(1822-1888 / Middlesex / England)


Before man parted for this earthly strand,
While yet upon the verge of heaven he stood,
God put a heap of letters in his hand,
And bade him make with them what word he could.

And man has turn'd them many times; made Greece,
Rome, England, France;--yes, nor in vain essay'd
Way after way, changes that never cease!
The letters have combined, something was made.

But ah! an inextinguishable sense
Haunts him that he has not made what he should;
That he has still, though old, to recommence,
Since he has not yet found the word God would.

And empire after empire, at their height
Of sway, have felt this boding sense come on;
Have felt their huge frames not constructed right,
And droop'd, and slowly died upon their throne.

One day, thou say'st, there will at last appear
The word, the order, which God meant should be.
--Ah! we shall know _that_ well when it comes near;
The band will quit man's heart, he will breathe free.

User Rating: 3,1 / 5 ( 47 votes ) 8

Other poems of ARNOLD (62)

Comments (8)

I agree with Oduro below: this is profound poetry. And it has a special import for citizens of a superpower. Arnold refers to various countries that once ruled empires, but conditions changed, revolutions created a new order of power. I'm certain many of Arnold's first readers felt that the sun would never set on the British Empire, but it did, and the logic of his poem is that America's status as superpower will also pass away, as it must, as it should. AS Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the 1960s, So it goes. I would add to Arnold 's and Vonnegut's predictions, prepare yourselves, people, for the future.
Amazingly easy to read despite having been written in the 1800's. Matthew Arnold writes layers into his poetry- the reader can read this and read it again many times and still see something new nestled in a word choice or a pause. The last stanza in this is reminiscent of what it says in the Bible- -In the Bible, the Word is Christ Jesus and when He comes again, we will be free.
Amidst the revolutions of man, there still lingers the hope that one day we will be free. Profound poetry
War! ! With the bad intentions from the hearts of mankind. Thanks for sharing.
One of the best poems I have ever read. Great message! The world which God proposed to build is yet to be built........Man has not yet fulfilled the very purpose of his life. When the God's world will be created there would be joy, peace, harmony and infinite ecstasy.......
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