di Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

In the deserted, moon-blanch'd street, How lonely rings the echo of my feet! Those windows which I gaze at, frown, Silent and white, unopening down, Repellent as the world; -- but see, A break between the housetops shows The moon! and, lost behind her, fading dim Into the dewy dark obscurity Down at the far horizon's rim, Doth a whole tract of heaven disclose!
And to my mind the thought Is on a sudden brought Of a past night, and a far different scene. Headlands stood out into the moonlit deep As clearly as at noon' The spring-tide's brimming flow Heaved dazzlingly between; Houses, with long white sweep, Girdled the glistening bay; Behind, through the soft air, The blue haze-cradled mountains spread away, That night was far more fair -- But the same restless pacings to and fro, And the same vainly throbbing heart was there, And the same bright, calm moon.
And the calm moonlight seems to say: Hast thou then still the old unquiet breast, Which neither deadens into rest, Nor ever feels the fiery glow
That whirls the spirit from itself away, But fluctuates to and fro, Never by passion quite posses'd And never quite benumb'd by the world's sway? -- And I, I know not if to pray Still to be what I am, or yield and be Like all the other men I see.
For most men in a brazen prison live, Where, in the sun's hot eye, With heads bend o'er their toil, they languidly Their lives to some unmeaning taskwork give, Dreaming of nought beyond their prison wall. And as, year after year, Fresh products of their barren labour fall From their tired hands, and rest Never yet comes more near, Gloom settles slowly down over their breast; And while they try to stem The waves of mournful thought by which they are pressed , Death in their prison reaches them Unfreed, having seen nothing, still unblest.
And the rest, a few, Escape their prison and depart On the wide ocean of life anew. There the freed prisoner, where"er his heart Listeth, will sail; Nor doth he know how there prevail, Despotic on that sea, Trade-winds which cross it from eternity. Awhile he holds some false way, undebarred By thwarting signs, and braves The freshening wind and blackening waves. And then the tempest strikes him; and between The lightning-bursts is seen Only a driving wreck, And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck With anguished face and flying hair Grasping the rudder hard, Still bent to make some port he knows not where, Still standing for some false, impossible shore. And sterner comes the roar Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom, And he too disappears, and comes no more.
Is there no life, but these alone? Madman or slave must man be one?
Plainness and clearness without shadow of stain! Clearness divine! Ye heavens, whose pure dark regions have no sign Of languor, though so calm, and, though so great, Are yet untroubled and unpassionate; Who, though so noble, share in the world's toil, And, though so task'd, keep free from dust and soil! I will not say that your mild deeps retain A tinge, it may be, of their silent pain Who have long'd deeply once, and long'd in vain -- But I will rather say that you remain A world above man's head, to let him see How boundless might his soul's horizons be, How vast, yet of what clear transparency! How it were good to abide there, and breathe free; How fair a lot to fill Is left to each man still!