The Buried Life

Matthew Arnold

 
   Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,  
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!  
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.  
   Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,  
We know, we know that we can smile;     
But there 's a something in this breast,  
To which thy light words bring no rest,  
And thy gay smiles no anodyne;  
   Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,  
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,    
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.  
  
   Alas! is even love too weak  
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?  
Are even lovers powerless to reveal  
To one another what indeed they feel?       
I knew the mass of men conceal'd  
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd  
They would by other men be met  
With blank indifference, or with blame reprov'd;  
I knew they liv'd and mov'd       
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest  
Of men, and alien to themselves—and yet  
The same heart beats in every human breast.  
  
   But we, my love—does a like spell benumb  
Our hearts—our voices?—must we too be dumb?     
  
   Ah, well for us, if even we,  
Even for a moment, can get free  
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;  
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!  
  
   Fate, which foresaw  
How frivolous a baby man would be,
By what distractions he would be possess'd,  
How he would pour himself in every strife,  
And well-nigh change his own identity;
That it might keep from his capricious play   
His genuine self, and force him to obey,  
Even in his own despite his being's law,  
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast  
The unregarded River of our Life  
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;   
And that we should not see  
The buried stream, and seem to be  
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,  
Though driving on with it eternally.  
  
   But often, in the world's most crowded streets,    
But often, in the din of strife,  
There rises an unspeakable desire  
After the knowledge of our buried life,  
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force  
In tracking out our true, original course;     
A longing to inquire  
Into the mystery of this heart which beats  
So wild, so deep in us, to know  
Whence our lives come and where they go.  
And many a man in his own breast then delves,    
But deep enough, alas, none ever mines!
And we have been on many thousand lines,  
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power,  
But hardly have we, for one little hour,  
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves;     
Hardly had skill to utter one of all  
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,  
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.  
And long we try in vain to speak and act  
Our hidden self, and what we say and do       
Is eloquent, is well—but 'tis not true!  
   And then we will no more be rack'd  
With inward striving, and demand  
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour  
Their stupefying power;     
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!  
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,  
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne  
As from an infinitely distant land,  
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey     
A melancholy into all our day.  
  
   Only—but this is rare—  
When a belovèd hand is laid in ours,  
When, jaded with the rush and glare  
Of the interminable hours,        
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,  
When our world-deafen'd ear  
Is by the tones of a lov'd voice caress'd—  
   A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast  
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again!       
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,  
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know,  
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,  
And hears its winding murmur, and he sees  
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
  
   And there arrives a lull in the hot race  
Wherein he doth for ever chase  
The flying and elusive shadow, Rest.  
An air of coolness plays upon his face,  
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
   And then he thinks he knows  
The hills where his life rose,  
And the Sea where it goes.
 

Poems by This Author

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm tonight,
Isolation: To Marguerite by Matthew Arnold
We were apart; yet, day by day
Requiescat by Matthew Arnold
Strew on her roses, roses
The Scholar-Gypsy by Matthew Arnold
Go, for they call you, shepherd, from the hill;


Further Reading

Poems About Love
Monna Innominata [I loved you first]
by Christina Rossetti
Monna Innominata [I wish I could remember]
by Christina Rossetti
A Birthday
by Christina Rossetti
A Line-storm Song
by Robert Frost
A Negro Love Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Darling, You Are the World's Fresh Ornament
by Laura Cronk
Fons
by Pura López-Colomé
In a Boat
by D. H. Lawrence
Let Us Live and Love (5)
by Gaius Valerius Catullus
Love
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Love
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Love in a Life
by Robert Browning
Love's Philosophy
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lovers' Infiniteness
by John Donne
Manners
by Michael Blumenthal
Meeting at Night
by Robert Browning
My love is as a fever, longing still
by Christopher Bursk
No, Love Is Not Dead
by Robert Desnos
San Antonio
by Naomi Shihab Nye
She Walks in Beauty
by George Gordon Byron
Slow Waltz Through Inflatable Landscape
by Christian Hawkey
The Definition of Love
by Andrew Marvell
The Ecstasy
by Phillip Lopate
The Face of All the World (Sonnet 7)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Forms of Love
by George Oppen
The Kiss
by Stephen Dunn
The Look
by Sara Teasdale
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Passionate Freudian to His Love
by Dorothy Parker
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
by Christopher Marlowe
The White Rose
by John Boyle O'Reilly
To Anthea Who May Command Him Any Thing
by Robert Herrick
When I Heard at the Close of Day
by Walt Whitman
Wooing Song
by Giles Fletcher