and _Tristram and Iseult_, and _Epilogue to Lessing's
Laocooen_, included in this volume.
=Arnold as a Dramatist=.--The drama is imitated human action, and is
intended to exhibit a picture of human life by means of dialogue,
acting, and stage accessories. In nature, it partakes of both lyric
and epic, thus uniting sentiment and action with narration. Characters
live and act before us, and speak in our presence, the interest being
kept up by constantly shifting situations tending toward some striking
result. As a dramatist, Arnold achieved no great success. Again the
fundamental qualities of his mind stood in the way. An author so
subjective, so absorbed in self-scrutiny and introspection as he,
is seldom able to project himself into the minds of others to any
considerable extent. His dramas are brilliant with beautiful phrases,
his pictures of landscapes and of nature in her various aspects
approach perfection; but in the main, he fails to handle his plots in
a dramatic manner and, as a result, does not secure the totality of
impression so vital to the drama. Frequently, too, his characters are
tedious, and in their dialogue manage to be provokingly unnatural or
insipid. They also lack in individuality and independence in speech
and action. Many of his situations, likewise, are at fault. For
instance, one can scarcely conceive of such characters as Ulysses and
Circe playing the subordinate roles assigned to them in _The Strayed
Reveller_. A true dramatist would hardly have committed so flagrant a
blunder. _Merope_ is written in imitation of the Greek tragedians. It
has dignity of subject, nobility of sentiment, and a classic brevity
of style; but it is frigid and artificial, and fails in the most
essential function of drama--to stir the reader's emotions.
_Empedocles on Etna_, a half-autobiographical drama, is in some
respects a striking poem. It is replete with brilliant passages, and
contains some of Arnold's best lyric verses and most beautiful nature
pictures; but the dialogue is colorless, the rhymes poor, the plot,
such as it contains, but indifferently handled, and even Empedocles,
the principal character, is frequently tedious and unnatural. Arnold's
dramas show that his forte was not in character-drawing nor in
=Arnold as a Writer of Epic and Elegy=.--Epic poetry narrates in grand
style the achievements of heroes--the poet telling the story as if
present. It is simple in construction and uniform in meter, yet it
admits of the dialogue and the episode, and though not enforcing a
moral it may hold one in solution. Elegiac poetry is plaintive in
tone and expresses sorrow or lamentation. Both epic and elegy are
inevitably serious in mood, and slow and stately in action. In these
two forms of verse Arnold was at his best. Stockton pronounced _Sohrab
and Rustum_ the noblest poem in the English language. Another critic
has said that "it is the nearest analogue in English to the rapidity
of action, plainness of thought, plainness of diction, and nobleness
of Homer." Combining, as it does, classic purity of style with
romantic ardor of feeling, it stands a direct exemplification of
Arnold's poetic theories, as set forth in the preface of his volume of
1853. Especially is it successful in emphasizing his idea of unity of
impression; "while the truth of its oriental color, the deep pathos
of the situation, the fire and intensity of the action, the strong
conception of character, and the full, solemn music of the verse, make
it unquestionably the masterpiece of Arnold's longer poems, among
which it is the largest in bulk and also the most ambitious in
scheme." _Balder Dead_, a characteristic Arnoldian production, founded
upon the Norse legend of Balder, Lok, and Hader, though not so great
as _Sohrab and Rustum_, has much poetic worth and ranks high among its
kind; and _Tristram and Iseult_, with its infinite tragedy, and _The
Sick King in Bokhara_, gorgeous in oriental color, are rare examples
of the lyrical epic. _The Forsaken Merman_ and _Saint Brandan_, which
are dealt with elsewhere in this volume, are good examples of his
shorter narrative poems. In _Thyrsis_, the beautiful threnody in which
he celebrated his dead friend, Clough, Arnold gave to the world one of
its greatest elegies. One finds in this poem and its companion piece,
_The Scholar-Gipsy_, the same unity of classic form with romantic
feeling present in _Sohrab and Rustum_. Both are crystal-clear without
coldness, and restrained without loss of a full volume of power.
Mr. Saintsbury, writing of _The Scholar-Gipsy_, says: "It has
everything--a sufficient scheme, a definite meaning and purpose, a
sustained and adequate command of poetical presentation, and passages
and phrases of the most exquisite beauty;" and no less praise is due
_Thyrsis_. Other of his elegiac poems are _Heine's Grave, Stanzas from
the Grande Chartreuse, Stanzas in Memory of the Author of "Obermann,"
Obermann Once More, Rugby Chapel_, and _Memorial Verses_, the two last
named being included in this volume. In such measures as are used in
these poems, in the long, stately, swelling measures, whose graver
movements accord with a serious and elevated purpose, Arnold was most
=Greek Spirit in Arnold=.--But it is not alone in the fact that he
selects classic subjects, and writes after the manner of the great
masters, that Arnold's affinity with the Greeks is manifested. His
poems in spirit, as in form, reflect the moods common to the ancient
Hellenes, "One feels the (Greek) quality," writes George E. Woodberry,
"not as a source, but as a presence. In Tennyson, Keats, and Shelley
there was Greek influence, but in them the result was modern. In
Arnold the antiquity remains--remains in mood, just as in Landor it
remains in form. The Greek twilight broods over all his poetry. It is
pagan in philosophic spirit, not Attic, but of later and stoical time;
with the patience, endurance, suffering, not in the Christian types,
but as they now seem to a post-Christian imagination, looking back to
the past." Even when his poems treat of modern or romantic subjects,
one is impressed with the feeling that he presents them with the same
quality of imagination as would the Greek masters themselves: and in
the same form.
=Arnold's Attitude toward Nature=.--In his attitude toward Nature
Arnold is often compared to Wordsworth. A close study, however,
reveals a wide difference, both in the way Nature appealed to them
and in their mood in her presence. To Arnold she offered a temporary
refuge from the doubts and distractions of our modern life,--a
soothing, consoling, uplifting power; to Wordsworth she was an
inspiration,--a presence that disturbed him "with the joy of elevated
thoughts." Conscious of the help he found in her association, Arnold
urged all men to follow Nature's example; to possess their souls in
quietude, despite the storm and turmoil without. Pancoast says: "He
delights in leading us to contemplate the infinite calm of Nature,
beside which man's transitory woes are reduced to a mere fretful
insignificance. All the beautiful poem of _Tristram and Iseult_ is
built upon the skilful alternation of two themes. We pass from the
feverish, wasting, and ephemeral struggle of human passions and
desire, into an atmosphere that shames its heat and fume by an
immemorial coolness and repose;" and the same comparison constitutes
the theme for a considerable portion of his poetical work. In his
method of approaching Nature, Arnold also differed widely from
Wordsworth, in that he saw with the outward eye, that is objectively;
while Wordsworth saw rather with the inward eye, or subjectively.
In this Arnold is essentially Greek and more Tennysonian than
Wordsworthian. Many of his poems, in full or in part, are mere nature
pictures, and are artistic in the extreme. The pictures of the Oxus
stream at the close of _Sohrab and Rustum_; the English garden in
_Thyrsis_; and the hunter on the arras, in _Tristram and Iseult_, are
all notable examples. This pictorial method Wordsworth seldom used.
In spirit, too, the poets differed widely. To Wordsworth, Nature was,
first of all, the abiding place of God; but Arnold "finds in the
wood and field no streaming forth of beauty and wisdom from the
fountainhead of beauty," no habitancy of Nature's God.
=Arnold's Attitude toward Life=.--Arnold's attitude toward life has
been dwelt upon in the appreciations under the biographical sketch in
this volume and need only briefly be summed up here. To him, human
life in its higher developments presented itself as a stern and
strenuous affair; but he never faltered nor sought to escape from his
share of the burden. "On the contrary, the prevailing note of his
poetry is self-reliance; help must come from the soul itself, for
"The fountains of life are all within."
He preaches fortitude and courage in the face of the mysterious and
the inevitable--a courage, indeed, forlorn and pathetic in the eyes of
many--and he constantly takes refuge from the choking cares of life,
in a kind of stoical resignation." As a reformer, his function
was especially to stir people up, to make them dissatisfied with
themselves and their institutions, and to force them to think, to
become individual. Everywhere in his works one is confronted by his
unvarying insistence upon the supremacy of conduct and duty. The
modern tendency to drift away from the old, established religious
faith was a matter of serious thought to him and led him to give to
the world a rational creed that would satisfy the sceptics and attract
the indifferent. We cannot do better than quote for our closing
thought the following pregnant lines from the author's sonnet entitled
_The Better Part_:--
"Hath man no second life? _Pitch this one high!_
Sits there no judge in Heaven, our sin to see?
_More strictly, then, the inward judge obey_!
Was Christ a man like us? _Ah! let us try
If we then, too, can be such men as he!_"
* * * * *
ARNOLD THE CRITIC
The following extracts on Arnold as a critic are quoted from
"Arnold's prose has little trace of the wistful melancholy of his
verse. It is almost always urbane, vivacious, light-hearted. The
classical bent of his mind shows itself here, unmixed with the
inheritance of romantic feeling which colors his poetry. Not only is
his prose classical in quality, by virtue of its restraint, of its
definite aim, and of the dry white light of intellect which suffuses
it; but the doctrine which he spent his life in preaching is based
upon a classical ideal, the ideal of symmetry, wholeness, or, as he
daringly called it, _perfection_.... Wherever, in religion, politics,
education, or literature, he saw his countrymen under the domination
of narrow ideals, he came speaking the mystic word of deliverance,
'Culture.' Culture, acquaintance with the best which has been thought
and done in the world, is his panacea for all ills.... In almost all
of his prose writing he attacks some form of 'Philistinism,' by which
word he characterized the narrow-mindedness and self-satisfaction of
the British middle class.
"Arnold's tone is admirably fitted to the peculiar task he had to
perform.... In _Culture and Anarchy_ and many successive works, he
made his plea for the gospel of ideas with urbanity and playful grace,
as befitted the Hellenic spirit, bringing 'sweetness and light' into
the dark places of British prejudice. Sometimes, as in _Literature and
Dogma_, where he pleads for a more liberal and literary reading of the
Bible, his manner is quiet, suave, and gently persuasive. At other
times, as in _Friendship's Garland_, he shoots the arrows of his
sarcasm into the ranks of the Philistines with a delicate raillery and
scorn, all the more exasperating to his foes, because it is veiled by
a mock humility, and is scrupulously polite.
"Of Arnold's literary criticism, the most notable single piece is the
famous essay _On Translating Homer_, which deserves careful study
for the enlightenment it offers concerning many of the fundamental
questions of style. The essays on Wordsworth and on Byron from _Essays
in Criticism_, and that on Emerson, from _Discourses in America_,
furnish good examples of Arnold's charm of manner and weight of matter
in this province.
"The total impression which Arnold makes in his prose may be described
as that of a spiritual man-of-the-world. In comparison with Carlyle,
Buskin, and Newman, he is worldly. For the romantic passion and mystic
vision of these men he substitutes an ideal of balanced cultivation,
the ideal of the trained, sympathetic, cosmopolitan gentleman. He
marks a return to the conventions of life after the storm and stress
of the romantic age. Yet in his own way he also was a prophet and a
preacher, striving whole-heartedly to release his countrymen from
bondage to mean things, and pointing their gaze to that symmetry and
balance of character which has seemed to many noble minds the true
goal of human endeavor."--MOODY AND LOVETT, _A History of English
"As a literary critic, his taste, his temper, his judgment were pretty
nearly infallible. He combined a loyal and reasonable submission
to literary authority, with a free and even daring use of private
judgment. His admiration for the acknowledged masters of human
utterance--Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe--was genuine
and enthusiastic, and incomparably better informed than that of some
more conventional critics. Yet this cordial submission to recognized
authority, this honest loyalty to established reputation, did not
blind him to defects; did not seduce him into indiscriminating praise;
did not deter him from exposing the tendency to verbiage in Burke and
Jeremy Taylor, the excess blankness of much of Wordsworth's blank
verse, the undercurrent of mediocrity in Macaulay, the absurdities of
Mr. Ruskin's etymology. And as in great matters, so in small. Whatever
literary production was brought under Matthew Arnold's notice, his
judgment was clear, sympathetic, and independent. He had the readiest
appreciation of true excellence, a quick intolerance of turgidity and
inflation--of what he called endeavors to render platitude endurable
by making it pompous, and lively horror of affectation and
unreality."--Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL.
"In his work as literary critic Arnold has occupied a high place
among the foremost prose writers of the time. His style is in marked
contrast to the dithyrambic eloquence of Carlyle, or to Ruskin's
pure and radiant coloring. It is a quiet style, restrained, clear,
discriminating, incisive, with little glow of ardor or passion.
Notwithstanding its scrupulous assumption of urbanity, it is often
a merciless style, indescribably irritating to an opponent by
its undercurrent of sarcastic humor, and its calm air of assured
superiority. By his insistence on a high standard of technical
excellence, and by his admirable presentation of certain principles of
literary judgment, Arnold performed a great work for literature. On
the other hand, we miss here, as in his poetry, the human element, the
comprehensive sympathy that we recognize in the criticism of Carlyle.
Yet Carlyle could not have written the essay _On Translating Homer_,
with all its scholarly discrimination in style and technique, any
more than Arnold could have produced Carlyle's large-hearted essay on
_Burns_. Arnold's varied energy and highly trained intelligence
have been felt in many different fields. He has won a peculiar and
honorable place in the poetry of the century; he has excelled as
literary critic, he has labored in the cause of education, and
finally, in his _Culture and Anarchy_, he has set forth his scheme of
social reform, and in certain later books has made His contribution
to contemporary thought."--PANCOAST, _Introduction to English
* * * * *
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF ARNOLD'S WORKS
1840. Alaric at Rome. (Prize poem at Rugby.)
1843. Cromwell. (Prize poem at Oxford.)
1849. The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems.
The Strayed Reveller.
Fragment of an Antigone.
The Sick King in Bokhara.
To my Friends.
A Modern Sappho.
The New Sirens.
To a Gipsy Child.
The Hayswater Boat.
The Forsaken Merman.
The World and the Quietist.
In Utrumque Paratus.
To a Friend.
To the Duke of Wellington.
Written in Butler's Sermons.
Written in Emerson's Essays.
To an Independent Preacher.
To George Cruikshank.
To a Republican Friend.
1852. Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems.
Empedocles on Etna.
On the Rhine.
Destiny. (Not reprinted.)
Youth's Agitations--A Sonnet.
Lines written by a Death-bed. (Afterward, Youth and Calm.)
Tristram and Iseult.
Memorial Verses. (Previously published in _Fraser's
Courage. (Not reprinted.)
A Summer Night.
The Buried Life.
Stanzas in Memory of the Author of _Obermann_.
Lines written in Kensington Gardens.
The World's Triumphs--A Sonnet.
The Second Best.
The Youth of Nature.
The Youth of Man.
Sohrab and Rustum.
Cadmus and Harmonia. (A fragment of Empedocles on Etna.)
The Church of Brou.
Richmond Hill. (A fragment of The Youth of Man.)
Stanzas in Memory of the Late Edward Quillman.
Power of Youth. (A fragment of The Youth of Man.)
1854. A Farewell.
1858. Merope: A Tragedy.
1867. New Poems.
Persistency of Poetry.
Saint Brandan. _(Fraser's Magazine_, July, 1860.)
A Picture of Newstead.
Rachel. (Three Sonnets.)
The Good Shepherd with the Kid.
Austerity of Poetry.
East and West.
Monica's Last Prayer.
The Terrace at Berne.
Stanzas composed at Carnae.
A Southern Night. (Previously published in the
_Victoria Regia_, 1861.)
Fragment of Chorus of a "Dejaneira."
Early Death and Fame.
The Progress of Poesy.
A Nameless Epitaph.
The Last Word.
A Caution to Poets.
Epilogue to Lessing's Laocooen.
Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse.
1860. The Lord's Messengers. (_Cornhill Magazine_, July.)
1866. Thyrsis. (_Macmillan's Magazine_, April.)
1868. Obermann Once More.
1873. New Rome. (_Cornhill Magazine_, June.)
1877. Haworth Churchyard with Epilogue. (_Fraser's Magazine_, May.)
1881. Geist's Grave. (_Fortnightly Review_, January.)
1882. Westminster Abbey. (_Nineteenth Century Magazine_,
Poor Matthais. (_Macmillan's Magazine_, December.)
1887. Horatian Echo. (_The Century Guild Hobby Horse_, July.)
Kaiser Dead. (_Fortnightly Review_, July.)
1859. England and the Italian Question.
1861. Popular Education in France.
On Translating Homer.
1864. A French Eton.
1865. Essays in Criticism.
1867. On Study of Celtic Literature.
1868. Schools and Universities on the Continent.
1869. Culture and Anarchy.
1870. St. Paul and Protestantism.
1871. Friendship's Garland.
1873. Literature and Dogma.
1874. Higher Schools and Universities in Germany.
1875. God and the Bible.
1877. Last Essays on Church and Religion.
1879. Mixed Essays.
1882. Irish Essays.
1885. Discourses in America.
1888. Essays in Criticism, Second Series.
Special Report on Elementary Education Abroad.
Civilization in the United States.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881).
Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859).
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892).
Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882).
William M. Thackeray (1811-1863).
Robert Browning (1812-1889).
Charles Dickens (1812-1870).
George Eliot (1819-1880).
John Ruskin (1819-1900).
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878).
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864).
John G. Whittier (1807-1892).
Henry W. Longfellow (1807-1882).
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894).
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891).
_The Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold_ (The Macmillan Company,
_The English Poets_, Vol. I, by T.H. Ward.
_Matthew Arnold and the Spirit of the Age_, edited by the English
Club of Sewanee, Tennessee.
_Matthew Arnold_, by Sir J.G. Fitch.
_Tennyson, Ruskin, and Other Literary Estimates_, by Frederic
_Studies in Interpretation_, by W.H. Hudson.
_Corrected Impressions on Matthew Arnold_, by G.E.B. Saintsbury.
_Matthew Arnold_, by Herbert W. Paul.
_Matthew Arnold_, by G.E.B. Saintsbury.
_Arnold's Letters_, collected and arranged by G.W.E. Russell.
_The Bibliography of Matthew Arnold_, edited by T.B. Smart.
_Matthew Arnold_, by Andrew Lang, in _Century Magazine_,
1881-1882, p. 849.
_The Poetry of Matthew Arnold_, by R.H. Hutton, in
_Essays Theological and Literary_, Vol. II.
_Religion and Culture_, by John Shairp.
_Arnold_, in _Victorian Poets_, by Stedman.
_Matthew Arnold, New Poems_, in _Essays and Studies_, by
_Arnold_, in _Our Living Poets_, by Forman.
* * * * *
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
AND OTHER POEMS
* * * * *
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM deg.
And the first grey of morning fill'd the east, deg. deg.1
And the fog rose out of the Oxus deg. stream. deg.2
But all the Tartar camp deg. along the stream deg.3
Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep;
Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long 5
He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
But when the grey dawn stole into his tent,
He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword,
And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent,
And went abroad into the cold wet fog, 10
Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa's deg. tent. deg.11
Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood
Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
Of Oxus, where the summer-floods o'erflow
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere deg. deg.15
Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand,
And to a hillock came, a little back
From the stream's brink--the spot where first a boat,
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
The men of former times had crown'd the top 20
With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent,
A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread.
And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood
Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent, 25
And found the old man sleeping on his bed
Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms.
And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step
Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep;
And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:-- 30
"Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn.
Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?"
But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:--
"Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I.
The sun is not yet risen, and the foe 35
Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie
Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee.
For so did King Afrasiab deg. bid me seek deg.38
Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son,
In Samarcand, deg. before the army march'd; deg.40
And I will tell thee what my heart desires.
Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan deg. first deg.42
I came among the Tartars and bore arms,
I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown,
At my boy's years, deg. the courage of a man. deg.45
This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on
The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world,
And beat the Persians back on every field,
I seek one man, one man, and one alone--
Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet, 50
Should one day greet, upon some well-fought field,
His not unworthy, not inglorious son.
So I long hoped, but him I never find.
Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask.
Let the two armies rest to-day; but I 55
Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords
To meet me, man to man; if I prevail,
Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall--
Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin.
Dim is the rumour of a common fight, deg. deg.60
Where host meets host, and many names are sunk deg.; deg.61
But of a single combat fame speaks clear."
He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand
Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said:--
"O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine! 65
Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs,
And share the battle's common chance deg. with us deg.67
Who love thee, but must press for ever first,
In single fight incurring single risk,
To find a father thou hast never seen deg.? deg.70
That were far best, my son, to stay with us
Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war,
And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns.
But, if this one desire indeed rules all,
To seek out Rustum--seek him not through fight! 75
Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms,
O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son!
But far hence seek him, for he is not here.
For now it is not as when I was young,
When Rustum was in front of every fray; 80
But now he keeps apart, and sits at home,
In Seistan, deg. with Zal, his father old. deg.82
Whether that his own mighty strength at last
Peels the abhorr'd approaches of old age,
Or in some quarrel deg. with the Persian King. deg. deg.85
There go deg.!--Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes deg.86
Danger or death awaits thee on this field.
Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost
To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace
To seek thy father, not seek single fights 90
In vain;--but who can keep the lion's cub
From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son?
Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires."
So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left
His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay; 95
And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat
He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet,
And threw a white cloak round him, and he took
In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword deg.; deg.99
And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap, 100
Black, glossy, curl'd, the fleece of Kara-Kul deg.; deg.101
And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd
His herald to his side, and went abroad.
The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog
From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands. 105
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed
Into the open plain; so Haman deg. bade-- deg.107
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled
The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream'd;
As when some grey November morn the files, 111
In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes
Stream over Casbin deg. and the southern slopes deg.113
Of Elburz, deg. from the Aralian estuaries, deg.114
Or some frore deg. Caspian reed-bed, southward bound deg.115
For the warm Persian sea-board--so they stream'd.
The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard,
First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears;
Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara deg. come deg.119
And Khiva, deg. and ferment the milk of mares. deg. deg.120
Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns deg. of the south, deg.121
The Tukas, deg. and the lances of Salore, deg.122
And those from Attruck deg. and the Caspian sands; deg.123
Light men and on light steeds, who only drink
The acrid milk of camels, and their wells. 125
And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
From far, and a more doubtful service own'd;
The Tartars of Ferghana, deg. from the banks deg.128
Of the Jaxartes, deg. men with scanty beards deg.129
And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes 130
Who roam o'er Kipchak deg. and the northern waste, deg.131
Kalmucks deg. and unkempt Kuzzaks, deg. tribes who stray deg.132
Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes, deg. deg.133
Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere;
These all filed out from camp into the plain. 135
And on the other side the Persians form'd;--
First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd.
The Ilyats of Khorassan deg.; and behind, deg.138
The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel. 140
But Peran-Wisa with his herald came,
Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front,
And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks.
And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw
That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back, 145
He took his spear, and to the front he came,
And check'd his ranks, and fix'd deg. them where they stood. deg.147
And the old Tartar came upon the sand
Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:--
"Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear! 150
Let there be truce between the hosts to-day.
But choose a champion from the Persian lords
To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man."
As, in the country, on a morn in June,
When the dew glistens on the pearled ears, 155
A shiver runs through the deep corn deg. for joy-- deg.156
So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said,
A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran
Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved.
But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool, deg. deg.160
Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus, deg. deg.161
That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow;
Crossing so high, that, as they mount, they pass
Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow,
Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves 165
Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries--
In single file they move, and stop their breath,
For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging snows--
So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.
And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up 170
To counsel; Gudurz and Zoarrah came,
And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host
Second, and was the uncle of the King deg.; deg.173
These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz said:--
"Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up, 175
Yet champion have we none to match this youth.
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart. deg. deg.177
But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits deg. deg.178
And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart.
Him will I seek, and carry to his ear 180
The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name.
Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight.
Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up."
So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and cried:--
"Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said! 185
Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man."
He spake: and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode
Back through the opening squadrons to his tent.
But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran,
And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and reach'd, 190
Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents.
Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay,
Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst
Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around.
And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found 195
Rustum; his morning meal was done, but still
The table stood before him, charged with food--
A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread;
And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate deg. deg.199
Listless, and held a falcon deg. on his wrist, deg.200
And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood
Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand,
And with a cry sprang up and dropp'd the bird,
And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:--
"Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight. 205
What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink."
But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said:--
"Not now! a time will come to eat and drink,
But not to-day; to-day has other needs.
The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze; 210
For from the Tartars is a challenge brought
To pick a champion from the Persian lords
To fight their champion--and thou know'st his name--
Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid.
O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's! 215
He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart;
And he is young, and Iran's deg. chiefs are old, deg.217
Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee.
Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose!"
He spoke; but Rustum answer'd with, a smile:-- 220
"Go to deg.! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I deg.221
Am older; if the young are weak, the King
Errs strangely; for the King, for Kai Khosroo, deg. deg.223
Himself is young, and honours younger men,
And lets the aged moulder to their graves. 225
Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young--
The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I.
For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame?
For would that I myself had such a son,
And not that one slight helpless girl deg. I have-- deg.230
A son so famed, so brave, to send to war,
And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal, deg. deg.232
My father, whom the robber Afghans vex,
And clip his borders short, and drive his herds,
And he has none to guard his weak old age. 235
There would I go, and hang my armour up,
And with my great name fence that weak old man,
And spend the goodly treasures I have got,
And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame,
And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings, 240
And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more."
He spoke, and smiled; and Gudurz made reply:--
"What then, O Rustum, will men say to this,
When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks
Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks, 245
Hidest thy face? Take heed lest men should say:
_Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame,
And shuns to peril it with younger men."_ deg. deg.248
And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply:--
"O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words? 250
Thou knowest better words than this to say.
What is one more, one less, obscure or famed,
Valiant or craven, young or old, to me?
Are not they mortal, am not I myself?
But who for men of nought would do great deeds? 255
Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame!
But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms deg.; deg.257
Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd
In single fight with any mortal man."
He spoke, and frown'd; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran 260
Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy--
Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came.
But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd
His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose 265
Were plain, and on his shield was no device, deg. deg.266
Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold,
And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume
Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume.
So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse, 270
Follow'd him like a faithful hound at heel--
Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the earth,
The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once
Did in Bokhara by the river find
A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home, 275
And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest,
Dight deg. with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green deg.277
Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd
All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know.
So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd 280
The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd.
And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts
Hail'd; but the Tartars knew not who he was.
And dear as the wet diver to the eyes
Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore, 285
By sandy Bahrein, deg. in the Persian Gulf, deg.286
Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night,
Having made up his tale deg. of precious pearls, deg.288
Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands--
So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came. 290
And Rustum to the Persian front advanced,
And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came.
And as afield the reapers cut a swath
Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
And on each side are squares of standing corn, 295
And in the midst a stubble, short and bare--
So on each side were squares of men, with spears
Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast
His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw 300
Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came.
As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire--
At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn, 305
When the frost flowers deg. the whiten'd window-panes--
And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed
The unknown adventurous youth, who from afar
Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth 310
All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused deg. deg.311
His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was.
For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd;
Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight,
Which in a queen's secluded garden throws 315
Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf,
By midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound--
So slender Sohrab seem'd, deg. so softly rear'd. deg.318
And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul
As he beheld him coming; and he stood, 320
And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said:--
"O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft,
And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold!
Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave.
Behold me! I am vast, deg. and clad in iron, deg.325
And tried deg.; and I have stood on many a field
Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe--
Never was that field lost, or that foe saved. deg. deg.327
O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death?
Be govern'd deg.! quit the Tartar host, and come deg.330
To Iran, and be as my son to me,
And fight beneath my banner till I die!
There are no youths in Iran brave as thou."
So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice,
The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw 335
His giant figure planted on the sand,
Sole, like some single tower, which a chief
Hath builded on the waste in former years
Against the robbers; and he saw that head,
Streak'd with its first grey hairs;--hope filled his soul, 340
And he ran forward and embraced his knees,
And clasp'd his hand within his own, and said:--
"O, by thy father's head deg.! by thine own soul! deg.343
Art thou not Rustum deg.? speak! art thou not he?" deg.344
But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth, 345
And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul:--
"Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean!
False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.
For if I now confess this thing he asks,
And hide it not, but say: _Rustum is here_! 350
He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes,
But he will find some pretext not to fight,
And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts
A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way.
And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall, 355
In Samarcand, he will arise and cry:
'I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd
Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords
To cope with me in single fight; but they
Shrank, only Rustum dared; then he and I 360
Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away.'
So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud;
Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me."
And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud:--
"Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus 365
Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call'd
By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, deg. or yield! deg.367
Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight?
Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee!
For well I know, that did great Rustum stand 370
Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd,
There would be then no talk of fighting more.
But being what I am, I tell thee this--
Do thou record it in thine inmost soul:
Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield, 375
Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods,
Oxus in summer wash them all away."
He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet:--
"Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so deg.! deg.380
I am no girl to be made pale by words.
Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I, 385
And thou art proved, I know, and I am young--
But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven.
And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know.
For we are all, like swimmers in the sea, 390
Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate,
Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
And whether it will heave us up to land,
Or whether it will roll us out to sea,
Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death, 395
We know not, and no search will make us know;
Only the event will teach us in its hour."
He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd
His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came,
As on some partridge, in the corn a hawk, 400
That long has tower'd deg. in the airy clouds, deg.401
Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come,
And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear
Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand,
Which it sent flying wide;--then Sohrab threw 405
In turn, and full struck deg. Rustum's shield; sharp rang, deg.406
The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear.
And Rustum seized his club, which none but he
Could wield; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge,
Still rough--like those which men in treeless plains 410
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
Hyphasis deg. or Hydaspes, deg. when, high up deg.412
By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack, deg. deg.414
And strewn the channels with torn boughs--so huge 415
The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside,
Lithe as the glancing deg. snake, and the club came deg.418
Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's hand.
And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell 420
To his knees, and with his fingers clutch'd the sand;
And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword,
And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay
Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand;
But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword, 425
But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:--
"Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float
Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones.
But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I;
No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul. 430
Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so!
Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
Boy as I am, I have seen battles too--
Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,
And heard their hollow deg. roar of dying men; deg.435
But never was my heart thus touch'd before.
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart?
O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven!
Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears,
And make a truce, and sit upon this sand, 440
And pledge each other in red wine, like friends,
And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds.
There are enough foes in the Persian host,
Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang;
Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou 445
Mayst fight; fight _them_, when they confront thy spear!
But oh, let there be peace 'twixt thee and me!"
He ceased, but while he spake, Rustum had risen,
And stood erect, trembling with rage; his club
He left to lie, but had regain'd his spear, 450
Whose fiery point now in his mail'd right-hand
Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumn-star, deg. deg.452
The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soil'd
His stately crest, deg. and dimm'd his glittering arms. deg.454
His breast heaved, his lips foam'd, and twice his voice 455
Was choked with rage; at last these words broke way:--
"Girl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands!
Curl'd minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words!
Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more!
Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now 460
With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to dance;
But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance
Of battle, and with me, who make no play
Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand.
Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine! 465
Remember all thy valour deg.; try thy feints deg.466
And cunning! all the pity I had is gone;
Because thou hast shamed me before both the hosts
With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles. deg." deg.468
He spoke, and Sohrab kindled deg. at his taunts, deg.470
And he too drew his sword; at once they rush'd
Together, as two eagles on one prey
Come rushing down together from the clouds,
One from the east, one from the west; their shields
Bash'd with a clang together, and a din. 475
Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters
Make often in the forest's heart at morn,
Of hewing axes, crashing trees--such blows
Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd.
And you would say that sun and stars took part 480
In that unnatural deg. conflict; for a cloud deg. deg.481
Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark'd the sun
Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose
Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp'd the pair. 485
In gloom they twain were wrapp'd, and they alone;
For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
And the sun sparkled deg. on the Oxus stream. deg.489
But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes 490
And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield
Which Sohrab held stiff out; the steel-spiked spear
Rent the tough plates, but fail'd to reach the skin,
And Rustum pluck'd it back with angry groan.
Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm, deg. deg.495
Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest
He shore deg. away, and that proud horsehair plume, deg.497
Never till now defiled, sank to the dust;
And Rustum bow'd his head deg.; but then the gloom deg.499
Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air, 500
And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the horse,
Who stood at hand, utter'd a dreadful cry;--
No horse's cry was that, most like the roar
Of some pain'd desert-lion, who all day
Hath trail'd the hunter's javelin in his side, 505
And comes at night to die upon the sand.
The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for fear,
And Oxus curdled deg. as it cross'd his stream. deg.508
But Sohrab heard, and quail'd not, but rush'd on,
And struck again; and again Rustum bow'd 510
His head; but this time all the blade, like glass,
Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm,
And in the hand the hilt remain'd alone.
Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful eyes
Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear, 515
And shouted: _Rustum_ deg.!--Sohrab heard that shout, deg.516
And shrank amazed; back he recoil'd one step,
And scann'd with blinking eyes the advancing form;
And then he stood bewilder'd; and he dropp'd
His covering shield, and the spear pierced his side. 520
He reel'd, and staggering back, sank to the ground;
And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell,
And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all
The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair--
Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet, 525
And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.
Then, with a bitter smile, deg. Rustum began:-- deg.527
"Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill
A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse,
And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent. 530
Or else that the great Rustum would come down
Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
His heart to take a gift, and let thee go.
And then all the Tartar host would praise
Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame, 535
To glad deg. thy father in his weak old age. deg.536
Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man!
Dearer to the red jackals deg. shalt thou be deg.538
Than to thy friends, and to thy father old."
And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:-- 540
"Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were I match'd with ten such men as thee,
And I were that which till to-day I was, 545
They should be lying here, I standing there
But that beloved name unnerved my arm--
That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe. 550
And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
My father, whom I seek through all the world,
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!" 555
As when some hunter deg. in the spring hath found deg.556
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake,
And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
And follow'd her to find her where she fell 560
Far off;--anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole deg.; at that, he checks deg.563
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams 565
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers--never more
Shall the lake glass deg. her, flying over it; deg.570
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by--
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss,
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not. 575
But, with a cold incredulous voice, he said:--
"What prate is this of fathers and revenge?
The mighty Rustum never had a son."
And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:--
"Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I. 580
Surely the news will one day reach his ear,
Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long,
Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here;
And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee. 585
Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son!
What will that grief, what will that vengeance be?
Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen!
Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells 590
With that old king, her father, who grows grey
With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
Her most I pity, who no more will see
Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp,
With spoils and honour, when the war is done. 595
But a dark rumour will be bruited up, deg. deg.596
From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear;
And then will that defenceless woman learn
That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more,
But that in battle with a nameless foe, 600
By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain."
He spoke; and as he ceased, he wept aloud,
Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
He spoke; but Rustum listen'd, plunged in thought.
Nor did he yet believe it was his son 605
Who spoke, although he call'd back names he knew;
For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
Which was in Ader-baijan born to him,
Had been a puny girl, no boy at all--
So that sad mother sent him word, for fear 610
Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms--
And so he deem'd that either Sohrab took,
By a false boast, the style deg. of Rustum's son; deg.613
Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
So deem'd he; yet he listen'd, plunged in thought 615
And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
At the full moon; tears gather'd in his eyes;
For he remember'd his own early youth,
And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn, 620
The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries
A far, bright city, smitten by the sun,
Through many rolling clouds--so Rustum saw
His youth; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom;
And that old king, deg. her father, who loved well deg.625
His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child
With joy; and all the pleasant life they led,
They three, in that long-distant summer-time--
The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
And hound, and morn on those delightful hills 630
In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks deg. to be his own dear son, deg.632
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand;
Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut, 635
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass--so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and said:-- 640
"O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son
Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have loved.
Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men
Have told thee false--thou art not Rustum's son.
For Rustum had no son; one child he had-- 645
But one--a girl; who with her mother now
Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us--
Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war."
But Sohrab answer'd him in wrath; for now
The anguish of the deep-fix'd spear grew fierce, 650
And he desired to draw forth the steel,
And let the blood flow free, and so to die--
But first he would convince his stubborn foe;
And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:--
"Man, who art thou who dost deny my words? 655
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine.
I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm deg. I bear deg.658
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
That she might prick it on the babe she bore." 660
He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's cheeks,
And his knees totter'd, and he smote his hand
Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand,
That the hard iron corslet deg. clank'd aloud; deg.663
And to his heart he press'd the other hand, 665
And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:--
"Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie!
If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's son."
Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed
His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm, 670
And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points
Prick'd; as a cunning deg. workman, in Pekin, deg.672
Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase,
An emperor's gift--at early morn he paints,
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp 675
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands--
So delicately prick'd the sign appear'd
On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal.
It was that griffin, deg. which of old rear'd Zal, deg.679
Rustum's great father, whom they left to die, 680
A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks;
Him that kind creature found, and rear'd, and loved--
Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
And Sohrab bared that image on his arm,
And himself scann'd it long with mournful eyes, 685
And then he touch'd it with his hand and said:--
"How say'st thou? Is that sign the proper sign
Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?"
He spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood
Speechless; and then he utter'd one sharp cry: 690
_O boy_--_thy father!_--and his voice choked there.
And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes,
And his head swam, and he sank down to earth.
But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast
His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips, 695
And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks,
Trying to call him back to life; and life
Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes,
And they stood wide with horror; and he seized
In both his hands the dust which lay around, 700
And threw it on his head, and smirch'd his hair,--
His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms;
And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
And his sobs choked him; and he clutch'd his sword,
To draw it, and for ever let life out. 705
But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hands,
And with a soothing voice he spake, and said:--
"Father, forbear! for I but meet to-day
The doom which at my birth was written down
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand. deg. deg.710
Surely my heart cried out that it was thou,
When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
I know it! but fate trod those promptings down
Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged
The strife, and hurl'd me on my father's spear. 715
But let us speak no more of this! I find
My father; let me feel that I have found! deg. deg.717
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks,
And wash them with thy tears, and say: _My son!_ 720
Quick! quick! for number'd are my sands of life,
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away--
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind. deg. deg.724
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be." 725
So said he, and his voice released the heart
Of Rustum, and his tears brake forth; he cast
His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud,
And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts,
When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh, the horse, 730
With his head bowing to the ground and mane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one then to the other moved
His head, as if inquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate eyes, 735
The big warm tears roll'd down, and caked deg. the sand. deg.736
But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said:--
"Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Ruksh, thy feet
Should first have rotted on their nimble joints,
Or ere they brought thy master to this field!" 740
But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said:--
"Is this, then, Ruksh? How often, in past days,
My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed,
My terrible father's terrible horse! and said,
That I should one day find thy lord and thee. 745
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane!
O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
For thou hast gone where I shall never go,
And snuff'd the breezes of my father's home.
And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan, 750
And seen the River of Helmund, deg. and the Lake deg.751
Of Zirrah deg.; and the aged Zal himself deg.752
Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee food,
Corn in a golden platter soak'd with wine,
And said: _O Ruksh! bear Rustum well!_--but I 755
Have never known my grandsire's furrow'd face,
Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund stream;
But lodged among my father's foes, and seen
Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand, 760
Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
The desert rivers, Moorghab deg. and Tejend, deg. deg.763
Kohik, deg. and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
The northern Sir deg.; and this great Oxus stream, deg.765
The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die."
Then, with a heavy groan, Rustum bewail'd:--
"Oh, that its waves were flowing over me!
Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt
Roll tumbling in the current o'er my head!" 770
But, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:--
"Desire not that, my father! thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
As some are born to be obscured, and die.
Do thou the deeds I die too young to do, 775
And reap a second glory in thine age;
Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
But come! thou seest this great host of men
Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these!
Let me entreat for them; what have they done? 780
They follow'd me, my hope, my fame, my star.
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
But carry me with thee to Seistan,
And place me on a bed, and mourn for me, 785
Thou, and the snow-hair'd Zal, and all thy friends.
And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound deg. above my bones, deg.788
And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
That so the passing horseman on the waste 790
May see my tomb a great way off, and cry:
_Sohrab, the mighty Rustum's son, lies there,
Whom his great father did in ignorance kill!_
And I be not forgotten in my grave."
And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied:-- 795
"Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son,
So shall it be; for I will burn my tents,
And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
And carry thee away to Seistan,
And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee, 800
With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends.
And I will lay thee in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above thy bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all,
And men shall not forget thee in thy grave. 805
And I will spare thy host; yea, let them go!
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace!
What should I do with slaying any more?
For would that all that I have ever slain
Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes, 810
And they who were call'd champions in their time,
And through whose death I won that fame I have--
And I were nothing but a common man,
A poor, mean soldier, and without renown,
So thou mightest live too, my son, my son! 815
Or rather would that I, even I myself,
Might now be lying on this bloody sand,
Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine,
Not thou of mine! and I might die, not thou;
And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan; 820
And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine;
And say: _O son, I weep thee not too sore,
For willingly, I know, thou met'st thine end!_
But now in blood and battles was my youth,
And full of blood and battles is my age, 825
And I shall never end this life of blood."
Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied:--
"A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful man!
But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now,
Not yet! but thou shalt have it on that day, deg. deg.830
When thou shalt sail in a high-masted ship,
Thou and the other peers of Kai Khosroo,
Returning home over the salt blue sea,
From laying thy dear master in his grave."
And Rustum gazed in Sohrab's face, and said:-- 835
"Soon be that day, my son, and deep that sea!
Till then, if fate so wills, let me endure."
He spoke; and Sohrab smiled on him, and took
The spear, and drew it from his side, and eased
His wound's imperious anguish; but the blood 840
Came welling from the open gash, and life
Flow'd with the stream;--all down his cold white side
The crimson torrent ran, dim now and soil'd,
Like the soil'd tissue of white violets
Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank, 845
By children whom their nurses call with haste.
Indoors from the sun's eye; his head droop'd low,
His limbs grew slack; motionless, white, he lay--
White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps,
Deep heavy gasps quivering through all his frame, 850
Convulsed him back to life, he open'd them,
And fix'd them feebly on his father's face;
Till now all strength was ebb'd, and from his limbs
Unwillingly the spirit fled away,
Regretting the warm mansion which it left, 855
And youth, and bloom, and this delightful world.
So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead;
And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak
Down o'er his face, and sate by his dead son.
As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd 860
By Jemshid in Persepolis, deg. to bear deg.861
His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side--
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.
And night came down over the solemn waste, 865
And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair,
And darken'd all; and a cold fog, with night,
Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose,
As of a great assembly loosed, and fires
Began to twinkle through the fog; for now 870
Both armies moved to camp, and took their meal;
The Persians took it on the open sands
Southward, the Tartars by the river marge;
And Rustum and his son were left alone.
But the majestic river floated on, 875
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian deg. waste, deg.878
Under the solitary moon;--he flow'd
Right for the polar star, deg. past Orgunje, deg. deg.880
Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles-- 885
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foil'd circuitous wanderer--till at last
The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home deg. of waters opens, bright deg.890
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars deg. deg.891
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
SAINT BRANDAN deg.
Saint Brandan sails the northern main;
The brotherhood of saints are glad.
He greets them once, he sails again;
So late!--such storms!--The Saint is mad!
He heard, across the howling seas, 5
Chime convent-bells on wintry nights;
He saw, on spray-swept Hebrides, deg. deg.7
Twinkle the monastery-lights;
But north, still north, Saint Brandan steer'd--
And now no bells, no convents more! 10
The hurtling Polar lights deg. are near'd, deg.11
The sea without a human shore.
At last--(it was the Christmas night;
Stars shone after a day of storm)--
He sees float past an iceberg white, 15
And on it--Christ!--a living form.
That furtive mien, that scowling eye,
Of hair that red deg. and tufted fell-- deg.18
It is--Oh, where shall Brandan fly?--
The traitor Judas, out of hell! 20
Palsied with terror, Brandan sate deg.; deg.21
The moon was bright, the iceberg near.
He hears a voice sigh humbly: "Wait!
By high permission I am here.
"One moment wait, thou holy man 25
On earth my crime, my death, they knew;
My name is under all men's ban--
Ah, tell them of my respite too!
"Tell them, one blessed Christmas-night--
(It was the first after I came, 30
Breathing self-murder, deg. frenzy, spite, deg.31
To rue my guilt in endless flame)--
"I felt, as I in torment lay
'Mid the souls plagued by heavenly power,
An angel touch my arm, and say: 35
_Go hence, and cool thyself an hour!_
"'Ah, whence this mercy, Lord?' I said.
_The Leper recollect,_ deg. said he, deg.38
_Who ask'd the passers-by for aid,
In Joppa, deg. and thy charity._ deg.40
"Then I remember'd how I went,
In Joppa, through the public street,
One morn when the sirocco spent
Its storms of dust with burning heat;
"And in the street a leper sate, 45
Shivering with fever, naked, old;
Back to Full Books