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Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
 
Horatian Echo
1847
 
(TO AN AMBITIOUS FRIEND)

[Written in 1847. First published in The Century Guild Hobby Horse, 1887.]

OMIT, omit, my simple friend,
Still to inquire how parties tend,
Or what we fix with foreign powers.
If France and we are really friends,
And what the Russian Czar intends,        5
    Is no concern of ours.
 
Us not the daily quickening race
Of the invading populace
Shall draw to swell that shouldering herd.
Mourn will we not your closing hour,        10
Ye imbeciles in present power,
    Doom’d, pompous, and absurd!
 
And let us bear, that they debate
Of all the engine-work of state,
Of commerce, laws, and policy,        15
The secrets of the world’s machine,
And what the rights of man may mean,
    With readier tongue than we.
 
Only, that with no finer art
They cloak the troubles of the heart        20
With pleasant smile, let us take care;
Nor with a lighter hand dispose
Fresh garlands of this dewy rose,
    To crown Eugenia’s hair.
 
Of little threads our life is spun,        25
And he spins ill, who misses one.
But is thy fair Eugenia cold?
Yet Helen had an equal grace,
And Juliet’s was as fair a face,
    And now their years are told.        30
 
The day approaches, when we must
Be crumbling bones and windy dust;
And scorn us as our mistress may,
Her beauty will no better be
Than the poor face she slights in thee,        35
    When dawns that day, that day.
 
 
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