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Matthew Arnold On hearing him read his Poems in Boston
by Katharine Lee Bates


1 A stranger, schooled to gentle arts,
2 He stept before the curious throng;
3 His path into our waiting hearts
4 Already paved by song.

5 Full well we knew his choristers,
6 Whose plaintive voices haunt our rest,
7 Those sable-vested harbingers
8 Of melancholy guest.

9 We smiled on him for love of these,
10 With eyes that swift grew dim to scan
11 Beneath the veil of courteous ease
12 The faith-forsaken man.

13 To his wan gaze the weary shows
14 And fashions of our vain estate,
15 Our shallow pain and false repose,
16 Our barren love and hate,

17 Are shadows in a land of graves,
18 Where creeds, the bubbles of a dream,
19 Flash each and fade, like melting waves
20 Upon a moonlight stream.

21 Yet loyal to his own despair,
22 Erect beneath a darkened sky,
23 He deems the austerest truth more fair
24 Than any gracious lie;

25 And stands, heroic, patient, sage,
26 With hopeless hands that bind the sheaf,
27 Claiming God's work with His wage,
28 The bard of unbelief.