Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Isolation
By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)
 
YES: in the sea of life enisled,
  With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
  We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,        5
And then their endless bounds they know.
 
But when the moon their hollows lights,
  And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
  The nightingales divinely sing;        10
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour;
 
O then a longing like despair
  Is to their farthest caverns sent!
For surely once, they feel, we were        15
  Parts of a single continent.
Now round us spreads the watery plain—
O might our marges meet again!
 
Who order’d, that their longing’s fire
  Should be, as soon as kindled, cool’d?        20
Who renders vain their deep desire?—
  A God, a God their severance rul’d;
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.
 
 
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