Suggested by Matthew Arnold's Stanzas

That one long dirge-moan sad and deep,
Low, muffled by the solemn stress
Of such emotion as doth steep
The soul in brooding quietness,
Befits our anguished time too well,
Whose Life-march is a funeral knell.

Dirge for a mighty Creed outworn-
Its spirit fading from the earth,
Its mouldering body left forlorn:
Weak idol! feeding scornful mirth
In shallow hearts; divine no more
Save to some ignorant pagan poor;

And some who know how by Its light
The past world well did walk and live,
And feel It even now more bright
Than any lamp mere men can give;
So cling to It with yearning faith,
Yet own It almost quenched in death:

While many who win wealth and power
And honours serving at Its shrine,
Rather than lose their worldly dower
Proclaim their dead thing 'Life divine';
And sacrifice to coward lust
Their own souls' truth, a peoplc's trust.

And will none mourn the mighty Dead,
Pillar of heavenly fire and cloud,
Which through this life's wild desert led
For whole millenniums each grand crowd
Of sages, bards, saints, heroes, all
Whose names we glory to recall?

None mourn Him, dead, with deep-moved soul,
Whom, living, all our sires adored?
None feel the heavy darkness roll
Stifling about us, when the Lord
Leaves us to walk by our own light,
That one pale speck in boundless Night?--

That earthly lamp when sun and star,
When all the heavenly lights are lost:
Does it shed radiance round afar?
Our pathway is by deep gulfs cross'd
It fathoms none. We lift it high:
It casts not one beam on the sky.

If He thus died as no more fit
To lead the modern marcli of thought,
Supreme,-- commanding, guiding it,
With noblest love and wisdom fraught;
He was at least Divine; and none
Of human souls can lead it on.

We pine in our dark living tomb,
Waiting the God-illumined One
Who, only, can disperse the gloom;
Completing what the Dead begun,
Or farther leading us some space
Toward our eternal resting-place.

But Israel wanders shepherdless,
Or gloom-involved unloving lies,
And in despair's stark sinfulness
Reviles the promised Paradise
It cannot reach -- Father divine!
Let us not long thus hopeless pine.

Still the deep dirge-notcs long and low
Breathe forth strange anguish to recall --
Could we forget -- our direst woe:
A proud strong Age fast losing all
Earth has of heaven; bereft of faith;
And living in Eternal Death.

And loudly boastful of such life:
Blinded by our material might,
Absorbed in frantic worldly strife,
Unconscious of the utter Night
Whose palpable and monstrous gloom
Is gathering for our spirits' tomb.

We feel as gods in our own hearts;
Seeming to conquer Time and Space;
Wealth gorging our imperial marts,
Earth pregnant, from the fierce embrace
Our matter-lusting spirits press,
With unexampled fruitfulness.

God, answering well our worldly prayer,
Our hearts' chief prayer through all the hours
Of selfish joy and sordid care,
Comes down to us in golden showers:
God turns to Mammon at our cry;
Our souls wealth-crushed, dross-stifled lie.

Those few, how rich! while this great mass,
Myriads with equal greed for gold,
Sink in such want and woe, alas!
As never can on earth be told:
These starve, and those yet wealthier rise-
Meanwhile in both the spirit dies.

Hear now the thrilling dirge-notes peal
The anguished cry in thunder rolls:-
The few yet left who think and feel,
Who yearn with strenuous soaring souls
For more than earth or time can grant;
Where, where shall they appease their want?

Black disbelief, substantial doubt
Wreathe-blent into one louring cloud
Through which Heaven's light can scarce shine out-
Round all the Faiths: all in such shroud
Fade ghostlike to th' entombing Past:
Our Heaven is wildly overcast.

Yet each Creed, senile, sick, half-dead,
With bitter spite and doting rage
Reviles all others, Whoso, led
By thirst of love to pilgrimage,
Seeks now old God-given Wells of Life,
Finds drought-dry centres of vain strife;

And turns away in blank despair,
To scoff or weep as fits his mood.
0 God in Heaven, hear our prayer!
We know Thou art, Allwise, Allgood,
Yet sink in godless misery:
Oh, teach us how to worship Thee!

PART II

The great Form lies there nerveless still:
But as we fix our longing gaze
It grows in grandest beauty, till
We worship in entranced amaze;
Such holy love and wisd
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James Thomson

James Thomson, who wrote under the pseudonym Bysshe Vanolis, was a Scottish Victorian-era poet famous primarily for the long poem The City of Dreadful Night, an expression of bleak pessimism in a dehumanized, uncaring urban environment. more…

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"Suggested by Matthew Arnold's Stanzas" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/20673/suggested-by-matthew-arnold's-stanzas>.

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