"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."

— Arnold, Matthew (1822-1888)


Place of Publication
London
Publisher
B. Fellowes
Date
1852
Metaphor
"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."
Metaphor in Context
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 't is 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 belov├Ęd 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 loved 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.
(ll. 45-90)
Provenance
Reading
Citation
Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems. London: B. Fellowes, 1852.<Link to RPO><Link to Victorian Web>
Date of Entry
05/20/2010

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.